E-Journals: Stirring the Waters Birdie MacLennan 06 Feb 1992 05:03 UTC
Electronic publications were the topic of lively and provocative discussion at at least two of the meetings I attended at ALA- Midwinter: the LITA/ALCTS Serials Automation Interest Group, and the recently formed ALCTS Electronic Publishing Discussion Group. Both forums were filled to capacity. In the first forum, Gail McMillan (Virginia Tech.) and Marilyn Geller (MIT) gave an overview of work being done at their institutions to facilitate public awareness of, and access to, e-journals. In the second forum, Barbara Winters (Wright State U.) led a discussion that underscored the need for an ALCTS group to monitor developments in the area of electronic publishing. A healthy show of hands, in this forum, indicated that a large number of people in the audience were involved in some kind of work to accomodate this relatively new medium at their home institutions. Having easy access to an e-mail account and being a beneficiary of information from numerous e-publications and discussion forums, I do not question the ripening of the e-medium and/or the promise that it holds as an alternative to printed sources -- particularly as I watch this year's round of subscription cuts. Nonetheless, an innocent conversation with colleagues from reference and collection management departments at my home institution has led me to wonder if I might not find some tactful way to play devil's advocate in the current wave of e-journal controversy. Here goes: While many institutions seem concerned with a need to dive head first into making e-journals as accessible as possible, I wonder if there are institutions out there that are purposefully dragging their feet on this issue because: (a) they lack staffing and/or resources to make e-journals available, (b) they're not convinced that e-journals could/should fall into the scope of their missions, (c) they're not convinced that the medium is "there" yet (i.e., too much text; not enough easy translation of a graphics capability that is so often necessary in science & technical literature), or (d) other reasons that haven't been named. Informal dialogue with public services staff has indicated that there's been no demand for public access to e-journals here. My perception is that people are encouraged to get e-accounts, offered guidance on use the networks and the resources they offer, and taught to go after whatever interests them in a given, or variety of subject area(s). If and when there is a need to do more than this, presumably we'll hear about it and move to make a more public form of access available... In the meantime, we're watching... and waiting... and involved in many other projects that demand our attention. What are other people/institutions doing? I'd be particularly interested in hearing from some of our overseas colleagues on this one... Birdie MacLennan University of Vermont P.S. This commentary is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of my institution.