Libraries and Hours Ask a Librarian

Engineering Library

24/7 Study Space & Computing - Full Hours /

Sticker Shock: The High Price of Journals

Compare these pricey items to the cost of some of the 740 journals we subscribe to at the Engineering Library. (All prices current as of December, 2013).


Remember: In an academic journal, neither the authors, reviewers, nor editors receive any money. 100% of all subscription fees go to the publisher.


For $330 you could purchase either a WiiU game system (with New Super Mario and New Super Luigi U) . . . or one year’s institutional subscription to Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems Textbook Cover


For $1,200 you could purchase a round-trip ticket from Ithaca to London, UK (in May) . . . or buy one year’s institutional subscription to The Journal of Propulsion and Power.

Big Ben in London
Journal of Propulsion and Power Cover


For $8,500 you could purchase either a Tiffany Swing Three-Row diamond ring . . . or one year’s institutional subscription to Water Science and Technology.

Tiffany Swing Three-Row diamond ring
Water Science and Technology Cover


For $12,000 you could buy a Chevy Spark (LT package, manual) . . . or one year’s institutional subscription to Materials Science and Engineering A: Structural Materials.

Chevy Spark
Materials Science and Engineering A: Structural Materials Cover

Why are academic journals so expensive?

  1. For-Profit Publishers: Journals are often run by for-profit businesses, with a goal of maximizing revenue. Journals run by academic societies may be more reasonably priced.
  2. Monopoly Pricing: Many academic journals are offered only by a single publisher, so no competition exists.
  3. Institutional Licensing: In order to make journal content accessible online to the entire Cornell community, publishers require that we purchase institutional licenses, which are much higher than individual subscription prices.
  4. Research Value/Specialization: Researchers need these journals in order to remain abreast of the research in their fields–and for their own professional advancement (“Publish or perish”). Publishers control the copyright for each individual article.

Is there anything that can be done?

We negotiate with vendors to keep costs down. We obtain many journals via ‘Big Deals’ that give us many subscriptions bundled at a lower price than they would individually cost. We also buy with other universities to get group discounts. If we feel offers are unreasonable, we have cancelled subscriptions, even with major publishers.


There is also a new model of publishing called Open Access. Open Access journals charge authors a fee to publish. The journals are then available online for free. While this increases costs to authors, it makes their research accessible to all.


Governments both in North America and Europe are increasingly requiring that authors who receive research funding also make their publications available for free to the public, at least after a brief period (i.e. 12 months after publication).

By Jeremy Cusker, Engineering & Earth Sciences Outreach Librarian,Engineering Library, spring 2014. All journal cover images obtained via publisher. All object images obtained under Creative Commons License 2.0: WiiU – James Fleeting; Elizabeth Tower [clock] – Mike Fleming, Tiffany ring – Momist; Chevy Spark – zekedawg00.

Celebrating 130 Years of Cornell University Engineering Libraries, 1887-2017

Early Engineering Student Publications

The Crank Journal

The Crank, 1887-1891

         Sibley Journal, 1892-1935

Cornell Engineer

               Cornell Engineer, 1935-1994

Excerpt from The Crank referencing the Engineering Library, 1888
Excerpt from The Crank referencing the Engineering Library, 1888

Early references to Engineering Library in Sibley Hall, 1888

References are from early engineering student journal The Crank. This and other issues can be seen online via Cornell Historical Monographs Collection,

Lincoln Hall Library, 1890

Lincoln Hall Library, 1890 (civil)

Sibley Engineering Library, 1938

Sibley Engineering Library, 1938 (mechanical)

Additional libraries at the time were located in Franklin Hall (for electrical engineering) and Olin Hall (for chemical engineering).

Carpenter Hall, 1957
Engineering Library Call Desk, 1957


Carpenter Hall & circulation desk

Engineering library reading room, including card catalog, 1960


Engineering library reading room, including card catalog

Students using the Engineering Library card catalog, 1977


Using the Engineering Library card catalog

Carpenter Hall takeover, demonstrators camped in library, 1972
Carpenter Hall takeover, 1972
News article clipping depicting audience gathering outside Carpenter Hall takeover

Carpenter Hall takeover, 1972

125 anti-war demonstrators camped in library for 5 days:

April 26 –May 1, 1972



  • Divest from Cornell Aeronautical Lab (begun
    during WW2, Cornell had been trying to sell since
  • Conversion of CAL to non-defense research.
  • End to ROTC at Cornell
  • Cornell to help force Gulf Oil out of Angola in
View of a table in Carpenter Hall, 1990


Note graphing calculators on table and heavy use of paper.

Inside Carpenter Hall, 2005


Note clamshell Apple iBook, ca. 1999-2006.


Library at this point had 1,500 print journals and 150,000 books on site.

Viewing Engineering Library, 2016


Physical collection, including reference collection consolidated with Uris Library and Library Annex in 2011.

Thanks to:
  • Laura Linke and Evan Earle, Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University
  • The Crank, Sibley Journal of Engineering, Cornell Engineer and Cornell Alumni News
  • Images courtesy of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University and Jill Powell, Engineering Library

Making It At Cornell University Library: Developing the CUL Makerspace

“Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative . . . spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn… ” Kroski (2013)

Why in a library?

  • Library is already a place of knowledge creation
  • New technology and new educational curricula break down distinction between thinking, writing and creating physical things

General Findings

  • Users in specific programs, classes, organizations already had access to existing makerspaces
  • Usually with expert staffing
  • Possible open ‘niche’ in the ‘market’ for a makerspace for introductory, non-specialist audience

Current Offerings

  • Library staff and student staffing
  • Space for workshops, class visits, and discussion
  • Six 3D printers (several different models)
  • Two sewing machines
  • Four desktop computers with design software
  • Virtual reality experimentation room
Button Making
Button Making
Microelectronics kits & introductory workshops
Microelectronics kits & introductory workshops
3D printers, including 5 with dual-filament printing heads
3D printers, including 5 with dual-filament printing heads
Virtual reality room
Virtual reality room
Staffed Information Desk
Staffed Information Desk
3D Printing
3D Printing
Meeting and display space
Meeting and display space

Interested in learning more? Come to the CUL Makerspace in Mann Library 112.

Regular hours during academic year: Monday thru Thursday, 2 PM to 7 PM.


Questions? Visit us at


Thanks to: Camille Andrews, Devin Sanera, Tobi Hines, Sara Wright, J. McKee

Looking for a free version of an online article? Try Unpaywall.

What is Unpaywall?

Unpaywall is a browser plug-in that will tell you when a scientific journal article is available for free, either to you or anyone else. It indicates that the article is legally available through author archiving, a repository, or through Open Access.

Unpaywall is available for most major browsers and, once installed, it will present a simple “unlocked” icon when a given article is available without restriction. Just click the    icon to access the full article.

Viewing unpaywall button on a webpage

Visit to learn more and to download the plug-in.

Information is not free. It’s not even cheap. There are many ideas about who should pay for publishing research results: Libraries, authors, readers, universities, governments, or publishers. Some solutions are better than others, but none are perfect.

What is Open Access?

Cornell obtains scientific journals by paying a subscription. The researchers who publish in these journals receive funding from grants or other sources, but they receive nothing for publishing their findings—only the publishers make money.

Open Access (OA) is a new, different model of research publishing: The reseachers themselves pay a fee to the journals, which then make the research freely accessible. It moves the cost from readers (or libraries) to authors.

This is not without controversy:

  • The fees for publication in an OA journal can be very high.
  • Some unscrupulous publishers produce OA journals simply to collect fees, doing very little editing or quality control.
  • Libraries have not yet been able to realize significant savings from reduced expenses on journals.

What are preprint repositories?

Some fields use repositories (such as in physics or in engineering) where authors can publish versions of their articles before publication in a regular journal. These sites include Open Science Framework ( and Figshare ( Anyone can read these preprints for free (although the repository itself is often underwritten by universities).

What is author archiving?

Some researchers insist on retaining copyright, and they publicly post a free copy of their own articles after publication in a journal (which normally takes full ownership). Some will accept the SPARC Author Addendum (, which grants partial rights. Not all journals are willing to let authors do this.


Questions? Email

Hollister Hall, Carpenter Hall and the Future of the Engineering Quad

Goals for the Engineering Quad

(This project is now on hold – 2021)

The College of Engineering completed a Master Plan in 2017, which included a goal of the renovation of Hollister Hall. Studies of specific plans for Hollister have continued through 2019.

Hollister Hall and the DeFrees Hydraulics Lab in 2019

  • Hollister Hall is a 115,288 square foot building, built in 1957
  • The DeFrees Hydraulics Laboratory added in 1982
  • Currently houses Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE)
  • Also College of Engineering offices, includes 13 classrooms

Hollister Hall in the future

  • New plan: Addition to the north wing
  • An estimated 81,000 square feet of new space to be added overall
  • Schedule of design and construction is pending funding

Goals for the Hollister Hall addition

  • Create a core of spaces for Civil and Environmental Engineering for curriculum, research and innovation across all degree programs.
  • Flexible space for students as well as various types of classrooms including large seminar rooms, break-out rooms, and common work space.
  • Centralize the College of Engineering administration.
  • Relocate and integrate library services from Carpenter with other spaces.
  • Optimized and expanded research labs.
  • Minimize impact of these renovations on teaching, research, and to Carpenter.
Questions? Email Thomas King (
Aerial view of planned Engineering Quad Library with Carpenter Hall
South Entrance for planned Engineering Quad Library
Library Pavilion of planned Engineering Quad Library
The Link, lobby of planned Engineering Quad Library
View from Duffield of planned Engineering Quad Library
View from the corner of College and Campus roads of planned Engineering Quad Library