Serials: Review of the Literature 2000-2003

By Corbett, Lauren E. | Library Resources & Technical Services, January 2006 | Go to article overview

Serials: Review of the Literature 2000-2003


Corbett, Lauren E., Library Resources & Technical Services


The topic of electronic journals (e-journals) dominated the serials literature from 2000 to 2003. This review is limited to the events and issues within the broad topics of cost, management, and archiving. Coverage of cost includes such initiatives as PEAK, JACC, BioMed Central, SPARC, open access, the "Big Deal," and "going e-only." Librarians combated the continued price increase trend for journals, fueled in part by publisher mergers, with the economies found with bundled packages and consortial subscriptions. Serials management topics" include usage statistics; core title lists; staffing needs; the "A-Z list" and other services from such companies as. Serials Solutions; "deep linking"; link resolvers such as SFX; development of standards or guidelines, such as COUNTER and ERMI; tracking of license terms; vendor mergers; and the demise of integrated library systems and a subscription agent's bankruptcy. Librarians archived print volumes in storage facilities due to space shortages. Librarians and publishers struggled with electronic archiving concepts, discussing questions of who, where, and how. Projects such as LOCKSS tested potential solutions, but missing online content due to the Tasini court case and retractions posed more archiving difficulties. The serials literature captured much of the upheaval resulting from the rapid pace of changes, many linked to the advent of e-journals.

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Serials literature from 2000 through 2003 was dominated by the topic of electronic journals (e-journals). This seemed to be a natural correlation to the rise in academic library expenditures on e-journals, documented by Association of Research Libraries (ARL) reports. The data from the reports show that the median expenditure on electronic serials went from $156,754 in 1994-95, to $571,790 in 1998-99. (1) Cost remained a significant concern, as libraries increased expenditures on e-journals in addition to maintaining print subscriptions. A longstanding debate over ownership versus access filtered down to questions regarding the sustainability of existing pricing models for electronic resources, which included consortial purchasing and subscriptions to large collections of titles. Both the electronic format and changing models of scholarly communication brought expectations of lower prices. The volatility in the field, with numerous mergers of publishers and vendors, raised concerns about price increases and difficulties libraries faced keeping acquisitions and cataloging records in step with the volume and rapidity of the changes. Librarians and library staff needed different competencies to work with electronic resources. The newer responsibilities, such as licensing and maintenance of hyperlinks in the catalog, increased with the rise in e-journals. Without an increase in personnel, librarians and staff strained to keep up with the additional workload. Those with growing physical collections wondered if they should turn to more electronic resources as part of a solution to lack of space in addition to cost savings. As desire for e-journals increased along with financial pressures, librarians shifted from print plus online to electronic-only subscriptions. Concern grew over missing content and preservation of nonprint materials, resulting in discussion of the various obstacles in archiving electronic information. E-journals presented both advantages and difficulties to librarians. Much of the literature was written to share potential solutions to problems or to advise colleagues of tools or management practices being developed. Recorded initiatives, projects, and market trends in American academic libraries showed the intensity of this effort in many areas of librarianship. Certain major events and research activities of significance did not appear in peer-reviewed periodical literature, and this author included other sources to provide the fullest context possible for the time period and topics covered. The scope of this review is limited to three areas in order to restrict overlap with potential or existing reviews of collection development, cataloging, preservation, and technical systems. …

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