Services & Policies - Fall 1998

Library to Study Journal Use

The journal Use Subcommittee of the Library Advisory Committee and the staff of the Weinberg Memorial Library will conduct a study of the use of journals from September 1, 1998, until May 31, 1999. The purpose of the study is to determine the frequency of use and cost-per-use of current periodicals, bound volumes and microfilm/microfiche. Nationally, the rise in the cost of journals has exceeded the amount of funding available for their acquisition. The dilemma faced by libraries is to provide the current contents of periodicals their users demand without diverting funds for the purchase of books to the maintenance of periodical subscriptions. Factors in deciding whether or not to maintain a subscription include index/abstract coverage for the title, availability of the title in other local libraries or in a full-text electronic format and whether or not the cost of the journal, at its inflated price, is worthwhile.
The Weinberg Memorial Library has judged cost effectiveness of a subscription on informal assessment of use: is the periodical frequency cited in student research, does it need to be reshelved frequently, is it tattered to the point of disintegration or in pristine condition? The formal study that begins in September will provide faculty who select journals with concrete data for assessing use.
Library staff who reshelve issues or volumes will record the use on worksheets. Newspapers and popular weeklies like Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and Sports Illustrated will be excluded from the study. The number of uses for each title will be divided into the subscription cost for that title to calculate a cost-per-use. For the study to be accurate, it is imperative that each use is counted. Current, bound and microform periodical areas will have posters reminding users that staff need to count each use and that users should not replace periodicals themselves.
In addition to subscription costs, owning a periodical includes additional costs for checking in issues, binding volumes or purchasing microform and providing shelf space and staff to shelve that collection. Purchasing full-text databases may cost the same as owning print subscriptions but also includes additional titles and access to the collection from remote locations.
The final report on the study will indicate frequency of use, cost-per-use, and availability of the title electronically. Information on cost-per-use addresses not only the question of whether the subscription rate for a title merits its inclusion in our collection but also whether it is more cost effective to have articles delivered from one of the increasing number of document delivery suppliers or purchased electronically.
Bonnie Strohl
Pride, Passion, Promise: Experience Our Jesuit Tradition