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RE: puzzled by self-archiving thread

Sandy makes some interesting points here. I also have always been 
intrigued by 'use' and have been implementing usage measurement 
for my collections for a long time.

I fully agree that high use does not equate to a demonstration of 
high quality but for librarians with budget constraints, it is 
very difficult to justify continued expenditure on a subscription 
that no-one is using, no matter how well it stands within its 
specialty. Part of the answer to poor usage lies in marketing, 
but you can't force people to read what they really don't want 
to, no matter how much you think they 'should'. So it becomes 
difficult to justify its position in the collection when other 
users are crying out for material that you can't afford to buy.

The danger then is that increasing overall usage by replacing 
such titles with others that are requested and/or more highly 
used provides great figures for the funders, but can also drag 
the collection down. If we bowed to the pressures of buying what 
people will use the most, and cancelling paper copies when online 
is available, we would soon have an uncoordinated mishmash of 

I have also long ago learned that what people say they want and 
what they actually use are two different things, so while user 
consultation and response to demand are important parts of 
collection management, as with usage data, they are tools that 
must always be understood in relation to the bigger picture and 
not used in isolation. We as librarians will always be caught in 
the middle of all those conflicting issues that are what 
balancing the collection is all about. And is, of course, one of 
the reasons we are necessary to the organisation.

So for me, the role of free or alternative online access in my 
cancellation decisions has been that when I want to cancel the 
print copy for other reasons, the fact that we can continue to 
access the content anyway is a bonus. When saying this to anyone, 
I always add the caveat that all online access must be considered 
transient, and that if we really need the content we must 
continue building the asset by buying it.

Happy New Year to everyone

Raewyn Adams
Tauranga Hospital Library
New Zealand

-----Original Message-----
[mailto:owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of Sandy Thatcher
Sent: Monday, 25 December 2006 04:15 AM
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject: RE: puzzled by self-archiving thread

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 

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 

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