Managing access to e-journals: a study of technical university libraries of North India.

Author:Vasishta, Seema

Introduction: Recently, digital environment has made accessible so many exciting opportunities for academic and research libraries in the form of e-journals, that these have become the most popular form of e-resources which are gaining ground with the growth and expansion of the Internet. Tech-savvy users, being aware of many value-added features of e-journals, demand easy and seamless access to current information in the form of e-journals on their desktops. Providing seamless access to e-journals has always been the utopia of library and information professionals. The main concern of libraries is to provide anywhere anytime access to the users for e-journals. Johnston (1998) raised an important concern by arguing, "With the introduction of e-journals comes the question of accessibility, for the quality of the text and its academic standing is of little importance, if the access is difficult or impossible." Therefore, furnishing consistent and persistent access to e-journals has emerged as a significant challenge due to the involvement of many modalities. Various protocols necessary for providing consistent access are to choose an appropriate acquisition approach; negotiating for site license agreements; selecting unconventional means of dissemination of e-journals; making the users cognizant about e-journals, and above all, building a compatible infrastructure for prompt access of information from e-journals.

This paper presents results of a research work undertaken to review present facilities for providing seamless access to e-journals in technical university libraries of North India.

Review of literature: Quite a significant proportion of the recent literature about e-journals has concentrated on the various aspects of managing access to e-journals. Lo (2001) discussed the results of a continuous study of issues pertaining to access of e-journals which were distributed via the Taiwan Academic Network (TANet). She reported that if e-journals are to succeed as a new channel of scholarly communication, the issue related to access needs to be given due consideration. Felts (2002) highlighted that too many places to locate e-journals has emerged as one of the persistent problems in finding journal literature. Jackson Library at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), has simplified the process with Journal Finder, a locally developed software solution that seamlessly integrates e-journal content, pay-per-view content, local print holdings, unmediated document delivery (fully funded by the Library), and interlibrary loan, for comprehensive, unmediated, 'one stop shop' access to journal articles. White and Davies (2005) described work by the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) based at Loughborough University to support decision making by managers in academic information and library services in the UK in the realm of providing access to scholarly information through serials. A model was built against which to assess a series of propositions, or 'deals', from different publishers for e-journals collections through the National Electronic Site License Initiative (NESLI). Anderson (2005) revealed the issues related to implementing access to e-journals for the users of the Eastern Washington University Libraries (EWUL). The demand of the users is for convenient 24hour access to full-text journals in a rapid, convenient manner. They want 'anytime, anywhere' access to information and they do not want to enter a library to obtain it. EWUL chose to provide access to full-text journals in two ways i.e. through the OPAC and through Cold Fusion Database. Patra (2006) shared the experience of introducing e-journal services in Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute. She described in detail the activities related to provided e-journal services to the users and its impact on library operations. The author felt that e-journals have added a lot of weightage to library collections and improved the services being provided by the library. Caudle and Schmitz (2007) investigated how ARL academic libraries are providing access to e-journals through their library websites. Using a checklist the authors evaluated the websites for the presence of A-Z lists, links from the catalogue, a way to search e-journals by title and subject and a link to databases. In another study conducted by Yue and Anderson (2007) showed how a team led by the electronic resources access librarian in the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries created a flowchart document illustrating the highly complex processes involved in considering, negotiating, purchasing, and implementing new electronic-journal subscriptions.

It is clear from the review of literature that many studies have come from developed countries and there is a substantial lack in comprehensive research related to the managing access to e-journals as far as India is concerned. No study carried out in India so far has focused much on the infrastructural and other facilities related to managing access to e-journals in technical university libraries in India.

Objective: The study was carried out keeping in view the following objectives:

* To ascertain factors responsible for commencement of e-journal service and total number of e-journal databases subscribed by various libraries under study.

* To find different modes of subscription of e-journals adopted by these libraries.

* To analyze the details of IT infrastructure available in various institutions.

* To identify practical solutions accepted by libraries in making the users' aware about e-journals and educate them in retrieving information from them promptly.

Scope of the study: The scope of this study is limited to the libraries of seven technical universities in North India namely Dr B R Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar (NITJ); National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra (NITK); National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur (NITH); Punjab university of technology, Chandigarh (PEC); Thapar University, Patiala (TUP); National Institute of Technology, Srinagar (NITS) and Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Longowal (SLIET).

Methodology: The study being empirical in nature has been designed to know the facilities and issues related to access management of e-journals in technical university libraries of North India. The core of the paper is a comprehensive survey carried out in the months of March and April 2012, to assess the facilities for providing seamless access of e-journals in the above mentioned libraries. A structured questionnaire was used as the tool for the survey and mailed to the Chief Librarian/Librarian-in-charge of each library and the response rate was 100%. Besides, discussions were held with many librarians for clarifying a few responses. The filled in questionnaires were subjected to further analysis, and data is presented in tabular form with interpretation.

Data Analysis: An analysis of the present scenario of various facilities for e-journal access in these seven libraries is presented below:

Commencement of e-journal service: E-journals have matured with the speedy rise and development of the Internet and accepted by library fraternity to be an integral part of library collections. Table-1 depicts the year of establishment of the institute, year of start of Internet connectivity and year of start of e-journal service in libraries under study. It is clear from the table that a majority of libraries (5 out of 7) have started the e-journal service in 2003.

Factors responsible for commencement of e-journal service: The scenario in the libraries under study is very congenial for the growth of e-journals supported by many factors such as demand of users for more e-content and formation of library consortia. Librarians were asked to give rank to the various factors, which led to the start of e-journal service in their libraries, starting from '1' for the most preferred one. To analyze this question, their preference ranking has given different points based on the choice counts such as rank 1 (6 points), rank 2 (5 points), rank 3 (4 points), and so on. Various factors are analyzed based on the cumulative points given to each choice and presented in Table-2. It is depicted in the table that librarian's initiative has obtained the maximum points as 31, followed by demand of the users for more e-content (25 points), formation of INDEST (24 points) and planning of the Head of the institution (23 points).

Total number of online databases accessible: A comparison of the total number of...

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