Internet-Accessible Full-Text Electronic Journal & Periodical Collections for Libraries
Barber, David, Library Technology Reports
Periodicals represent a major investment and information source for libraries. The development of the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW) has created the exciting opportunity to increase the value of these materials to library users. Periodicals can become available outside of the library's walls and become more widely and conveniently accessible. Most libraries have moved to take advantage of this opportunity and have begun to build a collection of electronic periodicals. How libraries build these collections and how users interact with electronic periodicals is the subject of this report.
Two kinds of full-text information sources form the foundation of electronic periodical collections. The first is the full-text periodical database. This category includes products such as SIRS and ProQuest. These databases are a staple of academic, public, and special library collections. A second type of full text periodical product is the journal archive, the Web sites that offer access to academic journals. This product includes the Web sites of publishers like Elsevier Science or Academic Press, Web sites of journal aggregators such as OCLC, and the Web sites created by libraries and library consortia that have decided to upload these journals themselves.
Building an electronic periodical collection requires knowledge of two key subjects: How journal archives and periodical databases shape the user experience, and how libraries operate to create access to these resources. A balanced understanding of these two topics is required to appreciate both the goal of high-quality access to electronic information for the user and what this will require from library administrators.
The first part of this report examines how Web sites and their underlying technology affect the user experience. The user experience is the result of two aspects of the design of journal archive and periodical databases. The way the Web site is designed to allow users to find an article is the first aspect; an article's format (PDF, HTML and so forth) is the second aspect that shapes the user experience.
Three means may be employed by a Web site for the purpose of helping users find articles: browsing, searching, and linking. Browsing and searching are briefly discussed in this report, while linking is examined in greater depth. Linking refers to the process of connecting the full-text of a periodical with related information sources like library catalogs and citation databases. Linking is becoming more important to how periodical databases and journal archives are evolving. Major projects are underway to create the infrastructure that will support widespread linking on the Web.
Changes in electronic publishing are currently reshaping the user experience. What articles contain and how they are issued is changing. New electronic-only journals that take advantage of the wide range of communications media like Web-supported audio and video are appearing with increasing frequency. Articles are also being shared through new means such as e-prints. These and other new distribution approaches are changing how articles are found and how rapidly they are issued.
In this report, a discussion of what libraries must do to create access to periodical databases and journal archives accompanies the coverage of how Web site design and technology shapes the user experience. Libraries must undertake two types of activities for this access to occur, selection and licensing.
Selection involves two separate subtasks. The first of these is selecting which periodicals should be added to an online periodical collection. In the current environment, where some publishers offer libraries the option of access to all of their titles for a small price increase over past subscriptions, selection requires not just selecting a subset of journal titles already owned, it also requires considering whether to expand the number of titles licensed. …