Policy Paper Regarding “Criteria for Changing Serial Subscriptions to Online Format”
As electronic journal formats become more predominant and are viewed as attractive alternatives to print formats, it is important for K-State Libraries to clarify the circumstances under which subscription to the electronic form only of a journal is acceptable. Recent user surveys conducted by the Libraries have suggested that our students and faculty generally support decisions to carry only electronic formats for many titles. Some publishers are offering incentives to libraries to collect only the electronic format in an effort to free themselves from the costs of publishing in multiple formats. More importantly, the desire to offer the greatest service possible to our users with limited resources forces us to consider carefully the costs and benefits of acquiring journals in print or electronic formats.
There are many advantages to converting to electronic-only access to journals, but we recognize that there may also be drawbacks. Faculty are consulted regularly when a subscription is considered for purchase or cancellation. Conversion of a subscription from print to electronic format, while a serious decision, is not a cancellation decision. Subject librarians will work closely with faculty to discuss the appropriate format for various titles using the Libraries Criteria for Changing Serial Subscriptions to Online Format. It is important to note that the Criteria not only present guidance but also allow flexibility in decision making. Therefore, Librarians will be able to address the circumstances where retention of the paper format is considered more desirable.
The Criteria deal with issues involving content and access, archiving, pricing, and licensing and offer explicit reasons for determining when subscription to the electronic-only format of a journal is appropriate. These issues are discussed in more detail below.
Content and access concerns
The electronic version of a journal should be equivalent to the print version. In other words, the complete scholarly content of the print version should also be available in the electronic version. The electronic version should be at least as current as the print version, though in many cases it is often published sooner than the print version. Another consideration is the quality of images and other graphics especially those in color. Subject librarians will work with users to determine what standard is needed for image quality.
K-State Libraries will only consider license agreements that offer campus-wide access, via IP address. It is also important to know if the access to the electronic version is stable and reliable. A reasonable effort should be made by the publisher and/or distributor to ensure that the journal is available 100% of the time. Vendors should use reliable, mirrored servers for both content and subscriber lists. We should expect to be notified in advance of changes and anticipated downtime.
To summarize, the minimum criteria for evaluating content and access are:
One criterion in determining the adequacy of an electronic version of a journal is the need to maintain archival access. The current archiving of electronic journals is in its infancy. However, the commitment both stated and expressed by publishers or other groups varies widely. At present there are three main levels of archival commitment.
It is worth noting that archival systems typically focus
on preservation of content, but vary widely in the commitment
to long term access. The existence of an archival system
does not necessarily ensure ongoing access to archived content
after subscription has ceased. In planning for future access
to electronic journals it is wisest to anticipate that access
will continue only as long as a subscription is maintained.
When considering a new journal subscription or a change in format, selectors should investigate the details of the potential options and pricing implications involved in ordering the journal in print, print with electronic access, or solely in electronic format.
If an e-journal is part of a bundle, it must be determined if it is possible to realize savings by subscribing to the package as a whole, or if individual titles may be selected for subscription in an electronic-only version. Some publishers will only accept subscriptions to a journal package and not to individual journal titles. In certain cases, it may be necessary to cancel print equivalents of journals in order to finance a subscription to an e-journal package.
Electronic journals are typically licensed rather than purchased outright, as are print subscriptions. Licenses are reviewed during the order process for terms related to content, access, and various other requirements by the university and the State of Kansas. Licenses describe the content to which we are subscribing and may also provide for the omission of certain content from a publication. The license may also provide for a delay in the online publication of particular types of articles. Publishers may restrict use of their publications. The most common restrictions are on interlibrary loan, electronic reserves, and course packs. Licenses may also contain restrictions on downloading, printing, and viewing of the articles.
License negotiations are usually successful, however it is possible that a publisher will choose not to accept terms the Libraries consider essential. In that case, the resource cannot be added to the collection.
A variety of issues will inform effective evaluation of electronic subscriptions to journals. The criteria mentioned above may not prove to be the only relevant criteria for decision-making. The electronic journal as a format is very much in an evolutionary state. While this document along with the Criteria provide guidance it will rarely provide an unambiguous directive. On balance, concerned parties should remember that all subscription and change of format decisions will need to be discussed with your subject librarian.