QUESTION: Researching how particular years of journals are packaged and sold to academic institutions

question / pregunta: 

I've wondered this for ages, but now it seems quite personal. I found a citation for an article on 1960s student radicalism that is directly related to my research, but while it is hardly an esoteric journal and my school gives access to some years of it, this does not extend back far enough to do me any good. I'm curious why this would be the case. It is a history journal and my school offers graduate-level history programs. I suspect that it may be a consequence of how academic institutions subscribe to databases. Is access to a wide variety of journals bundled together and sold as a package to the schools? Dumb question. What I mean here, is how many options or levels of package do schools have available to them? Maybe I think too highly of those in charge of assessing student requirements at my own institution, but access to this particular journal just seems like such a no-brainer to me that I feel the school just must have a limited ability to dictate what they want. Any articles or writings on this subject would be of great value to me.

journal aggregation, libraries, publishers

By the way, what was the specific history journal that you were unable to find?

I've started looking at this in some of the library literature and looking through Google Scholar. The short answer to the mystery is that journal publishers do often change their profiles based on profitability and use, and libraries seem to now be in a licensing mode rather than a "once we buy it we own it" (something analogous to having print on a shelf) mode.

The vendors are generally called aggregators, and in some cases they are publishers such as Elsevier and Routledge, or packagers like EBSCO, Gale and ProQuest. (I suppose strictly speaking the publishers are not aggregators, but their licensing patterns sometimes act in a similar way). Publishers often make different arrangements with their subscribing libraries, based on curriculum and profiles, so a smaller university may only have a subset of what is available. This can change too.

Some of the packagers are known to drop some of their subscriptions also. Projects such as JSTOR are meant to counteract this trend to some degree I suppose by having a historical repository -- full runs of journals from issue 1. And trends in open access are developing also. The topic is a little difficult to research, but I found a few First Monday articles that look promising. There were various cites that I came across using Google Scholar from other library related journals -- C&RL, ASIST, Electronic Libraries, Journal of Acad. Librarianship, etc. -- that hinted at addressing the topic, but I did not look through them in detail.

Carol Tenopir and Donald W. King. 2009. “The growth of journals publishing,” In: B. Cope and A. Phillips (editors). The future of the academic journal. Oxford: Chandos.

Signs of epistemic disruption: Transformations in the knowledge system of the academic journal
by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis
First Monday, Volume 14, Number 4 - 6 April 2009

Publishing cooperatives: An alternative for non–profit publishers by Raym Crow
First Monday, volume 11, number 9 (September 2006),

A critical theory of open access: Libraries and electronic publishing by Ajit Pyati
First Monday, Volume 12 Number 10 - 1 October 2007

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