The Joy of Working in the Trenches

After over a year of silence, I am once again inspired to write about periodicals.  Why the lack of inspiration?  Mid-life crisis, interesting state political struggles, trusted staff retiring, more emphasis on face to face teaching – the possibilities are endless!  As we still have not filled our open staff position and our lone student worker is out for three weeks enjoying a field experience, I find myself filling in as a periodicals student worker  for a few weeks.

It has been a pretty amazing experience so far.  Checking in new microfiche and microfilm titles has led me to the decision that we really don’t need to continue receiving two microform formats.  Also, I now see clearly the need for putting our microform shelflist online.

By re-shelving our current titles and gathering use statistics, I have a better sense of how our print collection is getting used (or not!).

When uploading our print barcodes to our use statistics database, I discovered that 18 of our current titles had physical barcodes that did not match the barcode in our catalog.  Meaning, of course, that these data were not being included on reports.

Small discoveries, perhaps, but ones that help me to remember that in order to have those wonderful teaching/learning moments with our users,  there is still much technical work involved in libraries, and it is important.


April 27, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Where Did my Current Periodicals Go?

photo by Dwayne Webb

Over the past ten years, we have quietly and slowly undertaken a revolution in the way we access scholarly journal articles. Our periodicals department once managed 1600 print and microform subscriptions. Now we manage 63,000 access points to journal articles (print, electronic, and microform) through our GetTeXt service (SFX).

Several years ago we moved our bound journals from our first floor to the lower level.  Just this past summer, we switched our subscriptions from print to electronic except for titles that are 1) leisure reading/magazines and 2) not available electronically.   We currently stand at 388 print subscriptions.

As our current periodicals area was meant for a much larger collection, we are in the midst of cutting in half  the amount of shelving we use, leaving more space for a comfortable lounge area, coming later this spring.

Anecdotally, we understand that some of our users still want to access their scholar journal articles in print and may be alarmed by our changes. In our community of 9,000 users, however, the data point to the majority of our users wanting instantaneous access to journal articles 24/7.

The following data illustrate the sharp decline in our print/microform titles as well as the rise in electronic use.  I hope these illustrations help explain why we are making the switch to electronic:

Print/Microform Use

We can break down that use by format:

Use by Format

Which of our print titles are getting the most use?  These graphs show current periodicals used more than 50 times in a fiscal year (July 1-July 30):

As use continues to decline on the print front, we are moving our extremely limited funds to support electronic access.  Here’s just one example of why moving to electronic makes sense.  In the fall of 2007, we canceled 46 print titles, all published by Elsevier.  These 46 titles cost us $60,000 in FY08.  The costs of these subscriptions were rising approx. 10% each year.   We canceled those 46 print titles in favor of Elsevier’s College Edition, a series of three packages totaling 2100 titles in the areas of physical sciences, life & health sciences, and social and behavioral sciences.  The cost for College Edition?  $33,000.   The annual price increases?  A mere 3%.  We saved nearly $30,000 and added access to 2,000 more titles.  And is College Edition being used?  In 2009, 34,440 full text articles were downloaded.

Elsevier Fulltext Downloads 2009

Our students, faculty, and staff can access electronic journals whether they are studying in China, at a conference in San Francisco,  or in their apartment across town.  They can access the content at 3:00 in the morning or at 12 noon.  They can save the articles to their desktop or print them out.

Is electronic access to journals perfect?  Of course not.  Is research easier, quicker and more convenient with electronic journals?  Yes.

What are your questions?  Please share in the comments.

February 23, 2010. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

What is Popular?

I had an anonymous chat with a user over the summer.  S/he was asking about what “fun” magazines we had in the library.  I was quickly scrambling to think about “leisure” magazines that we have (we categorize them only as “general”).  I rattled off Guitar Player, Glamour, Elle, Rolling Stone and then it hit me – what makes these titles fun or even popular?

For the past ten years I’ve been so busy managing access to scholarly journals that I haven’t given our “fun” titles a second glance.  When the person chatting with me asked about what alternative press titles we had I knew I was in trouble.  We have some titles – like Ms. and Viet Tide, but there are many areas, such as GLBT, in which we are greatly lacking.  I also realized that we don’t have an easy way to display our popular titles.

And there it was: a new project!

So, I’m reviewing our “general” titles (many of which are indeed general, but don’t seem either popular or fun) and adding in some core titles in a number of areas.  I’ll also be working on a way to display these titles electronically via our library web site.

If you have suggestions for magazine titles to add (or cancel!), please let me know.

October 22, 2009. News, Subscriptions, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


I received a question about our access to OVID yesterday via MEEBO when I wasn’t logged in. I can see the question in the chat window, I just can’t respond so that the person asking this excellent question can see my response. So, I’m responding here because it was a really great question:

how do I search the OVID data base directly? I know that we have some journals in that, but it doesn’t show up on the database title list.?

Murphy Library subscribes to 10 journals through OVID. OVID offers thousands of other titles, but UW-La Crosse users have access to just the 10. I never realized that users would think to search OVID rather than OTJR or another of the 10 journals directly. Each of the 10 journals is cataloged in the library catalog and linked within our link resolver (GetTeXt), but I never added a link to the OVID database itself. Until today.

Journals@OVID (OVID)
Journals@Ovid is a single database that contains the Ovid Full Text and graphics of every full text journal offered by Ovid. Use the “External Resolver” link to request articles from journals to which we do not subscribe. Or, limit your search to Your Journals@Ovid, a subset of the full database that contains only Murphy Library’s current OVID subscriptions (American Journal of Occupational Therapy, American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Journal of Cardiopulmonary Research and Prevention, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, OTJR, Pediatric Physical Therapy, and Strength and Conditioning Journal).


September 16, 2008. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Walk lightly! Think of a time.*

I haven’t updated this blog in a long, long time.  I’ve been busy, of course.  Busy is good.  Lately I’ve been in that head-spinning busy where schedules and goals and emergencies are swirling around and it’s difficult to prioritize.  In the midst of this major head-swirling, exciting things are happening at Murphy Library.

1.  Over 700 newspapers from 76 countries in 38 languages in full-color and full-page format are now available for your reading pleasure from PressDisplay. Although two of my favorite newspapers weren’t available when we signed the license agreement, both the Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) and the Chicago Tribune are now included. While most PressDisplay newspapers have a 60 days rolling backfile, access to the Chicago Tribune is only for 4 days, rolling. Still, this is progress! Speaking of progress, it was through browsing through the Tribune via PressDisplay that I discovered that construction is underway on this monstrosity stunning new Chicago landmark, the Chicago Spire. Holy cow.

2. Blackwell is dead, long live Wiley-Blackwell. Yes, the merger between Blackwell and Wiley is complete. All of our Blackwell journals that were available through Blackwell’s Synergy platform are now available through Wiley interScience. At least, they should be. Links from our periodicals locator (the interface formerly known as periodicals holdings list) should be redirecting users to Wiley, but please let me know if things don’t go as planned (use the Questions? Ask a Librarian link from the GetTeXt menu).

3. The web site redesign is now live! The Murphy Library web team has been working with the UW-L web template for a year now and after a long summer of coding, the new web site is finally available. Now that we have lots of good people using this new web, I’m learning more about what new aspects of the design are working and which aren’t. We’ll be making lots of little changes in the coming weeks, all designed to further improve the library research experience.

4. I’m enjoying my first semester of being an embedded librarian. I’m “borrowing” this gig from a colleague on leave, but I already realize I will miss this added interaction with students. I’ve always loved the research process – it’s a game for me – and it’s great to be asked to come along on someone’s research adventure.

5. I’m really hungry. bye.

*Talking Heads, Slippery People

September 11, 2008. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Just Another Day

I’ve used this space thus far to elaborate on the big issues I see in librarianship. Some days as a periodicals librarian, however, aren’t filled with deep thoughts about big, exciting issues, but rather with a growing lists of projects begging for attention. Like today. After a reference shift filled with questions about printing, I’m focusing on updating a bibliography I maintain of core women’s studies books in the area of religion. Later, I’ll get back to trying to fix the display issues on our SFX a-to-z list. Each month we get updates to the user interface that seemingly require me to spend the rest of the month figuring out how to fix the problems the changes create.  I’m still asking begging the vendor to update our Elsevier holdings (begging started in January) so that I don’t have to manually add 232 titles to our College Edition “target”.  Everyday that passes, however, means our users don’t have access to those 232 titles. Access problems pain me.  Oh, and there’s a coworker asking about access problems to another journal, JABA.  And don’t let me forget to set-up that trial to Scopus and starting the annual periodicals title cancellation project.

In addition to working in periodicals and acquisitions I also volunteered to be the web team leader this year.  A year we are undergoing a major web re-design.  I’ve recently started a 12 step program involving the frequent repetition of a simple mantra: no.  Today’s web goal:  set-up new RSS feeds for the library web site redesign that I have to present to the faculty senate library committee on Friday.  Actually, the RSS work led me back to this post, which has sat discarded as various projects pile up.

I believe we used to call this job security.   Blog update (another item crossed off the list).

March 26, 2008. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Science, JSTOR, and Why it is Important

Science (published by the non-profit AAAS) is pulling out of a 10-year agreement with JSTOR to host the Science’s archival backfile. The cost for UW-L to have access to the JSTOR collection that included Science (Health & General Sciences) would have been an initial $3,750, then $3,000 annually in maintenance costs. Only seven titles are included in this collection and Murphy Library simply couldn’t afford it. Apparently Science saw their inclusion in JSTOR, a non-profit entity, as cutting into their profits. Did I mention that AAAS is a non-profit? Libraries who purchased the JSTOR collection prior to 2007 will continue to access the Science backfile, although it will never include any content after 2002. Those libraries wishing access to the backfile archives of Science will have to purchase rights directly from AAAS. I wager that the cost for this access will not be cheap.

So why is this important? Libraries can no longer afford to subscribe to and archive print copies of journals. With budgets being stretched to the breaking point, electronic journals are simply more cost-effective. And it’s not just about the cost of binding and storing print subscriptions, it’s also about convenience. Users do not want the inconvenience of having to physically come to the library, look for issues on a shelf, and pay to photocopy the article. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, librarians are said to be considering a move back to print journals. At this point, moving back to print journals would be like bringing back typewriters – a move that isn’t going to happen. A move that may happen – institutions canceling their subscriptions to Science.

October 23, 2007. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.