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No to journal cuts!

copeThe Society’s Library is cutting periodical subscriptions when the Society can well afford to keep them, and should, say John C W Cope (left) and Bernard Elgey Leake*

A major change is happening within the Society of which most Fellows seem oblivious, although short notes in Geoscientist since 2011 have hinted as to what was coming. Most Fellows, we suspect, are unaware of the scale of the proposed changes. We hope that this article will open eyes to what is happening.

The Society’s funding of current library periodicals is being severely cut and many journals are being cancelled - some of them with long runs even going back to initial volumes in the 19th Century. We profoundly oppose the scale of cuts to the Library acquisition budget which has, and is, resulting in many journal cancellations. The cumulative effect of these concerns us.

Recent monitoring of journal-use started at a disadvantage. The opening of the Lyell Centre meant that shelving for current periodicals was all crammed together into the Fellows’ Room, not only reducing that space, but making even the most casual perusal awkward. The proximity of one rack to the next makes it difficult to see the journals properly. If you make the journals difficult to access, then their use is bound to suffer.

What particularly concerns us is that these library cuts are being made without regard to the future. As Fellows, we should leave to our successors four main bequests: accommodation in Burlington House, a thriving Society, a successful Publishing House and a superb Library. We are not buying just for today’s users but as much, or even more, for future readers, and the growth of electronic material ensures that Fellows increasingly do not have to visit Burlington House to make use of Library holdings.

leakeIf the Society were facing bankruptcy - as it so nearly was during the period from 1962 to 1980, with chronic annual deficits and only three years of surpluses (two of which were minute), such cuts might be necessary. But with our present level of surpluses we can afford, and should be proud to keep, one of the best geological libraries in Europe fully supplied (as we managed to do through the lean years). Our present financial position does not demand any reduction in library spending. The speed with which articles in the Library holdings can be supplied, compared to inter-library loans, should be an attraction to would-be Fellows, whether in industry or academe.

The proposed cuts will leave some aspects of our subject (e.g. hydrogeology) and some geographical regions (e.g. Canada) virtually unrepresented, especially those covered by little-read non-mainstream journals whose present use is not a guide to their long-term value and for which the Society is often the only readily accessible UK holding. New developments can make such journals suddenly invaluable.

We urge a total reconsideration of the journal cancellation policy, which we regard as short-sighted, and hope for a recognition that the library is, for many Fellows, an immensely valued resource and one for which posterity will thank us.

* Professor John Cope and Professor Bernard Leake are, inter alia, a former Treasurer and former President of the Society respectively.