A Publication for the faculty, staff, administrators and friends of California State University, Chico
November 11, 2004 Volume 35/Number 3

Librarian at Large

Access: As Good as Ownership?

Unless you’re Halliburton, Bechtel, or an oil company, things are tough all over. Higher education may not be in nearly as dire a strait as Iraq, but it’s not uncommon these days to encounter a sort of bunker attitude on college campuses, with academics hunkering down and making do until the worst is over. One strategy university libraries have utilized to partially mitigate the precipitous cuts in acquisitions budgets during inflationary times is to form consortia to purchase databases containing full texts of articles from many journals.

“Great,” you may say. “Isn’t access as good as ownership?” In a word, no. Some stand-alone electronic journals resemble their print equivalents, providing all the usual content (all articles and news items, letters, illustrations, information about the journal, and context) plus the advantages of online environments such as electronic links: 24/7 availability, subject searching within the journal, and the ability to copy, e-mail, and cut-and-paste from articles (properly cited, of course). Nova Religio is one of many good examples. Others just aren’t the same online. In recognition of this fact, Meriam Library is re-subscribing to the printed version of National Geographic and Scientific American.

Unfortunately, many periodical and journal databases selectively include only some articles without the other features of printed editions; new issues of some titles may be embargoed for up to a year to encourage print subscriptions; and journals may be dropped from the database at any time, the old bait and switch. The latest example of the latter is an “E tu, Brute?” from another university: Duke has dropped 18 of the fine journals it produces from the joint effort of Project Muse. Duke seems to think they’re giving Muse participants a big break by charging them only the 16 percent of the Muse subscription price accounted for by Duke journals, but do you really suppose that Muse will drop its prices to make up the difference? If so, ahh, Grasshopper, I’d like to offer you a 16 percent break on the prevailing interest rate for access to a new home. Isn’t that just as good as ownership?

—Jim Dwyer, Meriam Library, Bibliographic Services



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