This afternoon break-out session tackled one of the issues that has been weighing heavy on the minds of librarians for some years now - that of long-term accessibility and archiving of e-journals. The popularity of the topic was reflected in a very full seminar room and the high attendance subsequently enabled some lively debates and thought-provoking questions.
The session started with Fred Guy from EDINA outlining the causes of the current challenges, in essence explaining the differences between print and electronic journal subscriptions. Although for some attendees this information will have been nothing new, I felt it set the scene perfectly and it also allowed Fred to explain why a robust and reliable archiving infrastructure will be essential for ensuring long-term access to e-journals. This led on nicely to an explanation of the Keepers Registry (www.thekeepers.org) a project funded by JISC which aims to collate information about the existing archiving arrangements of e-journals. Fred explained that various agencies have signed up to become stewards of digital content whereby, in addition to taking on responsibility for actually archiving e-journals, these agencies also submit metadata to the Keepers Registry about all of the journals in their programmes. So in short the Keepers Registry is an aggregation of metadata supplied by numerous archiving agencies. The metadata supplied includes bibliographic information such as journal title and ISSN (checked against the ISSN Register), the name of the agency responsible for archiving, and holdings information about which volumes have been archived. For the Librarian, this means that a simple web search will reveal whether a particular title is already being archived and who is responsible for doing so.
Adam Rusbridge (also from EDINA) then gave an overview of one of the archiving agencies (UK LOCKSS) that is currently submitting data to the Keepers Registry. By doing so he illustrated the role that libraries can have in this process. The UK LOCKSS programme (which when unscrambled is the acronym of 'Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe') helps libraries to build local archives of their own digital content by providing them with the specialist tools and software required to do so. Providing the Library has perpetual access rights to their content, this data can then be transferred to the Keepers Registry and therefore shared among the community.
The second half of the session comprised of an invited panel being asked to consider two pertinent questions. The panel comprised of Joanne Farrant (University of Cambridge), Bill Barker (LSE), David Prosser (RLUK), and Lorraine Estelle (JISC) and again helped to put the issues into context and see how things are turning out in practice. The first question posed to them was "How has the introduction of e-journal preservation services helped librarians withdraw print collections and focus on e-journals?". There was unanimous agreement that e-journal preservation services have given libraries the confidence to firstly cancel print subscriptions and secondly to dispose of back-runs. For example, Bill Barker shared that his institution have been able to cancel many print subscriptions providing three criteria were met: no cost difference, ease of access, and storage of the e-version in a secure archive with guaranteed perpetual access. Similarly, David commented that the wide-spread removal of duplicated print runs has only been possible because e-journal preservation projects have given librarians faith in e-journal storage and preservation. Indeed, powerful statistics support these statements; UKRR has already released 15km of shelving through de-duplication schemes and are hoping to increase this to 100km by 2015. The freeing up of such vast areas obviously has huge opportunities for libraries.
The second question set to the panel was "How can institutions, community bodies and service providers best work together to ensure sustainable, long-term initiatives?" The main themes in the panel's answers included uniformity, standardisation and the need for even more collaboration. Anne voiced her concerns that there are already multiple archiving agencies, whereas David suggested that the lack of uniformity between the terms and conditions of different publishers (and even between different titles within the same publishers) was a more pressing issue. Day-to-day concerns were also raised, in particular the need for full coverage of an entire journal run (at the moment journal coverage may be incomplete with some years missing). The session finished with Bill pointing out the great opportunity that libraries now have to incorporate this wealth of archiving information into the new library management systems that are being developed.
Talking to other attendees after the session I know that I was not the only one to have found it highly informative. Many of us came away with a sense of reassurance that an awful lot of people are working very hard to ensure continued access to e-journals.