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Archival access to e-journals: Summary (long)

* Apologies for cross-posting *

Thanks to everyone who responded to my request for comments about the
issue of archival/perpetual access to cancelled e-journals. The responses
listed below are in no particular order.

* Number of respondents: 24
* Geographic locations: USA, Israel, UK, Greece, Italy
* Types of institution, library, or respondent: university/college medical
  libraries, university business library, university science library,
  university libraries, consortium, corporate library, hospital libraries,
  research library, library student

Here are the original questions and the answers I received:

Q. How important is archival access to you when deciding whether or not to
subscribe to e-journals?

A. Nice to have but not critical except in a few essential journals. We
serve a hospital system and a college of dentistry.  Medical and dental
information is obsolete very quickly, so most of our patrons usage is for
current material.  When we choose to drop a title and/or weed, we are
looking very closely at usage AND journal impact information (ISI Web of
Knowledge--Journal citation reports).  We also look at what the other
[state] medical and/or dental libraries have.

A. We do try to ascertain the archival arrangement before switching to
electronic only journals, and a minority of academic staff are concerned
about it. However, issues like off-campus access are more important.

A. Somewhat important, it is nice to know if they change their policies or
pricing in the future and you decide to cancel the title you still have

A. Not very

A. Archival access has recently become one consideration when evaluating a
new full text database but is not usually a determining factor


A. important. We try to get it in the license if we can.

A. This is critically important to us.

A. It's convenient but not very important to have archival access. It
wouldn't usually make any difference to our decision about whether or not
to subscribe.

A. It's very important.  If a publisher doesn't at least mention that they
will make provision for archival access for a particular title, we
continue to subscribe to print (in many cases, this ends up being a
print+online situation, since our patrons want everything electronically).

A. Very important, but not a deal breaker.  Can affect how much we are
willing to pay for the service.

A. Important

A. Very important

A. Archival access is not a major consideration when subscribing: we can
rarely afford deals which include large back access anyway. We do not
therefore make specific requirements with licenses.

A. Archival access is on our checklist, meaning I always find out what the
publisher/vendor's policy is for archiving, but the problem is that
sometimes you just really want or need the resource, so archival policy is
really never a deal-breaker. I really regret this, because along with the
bright sunny side of multiple users being able to access a resource from
multiple locations simultaneously is the dark side - not really having a
guaranteed archive, or at the very least having to pay a premium for it.

A. If archival access is important, we are getting print as well as
e-journals.  The journals that we only access electronically are

A. It is rather important, but as regards our experience here at [our
institution], almost no publisher gives any assurance on future access.
World scientific, for example, surely cuts off the access if you stop
subscribing. We had a very bad experience with Academic press when it was
bought by Elsevier: we had subscribed to the Ideal Consortium which should
assure us access from 1993 anwards, when it passed to Elsevier we lost
1993 and 1994.

Q. Do you require archival access as part of your license agreement for
e-journals? If not, did you make a conscious decision not to require it,
or has the issue just not come up?

A. When it is available we try to get it, but we can't always afford it.
Also, we don't always negotiate the contracts.  Our library serves
[another university's college].  As part of their consortia, we are
included on most if not all of the [other university's] contracts.  This
means we have resources available to our patrons that a library our size
can't be expected to have. :)  So, we don't always have control over what
we get.  However, [another] campus does want back files, so if they are
available, we do usually get access.

A. We look for archival access as part of the licence agreement, and the
standard contract used by the [national] licensing initiative includes an
archiving clause. However, we would not refuse to sign a licence solely on
the grounds that it denies archival access.

A. No, it is too time consuming and frustrating to try and include it into
your license agreement with each journal.

A. No. We are usually focused on negotiating for a low price so do not
push the archival access, though welcome it when it is part of the deal.


A. Yes.

A. No.

A. We don't formally require it as a part of the license agreement (as in,
if they don't include it in the license we won't sign off), but we always
ask, usually by email, beforehand to find out what the publisher's policy

A. No, not a deal breaker.  There are some service, such as Nature and
COB, where archival access is not offered at all.  We tend to assume we
will always want those titles so we would never cancel and the issue is
not likely to come up.

A. Always we require archival access

A. We don't require archival access in license agreements; I think we
should make it a higher priority.

A. I learned the hard way, by loosing access to an e-journal that we
canceled.  I now try to check that out and ask for changes in the license
if possible.

A. The only archival access we have is through a Consortium of
universities: we have some contracts with various publishers (Elsevier,
IoP, Kluwer) and they actually give the data to the consortium which
assures us that we will have access in future as well, but this happens
only with a few publishers. For many other publishers it just seems
impossible for us to require any assurance. For publishers such as APS,
for example we just trust that they will not cut off access...

Q. When subscribing to e-journals, do you also subscribe to the print
version so as to have an archive of the title, in case you have to cancel
the subscription?

A. No.  We have a severe shortage of shelf space.  I am in the middle of a
project of weeding the collection down to the shelf availablity size. We
do usage studies when we inventory, and then based on usage, core lists
inclusion, [state] libraries holdings, local politics, and online
availability we withdraw (or keep) print back files.

A. We would maintain a print and electronic subscription if it was cheaper
or the same price than electronic access. However, this is a financial
choice (in [this country, we have to pay tax] on electronic subscriptions
but not print, and so a print plus online subscription can sometimes be
the cheapest option). Where the print subscription adds substantially to
the cost, we would not keep it for the sake of having an archive.

A. We usually subscribe to both print and electronic. However, we have
discontinued some print journals subscription (yet retained the online
subscription) to journals that we consistantly had difficulties receiving
in print.

A. At this time we are still being cautious about cancelling print. Also,
some of our agreements (e.g. Elsevier) link the online access to print


A. In the past, we always subscribed to the print (in addition to the
online) for the archival access. However, this year (2005 subscription
year) we made the bold step of cancelling our print and going e-only with
most of our titles. We still kept print of some titles that have
unreliable web sites. We finally gave up on worrying about archival
access. We decided that regional libraries can worry about archiving. We
are a small library and cannot worry about that.

A. If the e-journal subscription doesn't include a complete archive, we
continue to subscribe in print.  We have a subscription to the ACS Journal
Archive and to 15-17 specific titles, so we no longer subscribe to ACS
journals in print.  For Elsevier ScienceDirect titles, we just started a
subscription to a 5-year backfile - and we are continuing to subscribe to
print in one location (of three in the Library Network) since after year
6, the print issues will be the only archive we will have.

A. No, we either subscribe to a print version which also gives the
e-version or just to the electronic version. Having said that we get most
of our e-journals via print subscriptions. Very few so far have been
electronic only.

A. No.

A. We subscribe to the print version of a journal we've subscribed to
electronically only when there is no archival access promised by the

A. Not as much as previously.  However, our library has identified a list
of 500 journals that we consider Core Journals, and that we will commit to
maintaining print subscriptions, binding, and will keep as a permanent
archive. these are titles with the highest local use and the highest
half-life in JCR.

A. We do usually have a print copy also but this is mostly due to the
license terms: most of ours are "print + premium" or "with print".

A. Sometimes, not always.  It depends on the importance of the journal to
us and whether or not we have archival rights.

A. All institutions [in the consortium] have cancelled the print
subscriptions to the journals of the publishers that [the consortium] has
a license agreement. Although we require archival access, still a [single]
print copy is deposited [centrally].

A. I don't believe we ever had a policy of keeping the print to maintain
an archive, but now we are increasingly shifting to electronic only

A. Yes!

A. Yes, for most of our subscriptions. [Due to high taxes on online only
subscritions], this makes the online only cost more than the print+online!
We have decided for the online only for few very "huge" titles of
U.Chicago Press: we save the binding money, and we know that in few years
all contents will be made freely available on ADS.

Q. Do you currently have archival access to e-journals you've cancelled?
What format is the access -- e.g. online, CD-ROM, tapes? How's that
working for you?

A. Online only.  If we don't have access to back files online, then we are
dependant on Docline based and OCLC based Interlibrary loan.

A. In some cases, we have been able to keep online access to the years of
a journal which we paid for. However, access tends to be unstable - we
have had many instances where we've lost electronic access, and we've had
to raise it with the publisher or subscription agent.

A. Yes through Ovid.

A. Some; Format online; Working OK


A. We have online archival access. We wouldn't want to bother with
CD-ROMS, tapes, locally hosted servers, etc. It's too much trouble.

A. No.

A. Yes. It's all online access. Mostly it seems to be okay, though it does
confuse some users when we still have archival access but no longer have
the current issues. Some publishers seem a little vague about how long
they will allow archival access after cancellation. For example I believe
Blackwell guarantees 5 years access after cancellation but I've not seen
it written down anywhere.

A. We're just in the process of switching many of our subscriptions to
online-only, so I don't believe this has come up yet.

A. Yes, for some, but we have not cancelled that many titles.  So far, we
have not had to go beyond online acces.  My guess is we would be very
reluctant to do any type of in-house loading and maintenance of electronic

A. We have not cancelled any journals but many journals have changed
publishers so we have lost 281 of them since 1999. We have access though
to all of the past content through either the publisher that sold the
journal or the new publisher. In a couple of occasions that the publisher
was not willing to give us access, they provided the content on CDs and we
loaded it locally (centrally for [the consortium])

A. Yes.  Fine, on the Science Direct platform

A. There are many journals where we do maintain some type of archival
access to titles we have cancelled, OVID titles in particular come to
mind. When we cancel an electronic title, I attempt to find archival
coverage through the vendor or by adding an open access version of a
title. Generally, if we have archival coverage, it will be online.

A. No. Not yet.

A. There are some titles we have cancelled and for which we do not have
access any more. We have CD for a few titles, but maybe in some years
those CD will not be readable any more or we will have to keep old
machines able to read them, who knows?

Q. If you completely lost access to any e-journals due to cancellation,
did your patrons complain about the lack of archival access?

A. Only if it were a "key" journal.  [Another library] is just a couple of
miles from us.  They are the biggest medical library in the [area].  (We
are the second largest medical library and the only dental library.) We
retain more back files of dental journals than medical journals because of
the easier availability of access to the medical journals.  Until next
July, we have had a courier who can go to [the other library] and
photocopy the needed journal articles.  We are getting so many of our
needed journals online now that we can no longer justify the courier.  
Not enough business. :)

A. I believe our patrons are generally more interested in current issues
than back issues, and I'm unaware of any instances where academic staff
have complained if a journal was cancelled and we lost access. However, we
check with the academic departments before switching to electronic only
subscriptions, and so we shouldn't have switched any journals where
academics feel very strongly about keeping access to back issues.

A. No they complain about current access.

A. Yes sometimes.

A. No. Most of our patrons are not knowledgeable enough to ask whether we
retained archival access when current access was cancelled.

A. This hasn't happened to us yet.

A. This hasn't happened. Up to this point we have a print archive for any
journals that we cancel.  In the case of ACS journals, we don't plan to
cancel our subscription to the ACS Journal Archive.

A. Occasionally. It dosn't appear to be a big problem but again, in our
case, we will mostly still have a print archive.

A. Not that I know of.

A. Not to my knowledge, but we have not had to cancel key titles.  In
fact, we have gotten back more titles thru the e-format that we had to
cancel in print over the years, thanks to shared purchases.

A. We have not had any complaints that I know of(!) regarding e-journal
back access to cancelled titles.

A. I don't believe we've had many complaints about a lack of archival
access to titles we've cancelled.

A. No, not really.  These were not real popular journals here.  But now I
am more aware of the problem.

A. Sure!

Q. Are you using LOCKSS? If so, is it hard to get vendors to allow you to
use it to archive their content? Have you used it to access cancelled

A. No

A. We have downloaded LOCKSS but we have not have any success so far. It
seems that most publishers do not have any definite plans about LOCKSS

A. We are using LOCKSS, and yes--it is very difficulty to get vendors to
allow us to archive their content.  In fact, I had a conversation back in
the fall with a VP for a smaller-but-prominent STM publisher, and I asked
why they weren't using LOCKSS.  I was told that there was no "mandate from
librarians" for this type of archival solution, so until we begin
requiring it en masse, I doubt there will be much increase in the number
of publishers allowing us permission to archive with LOCKSS.  I sent a
message to ERIL-L re. this last fall, asking what others were doing and,
if they weren't using LOCKSS, what other provisions they were making for
archiving, and I received a shockingly small response.  I'm afraid that
many librarians just aren't making this a big enough issue....  No, we
haven't yet used it to access cancelled e-journals.

Q. I haven't seen much written on this topic recently. Have you seen any
articles on archival/perpetual access that you would recommend?

A. Nicholas Lewis �Are we burning our boats?� Survey on moving to
electronic-only http://www.sconul.ac.uk/pubs_stats/newsletter/31/19.pdf

A. VAN DRIMMELEN, W.  2004.  Universal access through time: archiving
strategies for digital publications.  Libri, 54 (2), June, 98-103

A. I attended a presentation last week by Eileen Gifford Fenton of Ithaka
(www.ithaka.org) about their Portico project. It's not fully launched yet,
but appears to be a long term electronic archiving service which would
allow libraries to maintain access to cancelled journals (provided the
publishers were also members of the Portico service).

A. You might be interested to read about our recent Electronic Only Access
to Journals Trial - please see our report at

General commments on this issue:

1. Providing e-access to as many titles as possible if of top priority -
our patrons rely on e-access, and print has become invisible to many
patrons.  We would prefer archival rights but we will go ahead without it
if the material is important enough.  No considerations for keeping print
based on archival rights are weighed, but we do have a set of 500 print
journals that we will keep no matter what, which should help us in case of
extreme budgetary issues in future.

2. You have brought up a very sore point. I feel that I am the only
librarian in the world who is refusing to cancel journals in print in
favour of electronic access until the archiving problem has been sold. In
my view no archiving solution by the publisher is fullproof for obvious
reasons. I am very taken by the LOCKSS solution but until all publishers
go with it, it is also not a solution. I would do anything to force a
publisher to go with LOCKSS - as a medical librarian I wrote to MEDLINE
suggesting that they refuse to index any journal whose publisher does not
go along woth LOCKSS. (If you are not in MEDLINE you might as well not
exist). Apart from saying they didn't know much about LOCKSS and would
look into it, I never heard any further. They had, however, concerned
themselves with electronic-only journal archiving.
In my view, librarians seem to be washing their hands of a problem that
not so long ago was considered their function automatically. Obviously
it's easier to hang on to a journal for years if it's in print, but just
because it isn't and it's difficult does not seem to me to make it any
less our job. But no-one else, except for LOCKSS, seems to think like
this. The result in our library is that we only have electronic access to
journals which give free access with their print subscription - apart from
a handful of expensive journals whose electronic access was not an
expensive addition and so worthwhile (and under the table as far as
management is concerned) and also New England Journal of Medicine which it
was decided we could not live without (having tried to for a couple of
months after which the Director of the hospital woke up).
I repeat - we have not cancelled a single print subscription in favour of
electronic access.
It is possible I am particularly sensitive as our library lost serious
money in the divine/Rowecom/Faxon fiasco. More than ever I need to know
that what I have paid for is not going down the drain. But I don't think
that this is the only reason for my way of thinking.

3. Personally, I hold the cynical view that any e-content would be lost on
lapse of a subscription: even if a license guaranteed perpetual back
access, I would doubt for how many years this would be maintained before
there was a "policy change" etc. I think as an institution we rely on our
e-journals more for current awareness, rather than assuming they will
provide an archive. Most of ours are "with print" anyway so it has not yet
become a key issue. However, I think you are right in highlighting it as
it soon will be....

4. This topic is something I think about, but it is often really difficult
when dealing with limited budgets. I think patrons and the public in
general think of libraries as repositories for the ages (I know I did
before getting into this profession) but many of us are just trying to get
by, just getting access to what our patrons need today, and letting
tomorrow worry about itself. Not a great outlook to have, and I hope that
it is one that we change in the future.

5. Sadly, I don't feel like I have the time to stay on top of this like I
should.  I just make changes to our catalog and our ejournal A-Z list and
SFX Knowledgebase to remove the former content and call it done.  Nor does
our collection management coordinator seem to pay particular attention to
archival access.

6. I think this is one of the most important issues we're facing now. I
really would like to see more libraries take a stand and demand access.

7. Until we can count on access to years of e-journals that we have paid
for- similar to print journals - it makes it very difficult to go "all
electronic" in my mind.

I have some experience with an OVID consortium. We got good pricing and
easy access. We also wrote in the "archival access" would be available -
but as a third party - when a publisher can no longer give OVID access
because a journal has jumped publishers or the publisher wants to be the
sole provider - then OVID does not perform on that promise - for example -
after awhile Elsevier would no longer let OVID have Am J Medicine, Am J
Cardiology, Am J Surgery - I guess because they wanted to sell it via
Science Direct....

Elsevier addresses archival access in their license agreement - more than
most - and has options for providing it - but costs are involved if you
stop being a customer.

I'm also asking for reliable archival access from Blackwell, Nature, and J
Clinical Oncology right now....

Any pressure we can put on publishers and third parties to provide
perpetual access is a good idea! And why should we have to pay more to get
it? We already paid for those years of the journal and if they are saving
money by not sending us print - they should put that money into the
perpetual archives.


Jennifer Watson
Electronic Services Librarian
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
877 Madison Avenue, Memphis, TN 38163