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Behind the Scenes in E-Resources

by Christine McEvilly on 2022-04-21T13:14:00-04:00 | 0 Comments

realistic image of books on cubical shelves displayed in a laptop screen, with tree in background.The CSI Library partners with all our fellow CUNY Libraries and CUNY Central’s Office of Library Services to help meet the needs of CSI students and faculty. We want to highlight that teamwork by sharing a bit of behind-the-scenes info on how the Library provides the resources to help you with research.

The CUNY Libraries cooperate on many different fronts, such as a cooperative 24/7 chat reference, shared catalog with the ability to borrow books via inter-campus delivery, the Open Educational Resources (OER) grant initiative, library systems and software, and extensive professional development. But we also share electronic resources, a practice which allows the CSI community to access databases that we simply would not be able to afford on our own. In fact, about 75% of funds for CSI Library resources (spent by the University and the CSI campus) go into these online resources.


You can review the full list of CUNY-Wide databases at the CUNY Libraries Databases and More page. While some of these electronic resources are funded directly by the University, many of the largest and most used are funded through cooperative agreements among all the campuses. The University Office of Library Services (OLS) directly funds and purchases fundamental databases like Academic Source Complete (EBSCO) and JSTOR. The Office also pays for databases that meet special needs, such as our new Alexander Street Academic Video Online (AVON) database, which helps us meet the increased demand for streaming video services. OLS makes all its purchasing decisions with input from each campus, primarily through the Electronic Resources Advisory Committee (ERAC). Every campus library has a representative on ERAC and we meet monthly to discuss resources and coordinate our work.

Through ERAC (and the Council of Chief Librarians), CUNY libraries also work out agreements where each campus library contributes from local budgets to resources that have been negotiated and purchased for all the schools. Typically, resource vendors charge each campus based on its student population (FTE). However, when we purchase in groups, vendors will often offer discounts in return for getting additional campuses to subscribe. These deals can be very hard to negotiate—all the previously subscribing campuses must usually agree to maintain their subscriptions (albeit with a discount), and new campuses must have both an interest in the resource and the funds to contribute to the combined pricing. But through the hard work of OLS, CUNY Central’s purchasing office, and all the libraries, these agreements enable us to get resources like the Wiley Online Library, the American Chemical Society publications, and a variety of Gale databases. Approximately 50% of our local campus e-resources library budget is spent on these shared deals!

Identifying these shared resources is a vital part of our professional work as librarians. As faculty, we have the academic freedom, training, and ethical and financial responsibility to select resources that best serve the learning and research needs of our students and faculty. Each campus has a distinct population, with different library needs. But we work together to identify universal needs, often by trialing and evaluating new and existing resources. In some cases, a small group of campuses with aligning interests will work together to develop discounted deals that provide access only to paying campuses. Other joint agreements are chosen to meet University-wide strategic initiatives, such as one for improved access to STEM databases. Annually, CUNY Libraries share (via ERAC) information on all our individual subscriptions (and associated costs) to allow us to identify resources that are purchased by most campuses. We work with OLS to determine which of these resources may be negotiated at the university level for a discount or to provide low-cost access to the schools not subscribing.

 We hope to have given you all a sneak peak of the often hidden work we do here at the CSI Library. Our goal is to provide you 24/7 access to electronic resources, whether you are on or off campus. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions! 

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