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RE: puzzled by self-archiving thread

Sandy, what other criteria are there, except use and cost?

This is not a recent revelation--when journals were in print, we 
certainly did measure use, and we had elaborate and time 
consuming protocols for this. (There is an excellent series from 
the University of Wisconsin.) Obviously there was unrecorded use, 
but equally not all volumes removed from the shelf were ever 
opened, let alone used. The estimates of the error vary: 
Wisconsin thought they were measuring at least half the use, but 
this is better than most other such estimates.

There is also an excellent surrogate for use, which is citations 
to a journal made by articles from the university. Though 
dervived from ISI data, it is available from them only a custom 
report; additionally it can be found through the Dialog version 
of Scisearch. This measure is however not really relevant in the 
humanities, because of both the poor coverage by ISI and the less 
journal-oriented citation patterns.  Fortunately, a reasonable 
approximation in the humanities can be found by looking at the 
bibliographies of the books they publish. The literature on this 
technique goes back to the 1930s.

Choice has long given up the practice of reviewing periodicals, 
though I did review one or two for them just as they were 
stopping. Stankus and others have published elaborate reviews, in 
Science and Technology Libraries, and elsewhere, for those 
wanting their personal opinion. But if all that is wanted is 
personal opinion, librarians simply ask the faculty--the answers 
will however not tell what they need, or use, but what they think 
they ought to be using, or what they remember having used from 
their graduate student days. What such opinion--whether faculty 
or librarian--measures is better termed Prestige, if that is what 
a library wants to optimize.

My summary wording is that the faculty completely determine what 
is purchased, and they do so by leaving evidence of what they do 
use, which is what they read or cite, or tell their students to 
read or use in their papers. Librarians observe that, and buy 

As a publisher of journals, I would think that you too would like 
to provide material which is read and used.

David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.

----- Original Message -----
From: Sandy Thatcher <sgt3@psu.edu>
Date: Sunday, December 24, 2006 11:03 am
Subject: RE: puzzled by self-archiving thread
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu

> The question of "use" intrigues me, too. I find it very scary to
> think that the only criteria employed for cancelling journals are
> use and cost.  Use here might be tantamount to sales in the
> domain of books. But I don't think any publisher, at least a
> university press, would judge success by sales alone. Some of our
> most important books-as judged by reviews, book prizes, etc.-have
> not been among our best sellers. The old adage that "controversy
> sells" is true. Hence we have seen such "successes" in book
> publishing as "The Bell Curve" and publications dealing with cold
> fusion, but no one would claim that the commercial success of
> these books is any true measure of the merits of the work being
> discussed. So, why should "use" be so determinative a criterion?
> Just because it is easily quantified and other measures are not?
> When journals existed only in print, how did librarians evaluate
> use? Journals presumably are not as frequently checked out of
> libraries as books, but more often consulted on site. In
> electronic form, one can count "hits," but what do those hits
> signify? Something popular may not necessarily betoken good
> scholarship.
> I understand that in the larger research libraries subject
> specialists are relied on (just as subject-specialist acquiring
> editors are in book publishing) to make judgments about the
> relative value of journals in a field, and faculty in the field
> are also consulted for their rankings. Those procedures seem to
> me much more likely to result in well-informed decisions about
> cancellation.
> But smaller libraries can't afford such specialists (though they
> can still consult faculty). One wonders, then, why there haven't
> grown up practices of periodically reviewing periodicals? I know
> that the THES in the U.K. has provided such a valuable service
> for years. As I recall, Choice has done some of this, too, hasn't
> it? Is there any other library publication that provides this
> service? Perhaps this is a role that ARL or ACRL could perform,
> though with so many thousands of journals it is a daunting task,
> even if the journals were only assessed, say, every five years.
> I plead ignorance here, and welcome instruction from you
> librarians, but as a publisher of 11 journals in the humanities,
> it bothers me to think that cancellations could occur just
> because of usage statistics alone. (I'm not worried about cost
> because our journals are cheap!)
> --Sandy Thatcher
> Penn State