Opinion Pieces

Ethical acquisitions in academic libraries: a simple idea without a simple solution



The acquisition of content for academic libraries has traditionally focused on achieving value for money within the realities of the existing markets. However, increasingly libraries are looking beyond this to use their position to effect a transformation of academic publishing towards an open, inclusive and sustainable future. This article explores the challenges of putting these principles into practice through the lens of the University of Sheffield Library’s Comprehensive Content Strategy. It argues that librarians should guard against moral superiority and complacency whilst working within colonized and marketized institutions, and advocates for considered, reflective action that appreciates the complicity of the acquisitions librarian’s position. Strategies for taking action are then explored, considering the balance between pragmatic gains and the limitations of a dysfunctional, commercial marketplace. The article concludes the drive for ethical acquisitions within libraries will not have a finite destination and the solution lies partly in taking compromised, pragmatic action but mainly in the encouragement of radical and progressive initiatives outside of existing power structures.


library acquisitionsethical acquisitionsacademic publishingprofessional ethics
  • Year: 2023
  • Volume: 36
  • Page/Article: 2
  • DOI: 10.1629/uksg.600
  • Submitted on 30 Jun 2022
  • Accepted on 17 Aug 2022
  • Published on 17 Jan 2023
  • Peer Reviewed