A cyclone, a hawkeye, and a badger walk into a library…

Tightly shelved journals

Many libraries are feeling the space crunch, and with the availability of electronic backfiles of journals (older print journals converted to electronic by organizations such as JSTOR or by the publishers themselves), some are looking at ways to save space by withdrawing the print copies. Most of us feel comfortable withdrawing JSTOR titles, feeling that the program has a good business model with a commitment to quality and long-term availability. Our library, for many years now, has withdrawn JSTOR titles based on the moving wall (the lag time between the release of the print volume and availability of the electronic through JSTOR). We still tend be a little less comfortable with publishers.

For this reason, the Iowa State University Library, the University of Iowa Libraries, and the University of Wisconsin Libraries have gotten together to look at three science publishers (American Chemical Society, Institute of Physics, and Annual Reviews) to determine if they could develop a “shared print repository.” Approximately 220 titles were looked at for complete electronic coverage by the publisher and print holdings at each library. Bibliographers at each library then rated each title 1-4 (strongly recommend retaining print copy regardless of space constraint, recommend retaining if space available, recommend not retaining local copy, or no recommendation). The titles were divvied up among the three libraries based on these ratings along with a little rebalancing in terms of space commitment.

Workform for the journal survey and shelf audit

It was then up to the preservation departments to come up with a method for assessing the print titles each library was responsible for maintaining. We generally agreed that we needed to keep this as simple as possible due to the time constraint of  one month, no additional staff, and the number of titles to survey. The survey developed was based on observable conditions that do not require extensive testing or handling. Questions addressed were:  1) Is the paper brittle? 2) Are there serious signs of damaged (e.g. detached spine, detached boards, split text block)? 3) Is any intellectual content missing (i.e. trimmed text, missing pages)? 4) Is the binding too tight to allow for quality scans to be created by ILL?

The survey included a shelf audit which consisted of comparing the library’s holdings against the volumes on the shelf, and noting any volumes that had exterior markings suggesting the volume was incomplete.  The decision not to perform an issue or page level inspection for this project was based on the understanding that these collections are not being considered the archival master, so to speak. They exist electronically through the publishers (missing pages or issues could be replaced when discovered), they are widely held by other libraries, and the library directors wanted to continue to make these titles available on the shelf and through circulation. Without putting these volumes in dark storage, we lose control over their use and handling, making the issue level audit less meaningful over time.

Our surveys have been completed and reviewed. Some damage does exist, but nothing that cannot be repaired. The only volumes that will be exchanged will be those that the library responsible for retention is missing. We will have to make a decision on a couple of journal titles that have brittle paper in early issues, but there are fewer than expected.
Spines with old tape "repairs"

The next step is for the catalogers to determine what information will go into the MARC 583 field, mostly to note that the titles are part of this multi-institutional program and what the responsibilities are for the participating libraries. The balance is, of course, not to suggest to other libraries that these are permanent archival copies.

The relationship between the three participating libraries, their commitment to retaining titles, and their expectations for maintaining  the titles are included in a memorandum of understanding.

There are already talks of looking at other publishers and their journals in a similar way since this round has been quite successful and has freed up several hundred linear feet between the three libraries.


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