[Reprinted from ACQNET, August 11, 1997.]
While all of us in America are aware of the UPS strike, librarians in other countries may not be up to date on the full ramifications of the strike's effects. Since many ACQNET subscribers are outside the U.S., I thought a brief note on this disruption might be worthwhile.
UPS went on strike August 5th, and the dispute is centered on the use of part-time workers. It is a difficult issue to resolve, and so far it appears that the two sides are not making much progress. That could change in a matter of hours, however.
Academic Book Center, like other library book suppliers, is making every effort to use alternative means of delivering books to libraries. These include the US mail, other package delivery companies, and various freight carriers. All of these alternative delivery organizations are limiting the amount of freight that can be sent at any one time, so delivering books to libraries is quite challenging at the moment.
The larger problem, however, is that most publishers routinely send their books to library suppliers via UPS. Some larger publishers use motor freight carriers, but a substantial portion of orders to publishers are delivered by UPS. Library suppliers are already seeing a significant decline in publisher book receipts. The situation will deteriorate over the next few days if the strike continues. As of this posting, there is no indication that the strike will end in the next day or so, but talks are continuing.
Once the strike is settled you can expect publishers and library suppliers to work overtime to get books to libraries as quickly as possible. But there will still be delays in order fulfillment because the whole pipeline, from publisher to vendor to library, will have to be filled.
188.2 PSYCHOLOGY JOURNALS AT UWF: RESCUE BY THE NET? -- NOT YET!
Andrew Shroyer, University of West Florida, firstname.lastname@example.org
[Received July 28, 1997.]
The Psychology Department at the University of West Florida is recognized as a particular strength on our campus, having garnered outstanding faculty and produced quite worthwhile research. Because of the standing of the program on campus, the portion of the library materials budget supporting the psychology discipline had for some years been supplemented with money from other sources. Evolving circumstances and a tightening campus budget this year precluded the usual supplementing of the budget for psychology library materials for 97/98. The prospect of predictable serials inflation in the discipline thus had us facing the proverbial rock and hard place. In Spring '97, our Dean of Arts and Sciences asked the psychology faculty to select titles for cancellation to offset the anticipated '97 to '98 inflation in subscription costs, while allowing for modest monograph purchases in psychology in the ensuing year.
Attempting to be helpful, we in the library began to learn the best means of access to the information content of our current psychology serial titles, as alternatives to standard paper subscriptions. In this "age of digital serials information" (an actual phrase from a professional library association flyer), we expected the internet to provide some respite for us and concentrated on discovery and analysis of websites related to our serials. Our working hypothesis was that some professional societies or other organizations in psychology surely would have posted the actual contents of their journals at sites on the web for the world to access freely. This premise, as it turned out, did not stand the test of commercial reality.
We searched the web using the web search engines, entering title elements and publisher names. Where no website was found, we also examined the inside covers and mastheads of the paper journals to be sure we were not overlooking a useful URL. I also emailed a short questionnaire to major commercial publishers of psychology journals, to inquire about rates for electronic subscriptions.
We found that while three-quarters (65.8%) of our list of 214 titles was represented in some fashion by a website, only three (2%) of the 141 websites we discovered proved to be full-text electronic counterparts to the printed journals, at no cost. One of these corresponded to a high-circulation, low-cost serial which receives a lot of local use in its paper form; it would not be a good candidate for web-only access.
We did find the conversion of titles to free web-accessibility to be a dynamic phenomenon -- but not necessarily in the direction one would expect. While undertaking the study, we witnessed a change in the status of one title, which went from a full-text website accessible at no cost (originally counted as a fourth title in the above category), to a slightly less than full-text site by our definition. At some point, the administrators of this site began to withhold the most current issue of the title from the site, presumably so that it would first "age" to the point of posing no threat to the printed journal subscription base.
Still, slightly more than one-half of the websites (55%) provided abstracts, tables of contents, or both to their corresponding titles. This, we pointed out, could enable one to forego a full paper subscription in favor of document delivery of select, individual articles. The latter mode of access would save us money in cases of peripheral titles whose document delivery demand rate (at an average cost of $18 per article) would not exceed full subscription costs. We would, of course, be foregoing paper backfiles by choosing this means of access.
We categorized the remaining 45% of the websites (those which did not offer either table of contents or abstracts for the corresponding titles) as "promotional" sites. Information about editorial boards, statements of authority, enticing graphics, texts of selected articles with wide appeal, online subscription order forms and other how-to-subscribe instructions were common among these sites. Where electronic subscriptions were offered, we did not find any that provided a break when compared to the prices of print subscriptions.
I constructed a table to show faculty what we had learned about alternative access to our psychology serials, using relational database software (Paradox for Windows, version 5). The data reflected not only the character of any web presence, but also indication of indexing in standard library tools; availability through commercial document delivery sources; availability via ILL within the Florida State University System; circulation or readership of each title; cost of paper subscriptions; and, where applicable, cost of electronic subscriptions. I then generated reports via the software that broke the master list into categories (e.g., titles with abstracts or contents summaries on the web that were also available through document delivery services).
The psychology faculty were able to meet the goal set for them by their dean, identifying enough titles for cancellation to offset inflation for the coming year. Feedback from the faculty indicated that having the full title list and reports showing the information above was interesting. However, deselection was based largely on standard judgments as to which titles most directly supported the current curriculum and research, and which were somewhat or wholly peripheral. When asked recently, the current chair of the UWF Psychology Department indicated that he could not recall discussion favoring cancellation of even a single title in favor of an electronic or quasi-electronic approach to access (e.g., relying on web contents summaries or abstracts plus document delivery orders). He said, however, that he believed the faculty would find the new information useful for supplemental access to the contents of their journals.
I wonder what comparable data regarding specific title lists for other academic disciplines (physics, math, communication arts, classics?) might reveal, at our school or others. One would like to think that, in the present day, a good number of professional organizations who publish their own journals -- if not commercial publishers -- would offer some break to libraries in an electronic subscription mode, in return for savings on standard printing and distribution costs. Of course, one should not extrapolate too broadly from our findings regarding a title list for one discipline at one school, but, following this experience, I do feel a little less hopeful in general about a "rescue" from an "electronic future" anytime soon.
188.3 PROFESSOR CHOOSES NOT TO REVIEW ELSEVIER ARTICLE
Submitted, with the author's permission, by Tom Eadie, University of Calgary, email@example.com
[Received June 26, 1997.]
Professor Harold D. Clarke, Joint Editor
North American Editorial Office
Department of Political Science
The University of North Texas
P. O. Box 5338
Denton, Texas 6203-0338
Dear Professor Clarke:
Thank you for forwarding the enclosed manuscript for evaluation and comments for the journal, Electoral Studies.
I have decided against reviewing the manuscript for Electoral Studies, and I thus am returning it to you.
I did wish to inform you of the reasons for my decision against reviewing the manuscript.
As you know, research libraries in North America and overseas are encountering serious difficulties in meeting the research needs of faculty and students. The challenges are created, in part, through the dramatic increases in the costs of the instruments of scholarly communication -- research monographs and in particular, scholarly journals. There is a growing awareness within the research community that the commercial publishers of scholarly journals are levying the most dramatic cost increases. Elsevier Science Inc., the publisher of Electoral Studies is a major contributor to the growing crisis of scholarly communication.
As a producer of scholarly research and a member of the scholarly community, I believe I have a responsibility to help identify the sources of the crisis in scholarly communication, and to work towards the identification and implementation of solutions. It is my view that the institutional annual subscription rate charged by Elsevier Science Inc. of $388 U.S. for Electoral Studies is excessive and unjustifiable, and is directly contributing to the decreasing ability of libraries to provide reasonable and appropriate access to instruments of scholarly communication. The solution to the present crisis would appear to lie, at least in part, with the repatriation of scholarly journals away from commercial publishers such as Elsevier, and back to the scholars who are responsible for its creation. In Canada, the electronic publishing project orchestrated by Industry Canada is an important initiative towards this end.
It is my view that a starting point in resolving the crisis of scholarly communication is for scholars and universities to withdraw their support from journals which generate excessive profits and which thereby limit effective scholarly communication. As scholars we can begin by refusing to take personal subscriptions and encouraging our libraries not to take institutional subscriptions of journals published by corporations with excessive profits. We can also choose against submitting our research papers for publication in such journals, and to decide against serving as a manuscript reviewer. It is my hope that such actions will result in an increase in access to the instruments of scholarly communications.
I would be pleased to discuss this with you further. With best personal regards.
Dr. Keith Archer, Associate Dean (Research)
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive N.W.,
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
Telephone: (403) 220-5889
Fax: (403) 282-8606
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