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When is a journal not a journal?

Dear Liblicense-l readers: This is the message that we *think* is the
culprit that keeps trying to destroy our listproc.  We do not know why.  I
am hoping that by re-copying in toto and removing all previous subject
headers, we will enable the message to reach this list. 

Chuck Hamaker's insightful comments pertain to a topic discussed on this
list 1-2 weeks ago. 

Our apoologies to Chuck, as well.

Ann Okerson, for Liblicense-l

Forwarded message:
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 1998 11:49:18 -0500
From: "Hamaker, Chuck" <>

"....when is a journal a journal".

>It seems that many journals and magazines can be had through aggregators
>who let readers get at them not as the journal per se
>(TOC/browsing access)  but rather only through subject searches that
>then call up an article. 

Chuck Hamaker responding:

I first began to realize how NOT "full text" (maybe we should call them
something else?) many titles could be when I was looking for a known item
in an "aggregators" database. It was an article on Mormonism. I could not
pull it up with keyword searching (an option in this database). So I had
to determine the exact date/volume/issue and then retrieve the article.
Turned out that the problem was some spell checking where the article was
keyed had turned every instance of Mormon into moron. So the word did not
appear in the title, text, body, etc.  How unreliable "aggregator" full
text could be became immediately apparent. 

>Some libraries regard these as journals and list them in their catalogs;
>other more conservative ones such as we do not. 

For many uses 'e-text" titles are imminently serviceable and it is a
disservice to patrons looking for quick access to such texts not to
provide some type of pointer or alert that much of the title IS available
quickly, rather than having to go to the fiche copy or the bound volume.
Why force the hassle of 'finding the needle in the haystack if it's not
necessary? For SOME uses, ONLY the original will do. For others a
surrogate will do quite well.

>The conservative notion is that when access is from an aggregation where
>identity is lost, along with other features (such as ads, covers, etc.) 
>the thing is no longer what it once was.

Aggregator is a very vague term. I think it means at least three different
types of entities at the moment (and maybe more). There is the aggregator
that really is an indexing, pointing /access service (to the publisher's
full text for instance) which is what Web of Science seems to want to
become, or which Dawson's IQ is doing, or ECO is or EJN. Then there are
the services that contain e-text, which may or may not be really "full"
but often are re-keyed-- IAC and EBSCO Host and UMI and L/N and in some of
it's services, BioMednet-(which is unique- -a real hybrid!) And finally
there are the varieties of publisher's e-products which in the best
instances are beyond the journal with Astrophysical Journal being a prime
example of an electronic title that is much more than the paper. 

>Also, it's very hard to know what is on those sites (coverage, I mean)
>and things changeI

I have some very strong feelings about this issue. It is ludicrous for
every library that has access to an aggregator/combined product or even to
the "electronic" format to have to do the identification and cataloging
work for each title in a package. I believe any and all contracts should
have specific requirements for the supplier to provide acceptable
cataloging in electronic format that can be integrated into the library
catalog or homepage ( with succinct notes on differences whether the title
is indexed only, cover to cover images, selected ASCII text, etc.).

>Is a journal that has lost pieces of itself still that journal?  

I guess my argument is that it is still a journal worth cataloging, but
with a "selective coverage" or Converted ASCII text, or full image, or
excludes advertising, description. The journal as marker, even on the
individual article level, is still important, and I don't know of any
other quality "brand"  that works as well, and I suspect though the
"demise" of the journal has often been foretold, it is just not going
away. Quality is the big question in online information, and the journal
has served well as a quality marker for content. I don't think that need
has gone away, I don't think the journal as identifier, as signpost, as
pointer, disappears because of full text indexing, or selected text

>What is it?  

That's the rub! What is it? It is something that makes getting some of the
information from the journal much much easier, and for many uses, is
sufficient. If the library has an archival responsibility for a particular
title then I doubt keyed aggregator ASCII meets that particular need. 

>How seriously should librarians take it?  

My favorite story right now is about a group of IEEE journals that faculty
ordered articles from through an unmediated document delivery source. (The
department shares the cost of document delivery). The articles were
available "locally" through at LEAST three different avenues. First was
the paper subscription, second, they were "embedded"  in one of our
electronic "full text" sources, and third, the individual article could be
ordered through the document delivery source. (also I suspect some
colleague had it in a "personal" collection around the corner. The easiest
by far was the document delivery source. Should we provide links in our
catalogs to all three "official" sources, or just the most "cost
effective" (read cheap??) If you have to go get a cup of coffee while the
article downloads or can have it on its way to your fax machine before you
get out of the order system, or you have to go to the library to get into
the electronic text, or if you have to get someone to find out if its
REALLY on the shelf...what are you going to do, which route will you take.
The one that costs YOU (not necessarily the institution) the least. 

>Should the presence of such scholarly titles on aggregators' sites
>influence our collections development decisions?  In what way?  

I don't think we are discussing "collections development decisions" 
anymore. The issues are outside the buy store and catalog realm into
managing information on a scale that was unimaginable 5 years ago. We are
talking about service issues, access issues. The "collections" 
perspective may be the LEAST amenable perspective to begin any serious
thinking. In fact, I think that is a red herring...We get stuck there and
don't get on to the other, from my perspective, more substantive issues
with regards to these products. 

>Make us welcome them or dismiss them? 

It's too easy to dismiss them, and that faculty member who needed the IEEE
article who wasn't served very well, in reality, by the document delivery
option when the full text was available IF our systems were
interconnected. And THAT really is where we should be spending a lot of
time and energy and thought. Because it's not happening, we are purchasing
redundancy Intentionally. Some of the redundancy is not only unavoidable,
its actually, from my perspective a good thing!. The important journals
literature is SO important, that we have to make it EASY to get to, now
matter where the individual begins, be it our website, our catalog or
finding guides or all-inclusive search engines ala gallileo

>Should we provide serial record access to them in catalogs, subject
>lists, and other user finding tools? 

Yes, Yes YES!. BUT lets get these publishers, aggregators, third party
providers the whole range, actively involved in helping identify the
access points through bibliographic information. THEN we link, promote,
instruct when asked, find out what the best ways, i.e. MOST USEFUL to our
end-users, actually are. Because in the end the next question is one we
have to find the answer to... 

>Would users welcome that?  

If we can't find the answer to that, and I don't think the answer is
obvious, then we are in the wrong business. WHAT do users welcome? What do
they need to get to the information they want. That actually IS a primary
component of what libraries have to do-- answer that question.  Form my
experience, you can't just ask them...that doesn't work for material they
don't know about, or systems they are unfamiliar with.. So we are down to
experience? observation? , (have you actually tried to find something
embedded three levels down the line within a particular aggregators
service? It's a PAIN. Can we link to an article directly out of a table of
contents or indexing or abstracting service? Are we pushing vendors and
publishers to that fast enough? Can I get from the catalog record to the
latest issue, or one 5 years ago. How much to I have to know to do that?
Hopefully, very very little. 

>If you're a publisher, do you allow your journals to be included in such

I hope the idea of "sites" will disappear. It doesn't matter to the user
WHERE it is. One of the problems with proprietary "sites" and I mean that
in its broadest sense, is I don't want to know! I don't CARE if its "in "
IAC's product or EBSO's or Blackwells or OCLC's or Elseviers, or
Academics. Forcing me to "know" that to get there is stupid and self
defeating. The intellectual products scholars use cannot be branded that
way.  "Producers" aren't really producing.  They are packaging, and the
packaging,-- the journal as brand is still the best way to identify
quality. I don't support the demise of the journal theory, because I don't
know how else, at this stage we can have quality markers without it. 

Chuck Hamaker
Head, Technical Services,
UnC Charlotte
Phone 704 547-2825
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