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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
April 18, 2005
Volume 40, Number 9

Web repository could help ease scholarly journal expenses


By Karen Wentworth

An annual average 10 percent increase in the cost of scholarly journals is forcing some hard decisions.

This year, University Libraries is short $750,000 and the only solution is dropping hundreds of journal subscriptions. UNM subscribes to roughly 16,000 scholarly journals. About half are on library shelves and the others available electronically. By this time next year, the university may drop nearly 20 percent of those subscriptions.

University Libraries Professor Linda Lewis said librarians are doing what they can to ease the problem. They will work closely with faculty to ensure that journals in specific technical fields are available. They will also monitor electronic access to determine need. For example, Lewis said, a journal downloaded only three times last year probably won’t be made available.

The library has developed agreements with several libraries, including those at New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, to trade journal articles. It will slow access for students and researchers, but articles will remain accessible.

As a partial solution, University Libraries is establishing an institutional repository as either an alternative or a supplement to printed journal articles. Dean Camila Alire said it won’t solve the crisis, but if enough universities embrace the idea of repositories, it may help change the fundamental way scholarly research is stored and accessed.

The idea of an institutional repository is to join with other universities throughout the world to make enough scholarly research available free online to widen general availability, and to incidentally push journals into keeping subscription increases in check.

An institutional repository is an electronic space that can be used by faculty, staff and some graduate students to make scholarly work created at UNM permanently available online. At UNM the repository is called “dspace,” short for digital space, and uses open source software developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and shared free with other universities.

Assistant Dean of University Libraries Johann van Reenen is the leading proponent of establishing the institutional repository. University Libraries worked to set up the software and find technical means to make the repository work. Van Reenen said this is one way researchers can be sure their work is permanently available. The Web address for dspace is https://repository.unm.edu/. This is how it works. Each department or work group establishes a “community.” The community decides what kind of research will be posted on the UNM Institutional Repository. It can be limited to peer-reviewed papers or include original research data and unpublished papers. The community appoints someone to oversee that the information posted by researchers meets the standards set by the community. Once the community sets the parameters, individual researchers can easily add content.

“The technical phase is over,” van Reenen said. “The success of the program will now depend on how well we can motivate UNM authors to place their work in the repository.”

UNM is one of the first in an expanding group of universities to establish an institutional repository. Numbers are hard to pin down, but about 30 universities have some version online. Alire said, “It’s a movement. When a faculty member goes to a conference to make a presentation and someone tells them they have read their work in the repository, then we know we are succeeding.”