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Re: Electronic Archiving

Peter Boyce writes:

>Don't take this wrong, but libraries can physically not maintain an            
>electronic archive for all their journals. An electronic journal is not a      
>collection of individual articles any more.  It is a whole complex system      
>of files, software, and protocols -- which are different for each              
>publisher.  One year of our Astrophysical Journal comprises about 60           
>GBytes in over 250,000 files, and a multitude of scripts and programs,
>all of which are needed to have the journal function correctly and
Wel, of course, librarians *can* physically maintain an electronic archive
for some or all of their journals, if that physicality comprises a system
of hardware, infrastructure, protocols, files, software.  Many of these
ingredients are abundantly present in libraries already.  What (I belive)
David and Rick in their previous messages are attempting to do, is to
affirm the ongoing societal role of libraries as the *permanent*
repositories and service points for knowledge.  Until now, libraries have
been the primary (though not the only) organizations that have this
enduring mission and philosophy.  They are the principal organizations
that society has funded to carry out the long-term-access-to-information
mandate -- funded *without* needing to recover direct costs or make a
profit, but rather pretty much as a societal good.  

Universities have taken on a large share of this mission, through
allocating funding for libraries (funding from various sources including
student tuitions and faculty grants and donor's endowments, among others).  
While the level of support is "negotiated" annually with those libraries
through the budget allocation process, nonetheless a strong and enduring
commitment persists.  For example, you could not tell our students that we
would reduce their tuition by the amount of the share that goes to the
campus library system -- they would not choose to go to Yale if we didn't
have a strong library.  Many of our faculty tell us they came here because
of the research support that the library offers to them.

So -- the question becomes -- who/which groups will carry on this role in
the future.  It is possible that learned societies could take some of this
on, but not necessarily all of them are funded or mandated to do so, and
some may tire of such a role in perpetuity.  It is possible that there is
not enough financial return for the for-profit-sector to become long-term
archivers of electronic information.  I don't mean to get us off into a
discussion of e-archiving, specifically into a wrangle about whether
libraries' missions will persist well into an electronic era.  But I do
think that it's important for librarians to behave as if they have an
important stake in this future and to raise all the issues that matter if
society is to maintain information repositories to fill many important
purposes, particularly a record of our thoughts, discoveries, and
achievements.  And it beehoves all of us, whatever our current employment,
to keep getting together to resolve the long-term access/archiving issues.

Ann Okerson
Yale University Library