October 3rd, 2003

Newsletter Archives

Rethinking Scholarly Communication |
Mobile Register Database | Constance Grant Joins the Library Faculty
Collection Management News
MLA Database moves to Ebsco | PETAL/IMC webpages

Rethinking Scholarly Communication

Richard Wood

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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 databases—frequently the least used scholarly titles—are 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.
  4. 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 likely targets.
  5. 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 publications.

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 MIT’s 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.

University Library Events Schedule. It's also linked at the bottom of the Library Homepage. See what's happening in your library daily. Listed also are the last of the library tours for this semester.


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 us.

News From Collection Management

Gene Sullivan

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.

Benchmarking Project
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 Library's homepage

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 kwheeler@jaguar1.usouthal.edu or call me at 251-460-7938.

MLA Moves to Ebsco

Jan Sauer

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 Periodicals.


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

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Last updated: 10/03/03. js
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