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Re: When is a Journal a Journal

Matthew Beacom, Yale's guru networked resources cataloguer, gives his
permission to forward his thoughts on "aggregated" journals to
Liblicense-l.  Much to think about here. 


Forwarded message:
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 1998 14:16:40 -0500
From: Matthew Beacom <>
Subject: Re: When is a Journal a Journal (Was Biomed Aggregators)

I'll try to answer these questions posed by Ann as best I can. I am not
very familiar with journals via aggregator databases.

"It depends." is the overarching answer, but more than that can be said. 

1.  Are the ejournals included in aggregators' databases *real?*

First, what is *real*? My answer depends in part on an operational test
and in part on my assumptions about what a journal, e- or print-, is.

In short, my view is that unless the ejournal in the database is complete,
coherent (issues are held together or accessible as journal issues), and
timely, then it is not an ejournal. 

The longwinded view: My test is that if the ejournal in the aggregator's
database can effectively substitute for the ejournal as a separate
publication or its print version then it is a real ejournal. If it cannot
meet the test, then it is not an ejournal. An (extreme) example in print
might be a book that reprints the 10 most important articles from the
Journal of _x_ last year. The book has value and maybe more than the
journal as a whole or several of its issues, but it is not useful to
confuse it with the journal itself. 

My test has three sections: 1. completeness of content 2. coherency of
content and 3. timeliness. 

For an ejournal to be an ejournal when it is in an aggregator's database,

A. the ejournal issues must be completely present and not just a selection
of articles. Many articles, the really good ones, most of them, even all
of them is not enough if other parts of the journal's content are left
out.  Other parts include: letters (often used to gain primacy of
publication for an idea) and ads.

B. the content of a journal issue needs to be presented coherently as that
journal issue. The contents of each journal issue should be available from
a table of contents for that issue. 

C. the issues must be available in a timely manner. Last year's issues
available this year is not a viable substitute for the journal. 

2.  How and how not?  For whom? 

I think I have answered how and how not above. For whom doesn't matter too
much. One letter in this thread suggested a distinction could be made
between undergrads and faculty (students and researchers), but I don't
think it is desirable to make too fine a distinction there. Dis'ing the
faculty by making them buy personal copies while supporting a perceived
student need doesn't seem like a winner to me. We seem to fare better when
we aggregate our consumers rather than when we fragment them, but I'm
pretty ignorant of journal pricing mechanisms. 

3.  Therefore, do they or do they not deserve to be enumerated in
    in an ejournal list on our web sites?  

Well, I would argue that it would be better not to list as ejournals those
titles that are used by aggregators as the source of the articles they
package. If the aggregator has taken care to let the journals be journals,
then I would list the titles as journals. Also, I would try to include
many of the names of journals used as sources by aggregators in a capsule
summary of the databases' contents in the kind of list you mentioned. But
I'd make it clear that the databases has some articles from these journals
and not the journals themselves. 

4.  Should they be catalogued as an ejournal in our online catalog? We
    do catalog individual titles that we license or can access as
    *individual* titles.

Same as 3 for me. I'd not catalog anything as a journal title that is not
a journal. The databases are new things made from torn up journals that
are gathered together in a new package. These databases have many superior
qualities and I think they will grow to replace journals as the vehicle of
choice for the delievery of articles. I think the economics of aggregating
articles in databases (as opposed to packaging in journals) and the shift
in reader behavior these databases bring about will prove to be
unstoppable--as unstoppable as the move away from local grocery stores,
banks, and doctors to chains or aggregates of the same. 

In the catalog record for the database, it may make sense to include
analytic records for the journal titles that have been dismembered and
re-assembled to create the database. Many times this may not be suitable,
but sometimes it will. As some journal titles possess considerable cachet
and name recognition, the aggregators (and librarians) may want to
capitalize on that chachet and on the name recognition. 

5.  Do the aggregators supply bib records for these ejournals?  If not,
    how did you get them into your lists or catalogs?

I think the aggregators would be wise to supply bibliographic records to
libraries that license access to their databases for universities or other
aggregates of consumers in order to increase the likelihood that the
articles in them will be discovered by readers. If they don't make it easy
to list the titles or catalog them, then use of the titles in lists and
catalogs will continue to be slow and incomplete. This is so obviously bad
for sales that I think the aggregators may see their own self interest in
providing such information in an easily used form. 

6.  Is the answer "it depends?"  If so, on what does it depend?

See above.

That's all for the moment -- trying to stay relatively brief here!

Matthew Beacom
Catalog Librarian for Networked Information Resources
Yale University Library
(203) 432-4947
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