Unbundling ClinicalKey

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Lê, Mê-Linh
Rothney, Janet
Winkler, Janice
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Canadian Health Libraries Association Annual Conference
Introduction: In recent years, the cancellation of so-called journal ‘big deals’ has gained attention and traction within librarianship. In March 2019, University of California’s termination of its $11 million USD/year contract with Elsevier made headlines around the world and was seen by many as a turning point in scholarly publishing and the open access movement. Less attention has been paid, however, to how the potential cancellation of other high-value bundled resources is being handled by libraries. This lightning talk will detail the process undertaken at one health sciences library to assess cancelling its subscription to ClinicalKey, including usage analysis, acquisitions and negotiation strategies, and communications rollout. Description: Owned by Elsevier, ClinicalKey is a key online resource within the health sciences, with a primary focus on medical clinicians; it contains ~550 journals, ~690 electronic books, procedural multimedia, and point of care resources. The University of Manitoba subscribed to ClinicalKey when it launched in 2012, but rising subscription costs, budget constraints, and increasing restrictions placed on how patrons could access content contributed to the need for a thorough assessment as a continued subscription became increasingly unsustainable. Further complicating the process, key texts available only through ClinicalKey are still used as required texts throughout the medical school curriculum so access to a large number of books would need to be renegotiated on a stand-alone basis. Outcomes: Usage stats show that the primary use of ClinicalKey is its books, especially textbooks used by UGME and PGME medicine. Some titles were used more than 1000 times in 2019 alone and cost per use figures show high value for dollar. Replacement costs for only the most used books would cost roughly 78% of an annual subscription to the full package, and would offer significantly reduced access to content. Over 30% of the most used titles are not available electronically. While much of the journal content is covered through overlap subscriptions, the cost to replace the 11 unique titles is still significant. Discussion: It is estimated that cancelling ClinicalKey and only buying back the most used content would cost ~75-80% of our annual renewal cost, and would lead to a decrease in access (i.e., number of seats). In part we were hampered by high costs for a la carte purchases, and many titles that are simply not available electronically. COVID-19 was also a factor in the decision-making process, as restricting access and requiring program coordinators to choose new textbooks during a pandemic would have been inadvisable. While the decision was made to renew ClinicalKey, broader discussions need to be had whether libraries should support what is essentially an online textbook resource. ‘Big deal’ discussions also need to more broadly include monograph packages, which are inherently different, and we would argue more complicated, from cancellation of journal packages.
clinicalkey, collection analysis