The shifts to online and OA continue apace, but neither is causing a sea change in pricing
The shift to digital delivery of serials content has had a profound effect on the information ecosystem. Powerful discovery and social networking tools expose users to an incredibly rich world of commercially produced and open access (OA) content. Most publishers have explored new ways of pricing their content—such as population served, FTE (full-time equivalent), tiered pricing based upon Carnegie classification, or other defining criteria—or the database model, which treats all content within an e-journal package as a database, eliminating the need for title by title reconciliation. However, in the end, the pricing conversation always seems to circle back to the revenue generated by the annual subscription model.
The U.S. economy continued to expand but at a slower pace in 2016. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) increased 1.6% in 2016 after a 2.6% increase in 2015. State expenditures also reflect this trend. Public sector spending has grown consistently since 2008, yet the growth is not yet sufficient to return to prerecession levels when adjusted for inflation. The rate of state spending growth also slowed in 2016. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), overall state spending has increased from $687 billion in 2008 to $786 billion in 2016. Using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to calculate inflation, 2016 expenditures fall short of the $794 billion that would be needed just to keep up.
State general fund spending based on enacted budgets is expected to top $809 billion in 2017, but again that will be shy of what would be needed to match 2008 spending when adjusted for inflation. According to the NASBO 2016 Fiscal Survey report, “General fund revenue growth slowed in fiscal 2016, increasing only 1.8% (CPI was 2.5%), with 25 states ending the year with collections below budget forecast. Also, adjusting for inflation, 32 states spent less in FY16 than they did in FY08 before the Great Recession hit.” However, not every sector was equally impacted: K–12 education funding has seen solid growth, with a 5.2% increase in 2015 and a 3.6% increase in 2016. Expenditures in higher education have seen similar growth of around 5% for both 2015 and 2016.
As most libraries are publicly funded, state expenditures are a solid indicator of the economic environment experienced by libraries. Slow growth in public funding is reflected in budgets for higher education and libraries. A 2016 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that 46 states still spend less per student in higher education than was spent in 2007–08. The report also states, “Overall, funding for public two- and four-year colleges is almost $10 billion below its prerecession level, after adjusting for inflation.” Endowments in higher education are also not showing robust growth, so funding in private institutions is also impacted. The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) reported that the return from endowments was -1.9% in 2016 after a modest increase of 2.4% in 2015.