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Spring 2024 EBSCOhost Database Cancellations: Academic Search cancellation


VIU Library has cancelled Academic Search (AS) - a long-standing subscription resource as of May 31, 2024. Subscription cancellations at VIU Library are necessary to achieve budget reduction targets, and our assessment suggested that, due to significant overlap with other VIU Library holdings, cancelling Academic Search would have a lesser impact on VIU students, faculty and researchers than other large-scale journal database cancellations.

Background (Spring 2024)

We began a rigorous assessment in the spring of 2023, which indicated that 1) Academic Search (AS) has increased in cost while declining in use, and 2) there is a high percentage of content overlap between AS and our other subscription resources. The Library continuously assesses our collections investments to ensure we are delivering the best possible value to VIU students and faculty, and our AS assessment and cancellation decision is part of this ongoing practice. 

VIU Library has licensed AS since 2001. The current (FY 2023-24) subscription cost is close to $30,000 CAD. We have maintained our AS subscription from 2010 until 2024 through our membership in the BC Electronic Library Network (BCELN) “Common Suite”. Within the Common Suite deal,  AS costs have risen significantly on an annual and cumulative basis (16% per year, on average, for the past 15 years.) By contrast, overall usage, while still significant, has been trending downward for the last several years. The Common Suite expires at the end of May 2024, and the Library intends to cancel AS as of that date.

This database is an aggregator product, meaning a third-party vendor (EBSCO) distributes selected content owned by various publishers via a proprietary platform (EBSCOhost). AS contains a mix of full text and abstract & indexing (A&I) records, and a mix of scholarly and popular content. Many full text journals in AS are embargoed for 12, 18 or 24 months, meaning content is not available until 1-2 years after publication.

As is common in aggregator databases, the content in AS is relatively unstable compared to publisher journal databases, and fluctuates monthly as content owners (publishers) grant and revoke distribution rights. "In the last 15+ years, VIU Library pursued an intentional strategy of adding many publisher journal packages to our holdings, both current (from 1996- or 1997-) and selected backfiles. These include the “big 5” scholarly publishers (Wiley, SAGE, Elsevier, Springer and Taylor & Francis) as well as Oxford & Cambridge University Presses. Because of our access to these more stable resources, we are now much less dependent on AS for access to primary full text scholarly journal content.

Usage & Overlap (Spring 2024)

Our overall assessment is that we are not getting a good return-on-investment (ROI) for Academic Search, and that our ROI is trending downward over time.

We undertook a detailed, specific overlap analysis which revealed a high percentage of full or partial overlap (80% full; 10% partial) with other VIU Library subscription-based and open access resources. We measured overlap among journals in AS with significant usage (defined as at least 20 full text article retrievals (FTARs) in at least 2 years from 2020 to 2022 inclusive and/or at least 12 FTARs in January - July 2023). There were only 157 journals that met this fairly conservative benchmark, out of more than 18,000 journals included in the database. We feel confident in assuming that AS FTARs for journals that did not meet the significant use threshold will also have high overlap with other subscription content we maintain. This analysis confirmed that we are not getting value commensurate with the cost of AS. 

Questions? Concerns? Please contact us

Feel free to reach out with your feedback to:

We welcome the opportunity to discuss these changes with you.


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Patricia Geddes

Vancouver Island University
900 Fifth Street
Nanaimo, BC V9R 5S5

Phone: 250.753.3245
Local: 2740
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