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Re: Print Journal Usage vs. online usage Mays, Allison 04 May 2004 19:35 UTC

Steve -

So basically you've created your own Serials Solutions or TDNet service,
right? How does this help with knowing how the print journals are used?
Are you counting the times the catalog record is accessed by the


Allison P. Mays
Acquisitions/Serials Librarian
Millsaps College
1701 N. State Street
Jackson, MS 39210

-----Original Message-----
From: Oberg, Steve [mailto:STOBERG@TAYLORU.EDU]
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004 12:03 PM
Subject: Re: [SERIALST] Print Journal Usage vs. online usage

For what it's worth, the same is true here.  "Here" is a small, private
Christian liberal arts university with a collection of about 200,000
vols. and only about 650 active print subscriptions.  (That's down
markedly from well over 700 when I first came two years ago.)  In
contrast, we have access to well over 10,000 journals online in
full-text.  Most of those are from aggregator databases but we also have
important digital collections such as most of the JSTOR collections.  We
also have other collections like BioOne, PROLA, the entire group of ACS
journals via Web Editions, etc.

The year before last, we did a pretty simplistic periodical usage study.
We knew we were way over budget with print subscriptions, plus there was
some threat that state money that paid for shared aggregator databases
would be cut and we needed to have a reserve in case we needed to "go it
alone."  I was asked to cut our print subscriptions budget by 1/3.  The
results of the simplistic periodical usage study we conducted were used,
although with caution, to determine which titles to cut.  Since then
we've continue to cut back on print subscriptions.

I keep emphasizing the word "simplistic" with our study because I wasn't
the one who designed it ;-) and if we were to do it again, I'd do things
differently to get more reliable usage statistics.  Still, even though
the results weren't the most scientific, there was no denying the low
use of print titles in general, and some of the high cost ones in
particular.  At the same time, use of online journals in full text was
skyrocketing through our periodicals gateway application, called the
Taylor Periodical List, which offers combined access to
print/microform/online journals via title keyword, title browse,
subject, and ISSN searches.  This is a locally developed application,
not a commercial service.  It is far from perfect but has been highly
successful for us and we hope to soon make available to anyone as open
source.  See for
more information if you're interested.  There is also mention of it in
an upcoming issue (summer 2004) of _Serials Review_.

The question of ease of access = greater usage = better is a difficult
one to answer, but it lies at the heart of the current debate on open
access to scholarly literature.  There has been an excellent ongoing
debate about these and other issues relating to open access on the
liblicense-l discussion list (see


P.S.  If you're interested in ideas for how to go about doing a print
periodical usage study, I'd recommend that you learn about one designed
by Rick Ralston at IU Ruth Lilly Medical Library and documented in a
_Serials Review_ article back in 1998 as well as a presentation at a
NASIG annual conference.  The full citation for the article is as

Rick Ralston, Use of a relational database to manage an automated
periodical use study, Serials Review, Volume 24, Issues 3-4, 1998, Pages

Steve Oberg
Electronic Resources Librarian &
  Assistant Professor
Taylor University

-----Original Message-----
From: JoAnne Griffin [mailto:joanne.griffin@TUFTS.EDU]
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004 9:44 AM
Subject: Re: [SERIALST] Print Journal Usage vs. online usage

This is not on topic, so please forgive me, but when I read requests for
  info on how to do paper usage studies I am always reminded of
something we did at my library a few years ago and how the advent of
electronic journals has really changed things.

We had an extremely expensive journal that we were not convinced was
being used enough to justify it's outrageous cost. So, we put the entire
run of it behind our circulation desk and had our patrons sign out each
issue they used. We maintained statistics for one whole year. At the end
of our year we saw that it was used more than we thought but still not
nearly enough to justify its cost. We still wavered about cancelling it.

Soon after we got access to this journal online through a consortial
license. We cancelled the paper and decided our patrons could use the
online version. After one year's online access -- you probably guessed
it -- we saw that the online version was used 3x as much as our paper
copies were in the year we put it behind the circ desk. Our more recent
stats show that it is used even more.

This poses many questions about journals and usage, the most obvious one
to me being: If more people use it more does that mean it is better? or
just easier? Usage for electronic journals overall seems to be much
higher than our paper journals ever were.

JoAnne Griffin
Serials Librarian
Tufts University Health Sciences Library
Boston, MA 02111
Carmel Yurochko wrote:

> Hello Rachel,
> Here at Duquesne University, we have used the "sweep" method to gather

> usage statistics on our print journals for a number of years.  All of
> our journals are available to the public.  Routinely throughout the
> day, staff picks up the unbound journals from tables and the area by
> the photocopiers.
> We have an ACCESS database file of all of these titles. We do not
> define "use". We do not attempt to discover how the journals were
> used, we just take the fact that since they were not on their shelves,

> they were used. We simply enter a "one" or add "one" to the present
> statistic in the file.
> We also attempted another method a while ago.  We were "taping" our
> currents shut w/folder labels, and posted instructions for patrons to
> break the labels to use.  We would then use the sweep method and once
> a week go through all of the currents to see which labels were broken.

> This was less than successful for us because our budget prevented us
> from using the correct labels and we were forced to use what we had on

> hand. They were old and some of the labels were releasing before they
> even hit the current journal shelves.  Needless to say, our statistics

> were over the top and less than accurate.
> We have used our use statistics to make cancellation decisions.  We
> were once confronted w/faculty to did not agree w/our statistics and
> so we moved a select number of titles into a secure area.  Anyone
> wishing to use them had to fill in a form at the front desk. We then
> compiled usage statistics for these titles and cancelled them because
> the cost per use did not justify our keeping them.  The faculty was
> still unhappy but we had secure numbers to back up our decisions.
> Hope this helps.  Good luck,
> Carmel Yurochko
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> Carmel Yurochko
> Serials/Electronic Resources Librarian
> Psychology Dept. Liaison
> Duquesne University
> The Gumberg Library
> 600 Forbes Avenue
> Pittsburgh, PA 15282
> 412.396-5233
> fax 412.396-5639
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> -----Original Message-----
> From: SERIALST: Serials in Libraries Discussion Forum
> [mailto:SERIALST@LIST.UVM.EDU] On Behalf Of Rachel Ellis
> Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004 4:44 AM
> Subject: [SERIALST] Print Journal Usage
> Dear all,
> at the moment we are considering how to measure the usage of our print

> journal collection. We have a journal reading room here for the
> current issues - one part of the room is presented subject focussed
> and is freely accessible by our patrons. The remaining journals are in

> the back of the room and the issues wanted have to be fetched by the
> enquiry staff located in the reading room. Now I was wondering if
> anyone of you has experiences with print journal usage analysis and is

> willing to share this with us?
> Thanks for your help in advance and best wishes from sunny Bremen
> (Germany)!
> Rachel
> ---------------------------------------------------
> Rachel Ellis
> Electronic Resources Librarian
> Staats- und Universitaetsbibliothek Bremen
> Postfach 33 01 60
> 28331 Bremen
> Germany
> Tel: (0049)421-218-4902
> Fax: (0049)421-218-2665
> --------------------------------------------------