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An effective Plan B will enable users at the University of Cambridge to obtain articles with a minimum of intervention and as seamlessly as possible.

We understand that subscription access to Elsevier content will continue in good faith whilst the negotiations are underway. 

As in any negotiation, there is a possibility that a deal will not be reached. We therefore have a well-planned, credible alternative to proposals put forward by Elsevier.  

Our analysis suggests that the steps outlined below would deliver access to more than 90% of existing articles for personal purposes, although access may be less immediate than through subscription routes. Access to the remaining 10% could be provided through purchase of individual articles on a case-by-case basis. 

If a deal is not agreed, we will provide a timeline of subscription access withdrawal at the point where this is negotiated.


Find things faster with Lean Library

The browser plugin Lean Library delivers to your desktop the article or chapter you want if Cambridge University Libraries provide subscription access, regardless where you are accessing from (on or off campus). It finds and delivers an OA version of the article or chapter if there is no subscription access. In the last resort (no subscription and no OA version) Lean Library triggers an Inter Library Loan form so you can place an order and have the article emailed to you.

Lean Library is available now, and we highly recommend that you download it for free to help you access material faster - watch this video to learn how.  

We recommend Lean Library over other OA browser plugins.


Core titles over Big Deal bundles

If it is required, we will subscribe to core titles (rather than a ‘Big Deal’ bundle) to provide continual access to content that we know will be in high demand. We will actively share with our academic communities the post-cancellation access information detailing the journal coverage that will continue beyond the end of the existing deal.


Inter-library loans (ILL)

We are bringing our document delivery services up to date for this and any future negotiations. RapidILL is a document delivery service that integrates with iDiscover, Lean Library and other discovery tools, and enables quick turnaround times for the supply of journal articles and book chapters for personal use. In addition, we are co-ordinating with other UK universities for the supply of content through new and existing peer networks.

Documents supplied through ILL are for personal use, and cannot, therefore, be used for teaching purposes. Our LibGuide, Copyright for Lecturers, Instructors and Teaching Staff, includes valuable checklists to help you identify what can be used and shared within copyright restrictions.    

For requests that cannot be supplied by Inter-Library Loan, the library is establishing a funding plan to purchase articles on a case-by-case basis.


Alternative networks for sharing materials under copyright

Preprint servers and other openly accessible outlets allow researchers to obtain research in formats other than the version of record. Many articles will already be available as gold open access via publisher websites, but we also encourage our University members to utilise the vast array of papers uploaded to institutional and subject repositories and other indexes available on the web. These include legal author-sharing networks and Google Scholar. Through these networks, along with plugins such as Lean Library, users may also request access to papers directly from the authors themselves.

Pirate sites are heavily used by some researchers; we will not promote these pathways to access through library channels and do not recommend their use. You may find it useful to explore our LibGuides: 


This Unlocking Research blog post, Michael Williams on the Elsevier negotiations: What’s our ‘Plan B’?, further discusses Plan B for accessing content.