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Re: Electronic availability

You are asking for just the sort of data I would like to see as well. Let
me join in urging libraries with available data to post them on the web
and announce their availability.

Let me repeat that I would like to see all libraries, and research
libraries in particular, be able to offer all users electronic versions of
all published journals from all publishers. However, there is no
financially feasible method of doing this yet, though possibilities have
been discussed on this list and elsewhere. Given our limited resources, we
are forced make choices about what to provide by purchase and what to
provide more indirectly. For a research library, I think it is valid to
purchase emphasizing the material most valuable for the current and future
research (and teaching) needs of our institutions. This can best be
judged, in my opinion, by unbiased use studies and by citation analysis;
this data must however be intelligently analyzed by keeping aware of
subject field, institutional, and publication pattern developments.  I
agree with Donnie Curtis's analysis of some possible biases due to
differential availability. I do not think, though, that it should not be
interpreted to deny that there is in fact real differences between the
quality and usefullness of different titles in a subject.

Do those providing the full range of titles from a single publisher at the
expense of resources from other publishers think they would do as well if
they chose their journals by random selection from Ulrichs? If not, they
must be implicitly judging that the items published by the selected
publisher are in some sense better than any other possible use of the

I will try to do some case studies over the next few weeks; though I may
post them to more specialized lists, I will keep this list informed.

David Goodman
Biology Librarian, and
Co-Chair, Electronic Journals Task Force
Princeton University Library
dgoodman@princeton.edu         http://www.princeton.edu/~biolib/
phone: 609-258-3235            fax: 609-258-2627


Donnie Curtis wrote:
> I generally agree with Peter Boyce's point of view, and David Goodman's as
> well. But I am having a problem with this argument about "quality" that
> keeps cropping up on liblicense. It is starting to remind me of the age
> old professional discussion about whether public libraries ought to be
> buying trashy fiction just because that's what people want or whether they
> have an obligation to try to elevate the reading habits of the public
> through supplying only "higher quality" books.
> > Of course, what this means is that if you sign up for, say, the full
> > Elsevier set of electronic journals, you will ultimately be directing the
> > usage toward the poor quality as well as the better journals -- probably
> > to the detriment of other, better journals.
> First of all, if you provide a large number of electronic journals (and I
> wouldn't advocate buying ONLY Elsevier's (or Academic Press's) package
> without providing journals from other respected (by the users) publishers)
> then you are not directing usage at all. You are letting your users
> choose.
> > So, the choices which
> > libraries make will have a large impact upon the selection of journals
> > which get referred to by your end users.
> Yes, and this is even more true if you are very selective about which
> journals to provide. If you provide large packages, then they will only
> use the journals that are important to them. And then you'll know which
> they are. If you provide electronic journals at all, then they will
> probably be more heavily used than print journals, because of the
> convenience factor. So I don't believe that we can direct use towards high
> quality print journals by providing only a small selection of high quality
> electronic journals. It seems to me that the use of those selectively
> provided journals would be artificially high, thus reinforcing the idea
> that they are quality journals, while the quality print journals languish
> unused (provided the library has publicized the electronic journals and
> there are not technical barriers). This is just my instinct, and I would
> love to see some data about the comparative use of print and electronic
> journals from a variety of situations.
> What bothers me most is that I'm not so sure we will all agree with each
> other or with our users on which journals are the quality ones. Objective
> measures such as the Journal Citation Reports, have some inherent flaws,
> one of which is that they are measures of the journal as it once was, and
> journals do change, for the better and for the worse. The reputation will
> lag behind. Disciplines also change. I've been categorizing electronic
> journals for subject lists on the web and I'm surprised to see so many new
> interdisciplinary journals. So I'm thinking that a journal that is not a
> "quality" journal for one discipline might better appeal to some branch of
> another discipline. How can we always know?
> > Perhaps, it is irresponsible to
> > automatically accept such a complete package, even if it seems attractive
> > from the pricing standpoint. So, I urge everyone to consider the negative
> > effect of your decisions.
> I don't believe we can predict the negative or the positive effect of our
> electronic purchasing decisions until we have analyzed lots of usage data.
> Does anyone know of a citation study of Academic Press journals before and
> after IDEAL? Because they were online at least two years before other
> major publishers, I would think that their impact factors would have risen
> substantially if Peter's assumptions are correct. Though it may be too
> soon to tell.
> I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. But there may well be some
> positive effects of making thousands of journals electronically available
> to faculty. As I've said before, this is a grand experiment, offering many
> opportunities for the researchers among us. We might surprise ourselves.
> Won't it be great when our decisions will be based on data?
> Donnie Curtis
> Director of Research Services
> University of Nevada, Reno, Library