Google has rolled out a major set of changes to its search engine results pages. Left-hand navigational search facets are now turned on by default. Greg Notess examines the changes in detail in today’s Infotoday NewsBreak.
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A recently released guide from the Research Information Network reveals how academic librarians are experiencing and responding to ﬁnancial cuts in the current economic climate.
Using data which was gathered in the UK and internationally, and which was then explored further during late 2009 with focus groups of senior librarians, the guide examines the ﬁnancial position of libraries, their strategies for dealing with challenging economic circumstances, and the value of libraries.
The report reveals that, after a decade of growth in budgets and services, academic librarians now expect a sustained period of cuts over the next three to ﬁve years. Directors from across the sector reported that they were being asked to model cumulative cuts of between 5% and 10% a year.
The scale of these cuts means that librarians are having to reconsider the kinds and levels of service they can provide in support of their universities’ missions. The study reports that librarians across the sector are looking very closely at the costs of the ‘big deals’ and how they might be reduced. As a consequence, there is increased interested in national site licences covering the whole of the HE sector.
Other reductions being considered include opening hours, subject support for academic staff and students, and information skills training.
The report acknowledges that, in the very long term, it is possible that open access may help to reduce the pressure on library budgets. However, for the next three to five years at least, open access initiatives will continue to represent additional burdens on libraries, while the costs of running repositories, or paying publication fees, are not being offset by any significant reductions in subscription costs for scholarly journals.
The guide stresses that library directors from across the sector are keen to use the current financial difficulties as an opportunity to rethink what the library does, and to do things differently. But as yet there are few concrete proposals that will transform services or yield large-scale savings. The report concludes that sustaining world-class information services is of fundamental importance to UK universities. Libraries and their directors have a critical role to play, but they cannot do it all themselves. Leadership and partnership with champions from across the HE and information sectors will be critical to sustaining the outstanding position of UK universities.
With the iPad selling 300,000 units on launch day, another 200,000 in its first week, and shortly to be available (we hope) in Europe, Barbara Quint provides a timely overview of apps available from traditional information industry players.
Paula Hane updates on “evolved search engine” LeapFish and semantic search engine hakia, and provides links to useful recent coverage from Information Today and other resources.
The British Library recently announced the launch of the UK Web Archive, which will store and make accessible every site in the .uk top-level domain. The project will deploy an impressive array of text-mining and analysis software - Avi Rappoport reveals the details in Information Today’s Newsbreaks.
Open access advocate Stevan Harnad looks back over the progress made by the OA movement to date, in a detailed and far-reaching interview with Richard Poynder for Information Today. Harnad speculates as to whether 2010 will see the tipping point needed to usher in universal open access, with the aim of getting the 2.5 million articles a year that are published in 25,000 peer-reviewed journals all freely available online.
Harnad is realistic in his assessment of the progress made to date: “…the history of OA so far has been one of gratuitous over-reaching that has not only netted little, but it has failed even to grasp what has already been well within reach for some time: free online access to refereed reseach.” But he is cautiously optimisitic about the initiatives underway in 2010.
BBC Director General Mark Thomson and Lynne Brindley, head of the British Library, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will seek to develop ‘new ways of integrating access.’ They will also work together on issues such as rights management, digitisation and storage. A joint steering committee will develop a uniform approach across the two institutions.
Mark Thompson said it is “vital we partner, harnessing the power of digital technology to give the public the access they deserve.” According to Brindley, the project aims to “create a model of best practice which will allow the library to develop similar opportunities with other public institutions.” The partnership demonstrates that “we are keen to share content for the benefit of today’s researchers and the knowledge economy”, she added.
Springer Science and Business Media is to be sold to EQT, a Swedish private equity (PE) firm, and GIC, a PE fund backed by the government of Singapore. The deal is expected to close by late January or early February 2010. The German company is the world’s second largest scientific, technical and medical publisher after Reed Elsevier and was formed in 2003 by the merger of Kluwer Academic Publishers and Bertelsmann Springer.
The announcement of the purchase comes only days after British media group Informa, under pressure from shareholders, pulled out of discussions to buy the company, saying it could not close the deal within the timescale required by previous PE owners Candoven Investments and Cinven.
The details have not been disclosed, but it has been estimated that the deal is worth €2.3billion ($3.4 billion). The deal is priced to take into account the fact that the purchasers will take on Springer’s debt pile which is in excess of €2 billion ($2.9 billion). EQT is to buy 82% of the company and GIC the remainder.
Derk Haank, Springer’s CEO, described “constructive and collegial discussions” with EQT and added that the deal “will allow us to move our ambitious and ongoing ‘e’ strategy forward”.
What are the implications for the publishing industry? Compared with the deal values which were being touted when Candover and Cinven were originally trying to offload the business, EQT have got themselves a bargain. According to the Financial Times, the purchase values Springer at around 8 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, which is similar to rival Reed Elsevier. Springer’s business is sound, turning over €880 million ($1290 million) in 2008. The looming squeeze on public sector budgets introduces a very real note of uncertainly into the equation, but in general Springer is operating in markets with reliable cash flow and low reliance on advertising.
For those inclined to look for green shoots of economic recovery, the deal says most about the state of the leveraged buyout sector. The deal is Europe’s biggest private equity transaction for more than a year, and an indication that the PE industry is pulling out of the credit crunch. Whether or not this is a good thing for the publishing sector will no doubt be open to debate. Possible buyers from within the publishing industry who, in less turbulent times, might have been interested in an acquisition of Springer, do not appear to have been in a position to do so, probably either because of regulatory concerns or because they have their hands full with their own business challenges.
Intriguingly, there is still speculation that a merger between Springer and Informa could lie in the future, but for the time being this draws a line under a particularly convoluted and long-drawn out courtship ritual.
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