As Big Deal spending has come to occupy a greater and greater share of materials budgets, libraries are increasingly questioning the status quo of their Big Deal subscriptions. Recent years have seen a number of prominent cancellations, precipitated by questions about the value of the subscription materials. In 2020 we expect this trend to continue with libraries becoming increasingly assertive in their negotiating stance with publishers. This may yield some interesting compromise agreements, but it potentially will lead to more libraries cancelling Big Deals. This brings up a range of questions about how users can continue to access scholarly materials in this rapidly shifting resource landscape. 

In May 2020 Ithaka S+R will launch a study in collaboration with a cohort of libraries to explore the impact of Big Deal cancellations on users, strategies for accessing content, and perceptions of the library’s role in providing access. In this post we share the project’s goals, the preliminary roster of library partners, and how additional libraries–perhaps yours!–can get involved.

How will the project work?

The project will bring together a cohort of libraries to examine how Big Deal cancellations change users’ strategies for accessing content. Through a collections assessment exercise, each participating library will identify the fields or groups of scholars at their institution that are (or likely will be) impacted. Each library will then conduct one-on-one interviews with a sample of five to seven scholars from their priority groups. These interviews will examine the researchers’ experiences accessing content and how they perceive the library’s role in providing access to content. For participating libraries that prefer not to allocate staffing capacity to these purposes, Ithaka S+R is available to conduct interviews and produce a locally tailored analysis.

Ithaka S+R will analyze the interviews conducted across the cohort, and the project will culminate in a convening lead by Ithaka S+R to explore the strategic implications of those findings.

How can my library get involved?

We are thrilled that the University of Denver, University of Kansas, University of Oklahoma, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State, and University of Wyoming will be participating in this project. Our work will begin in May, and we are hoping to include an additional three to five institutions in the cohort.  If you are interested in your library joining our project, we welcome expressions of interest, please contact Danielle Cooper ( by March 24, 2020.