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Re: Core journals (Steve Black) ERCELAA@ctrvax.Vanderbilt.Edu 16 Mar 1999 19:26 UTC

Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 12:41:45 -0500
From: Steve Black <blacks@ROSNET.STROSE.EDU>
Subject: FW: Core journals (Carol Holliger)

Carol Holliger asked me to post to the list my response to her questions
about core journals.  Here it is, with additional information at the end
of the 3 q's and a's:

At 12:17 PM 3/14/99 -0500, you wrote:

>> We have three questions:
>>   1) What sources have you used to determine core titles by discipline
>>        We are a medium sized liberal arts college (1800 students).
>We did our own study, and applied a formula based on measured uses;
>citation impact factor; faculty response to a questionaire; subscription
>cost; and availability in the online packages we went with (EBSCOhost).
[SEE BELOW for a bunch more information on this]
>>   2) How do we find out about journals necessary for accreditation in
>>      various disciplines?
>Find the most recent accreditation reports that were done for each
>department.  Usually there are a certain number of titles required or
>recommended; precise titles aren't usually specified.
>>  3)If you have recently conducted a journal deselection process, could
>>       please give us some feedack about procedures that were helpful?
>Personally, I feel a one-year use study is essential to be even
>quasi-scientific about it.  But otherwise, the most important thing is
>to get as much input from faculty as possible.  If you're purchasing an
>online product, the cuts of journals covered there are less painful.
Last year we did a core collection definition project, in order to
determine which journals would be candidates for replacement by online
journal packages.  The memo accompanying a spreadsheet that went to each
of our department heads read:

The formula for ranking each journal is the inverse of the price per use
times the score from Magazines for Libraries, plus the citation impact
factor times the cited half-life, plus the average of all of the above
times one if the journal was picked by faculty as "most essential for your
students".  The formula takes into account each journal's cost
effectiveness, reputation as determined by a librarian recognized to be
well versed in the discipline, how often the journal's articles are cited in
subsequent articles, and how many years articles continue to be cited.
The mean of the formula's results for each department are added to each
journal chosen by the department as "most essential".
The line defining the core is
drawn through the rankings at the average score.  Disciplines have widely
varying average subscription prices, rates of citation, and coverage in
Magazines for Libraries and the JCR  Therefore the formula is only valid
for comparisons within disciplines!

The elements of the formula as they appear on the spreadsheet pages are:
*Price/use is the 1996 subscription price divided by measured uses in
the Library's 1996 use study.  Because of validity problems inherent in
any use study based on reshelving counts, the price/use figures must be
taken as approximate.
* Katz's Magazines for Libraries (1997) is a standard reference work
that reviews journals and magazines deemed appropriate for library collections.
Librarians with expertise in each discipline list journals worthy of
beingin academic library collections.  A select list of "basic" titles that
belong in any collection serving students of the discipline is included.
A journal selected as "basic" gets a score of 3, one that is listed gets a
2, and journals that are not listed get a score of 1.
Impact factor and half-life come from the Institute for Scientific
Information's Journal Citation Reports for the Social Sciences (JCR).  A
significant drawback of this data is that it does not cover all of our
journals.  But for the journals that are covered, the JCR provides
reliable data on the stature of each journal in its discipline.
* Impact factor is the average number of times articles published in a
specific journal in the two previous years were cited in a particular
It is a measure of how often articles in that journal are cited in later
articles.  Impact factor thus indicates the importance of a journal to
publishing professionals.
* The formula uses cited half-life to measure the useful life of
Cited half-life is the number of years, going back from the current year,
that account for 50% of the total citations received by the journal
in the current year.  Half-life is included in the formula on the
presumption that journals with a long useful life are good candidates
for keeping as print subscriptions.
* Faculty is scored as 1 if the journal was picked in response to the
memo sent to department heads on January 26, 1998.  The memo asked each
department to list "journals you consider most essential for your
students to use in their course work".  This is multiplied by the average
of the formula without faculty picks.


  This ended up working out fairly well, but it was a burdensome amount
of work.  In retrospect, the greatest weakness of the formula was the large
number of our titles not covered in the JCR.  I had feared that faculty
would just say all their titles were essential, but fortunately that didn't