LIBRARY SERVICES have been forced to take a u-turn over plans to take academic journals off the shelves and make them available on the internet, after a report uncovered widespread resistance.
The internal report noted results of a year-long trial of the scheme. According to Library Services, the aim of the trial was to “find out whether e-journals are a viable alternative to print”, creating a cheap way to provide more shelf space. However, both students and departments have reacted negatively to the trial, and expressed their displeasure at being denied access to hard copies of journals. As a result the Library has had to provide open access to the journals in a humiliating climb-down.
The Library’s provision of ‘e-journals’ has been widely praised, with 207 people contacting the Library during the scheme and praising it as their “best feature”. However there were complaints over the complete disposal of print journals, with many believing that students would lose out.
Departments reacted with concern to students not being able to gain satisfactory access to the journals and the History Department even lodged a formal complaint. In it they noted that undergraduates had clearly expressed that they “were strongly opposed to the restriction of access.” The report also concluded that “without print journals the Library would be a less effective place in which to research and to study.”
Computer availability was a major discussion point, with many students unable to afford a computer of their own and not able to access one in crowded computer rooms. The report also noted doubts over the reliability and cost of printing on campus, as well as a loss of quality of images when reproduced electronically.
Matthew Platts, the SU Campaigns Officer, welcomed the increased accessibility provided by online journals, but warned that “a problem arises when electronic archives are the exclusive vector to getting access to journals.”
Students have also reacted with worry about the extra financial burden it would create. Sam Williams, a first year Economics student, demanded “that if the library wants to cut costs, they should make printing free, otherwise students lose out. Reading off the screen just isn’t good enough.”