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Engineering, Math and Physical Science Libraries at Cornell University

Physical Sciences collections by the numbers

Dianne Dietrich, our Physics and Astronomy Librarian, created a wonderful visual that illustrates the collections budget for the Physical Sciences Library.  Everything might be online (well, nearly everything), but it’s certainly not all free. Inspired by the XKCD money poster [1], you can check it out here:

We couldn’t include every single thing we’ve bought in the past year — it’s a lot! — but it does spotlight some interesting facts about our budget, like:

+ How much money do we spend on individual requests for books? Compared to our most expensive resources? Not a lot!

+ Did you know that approximately a third of the collections budget for the Physical Sciences Library goes to one publisher — Elsevier [2]?

+ Journal subscription prices can increase by 100% (or more) if the journal is taken over by another publisher.

Let us know what you think! 



[2] In fact, Elsevier’s prices are quite high and many academics and academic libraries do not have a favorable view of their policies. Tim Gowers, a mathematician from Trinity College, has organized a boycott of Elsevier journals (see: ) So far, 22 members of the Cornell community — faculty and librarians — have included their names on the list. Earlier last week, Elsevier posted a response (see:

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