USTLG Summer 2001 Meeting

Electronic Publishing and Online Support Materials

Tuesday 12th June 2001, Aston University Library

Reports by Clare Humphries, Adrian Smith, Angela Newton and Joanne Yeomans, all University of Leeds


Electronic Journal Deals - concerns and issues (or Beware the "Big Deal")
Linda Norbury, Aston University

Linda's presentation raised a number of issues, both positive and negative concerning electronic journal deals with major publishers (the "Big Deals"). Although "there are short-term gains to be made, there is a long-term danger to the academic community." She covered the differing requirements of librarians, users and publishers from the deals and mentioned some alternatives that are available. The presentation was followed by a general discussion on the pros and cons of such deals.

A show of hands showed that most libraries represented at the meeting were Science Direct subscribers though none had yet moved to the electronic-only option. . It was pointed out that libraries do gain a large number of titles from such deals that they could not otherwise afford. However, of major concern was the unpredictability of access to archive volumes which worried academics as much as librarians. A question was raised as to whether academics really wanted to move to electronic access. Evidence from at least two universities showed that academics increasingly prefer electronic journals. Cardiff had found in a survey that 20% of academics actually prefer electronic to print. Glasgow and Strathclyde have set up a collaboration which involved Glasgow cancelling many print titles and Strathclyde acting as a print repository. For many libraries, however, a collaboration such as this is not practical.

It is often not easy to get information on how much the electronic journals are being used. People reported they had received good statistics from Elsevier and ACS but many other publishers are poor at providing this information.

Several concerns were raised about the loss of control over access to titles following subscription to an electronic deal. An example was described of a publisher changing the title of a journal and it then "disappearing" from the electronic deal. Access to another title, which was included in a package had been lost due to an error on the publisher's database. Supplements or special issues are often not included in electronic packages.

One further point of discussion was that students searching a database often only follow-up the articles that are available electronically, i.e. with "instant access." Even though databases provide sophisticated search facilities, the most relevant articles may be overlooked simply because they must be obtained from an outside source.

Discussion emphasised that library budgets cannot continue to meet periodical price inflation at the current rate therefore we must be prepared to make a national stand against deals if they become unaffordable.

To round up the discussion, it was asked how many libraries had now signed the revised Nature deal. Three universities admitted to signing up for this due to pressure from their academic staff, others are considering it, but some libraries will still wait to see if a better deal can be agreed.


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