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Journal Selection/Deselection Protocols

Richard C. Wood
March 18, 2002
Approved and Endorsed by TTUHSC Library Committee,
March 25, 2002

General caveats and information:

  1. Journals are ordered in the late Summer, early Fall to begin in January of the next year. The libraries do not, as a rule, begin journal subscriptions in the middle of a calendar year because of the difficulty in obtaining issues from the start of that year. Most biomedical journals are not published in large quantities or "runs", making it almost impossible to obtain back issues.
  2. Journal selection/deselection must begin in late Spring/early Summer and be completed by the libraries in early September.
  3. By State law, the libraries may not pay for a journal subscription more than 45 days prior to the start of that journal's next annual volume issuance. Thus, although we may receive an invoice to pay for journals during October or early November, actual payment for those journals is made between Thanksgiving and New Years of each year.
  4. Journal publishers do not usually give us the actual cost of a journal title until late December, or later. It is increasingly the case that publishers do not tell us the actual cost of a journal until well into the new year: sometimes May or June. For this reason, journal purchases are made according to the best pricing information for journals that we have in September. These purchases are, therefore, generally made by informed guesswork. This is also the reason book and audiovisual purchases must lag behind the purchase of our journals. We must be certain that sufficient funds are in place within our budget to pay for journals first.
  5. Most journal publishers will not permit cancellations after the initial ordering in September.
  6. For almost a decade, journal prices for the biomedical literature have been subject to an annual inflation rate of between 9.5% and 11%. Thus, the same list of journals in our collections which cost about $1,100,000 last year will cost about $1,210,000 next year.
  7. Electronic journals are no less expensive than paper journals. In many cases, they are more expensive. Most of our electronic journals are free because we have purchased a paper subscription. We have been permitted to reduce multiple subscriptions in our system, convert them to a paper copy at one of our four sites, and an electronic version for all sites. One new trend on the rise is for the publisher to exact an additional charge for the electronic version. Our current strategy is to have one paper subscription somewhere in the system to assure ourselves of an archival backfile. A more frightening trend now emerging is a pay-per-view/print strategy which is being employed by some electronic publishers. Fees of $25.00 or more per article paid by credit card are one feature of this strategy.

Journals may be selected in several ways for inclusion in the Libraries' collections, including:

  1. A determination is made that a needed title is required to support a program (either new or existing), and that its absence from the collections would constitute a failure on the part of the library system to support the program in question. Our support of programs must also be prioritized, with those programs having a direct curricular and educational impact receiving the highest priority. In years of scarce funds, it is sometimes impossible to add all titles required for a program. In such cases, librarians ask that the requesting entity provide us with a prioritized list of potential added titles. We then add those that we can, postponing further additions until the next fiscal year.
  2. A request for the addition of a title from a library patron is always considered seriously. Titles thus requested are examined by the librarians to determine whether sufficient interlibrary loans have been requested by our patrons for the title in the last year or so. Such ILL's should be from more than one or two requestors. Titles are also examined to determine if they are indexed in MEDLINE/INDEX MEDICUS. While not an exclusive rule-out to the addition of a title, its non-presence in the list of titles indexed by MEDLINE/INDEX MEDICUS generally means that the title is not worth our acquisition. Often, new titles are slow to be indexed by MEDLINE/INDEX MEDICUS, and the process of a title's inclusion may take a couple of years. In such cases, it is wise to revisit the acquisition issue after a year or two.
  3. Recommendations for additions may be based upon standard lists of quality journals, such as impact factor listings or the Brandon-Hill List. Lists such as these are useful in assisting librarians in making decisions for certain acquisitions.

Journal deselection presents a different set of problems. Deselection is done with great reluctance because of the difficulty in finding missing issues, should we wish to restart a subscription. Fortunately, we have not had to deselect journals for the past five or so years, except for duplicate subscriptions, thanks to increases in our resource budget and the dramatic rise in our electronic journals (currently, more than 2,300 titles). Deselection is done only after a careful study of decision options has been made, including:

  1. Cost/usage. Librarians routinely look at the number of times a title is used. If there is a pattern of really low usage coupled with really high cost, a journal may be considered a prime candidate for deselection.
  2. Duplication. If a title is held in more than one TTUHSC library, and is available electronically, it may be considered for deselection. Obviously, such titles as NEJM and JAMA are exceptions to this rule, but, as costs continue to rise, such may not be the case in the future. Currently, TTUHSC Libraries have a bit of room to maneuver, as we still have quite a few duplicate and multiple subscriptions which may be deleted in a crisis situation. As these multiple subscriptions are phased out, we will one day either be forced to increase our commitment to the journal literature (thereby reducing available funds for books and audiovisuals), or engage in deselection of journal titles (both paper and electronic) in order to stay within budget.
  3. Prioritized deselection. Should the need to engage in broad-based deselection ever present itself, the library will distribute lists of our journal holdings (arranged by discipline) to the department chairs of all schools. Chairs will then be asked to deselect titles from within their respective disciplines. Such lists were in fact prepared last year. There was no need to distribute them because of new recurrent resource funding to our budget.