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Medical Media Services
Scott Memorial Library
1020 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
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Trends in Collections and Publishing
In the 14 years since this policy was last updated there have been several changes in the publishing industry and the types of resources the Library collects. Electronic publishing is a challenging issue facing libraries today as demand for access to resources outside of the Library's physical space increases. Researchers want access to materials at their desktop, students want access from home or their rotation site, and clinicians increasingly want access at their patients' bedside. Electronic resources are also now available in non-bibliographic formats like integrated multi-module drug information products, data sets and databases of genetic sequences and protein structures.
The issues of ownership and perpetual access to any type of electronic resource are not as straightforward as when the Library collected only print materials. For these new materials considerable staff time is spent reading and negotiating access licenses for which there are no national standard. Additional steps necessary to provide electronic access include registering IP addresses and proxy servers, user authentication, creating and maintaining a portal that lists the titles with access and URL maintenance. An example of this complexity is the availability of electronic book-on-demand services, which are changing the traditional way libraries "checkout" books to users.
Publishers and database providers have adopted a variety of pricing models, that can change from year to year, which usually require knowledge about the size and location of the Library's various constituents. Deciding how many simultaneous user licenses to purchase and when it is appropriate to increase the number of licenses are new challenges as well. Changing technologies and obsolete platforms also have an effect on the availability of electronic resources. There is also the problem of differences in the availability of electronic resources among disciplines. As libraries consider moving to more virtual collections, one unfortunate outcome may be that the breadth of their collections will suffer.
There are three possible scenarios in acquiring electronic journals: the title is purchased outright and archival access is available for the years purchased if the title is cancelled; the online access comes with the print subscription, at no additional cost, and should the title be cancelled electronic access is completely lost; the online access is purchased in addition to the print subscription and may or may not be available should the library cancel the title depending on the publisher's policy. In any of these options the impact on the Library's budget is taken into consideration when making a subscription decision.
Open access is a relatively new model of journal publishing that provides immediate and permanent free online access to published peer-reviewed literature. This movement was started as an alternative to commercially published journals whose costs to libraries have skyrocketed in the last several decades. The costs associated with publishing open access articles are typically borne by the author and not libraries in the form of a subscription. In addition to entire journals, special issues or even an individual article(s) in an issue may be open access. Some commercial publishers are experimenting by offering a single title as open access while they determine the impact on their costs and revenue. Initial reluctance by authors to participate in these publications due to concerns about tenure and funding has started to ease and citation impact data is beginning to be collected on some titles. There are avid supporters of the movement in the library community as well as skeptical librarians and publishers who question whether this model can survive long term. It may be years before an answer is available.
The marketplace for knowledge-based resources is also changing. There have been a significant number of publisher mergers in recent years resulting in a reduction of available resources as competition is eliminated, and an overall increase in costs of resources.
Google's plan to digitize the collections of several large academic libraries' collections will offer an alternative method to traditional interlibrary loan for acquiring access to predominantly historical materials. Librarians are following Google's activities with interest as they introduce new search tools and products to the marketplace. Information professionals in libraries welcome many of Google's innovations and are constantly updating services to incorporate the better aspects of web services as they become available.
Just as the radio did not end the practice of people enjoying a live concert or other event, the introduction of electronic resources has not eliminated the need to for print materials. The Library continues to be a vibrant part of the University - as a place for study and work as well as a collection of many types of materials. All of these trends make it a very exciting, if uncertain time for librarians concerned with collection issues.