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Taking Comfort From Copyright:

An Examination Of Open-Access Peer Reviewed Internet Based Journals

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Librarians at Cornell University advise that the use of any electronically based journal presents ongoing maintenance issues. Decisions will have to be made in regard to the costs of the maintenance of automated systems which will have to be balanced against the expense of maintaining records of the journals. Librarians will also have to decide the amounts of resources that should be devoted to passive vs. ongoing maintenance of the systems needed to both track and store any form of E-journals (Banush and Rupp, slide 18). Cornell’s librarians speak from experience as the authors of the librarian / techie ‘web-zine’ Backstory. Banush and Rupp also mention that many libraries will need to train staff in the methods of dealing with this new medium. There are no established systematic bibliographic control protocols in regard to these journals, and that there are no consistencies in the manner in which libraries are cataloguing these materials and then presenting them to patrons in E-form ( 7-22 ). Natalie Sturr notes that many libraries appear to be ready only for vendor supplied cataloguing materials (1).

Every reference librarian has had the experience of having patrons who ask for assistance in locating materials that they know are available on the Internet but that they cannot find. Librarians have difficulty in pinpointing them for two reasons. Either the materials are a part of the “Invisible Web” (that is the authors have not made their materials web searchable), or the librarian suspects that the search engines being relied upon have not yet ‘crawled’ the documents’ web pages and registered them as accessible. Those problems are in and of themselves creating new and unanticipated work flows in libraries. There are also the ubiquitous issues of software / hardware incompatibilities and keeping track of URLs (the dead link syndrome). The former problems seem to be resolving themselves as their manufacturers and developers strive to make their products universally accommodating. The latter are being dealt with by new software. The Sirsi Corporation, for example, now offers an URL tracker program as an “upgrade” to its’ library management software. These problems should resolve themselves with time. There are, however, some other technical considerations that remain unsettled and should be borne in mind by librarians.

Any approach to metadata encapsulation of information originating from the World Wide Web will have to be adaptable enough to exploit the features and advanced design characteristics of each of the DC, DCQ, RDF, HTML, SHTML, and XML computer languages as they are all in current use. The National Science Digital Library (NDSL) Core Integration Group at the University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign), is working side by side with the NSDL Standards Working group to generate “metadata elements at the record level” which will be in compliance with those languages by “creating subject authority entries using the core taxonomy from the American Mathematics Metadata Working Group and the Mathematics Subject Classification (MSC) system." They are also attempting to accommodate the technical requirements of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), mentioned earlier. In a word, best practices are still being developed. There are other matters that should be considered too.

Gorman and Rupp discuss three areas that currently engender considerable debate amongst librarians (17-25). They include the deliberations between librarians who tend to be traditionalists and who lean towards the concept of the ownership of their resources, versus information managers who may be inclined to think that a library’s duty is to provide access to materials. Librarians should ask themselves if their traditional role of stewardship will be overwhelmed by the demands of users for electronic collections. Gorman et al point out that collection management in the E-environment will also mean that closer attention will have to be given to content management. They also suggest that librarians should ask themselves if they want the profession to be reduced to a role as mere collators of information or if will they continue to manage, store and retain it? These are subjects that do matter both in theory and in the workplace.

Librarians will have to accept that the concept of keyword searching will become the norm when dealing with these materials, as it is a feature of the Internet. Indexing, while very useful, will not be given first-page emphasis in this media, rather it will become part of the in-depth search features. When one searches the web, one should remember that they are in the ‘hands’ of a computer program. That represents a change in thinking, as well as behavioural, patterns. These journals will make their way into collections and the foregoing should be discussed, dealt with and settled now. If that proposition is accepted consideration should be given to which of these journals should be included in collections.

Librarians use certain hallmarks to identify journals worthy of inclusion in their collections. Is the journal dated and indexed? Does it have an ISSN number? (ISSN granting institutions are granting web based journals their own numbers.) Is the publisher reputable? Are the editors clearly identified? Are they, in turn, from recognized institutions? Are details about its authors provided? Does the journal provide contact information for all of the foregoing? Is the ownership of copyrights clearly stated? These are all questions that should be asked of any open–access, peer reviewed journals on the Internet too.

Web based journals provide additional means of determining their worth. Is their host clearly identified? Is that host reputable? Has the journal been endorsed by SPARC-Europe? Librarians familiar with any of the computer languages currently in use on the Internet can use the view feature of their web browser to scan the source code of these journals and determine if they have been designed for maximum ‘searchability’ on the Internet. That is a characteristic of both the quality of the work and an indication of good publishing design. Many younger patrons, who have matured imbued in a computer culture, will know that too. It is expected that as more users discover these resources, there will be increased demand for their inclusion in library catalogues.

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