The University Library (UL) of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) has a collection of some 950,000 volumes, 4,000 journal subscriptions and licenses for more than 200 online databases. The starting point of EUR's purchasing policy is the scientific relevance of the material for its own institution. In addition, national alignment between universities and other libraries also plays a role.
The collection strength is determined by research activities and teaching programmes within the faculties. The UL acquires and maintains collections in all scientific fields taught in the Woudestein faculties: economics, business administration, law, social sciences (including psychology), history and arts, philosophy, and policy and management of health care.
Further, the UL works with the Rotterdamsch Leeskabinet, which acquires documents relating to history, art and culture.
The UL plans to transform itself into a digital information centre in the next few years. The policy is therefore to make as many electronic resources available as possible to which the EUR academic community have unlimited access.
The change-over from a printed collection to a principally electronic collection should be made in stages.
- There are often no guarantees for the continuity of information services. Only the right to access files can be purchased for electronic information resources, whereas printed documents become the property of the Library. Archiving digital resources presents problems for which standard solutions have not yet been found.
- Collection building becomes inflexible. It is often only possible to agree licences for a package of periodicals instead of selecting individual titles. Moreover, some licence agreements last for several years.
- Access to files varies greatly technically. Indexing and retrieval require different software packages, each with its own search facilities and interface.
- Lastly, financing is a problem. The gradual changeover from analogue to digital requires extra investment at a time when the UL is confronted every year with price increases and diminishing budgets.
The current licensing policy of publishers, the lack of guarantees for the continuity of electronic information in the future, and financial problems force us to opt provisionally for maintaining the core collection of printed periodicals. The policy is to change over to digital periodicals in three simultaneous stages.
- The first stage comprises periodicals that are available free of charge on the Internet in full text on the basis of a subscription to the printed version. This stage will of course also include periodicals that in the coming years will be available in electronic form only.
- In the second stage the top periodicals will be selected per faculty. The aim will be to take a combined subscription to these titles, i.e., by paying a 10-20% higher subscription, both the printed and electronic versions of the periodical will be supplied. This will enable the institute's libraries to make a significant saving on subscription costs.
- In the third stage periodicals with a short 'cited half life' (i.e., their content is of scholarly interest for a limited period only) will be purchased in electronic form only.
For other periodicals, only the printed version will be purchased because
- the licensing conditions do not guarantee continuity in the future, or
- there is simply no electronic equivalent.
The policy on secondary reference sources aims to achieve as wide a coverage as possible of the international scholarly production of information. The resources give references to primary sources regardless of where they are located. A few examples are Web of Science, Current Contents, Online Contents and Lexis-Nexis.