Rethinking Scholarly Communication
I wish to address the "formal" or traditional
system of scholarly communication that is best characterized as the
peer-reviewed journal subscription model. Although it remains the primary
process by which scholars create, evaluate, and disseminate their works,
advances in technology make it possible to solve what many critics see
as a crisis in scholarly communication. The problems are as follows:
- The number of scholarly and scientific journal titles published
continues to increase annually and now totals roughly 30,000. No academic
library, however, can keep up with either the demand for new titles
or with their inflationary cost that, for decades, has been at least
two times the consumer price index (CPI).
- Library subscription costs severely limit access, especially to
expensive titles critical to the research of faculty. The journal
publishing industry is dominated by a few large international conglomerates
such as Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer of Amsterdam, BertelsmannSpringer
of Germany, and Blackwell Publishing of England. Their stranglehold
on academic libraries results in obscene subscription costs whereby
one title can cost a library thousands of dollars. One subscription
(Brain Research) exceeds $20,000. These publishers claim the reason
is the high cost of peer review, editing, mailing, and book reviews
to name a few.
- Journal publishers also use the Internet to increase profits by
selling both electronic full-text (article level) access and print
subscriptions. Licensing terms usually require libraries to maintain
the print subscriptions (or equivalent cost) and pay a surcharge for
Internet access by students and faculty. The costliest titles and
databasesfrequently the least used scholarly titlesare
normally the first to be considered for cuts when libraries face significant
budget reductions. The cost of both electronic database licenses and
print subscriptions, however, increases annually at a rate that exceeds
the CPI, or net library materials budget increase.
- Libraries licensing full-text databases to satisfy demand for remote
access may find their costs so high that they must also be cut. Because
Alabama is experiencing a statewide budget deficit, Alabama academic
library directors foresee the need to cut low demand databases, as
well as journal subscriptions. Low use, high dollar databases are
- Publishers limit Internet access by means of licensing and permission
terms, as well as technology. Publishers can use password protection
software, new operating systems, and restrictions on the number of
simultaneous users, annual maintenance fees, new digital formats,
and other means to limit access to their content. If publishers or
providers fail to upgrade their Internet servers to accommodate increased
demand, response time (access) suffers. Libraries and users are at
the mercy of the providers.
It is clear that the traditional model of journal publishing
is not working for either libraries or scholars. This model seems to
be particularly unfair because taxpayers who often fund the research
of authors (faculty/scholars working in public institutions of higher
education) have to pay again to obtain copies of the research. Because
most publishers have little incentive to change the peer reviewed journal
model, faculty/scholars must be willing to accept new models.
Several successful initiatives do offer hope that academia
can buy into recent efforts to an "open access" model for
digital articles. The speed of publishing an open-access journal can
be reduced from over a year in the traditional model to a little over
one-month from submission. Libraries do not pay for subscriptions because
readers have free access through the Internet to the research their
taxes helped to fund. "Issues" and "volumes" are,
moreover, vestiges of the print model and are not essential to digital
Successful models include the following:
- The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)
and SPARC Europe are partnerships among hundreds of research universities
and libraries whose goal is to produce high-quality, peer-reviewed
journals on an open access basis within the worldwide academic community
itself. SPARC (http://www.arl.org/sparc)
costs are reduced significantly by using advances in computer and
telecommunication technologies to produce, review, archive, and disseminate
articles online among authors, reviewers, and readers.
- The National Library of Medicine publishes medical articles from
the thousands of professionally recognized and peer-reviewed journals
and makes them easily available for free through PubMed Central (http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/).
- The Public Library of Science, or PloS, (http://publiclibraryofscience.org
) uses a new business model that regards the cost of publication as
part of the cost of research.
- D-Space (http://dspace.org) is for
the output of MITs faculty and researchers.
- BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com)
is an independent publisher of peer-reviewed journals in biology and
medicine. The titles are archived and also published in PubMed. BMC
imposes a processing charge for submitted articles in return for immediate,
open, and permanent free access.
If enough scholars across the world use such electronic
alternatives to traditional peer reviewed journals, I believe that the
competition will result in fewer, more affordable print subscriptions
for libraries to acquire, as well as far greater scholarly communication.
Acceptance by faculty may be slow, I realize, because these new models
change the peer review process and may shift more of the onus for peer
review to the local university promotions and tenure committees. Nonetheless,
faculty support for PloS, BMC, D-Space, SPARC and similar initiatives
will be appreciated.
The University Library has recently subscribed to a collection
of approximately 9000 online books called NetLibrary. These
books cover subjects from XML to religion to David Mamet.
NetLibrary operates in a fashion similar to a "brick
and mortar" library. You can browse a book online, but
to read it for an extended period of time, you need to check
out the book. The checkout period for books from Netlibrary
is 4 hours. Like a paper book, a book checked out to someone
through NetLibrary is available to only one person at a time.
In order to check out a book, you must create an account
with NetLibrary. You can do this either in the library or
at home. Click on "Create an Account" underneath
the Login button. The account you create associates you with
the University of South Alabama and gives you access to the
University's NetLibrary collection no matter where you are.
We are glad to be able to offer NetLibrary access to USA
faculty, staff and students and hope you enjoy and make use
of the NetLibrary collection. To get to the NetLibrary collection,
go to the University Library's homepage at http://library.southalabama.edu
and choose "Electronic Books."
A New Face
in the Library
Constance Grant is the new Monograph Cataloger. She recently
completed her MLS in Library and Information Studies at the
University of Alabama. Constance also has a BA in English from
Wesleyan College in Macon, GA. She brings experience in cataloging
from both the University of Alabama and Huntingdon College in
Montgomery. We are extremely pleased to have Constance with
News From Collection Management
From Govt Docs to Serials
Leigh Vandillon comes to CM from the Government Documents
area. She has been on the Library Staff for more
than a year. Leigh brings to the position of Serials
Acquisitions a great deal of experience both in purchasing
and accounting. Her Business Management Degree is also a benefit
to the position. We are delighted to have Leigh in CM.
The Faculty and Staff of the Collection Management Department
are in a self-evaluation project, Benchmarking. At the request
of Gene Sullivan, Coordinator for Collection Management a
Benchmarking work team was formed of members of the Monograph
Team. The team consists of Constance Grant, Vera Finley, Brenda
Hunter, Joyce Thomas, and Bea Thompson. The team has been
meeting weekly and evaluating a selection of books as they
leave the Department and go to the shelves. It is hoped that
the results of these meetings will point out the strengths
and weaknesses of our procedures and utilize these findings
for continued improvement.
Mobile Register Available Online
The University Library now has online access to the Mobile
Register from 1992 - present. Some data (from 10/01 to 1/10/03)
is currently unavailable but will become available as soon as
possible. This access is through Newsbank and is available to
USA faculty, staff and students from home as well as on campus.
To access the Mobile Register:
1. Go the the University
2. Choose E-Reference from the left side of the page. [There
is also a link under Fulltext Journals and Indexes in the Frequently
used Collections box.}
3. Scroll down until you see Mobile Register on the
left side of the screen.
4. If you are at home you will be asked to authenticate using
your last name and either the last 4 digits of your social security
number or your complete library barcode.
5. If you have problems with remote access, email me at email@example.com
or call me at 251-460-7938.
MLA Moves to Ebsco
The Modern Language Association (MLA) International
Bibliography has moved from the FirstSearch databases to
the Ebsco collection. This has both good and bad effects.
You will no longer be able to Interlibrary Loan items using
the abbrieviated form. But this inconvenience is offset
by the convenience of automatically linking to the full-text
of an article if it is available in another Ebsco database.
You can browse the author index to find out how to spell
"Coetzee" or use the thesaurus to explore the
database's subject vocabulary or even find a photo of a
young J.D, Salinger with an image search. In addition every
article record has a link to info from the Directory of
Our slightly revised homepage now has a link to the Program
for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (PETAL) webpage
and the Instructional Media Center's (IMC) webpage. From it
you can access the list
of workshops and demos offered to our faculty and students