Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter


FALL 2006

Rethinking Print Indexes in O’Neill Reference

Over the summer, the Library was engaged in a long overdue process of removing duplicate print indexes to periodical articles from the reference and/or Library collections. The Reference Department adopted the following policy:


  • Print indexing and abstracting titles that duplicate online content will be canceled.
  • Existing print copies of duplicate index and abstracting content will be weeded from the Reference collection.
  • A subject specialist who determines that a duplicate print subscription is still necessary has two options:
    1. Demonstrate the added value a print index offers to justify its remaining in the reference collection. Access to the index when the network is down is not an added value argument. These titles will be evaluated on a title-by-title basis.
    2. Shelve the index in the general collection.


The reasoning behind the policy is fourfold:

1. Library Space: the way in which the user accesses Library collections has changed dramatically in the electronic age. We face the challenge of balancing the primary (and exploding) mode of access to collections (electronic) with multiple expectations for the use of the physical library. We are obligated to design the Library to meet both the traditional and the newer and expanding needs. By freeing up space where duplicated indexes were shelved, we can introduce new uses and meet some of the stated needs of our users, while still providing quality online access to journal literature.


2. Budget: the Library’s acquisitions budget has steadily eroded in purchasing power and we need to be savvy in our management of it. Paying for duplicative content when we have a choice is not efficient. Paying for duplicate content that is not used is even less efficient. Monies saved from canceled duplicated print indexes can be used to enhance the collections in other ways.


3. Limitations: we must face the reality of our fiscal and space issues. These decisions are difficult, but they must be made if we are to continue to develop relevant services and collections for current and future users.


4. Use: the print indexes are not used, they are not the preferred method of access, and we have a stable network, which maximizes online use. We understand that the electronic resources field is dynamic (and this can be unnerving), but we also believe that access to the journal literature is a vital component and that long-term access to journal content via online publications will be secure.

Ed TallentEd Tallent

Head, Reference & Instruction

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