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Re: puzzled by self-archiving thread
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- Subject: Re: puzzled by self-archiving thread
- From: "Charles W. Bailey, Jr." <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 22:22:05 EST
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A common method of determining print use was to count journal issues as they were shelved. Of course, this was imprecise as some users shelved issues themselves after use.
The impact of the long-term serials crisis has been so severe, especially in research libraries, that waves of journal cutting have been required to attempt to preserve book budgets, and, in some scientific and technical disciplines, some libraries have had to cut all book acquisitions completely to be able to afford journals in those disciplines. The add-on costs of providing increasing access to licensed electronic materials, especially e-versions of journals, have only made the situation worse. On top of that, libraries have the additional costs of creating digital libraries, involving projects such as digitization of local materials and institutional repositories. They have also increasingly become the prime campus location for large public computer clusters, often with digital document and media production capabilities.
Needless to say, in many libraries, budgets have no grown in proportion to mission expansion.
Counting uses is one quantitative criteria; journal impact factor, which is important in many promotion and tenure decisions, is another.
While quantitative criteria are not the only ones used for cutting serials, my perception is that they have become more important as the serials crisis has deepened. Faculty advocacy (don't cut the specialized journals in my field that I need for my research) has also become a more important factor in the mix, especially in journal-dependent STM disciplines.
Cutting serials is a no-win proposition. Achieving fairness and balance across disciplines is increasingly difficult as STM journals gobble up the collection budget. That's one reason that quantitative criteria are increasingly used: they provide factual evidence to justify difficult decisions.
Charles W. Bailey, Jr.
Sandy Thatcher wrote:
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