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Musings on Periodicals

We’re in the midst of our biennial print periodicals review at the moment, and it’s gotten me thinking about how to be a good steward of our periodicals collection. Personally, I love electronic journals better than print journals in most cases. There’s just so much more you can do with them, none of which involve photocopying. (Photocopying is a sore topic with me, right now, for completely separate reasons, none of them interesting.) So faced with a list of journals and the choice to continue with the print subscription, flag them as candidates for e-access only, or cancel them entirely, I’d go with the electronic version in a heartbeat for many, many titles.

However (you knew there was a “however” coming), there are a couple of categories of things that I will not give up in print if I have anything to say about it. (And remember, I’m the librarian for Languages and Literature, so my views are biased in that direction.)

  • Periodicals that include ads or images that aren’t indexed or included in the electronic version. I spend enough time with my American Studies students (and my colleague spends even more time with her History students) finding ads and images that being forced to give up basically our only accessible copies of these ephemera makes me weep for the students of 20-years-from-now who will be basically prevented from pursuing whole swaths of research topics.
  • Periodicals that include or are primarily composed of fiction, poetry, or art. These genres are used in many ways, some of which is enhanced by electronic access, and some of which are decidedly NOT. I want to leave the door open for the later cases.
  • Periodicals that are routed and that a) don’t have good alerts built into the electronic version or b) are routed to people who don’t care for alerts because they and their workflows are set up to need the thing itself sitting and staring at them before they’ll be reminded that they actually did want to sit down and read for a while. I’m that way, myself, with somethings. Not with my professional journals, but with somethings, so I can entirely sympathize.

Assuming I’m looking at a periodical that doesn’t fall into one of these categories, the next things I’d want to know before jumping for the e-access-only option are:

  • Does the e-access include PDF full text? This is especially important if foreign characters (such as Greek, Russian, or Asian characters) are important, or graphs, or images, or really anything other than the text itself. It’s also easier for students to cite exact and original page numbers.
  • Do we get to retain perpetual access to the issues we’ve paid for? (This is a biggie, and possible from some vendors.)
  • Is the eJournal’s interface easily usable? Are the result lists for searches understandable?
  • Are there RSS and email alert options for searches and new issues?
  • It sure would be nice if we could still send articles to other libraries via Interlibrary Loan. (I still worry about the world’s libraries going e-only and cutting each other off from sharing their collections with each other and with smaller libraries.)

These are the things that run through my head as I page through the periodicals on my list. What other criteria should I be thinking about?

Published inLibraries and Librarians

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