A consortium of French universities has used its purchasing power to slash the cost of electronic journal subscriptions in a landmark deal with the publisher Elsevier, University librarians are keen to extend their access to full text electronic journals, especially in fast-developing multi-disciplinary branches of science and technology. At Strasbourg's Universite Louis Pasteur (ULP), which subscribes to 150 Elsevier electronic journals, the library is set to double the number of titles on offer to students and researchers.
Under the agreement, jointly negotiated by a consortium of the universities of Strasbourg, Nancy, Marseilles II and Angers, a competitive group tariff has been agreed within the libraries' journals budget.
The consortium is the first in France to be formed to deal with the powerful publishing groups that dominate the market in science, technology and medicine.
The agreement with Elsevier follows a special tendering procedure that had to meet French central government requirements on university purchasing.
In Strasbourg, the beneficiaries will be the student and academic users of the Service Commun de Documentation (Central Information Service), which services all the university's libraries.
The agreement allows the consortium's member libraries to offer campus-wide access for an unlimited number of users. But there are conditions: for example, an entire volume may not be printed out by any one user.
Although ULP's library has offered access to electronic journals, mainly in physics and chemistry, since 1998, science and technology section chief Jean-Marie Steible is delighted. He says it is a response to repeated user demands for electronic journals.
The library's central information service has developed a shared network union catalogue that gives access to bibliographic sources held in the university's many research and teaching institutes situated around the city of Strasbourg.
Previously, multiple copies of many key journals were purchased if they were needed on more than one site, but now the same budget will buy one hard copy and electronic full-text access for students, researchers and academics from any of the 18 libraries linked to ULP's network.
Mr Steible said they still needed to buy one print copy as the publishers cannot guarantee the maintenance of an electronic archive. But discussions are under way between consortium members for one of the universities to serve as custodian of the electronic archive.
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