Many library subscription agreements that are executed by public institutions are subject to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.  Many states require that public records requests be made in writing.The National Freedom of Information Coalition provides templates for all 50 states, as well as sample letters for federal government requests.  

Some jurisdictions may require processing fees, but you can request a waiver as part of your letter.  Typical language for these purposes would be, “I would also like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the cost of accessing scientific and scholarly research. This information is not being sought for commercial purposes.”

Economists and other researchers with experience in this area suggest that you be explicit in the information you are requesting.  For example, make sure you ask for the pricing information and the executed agreement for each year and each vendor in which you are interested.  One efficient way to frame the request would be to say, “I am requesting the most recent contract with each publisher listed below [include list], including the full terms of the agreement and the prices paid and the journals included in the publisher’s bundle.”

Learn more about our work