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How librarians make decisions: the interplay of subjective and quantitative factors in the cancellation of Big Deals

Catherine Anne Johnson (Department of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada)
Samuel Cassady (University of Western Ontario, London, Canada)

Collection and Curation

ISSN: 2514-9326

Article publication date: 4 October 2018

Issue publication date: 4 October 2018




The purpose of this study is to investigate the decision-making process of librarians at the University of Western Ontario who attempted to cancel the Wiley Big Deal. The aim of the study is to reveal the underlying factors that affected their decision-making process. By understanding the decision-making process of librarians, it may be possible to devise a system that takes into consideration not only quantitative factors but also the subjective or qualitative factors that impact librarians’ decisions and thus make it easier to cancel these Big Deals.


The study involved administering an online survey to 25 librarians involved in the cancellation project. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 13 of these librarians to understand at a deeper and more nuanced level the factors that influenced their decisions.


The main finding was that the librarians who participated in the study could be divided into two groups – a data-driven criteria group and a subjective criteria group – based on their ranking of the factors used to make their cancellation decisions. Most librarians interviewed used a mixture of quantitative factors and qualitative factors when making their cancellation decisions. The authors found that those participants who had greater professional experience and a closer relationship with the faculties in their subject areas had more difficulty in cancelling journals. Very few librarians relied on quantitative data alone.


This study is one of few that have examined the subjective factors that influence librarians’ decisions regarding cancellation of Big Deals. It has implications regarding the movement towards centralized collection management and reliance on quantitative data alone when making collection decisions.



Johnson, C.A. and Cassady, S. (2018), "How librarians make decisions: the interplay of subjective and quantitative factors in the cancellation of Big Deals", Collection and Curation, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 6-14.



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