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Posted on Sep 23, 2023

The Freedom to Read is Essential to the Mission of the California State University

The 23 California State University libraries are united in their commitment to supporting the freedom to read as well as the freedom to learn, teach, and create new knowledge in an environment where challenges to those freedoms are increasing throughout the United States.

According to the American Library Association, there were 1,269 documented attempts to censor or otherwise limit access to books or other resources in U.S. libraries in 2022, representing a 74% increase in censorship attempts since 2021 and “the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago.” According to PEN America, organized efforts to ban books in school libraries and public libraries overwhelmingly target stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals and reflect broader efforts to limit the ability for students to learn about race, racism, sexuality, gender, or other topics as part of their public education.

While national attention has been drawn to systemic censorship efforts in states including FloridaLouisiana, and Texas, California has not been immune from efforts to censor library materials or limit access to instruction on certain topics in our schools, e.g., efforts to limit access to LGBTQ+ materials in the San Diego Public Library, and a decision, later reversed, by the Temecula Valley Unified School Board to reject a state-approved social studies curriculum owing to its inclusion of information about slain California gay-rights activist (and member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors) Harvey Milk.

As the American Library Association and its partners among the publishing community argued more than 70 years ago in their Freedom to Read Statement, “[the] freedom to read is essential to our democracy,” and, now as then, it is under attack.

For more than 50 years, the California State University has been a leader in learning, scholarship, and community engagement dedicated to exploring the history of our diverse community and to ensuring a better future for all members of our community, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual identity.

The CSU is the largest and most diverse four-year institution of higher education in the United States, providing “more than half of all undergraduate degrees earned by California’s Latinx, African American and Native American students combined.” Of our 23 campuses, 21 are recognized as Hispanic-Serving Institutions and 14 are recognized as Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions.

And, while individual CSU campuses have been national leaders in teaching, learning, and research in areas such as Africana Studies and Chicana and Chicano Studies for decades, we are now united in supporting the state-wide requirements for General Education in Ethnic Studies. CSU campuses were also among the first in the nation to develop programs in Women’s Studies and today all 23 CSU campuses house women’s resource centers as well as LGBTQ+ centers. The core commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice is fundamental to our system and to the plans and aspirations of our campuses and libraries.

Given this historic commitment to the freedom to teach and the freedom to learn about all subjects, including those increasingly challenged as inappropriate for inclusion in library collections or instructional programs, the California State University libraries join their colleagues in academic, public, and school libraries across the United States in re-asserting our commitment to the core values of librarianship, including diversity, intellectual freedom, social responsibility, and the public good. 

The freedoms to read, write, inquire, learn, and create are essential to the mission of the California State University and fundamental elements of a free, informed, and educated citizenry in the State of California. 

Together, we will continue to build collections, provide public programs, and pursue campus and community partnerships that promote those freedoms, reflect those values, and extend the reach and impact of academic and co-curricular programs designed to strengthen an inclusive, just, and democratic society. 

Please contact your campus library with any questions or to learn more about your campus library’s policies on collection development or on challenges to the inclusion of any material in your library collection.

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Posted on May 18, 2022

CSU Partners with UC, SCELC, and ACS to Advance First California-wide Transformative Open Access Agreement

Three California consortia, representing nearly 60 academic and research institutions, and the Publications Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) today announced the first-ever California-wide transformative open access agreement. It is also ACS’ first “read and publish” agreement in the U.S. composed of multiple consortia.

Through a partnership with the 10-campus University of California (UC) system, the 23-campus California State University (CSU) system, and 25 subscribing institutions represented by the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium (SCELC), readers and researchers at dozens of California research institutions will be able to benefit from full access to subscription content while receiving support for open access publication in ACS’ portfolio of more than 75 premier chemistry journals.

See the ACS news release for more information.

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Posted on Jan 21, 2022

California State University / Elsevier Renewal Announcement

We are pleased to announce that California State University has successfully finalized a three-year ScienceDirect contract with Elsevier. This renewal continues our positive negotiations and agreement terms that were first put into effect March of 2020.

The contract renewal allows for ongoing access to the Complete Collection and Cell Press Collection, our previous standard holdings and access to the CSU Access Collection (formerly Gratis List), as well as the Freedom Collection.

In effect, CSU students, faculty and staff have continued access to the CSU collection of Elsevier titles with negligible increased costs for the CSU libraries. This incredible news continues the practice of CSU authors retaining their transformative agreement option to publish their articles open access with no Author Processing Charges.  

Open Access for CSU Authors

The previous transformative contract allowed 564 corresponding author publications to be published Gold open access under CSU’s transformative agreement (out of 630 total accepted articles). This OA uptake, 89.5%, reflects one of the highest among Elsevier’s worldwide customer base and expands inclusive access to the outstanding scholarship by CSU Authors. As a public university system, the ability to partner with Elsevier and make our scholarship public and available to the world is an important act and value.

Over the next three years, CSU authors will continue to choose the copyright model they prefer. For authors who wish to publish open access, all Author Publishing Charges (APCs) will be waived for CSU corresponding authors whose articles are accepted by eligible Elsevier journals during the contract period (i.e., 2022-2024). There are no limits to the number of available APC waivers for CSU; exercising this option does not impact publishing decisions. Authors who opt to retain their copyright may select between a CC BY or CC BY-NC-ND license.


The CSU Libraries and Elsevier have come to an agreement that the renewal costs will increase 1% over the three-year contract. All CSU Contracts are subject to public disclosure via the CA Public Records Act.


Please contact your campus librarian with questions, and congratulations to CSU Libraries for their stewardship and advocacy of CSU authors and readers.

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Posted on Jan 18, 2022

2021 CSU/Elsevier Science Direct Negotiation

Why do we need to find a different approach with Elsevier?

In short, because the existing spending on Elsevier is disproportionately large compared to other academic publishers and is unsustainable for the CSU Libraries.  

Elsevier, like most other academic publishers, has built a business model underwritten by publicly-funded research, faculty scholarship, faculty peer review, and faculty editorial board management. Elsevier then charges libraries annual or multi-year subscription fees to buy access to journals and scholarly materials that exist only because of the public research funding and faculty work effort. This business model leverages scholarly standards and expectations deeply entrenched in academia, including the very important Promotion and Tenure process that requires faculty to publish in highly ranked journals in order to achieve tenure and get promoted subsequently. 

As libraries, we have been entrusted by our university community to acquire access to high quality scholarly material that enables scholarship and knowledge creation and supports the aforementioned scholarly standards and expectations. The publications of Elsevier and other scholarly publishers (e.g. SAGE, Springer, IEE, etc.) are fully aligned with this mission. As such academic libraries depend on Elsevier and other publishers to fulfill this mission.

Where things get complicated is when we look at the amount the CSU spends on Elsevier. The breakdown in the table below shows how the CSU combined spending on Elsevier exceeds the cumulative spending on the next three most expensive academic packages.

database cost comparison for 2020/2021. Elsevier: $3,949,133.  Top three databases after Elsevier: $3,538,875.

To be clear, these numbers do not measure usage, access, or productivity based on these vendors. It simply serves to illustrate how outsized the relative cost of the Elsevier package is. Further, this complaint about the cost of Elsevier is not limited to the CSU. Our colleagues in the UC system have also renegotiated their Elsevier deal. Similarly, university libraries all across North America have also had to completely renegotiate their Elsevier packages. For further information, please have a look at Ithaka S+R’s recently published study entitled: “What’s the Big Deal?” and how libraries are faring post cancelation of the big publisher packages.

In 2011-2012, the CSU spend for the package was $2,711,923.  In less than 10 years, we’re looking at an increase of over $1 million.

Why does it matter?

Collections budgets in libraries are limited and consistently under pressure. Spending collection funds is an exercise in deciding about what to purchase and what not to buy. The opportunity cost imposed by an unnecessarily expensive journal package leads CSU libraries to purchase fewer other scholarly resources, thereby greatly hampering the ability of the libraries to support emerging fields and inhibiting a diverse representation of ideas and research. Less access to research is bad for science. For more insight into the current landscape of academic publishing, see the free documentary, Paywall: The Business of Scholarship.

What we would like changed in our Elsevier package?

While we recognize the value of academic publishers such as Elsevier, we have come to a point where the cost to maintain our Elsevier deal is unsustainable. What were once well priced products have become unaffordable due to consistent annual increases in the cost of these packages. Compounding these increases over many years, has increased the cost of our Elsevier deal to a point where it exceeds the CSU Libraries collective ability to maintain our Elsevier package. This is the time to design a working model for read institutions; one where we partner with Elsevier in making our faculty’s research available via OA and access is available to all of our campuses. As such we are requesting a reset of the Elsevier package to be in line with the cost of our other packages and subscriptions. The new cost should be affordable while allowing Elsevier acceptable annual increases. While there may be some negotiations around content,  the Open Access agreement continues to be a high priority. 

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Posted on Jul 6, 2020

Textbooks in the Library Collection

The 23 California State University Libraries share the statement below as articulating the constraints we face in providing service to the students that is our mission.  While the Affordable Learning Solutions initiative promotes the adoption of low or no cost materials, students may still find themselves unable to pay for essential reading.  When instruction is on campus, libraries can provide short-term access to textbook and other resources through course reserves. To replicate this in a virtual environment, major publishers would need to allow libraries to purchase digital versions of textbooks, which they currently do not. The publishers’ failure to do so deprives students who cannot afford a personal digital edition of the resources essential to their pursuit of an education.  We thank our colleagues at the University of Guelph Libraries who shared their challenges and the librarians at Grand Valley State University for their eloquent statement.

Grand Valley State University’s

Statement on Textbooks in the Library Collection

As we approach the fall 2020 semester, library faculty and staff are working hard to provide alternative access to the print course reserves collection. A significant portion of the books on reserve are print copies of required textbooks, and students cannot access them without coming into the library. Library faculty and staff have continuously explored approaches to how we acquire course textbooks, to ensure that students have access, even in a hyflex, distance delivery environment.

This work is complicated by textbook publishers who do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries. Many existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to any library, regardless of budget, in formats other than print. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. We also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials are a barrier for students at every university and essentially sends taxpayer funded student financial aid back to content providers, who further exploit faculty labor and research to monopolize and dominate knowledge production.

This is not a library problem. This is an industry problem that impacts everyone in higher education: students, advocates in support and success roles, faculty and institutional research output, grant funding, and confuses prestige and paywalls with quality in scholarship evaluation.

Despite the library’s commitment to make copies of all required textbooks and course materials available to assist those students who are unable to purchase their own, the following publishers will not allow us to purchase an e-textbook version of their publications:

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press
  • Most publishers of ‘common reads,’ popular fiction, and popular nonfiction
  • Many health sciences texts

This means that in courses that have adopted textbooks by these publishers, students who do not purchase the textbook will not have any alternative access to the textbook content. These publishers have the resources to support a global reliance on flexible distribution, and choose not to.

We are working with instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:

  • Using an existing e-book in the relevant subject area from the library’s e-book collection or requesting that the library purchase one. Many academic e-books that aren’t considered textbooks, and are therefore available for the library to purchase.
  • Adopting an open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors.
  • Creating an online course pack in Blackboard by:
    • Posting individual book chapters or excerpts and scanned copies of the content, subject to copyright limitations.
    • Linking to content from the library’s existing collection of electronic resources (e-books, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials).

Efforts will be made to secure online materials that are free from digital rights management restrictions (DRM) in order to ensure unfettered student access. DRM includes limits on the number of users that can access a resource at any one time, as well as limits on copying, printing and downloading.

CSU Library Questions?

Contact your CSU Library Dean

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Posted on Mar 27, 2020

California State University Libraries Response to COVID-19

The 23 California State University (CSU) Libraries are providing expanded support for our students and faculty as we move to a virtual instruction environment. While some steps are purely local, two critical measures result from a system-wide collaboration:

  1. provision of a rich array of expanded, full-text databases and
  2. an extension of library circulation due dates for library materials (books, media, hardware, and more) and dismissal of library fines for continuing students, faculty, staff, and community users.

Your local CSU Library is engaged in expanded virtual teaching and research support (digitizing collections, equipment lending, online instruction or research help, and more). See the links below for more information from your specific campus library regarding services or how to safely access or return materials.

Expanded Collections

A significant number of publishers have provided all 23 CSU libraries with expanded access to a substantial number of digital textbooks, electronic journals, and e-books during the current pandemic. This centrally-managed work is testament to the power of the CSU library consortium. The CSU Libraries have activated these resources centrally in our Unified Library Management System so that they are available to all of our students and faculty, effective immediately. Please check your library catalog to see what new resources have been added during this time as we work to make these materials discoverable. We do not expect that they will be available past the end of May, but we are glad that these grants of access make it easier for our students and faculty to complete their research during this stressful time. They may not be able to enter the physical building, but the digital library just became much bigger.

The publishers whose expanded resources we have activated include JSTOR, Project MUSE, IEEE, Sage Video, JoVE, Emerald, and others. Do note, that at some point in the future access will be shut off. Our ability to connect to this content is due to vendors stepping up and helping higher education during this challenging time. Details on available titles can be found on your library’s link below.

Expanded due dates / No fines

As we shelter-in-place we do not want our students, faculty, staff, or community users to worry about returning materials to their library. Your safety is our priority; therefore, your local CSU Library will adjust all due dates so that you do not incur any fines.

All CSU Library due dates are extended to August 31, 2020.

If you are graduating this spring or summer, you may need to return your library materials before your paperwork can be finalized. Please contact your local library via email to determine the appropriate way to return items.

COVID-19 Response
CSU Library Informational Sources

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