A comparative study of the costs and benefits of journal ownership versus full-text electronic access in the Faculty of Science at the University of Natal, Durban, Libraries.
There has been a huge increase in the costs of the journal collection at the University of Natal, Durban Libraries. This is due to the increased foreign exchange rate compounded by the frequent increase in the price of journal subscriptions. The library budget has not been able to keep pace with these increases in materials. The consequence is the cancellation of journal subscriptions together with the erosion of new book purchasing. To cope with this situation, libraries are coming to measure their collections and looking at alternative ways to overcome this journal crisis. The development of the technology of computers has greatly widened access to information but still at a cost in money and specialized skills much higher than is required for access to the traditional media. With the technology, the user can access the information or journal from anywhere not necessarily in the library but from home as well as the office. The patron can access various information sources from one point. For this study a multi-pronged method was employed. The methods employed were a literature review, a review of the documentary sources, an analysis of the journal data, surveys by self-administered questionnaires to the users – postgraduate students and academic staff in the Faculty of Science and an interview with the Acting University Librarian, Ms Nora Buchanan. One important element of the survey was to obtain in-depth information on journal usage patterns. The study was interested in determining whether the shift from print to electronic would affect journal usage patterns and dependence on the physical library. The findings of the survey demonstrated that usage patterns have changed and now favour the use of e-journals. There are, however, certain advantages to both formats and it is important to take advantage of both. The University Librarian interviewed recognized the popularity of e-journals and saw that over time the journal collections will shift from print to electronic. The archiving of online content remains a concern and print is still regarded as a short-term answer to the archive problem. The analysis of the journal data revealed that print and e-journal prices increased substantially each year, with the exception of 2004, for various reasons. But the print journals increased much more than the e-journals. The findings of this study could be drawn on to inform policy and practice regarding journal acquisition at the Howard College Libraries, University of KwaZulu-Natal and possibly other libraries as well.
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