Campus & Community

Library joins publishers to archive electronic journals

3 min read

The Harvard University Library and three major publishers of scholarly journals – Blackwell Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, and the University of Chicago Press – have agreed to work together in developing an experimental archive for electronic journals. The preservation and the archiving of electronic journals – which are increasingly “born digital” and for which, in many cases, no paper copies exist – present unique, long-term challenges to librarians, publishers, and, ultimately, to the scholars and researchers who will seek to access to them over time.

The new joint venture is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which recently made a $145,000 grant to the Harvard University Library specifically for the planning of an electronic journal archive. The grant challenges Harvard and its publishing partners to address fundamental issues in the digital environment.

Until it is clear that electronic journals will be accessible far into the future, scholarly communities are hesitant to fully support the electronic medium for communication and publication. Without electronic archives, libraries and publishers face a difficult choice between bearing dual costs of maintaining the electronic version of journals for convenient current access and the paper version for long-term availability, or the potential loss to future generations of scholarly materials published solely in electronic form.

The yearlong planning effort will explore the issues related to electronic journal archiving and develop a plan for a repository at Harvard for electronic journal publications. The expected outcome is a proposal for an archive for these journals. Major areas to be studied during the year include the establishment of an agreement between the partners regarding archival rights and responsibilities; the formulation of a technical implementation plan; defining methodologies that the archive would adopt to validate its archival processes; assuring the scholarly community that the journals for which the archive is responsible will be preserved and useable over time; and the creation of organizational and business models.

“We are extremely fortunate to be able to work on this critical issue with three outstanding partners who produce a significant portion of the core journal literature and who have the willingness and the technical sophistication to address the difficult issues involved,” said Dale Flecker, associate director for planning and systems in the Harvard University Library. “Through this work, the Harvard University Library will gain substantial experience in handling a large volume of complex electronic journal data from a variety of sources. This experience will contribute to the growing body of knowledge in preserving electronic materials.”

The Harvard University Library is one of the five largest libraries in the world – and the largest academic library system in existence. In addition to holdings of more than 13.4 million books, Harvard is a world-renowned repository for manuscripts, personal and organizational archives, photographs, audio and video recordings, oral histories, and ephemera ranging from 19th century advertising art to the famed Harvard Theatre Collection.

Harvard is the home of the Library Digital Initiative (LDI), which is creating the infrastructure needed to support the development, storage, and delivery of digital library collections at Harvard.

For more information, visit the LDI Web site at