Thoughts About Journals at 2am

At 2am while feeding a newborn, a lot of random thoughts pop in and out of my head, including one about the cost of online journals and usage. 

Have we gotten to a time in libraries where the print version of a title is worthless?  Ok worthless is probably too strong of a word.  How about forgotten?  Have we gotten to a point in time where users forget about printed journals and use only online titles.  This is not to say that they don’t know that there are printed titles. When they do a search or are given search results what do they do first?  They scroll through and print off or save all of the articles that are available online.  The ones that aren’t available online are left to the end only to be retrieved if they need a few more articles to answer their question or do research.  If they feel they have enough articles already from the ones they downloaded online, they don’t bother with the ones that are available in print only.  Those articles become the forgotten articles.  I am not saying this is the best or most comprehensive way to do research, but it happens all the time. 

Librarians rely on usage stats to make decisions on what journals they intend to keep our purchase (ILL request stats).  So have we gotten to a point where a printed journal automatically gets less use (despite quality of articles) because it is not online?  Would going online make that journal more useful?  What if the online version of the journal is too expensive for your library, do you hold on to the print because it is one of those titles that you feel you should keep?  Or do you dump the title?

If you dump the title in print and you don’t get it online, the publisher is losing your money.  Do you think there should be a trial year online subscription (let’s say for twice the cost of print) allowing you online access to the title? This way both you and the publisher can determine a “fair” online price based on a year of usage data? 

Determining what a “fair” price after that year may be sticky, and the pricing details/levels should be worked out a head of time before you embark on a year trial.  That way as the year progresses you can tell your supervisors that you currently have a year trial subscription to the Journal of Big Toe Science and it is getting X amount of usage and if that usage trend continues that means next year it will cost approximately $Y to have.  Everybody can plan ahead of time.

I am not entirely sure how well this would work, like I said a lot of things float through my head at 2am.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts About Journals at 2am”

  1. As a solo hospital librarian with a tiny budget, most electronic journals are out of my price range. I have to have the print; there is no way to get around it. If I don’t have the print, I don’t have access to the journal and then I would be ordering everything via Docline.

    Which sometimes I think my boss secretly hopes for.

    I would love to have online access to my most heavily used journals so I’m not forever making copies or losing track of print issues that disappear at 3 AM. But I don’t have that luxury.

    I would love for the publishers to let us trial a journal subscription so we could keep up with it’s stats before a purchase. I’m hesitant to purchase online journals because I never know how much they are getting used outside of the library. That’s a great suggest and I wish that someone would listen.

  2. Don’t worry too much about journals while you’re on maternity leave, journals will be there when you get back. But consider this: why not purchase the journal articles that you need as you need them, instead of purchasing bundles of articles in a subscription in case you might need them? I think that’s the direction we’re going and it is becoming increasingly possible. So you buy the article with all the legal rights associated, store it in a repository and it’s there for the next person who needs it.

    There will be technical and financial challenges to this, but it’s coming and we need to figure out how to do it. There’s a place in this scenario for creative vendors to come to our service, too.

  3. You see that is what happens at 2am, my brain totally forgets about ala carte purchasing which would indeed be like a trial subscription.

    However what do you do about the journals that don’t have an ala carte purchse method available?

    Don’t worry, I am not worrying too much about journals while on leave. It was just one of the many things that popped in my head at that time and I thought it would be fun to blog about it. Better to blog about it than about bad late night programming on TV.

  4. Interesting.

    I agree with Elizabeth. As a solo it is often impossible to our purchase online subscriptions. And what administrator doesn’t wish you could get everything through Docline or online…. for free.

    The ala carte concerns me. I worry about how items would be stored, would publishers let you keep am item indefinitely, would publishers restrict the usage meaning no ILL, and will the smaller libraries be out priced?

    These are just a few concerns that come to mind. Not to mention how will the items be stored for easy retrieval.

    There are changes coming…hopefully they will be good for libraries.

  5. I see an opportunity for University Librarians to be pro-active, and, offer training in comprehensive research. (i.e. don’t forget the print resources)

    For solo / special librarians, an opportunity to direct clients to public libraries or University Libraries that may still have print resources, and to remember that print still works.

  6. When scholarly journals and other reference texts were being destroyed and replaced with
    online simulacrums, I drove to many libraries
    and was fortunate enough to find and purchase
    an almost mint set of the NUC together with
    two editions of the LC. In other words, about
    one thousand clothbound volumes in small 4to and folio together with dozens of the most
    useful mainstream bibliographies for literary

    Over the last years, I have become an active book and manuscript appraiser specializiing
    in Western European material from the 15th
    thru the 20th C. that have been donated to institutional libraries for tax purposes. Using any online bibiliography including the NUC has taught me that I can find humor in middle age. With so many errors of omission, misspellings and transpositions that distort meaning, it is a wonder that even mediocre standards of fact can be hoped for.
    Hail the Web.

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