I’ve undertaken annual reviews of departmental journal subscriptions in both my most recent jobs, and although they tick over, they always seem to leave me feeling unfulfilled. Regularly reviewing departmental journal subscriptions (outside ‘big deal’ packages) is critical: as departments change, so does their needs for certain titles. Nonetheless, I always seem to feel like we’re making these decisions on half the information we need.
The minimal format for a review usually involves sending out a list of currently subscribed journals to the department for comment. However, the response rate is usually pretty low, and I’m also not sure it elicits the right kind of feedback.
When studying Psychology I learnt that collecting information about people’s actual behaviour is much more useful in predicting their behaviour than collecting information about their attitudes. Instead of asking ‘do you think this is a good journal?’ we should probably be asking whether academics publish in the journal, put it on their reading lists, purchase a personal subscription or sit on the journal’s editorial board. All this, and whether students and staff are actually accessing it, as well.
This fascinating article on journal subscriptions, by Jane Harvell at the University of Sussex, suggests an entirely data-based model of journal evaluation and subscription. However, it’s a step too far for me to go completely data-driven. Although not every academic is in a position to fully contribute to the review process, they like to be involved in the decision-making; the only negative feedback I’ve ever had from these reviews is from academics nervous that the library might make a decision without their input, and I agree that this would be a risky process.
Therefore, the Library needs to do what is does best: manipulate information. We somehow need to provide an easily-digestible breakdown of current journal subscriptions and potential journal subscriptions, and map these against usage data (or turnaways), publication outputs, reading list appearances, impact factors, and anything else we can get our hands on. And we need to condense it down into 2 sides of A4, or a 5 minute Powerpoint presentation.
Oh dear. About an hour I was feeling pretty proud of myself for preparing for the journal review early. Now I’m starting to think some of this might need to wait until 2014. Baby steps…