Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Electronic Serials Usage Patterns as Observed at a Medium-Size University: Searches and Full-Text Downloads

Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Electronic Serials Usage Patterns as Observed at a Medium-Size University: Searches and Full-Text Downloads

Article excerpt


As the number of electronic serials available to libraries continues to increase while library budgets remain either stagnant or on the decrease, it becomes necessary to evaluate the use of a library's electronic collection. In 2006, usage statistics were evaluated at Laurentian University, Canada, to provide direction to collection development and identify high-cost low-use electronic serials. Searches and full-text downloads were studied. A sharp increase in use was observed in and around 2004 which can be explained by the introduction, in Ontario, of the 'double cohort', by the rapid increase in the number of electronic resources subscribed to at Laurentian, and by the adoption of OpenURL technology. Heavily used electronic serials are identified. Turnaways, connections by IP address and Bradford's 20:80 rule are also examined. The application of a cost-per-download ratio provided a practical method for identifying underused products.


The overall purpose of this analysis was to study the usage of the electronic collection of the J.N. Desmarais Library at Laurentian University. It represents an examination of both current usage data and data from previous years, where available, in an attempt to establish general utilization patterns of the electronic collection, currently and in the past. Additionally, the study provided much needed data in the form of a cost per use analysis to be applied to collection development. Such an analysis had never before been undertaken at the library.

Laurentian University is a multi-campus university founded in 1960, with its main campus located in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Considered to be medium-size by the Carnegie classification of institution scale (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), the total full-time student population numbered 8,400 in 2006, with over 500 enrolled in various graduate programs. Also in 2006, 370 full-time faculty members taught and performed research. Programs cover multiple fields in the sciences, social sciences and humanities with 94 undergraduate, 18 Master's and 6 doctoral degrees offered.

As with most libraries, public or academic, the J.N. Desmarais Library, Laurentian University's main library, has not been spared the effects of the explosion in the number of electronic resources available for purchase or subscription (Bevis and Graham 115-119; Creech 30-34; Kocevar-Weidinger, Kinman and McClasin 29-34; Ridi 273-344; Wakimoto 21-33). As more and more research tools became available in electronic format; it was necessary to rely to a greater extent on electronic products rather than their more cumbersome print equivalents, not only because patrons demanded it (Albanese 1-12; Brennan et al. 515-526), especially those working off-campus (Moyo 185-209), but also because physical space in the library itself was at a premium.

Between 2002 and 2007, the number of electronic journals available to the Laurentian University community jumped from 8,595 in 2002 to 28,468, a 230% increase. Current expenditures at the J.N. Desmarais Library for its electronic serials amount to $1.2 million (CDN$) accounting for about 81% of the library's serials expenditures. In contrast the average academic library tends to spend 70% of its serials budget on electronic products (Luther 119-147).

Thus, the J.N. Desmarais Library found itself with electronic journals subscribed to by individual title or in bundles or packages. They could be accessed directly from a publisher's site or from an aggregator such as BioOne, Ebsco, JSTOR, Proquest, Gale or from both, which typically leads to duplication of titles. Aggregators, such as BioOne, offer e-journals as stand-alone subject-oriented packages; others, such as Ebsco's Academic Search Premier, as searchable databases. Date and volumes available varied from one publisher to the next with some offering only the past year or so and others offering their entire collection from the first volume onward. …

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