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Harvard University Library and Key Publishers Join Forces for Electronic Journal Archive

May 14, 2001

The Harvard University Library and three major publishers of scholarly journals —Blackwell Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and the University of Chicago Press—have agreed to work together on a plan to develop 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 a fundamental issue 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 year-long 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:

  • establishing agreements between the partners regarding archival rights and responsibilities;
  • formulating a technical implementation plan;
  • defining methodologies that the archive would adopt to validate its archival processes and assure the scholarly community that the journals for which the archive is responsible will be preserved and useable over time;
  • creating organizational and business models.

Dale Flecker, Associate Director for Planning and Systems in the Harvard University Library said, "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 (together producing over 900 electronic journals) and who have the willingness and the technical sophistication to address the difficult issues involved. 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."

Blackwell Science, Blackwell Publishers, and Munksgaard are merging during 2001 to form Blackwell Publishing—the world's largest publisher on behalf of academic and professional societies. Today, the three companies cumulatively publish nearly 600 journals in partnership with over 500 societies. This year alone, they will produce over 600 text and reference books across a wide range of STM, social science, and humanities subject areas. Blackwell Publishing will consolidate the individual companies' reputations for high quality publishing of highly cited and reasonably priced peer-reviewed journals. The online versions of the majority of these journals are available on Blackwell's online delivery system, called Blackwell Synergy (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com).

Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., is a global publisher of print and electronic products specializing in scientific, technical, and medical books and journals; professional and consumer books and subscription services; and textbooks and educational materials. Wiley's Internet site can be accessed at http://www.wiley.com. Through Wiley InterScience, which was launched in the fall of 1997, more than 300 journals in full text dating back to January 1997 and a number of major reference works are now available online to licensees and their authorized users. Wiley InterScience (http://www.interscience.wiley.com) also provides Web access for members of scientific societies to their peer-reviewed professional journals published with Wiley, as well as Web-based access, for guest and other users, to cited journal content linked via CrossRef (http://www.crossref.org), a publishing industry initiative in which Wiley has played a leadership role.

Founded in 1891, the University of Chicago Press was conceived by President William Rainey Harper as an "organic part" of the University, extending the influence of Chicago scholars around the globe. Within ten years of its founding, the Press had introduced fourteen scholarly journals. Today, the Journals Division of the Press distributes 48 serials, presenting original research from international scholars in the social sciences, humanities, education, biological and medical sciences, and physical sciences. Its web site can be accessed at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu.

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.

Significantly, 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 http://hul.harvard.edu/ldi/.


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