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Argh! Serial Review! Literary Journals! Tough Choices!

It’s time for our biennial serial review. This one feels kind of like being kicked when down because we did a big review to sync up Carleton and St. Olaf last winter, and then we did a voluntary cut last spring when the stock market decided to have a bigger say than usual in our collection development projects.

I only have to review the serials that were originally requested by the library (as opposed to those requested by departments, of which there are many), and only those that fall within the areas I serve (so literature, languages, music, American Studies, and linguistics). And this time around we have to make cuts again. And this time around we’ve already cut the low-hanging fruit so pretty much everything we still subscribe to is stuff I’d like to continue to subscribe to. So last time around I came up with some criteria that really helped, and this time I’m having to come up with newer, less definitive criteria.

Today’s project was literary journals. We subscribe to several, six of which fall under my care, none of which I wanted to cut, some of which I have to cut. The two that we’ve had since the Beginning of Time I’m keeping, just on principle (well, and because they’re good). These are Contemporary Review and Granta. For the rest, I’m checking the catalogs of our peer institutions, reading reviews in Ulrich’s, paging through recent issues, reading their web sites, and generally mourning the fact that I even have to decide.

I’m also rankling a little at the current model for journal subscriptions that make paying for bundled packages so much easier than paying for individual subscriptions, but make backing out of bits and pieces of the bundle impossible. If I need to cut, I’m cutting the stuff we actually selected rather than the fluff that’s padding those bundles. What a pain.

Published inRandom Thoughts


  1. Barbara Barbara

    Funny thing happened as we went through a review recently… we discovered that our print copies of literary “little magazines” were being taken off the shelf at much higher levels than the scholarly publications in English. We kept a number of ones that, without that data, would probably have been on the chopping block. These are the kinds of publications that don’t fare well when atomized in an aggragated database and which contain material more easily encountered than actually sought.

    That seems to be what you were saying with your second principle: “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.”

    Do you have “taken off the shelf” stats of any kind? would it help make a case?

  2. Iris Iris

    We do have stats like that here, but I think our students are a little too “helpful” and put things back on their own. We rarely have much in the way of in-house use on any of our periodicals even though we can see people reading magazines every day.

    I want to RFID *everything* (including students). There can’t possibly be any privacy implications in that plan, can there? ;-)

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