WASHINGTON—A weaker dollar is forcing American research libraries to pay much higher prices this year for books and journals published overseas—if they can afford them at all. As a result, U.S. scientists soon may find it increasingly difficult to keep up with the latest developments in their fields.

In the past 18 months the dollar has slipped more than 40 percent against the Japanese yen and several major European currencies. The resulting price increases, on top of those owing to inflation, are tearing large holes in library acquisition budgets.

The situation has become "one of the greatest concerns of our member libraries," said Jaia Barrett, federal relations officer of the Association of Research Libraries in Washington.

The cost of a full subscription to Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, which is published by the Dutch firm Elsevier, has risen from $2,698 last year to $3,540, according to Chuck Hamaker, assistant director...

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