Posted by: Steven Harris | January 30, 2008

Journals Review

We’re doing the annual journals review at my library.  This year we are in pretty good shape.  We got university support to cover journal inflation.  In the past we have done the typical (awful) distribution of subscription lists to departments and asked them, “which 10% do you want to cancel.”  Most recently, I steered us away from that approach.  We did a survey where we simply asked them, “what journals are vital to your work, regardless of whether they are in the library.” We used the results to identify popular journals to which we did not subscribe, and journal subscriptions that were not particularly popular. We are doing a similar survey this year with SurveyMonkey.

There are, I feel, lots of problems with doing a survey where you ask people to describe their own behavior. Often they will have pretty strong feelings about what they do that have no basis in reality.  How can we gather data of journal usage that is accurate and valid?  We have many different forms of usage data: circulation, online usage, interlibrary borrowing.  Unfortunately, it comes in so many different forms from so many different sources.  I wish there was a way we could develop real time data that would actually display to the public. Where would this go?  In the OPAC?  How would we get it all (from those different sources) and fuse it together?  How can we exploit that network effect for journals?  Would there be a danger in showing usage data to the public?  Would people start clicking like mad on journals they thought were in jeopardy, like you often see happen in online surveys?  Would it be possible to let people “vote” for a journal through the OPAC, or should usage just trump everything?

Just wondering how to make this process more 2.0.  I’m not sure the concepts of 2.0 even apply here, but I do like some new ideas like Jenica Rogers-Urbanek has talked about such as zero-based budgeting for periodicals  or using link resolver click throughs as another means of demostrating usage. Does the zero-based approach have validity year after year? Or is it only useful in that first year? Do faculty want to redesign the whole subscription list every year?  So many questions, so few answers. Sigh.

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