Preserving E-Journals: Realizing New Opportunities
Faculty and students at Boston College are relying more and more heavily on electronic journals for research. As a result, the Boston College Libraries have been investing substantially more in e-journal subscriptions. During the Spring 2005 semester, librarians worked closely with faculty to cancel about 700 print journals while retaining access to their e-journal versions. This project was necessitated by sharp increases in journal costs, and the decision to control journal expenditures by reducing duplication between print and electronic versions of the same information.
The rapid growth of a journal collection that is available only electronically raises a critical concern: whether or not researchers can rely on continuing access to e-journals as surely as they have relied on their print counterparts. Will currently subscribed e-journals be available a hundred years from now? For many years, librarians have had little choice but to negotiate licenses with e-journal publishers which included “perpetual access” guarantees. This solution was considered to be less than adequate, because the responsibility of preserving information has traditionally been assumed by libraries. A new approach to archiving e-journals needed to be developed.
Recognizing the urgent need for a dependable safety net for its e-journal collection, the Boston College Libraries now subscribe to two e-journal archiving services, Portico and LOCKSS (a felicitous acronym for Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe). Although each operates differently, they both offer significant alternatives to archiving by publishers. Portico started as part of JSTOR, a scholarly journal archive that has been around for years. LOCKSS was begun by Stanford University and is now used by research libraries around the world. An essential element needed for the success of LOCKSS and Portico is publisher participation, and the good news is that major journal publishers like Elsevier, Oxford University Press, and SAGE are signing agreements with one or both of these services to permit their publications to be archived.
For more information about the issues involved in archiving e-journals, the following online statement by the Digital Library Foundation provides a useful summary: Urgent Action Needed to Preserve Scholarly Electronic Journals (September 2005). This statement has been publicly endorsed by the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) and the Association of Research Libraries.
Head, Collection Development