This is about recent and ongoing business database changes at UNCG and by extension, NC LIVE. The post will not contain database reviews, nor complaints about vendor behavior. Instead I will focus on aspects of collection planning, budget issues, and user considerations. Hope this is still interesting to some of you!
I’m a business librarian based in a general library. We use one pot of money for database subscriptions, as opposed to allocating a percentage of funds to be spent for each subject area. (We have had a few specialized budgets, like the Distance Education budget, that have also been used to fund databases). So in a sense, liaisons compete for funding for “their” databases based on content needs, perceived importance, and cost-per-use.
Also consider interdisciplinary content, database packages, consortial deals, multi-year deals to lock in prices, one-time spending on purchased e-content, and NC LIVE — and the process of database collection development can get very complicated.
Under our liaison reorganization, our collections team seems to be functioning well: considering input from liaisons (as well as using data), recognizing the special needs of certain subject areas (ex. the need for expensive market tools that will always have a higher than average cost-per-use), requiring that all subject areas contribute to making cuts (that didn’t always happen before), and making decisions with transparency. I trust that group. Good leadership there.
Budget Cutting at UNCG and NC LIVE
Next year UNCG will have its 6th year in a row of budget cuts (or so – I may have lost count). The percentage cut will be smaller than past years, but we will need to pay routine price increases too.
The budget cuts are result of the Great Recession and reduced funding of public education (at all levels) from North Carolina legislators. You might have heard about NC politics in the national news, particularly with last month’s senate race here. Stress over budgets is high across all UNC campuses.
The library budgets for serials, databases, and books have all been cut heavily. We cancelled one “big deal” package (one that had the least favorable pricing – no, it wasn’t Elsevier). We were early adopters of PDA ebooks, and now have PDA streaming videos too. We’ve done some major house cleaning: identifying individual subscriptions, standing orders and continuations, and print “legacy” spending that few if any users will miss. Databases have been cut a lot. As I’ve written, I’ve had to prioritize business databases, identifying those that are now our only source of essential content for core business-related topics and those that might be optional.
Some vendors have been very supportive concerning inflationary price increases. Euromonitor and Mergent are two examples.
As we have cut spending, NC LIVE has become increasingly important to UNCG. We now rely on it heavily for business content. UNC business students and faculty are fortunate that one of NC LIVE’s three goals is to support economic development [see the mission statement, not the strategic goals]. Our increased dependence on NC LIVE makes us increasingly sensitive to NC LIVE database changes (“welcome aboard” say most NC public librarians and many smaller academic libraries to that statement).
NC LIVE has had a flat budget since 2003 or so. So for every three-year subscription cycle, the NC LIVE staff had to deal with inflationary price increases as well as expectations to provide a wider array of content, like streaming video. So guess what strategy NC LIVE has to use to maintain a core set of content with a flat budget?
Yes, negotiating for the best deals with competing vendors. More on that below when I get to specifics.
In preparation for each three year database cycle, NC LIVE spends a year gathering feedback from member libraries, uses BLINC as its business content advisors, and does some serious usage data crunching. [They have learned that UNCG is the number one user of SimplyMap in the state. Go us!]
Impact on database collection development
At UNCG cost is now as important as content and functionality when considering database subscriptions. I’m not willing to spend significant time considering a new product or module until I know generally what the price would be. And really, the key question would be “Is this new thing a cheaper competing product to our existing X subscription?”
In other words: since we’ve cut our business databases down to the essential core, it’s not really worth the time to consider a new database if it couldn’t replace a more expensive direct competitor we already subscribe to. This is why database reviews that compare competing products are the most helpful to me.
What about a new database covering a new content area? PrivCo is an example. It doesn’t really compete with the big establishment-level directories like Hoover’s/Duns/Mergent Intellect or ReferenceUSA or any other subscription we currently have. So I really can’t consider funding PrivCo by cancelling an existing subscription. We have to wait until we get new subscription money — assuming we had enough new money to pay for inflationary price increases first.
OK, I suppose that someday a new business content area might be deemed more important than an old one. Then we could perhaps swap an apple for an orange.
Database changes for 2015:
Aggregators: Ebsco & ProQuest
After many years of providing a large Ebsco package, NC LIVE is switching to a large ProQuest package. NC LIVE received a low bid from that company. We speculate that PQ wants to regain market share in the state and perhaps make some higher-profit sales from upgrades and additional subscriptions to individual NC libraries.
So NC LIVE is switching from Business Source Complete to ABI-INFORM Complete on January 1. Some other PQ business-related databases will come available, just as we had some other Ebsco databases besides BSC.
Many libraries in the state were (are still?) very concerned about the switch from Ebsco and Proquest. Certainly there is labor involved in updating electronic holdings and link resolvers, updating tutorials, etc. And there is also the basic fear of change after using Ebsco for years.
Proquest gave NC LIVE libraries early access to the new databases. I’ve enjoyed comparing ABI to BSC and LexisNexis Academic. The “Dateline” newswire and international content in ABI compares very favorably to the international news in LNA, I decided, and so had the Export Odyssey students switch from LNA to ABI for their international competitors and customers research. The students appreciated the better interface and not having to do the extra work of changing the default search silos in LNA before entering keywords.
Not long after NC LIVE announced the upcoming switch from Ebsco to Proquest, our collections team decided to pick up an Ebsco Complete package of databases, including Business Source. We had money from other cancellations and some cost-savings from our own PQ subscriptions covered by the upcoming NC LIVE package. The decision to buy the Ebsco package ourselves was based on the amount of unique full text provided. We already had a lot of Ebsco subscriptions not covered by NC LIVE (ex. PsycInfo), so there was a vendor discount involved too.
So despite 6 years of budget cuts, UNCG’s support of business articles actually got stronger – and more duplicative, given the big overlap between BSC and ABI. It would be a shame if we end up cutting more unique business-related content due to budget cuts while enjoying more overlapping article databases through package deals.
Company Directories: Hoover’s/Mergent & ReferenceUSA
Here is another big switch and a reversal of sorts. After its 2009-2011 subscription package, NC LIVE switched from ReferenceUSA to Hoover’s for 2012-14. Like the upcoming switch to ProQuest, the reason back then was a cheap bid from Hoover’s. Again, since NC LIVE’s budget has been flat, it can’t afford to pay inflationary price increases without scaling back the variety of content it provides and therefore scaling back its goals. So it has to shop for deals.
We learned the Hoover’s corporate database was not designed to handle the needs of a state-wide collection of public and academic libraries. In early 2012, NC LIVE told BLINC that Hoover’s was contracting with Mergent to provide Hoover’s/Duns content to the academic and public library market. Mergent is based outside Charlotte and so it was pretty convenient for NC LIVE, BLINC, and Mergent to talk (in various combinations) about Hoover’s and provide feedback on the a Mergent database based on the Hoover’s/Duns company records. Those were very interesting discussions (much of which was off the record, sorry).
Long ago UNCG subscribed to Duns Million Dollar Database and Key Business Ratios Online. We eventually switched to other products as other options emerged. Given the important content Hoover’s/Duns provides, it was good to hear that Hoover’s hired Mergent – an established player in the academic and public library markets – to provide its content to those markets and improve the products.
The new database, Mergent Intellect, went live in 2013. Given ongoing technical issues with providing the Hoover’s corporate database through NC LIVE, NC LIVE switched from Hoover’s to Mergent Intellect in January 2014 while remaining on the 3-year Hoover’s contract.
For 2015-17, NC LIVE is going back to ReferenceUSA. OneSource will be included. Some public librarians in BLINC are very happy about this. But I did get a phone call two months ago from a public library in an adjacent county asking if UNCG was going to pick up Intellect on its own; that library had a patron who hated the thought of losing Intellect and would have been happy to drive over here to use it.
UNCG once subscribed to OneSource as its international company directory, but dropped it when NC LIVE picked up Hoover’s in 2011. (Once again, a budget decision – we didn’t have money for duplicate content.)
So in a two year period, we are going from Hoover’s to Mergent Intellect to ReferenceUSA/OneSource.
(Thankfully, NC LIVE was able to renew its subscriptions to SimplyMap and the Morningstar Investment Research Center. UNCG is the top user of SimplyMap in the state according to NC LIVE data. We were early subscribers, and then NC LIVE picked it up. We have the MRI data, but not the Simmons. So I was happy to see the Simmons data show up in DemographicsNow.)
Other types of databases (briefly)
Web of Science wanted a big price increase and wouldn’t negotiate, so we switched to Scopus. That saved a lot of money, but we decided to pay Thomson a lot to keep EndNote Web/Online one more year. We are trying to get all our EndNote Web users to export their citations by June. After some discussion and trials, my library has adopted Zotero as our supported citation management tool. We continue to use EndNote Desktop thanks to campus IT spending.
It had been six years since I reviewed our Checkpoint (RIA) and IntelliConnect (CCH) packages. We had been getting primarily tax content from one and accounting and auditing content from the other. AICPA and FASB were asking for a big price increase for those modules in Checkpoint, so we repacked our Checkpoint subscription with helpful guidance from the vendor rep and saved some money there. The professors were using free sources for AICPA and FASB content anyway.
Impact on users from all this change?
Certainly name recognition suffers.
This is not a new problem. We once switched from Mergent Online to BvD Osiris and back to Mergent Online a few years later due to pricing. The finance profs understood the need to be discerning consumers but also hoped for more stability if possible. (Last month one of the entrepreneurship profs told her class to use ReferenceUSA to identify local competitors. So that mistake won’t be a mistake in January!)
Including alternative database names and “see….” references in database lists and on libguides can help, but is no panacea. Emails to faculty and a “What’s New” box listed across all business libguides may help too.
Some libraries list all the business-related databases in alphabetical order. Others break up the list into more useful sub-lists like “public companies” and “market data”. If you have libguide box for just “private company databases”, for example, link placement can help. List the most important database first. In a few weeks I’ll swap Intellect for ReferenceUSA at the top of that box.
Embedded and co-teaching work can take care of some research classes – push the change in class, on the libguides, and through your e-learning platform.
The need for a variety of content and the existence of competing databases are two defining aspects of business librarianship. We don’t have a dominating, monopolistic database (with often monopolistic pricing) like many other subjects do. Yes, I’m looking at you, modern languages, psychology, and chemistry. So in many libraries serving the research needs of business faculty and students, database swapping will continue as long as budgets are weak.