On August 31st, days before the beginning of the academic year, Wiley Publishing removed library access to over 1,300 eBooks.
Due to pressure from the #eBookSOS campaign, access was reinstated in early October, until June 2023.
This removal came as a shock to librarians across Ireland, with a joint statement from Irish librarians on the University of Limerick website stating that “Wiley removed these books from already-subscribed services without making any efforts to inform academic libraries that pay hundreds of thousands of Euros from public funds per year to ensure students have access to the books they need” They described the action as “sudden” and as “a slap in the face for students, faculty and librarians”.
The action came at a point in the year where reading lists had already been set, with many course coordinators having constructed their curriculum using Wiley eBooks specifically because they were available for free through UCD Library.
Dr Sandra Collins, University Librarian at UCD, spoke on this point in a joint statement with UCDSU following the removal of the titles, "This unilateral action by Wiley Publishers, taken at a time when students are facing accommodation and cost of living crises, severely impacts the work of academic libraries in providing access to essential texts for teaching and learning and research. It is a major setback for inclusive access and especially for people with reading difficulties for whom ebooks are critical. We urge people to actively support the #eBookSOS campaign for sustainable electronic content and eBook pricing."
The University Observer spoke with UCDSU Education Officer, Martha Ní Riada, following the reinstatement of the titles. “It is a win, because it shows that when the libraries, academics and students come together, it can create some change, but the structural issues are still there. It doesn’t fix the overall problem. (...) It’s something we need to continue to work on, and I would be very for student unions to continue to work on this issue. I’ve been working with the Library Association of Ireland and the local government management agency, because public libraries are also affected, not just university libraries.”
Ní Riada went on to explain that the issue regarding academic eBooks is one that will likely have to be brought to EU level, with no local solutions likely to be more than stop gaps like the one described above. Despite being among the most suitable options for a university library, as you can store a copy digitally that can be accessed by a multitude of students, eBooks are among the least financially stable option, with many costing between three times and ten times the amount of their physical counterpart. This is due in part to the licensing agreements that these eBooks fall under.
For more information on the #eBookSOS campaign, visit the Library Association’s website at libraryassociation.ie