E-Journal Archiving Metes and Bounds: a few belated words

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) issued E-Journal Archiving Metes and Bounds: A Survey of the Landscape in September 2006. From the abstract page you can download the whole 120-page report for free as a PDF, read and print it online as a series of HTML files, or order it as an 8.5×11″ paperback for $30.

The study, written by Anne R. Kenney, Richard Entlich, Peter B. Hirtle, Nancy Y. McGovern and Ellie L. Buckley, is well-organized and very readable. It looks at a dozen e-journal archiving programs in some depth. addressing “concerns expressed by directors of academic libraries in North America.” While the authors and CLIR may be North American, the survey was worldwide, including two European and one Australian project.

If you’re concerned about long-term access to e-journals (as opposed to open access, a related but separate subject), you’ll want to know about this publication–but you probably already do. For a variety of reasons, I just didn’t get around to reading it in a timely manner, and by now it’s a little late to do a proper review. I learned a fair amount from the publication and certainly recommend it to anyone interested in e-journal archiving (which includes archiving electronic versions of print journals).

You can’t assume that publishers will take care of it: That’s never been part of publishers’ charge, and JSTOR already discovered that even publishers that are still in business may not have complete archives of their own journal publications. (This is not an attack on publishers: Archiving simply isn’t part of the publishing business, or at least it hasn’t been.)

So what are “metes and bound”? Here’s what the publication says:

A survey “by metes and bounds” is a highly descriptive delineation of a plot of land that relies on natural landmarks, such as trees, bodies of water, and large stones, and often-crude measurements of distance and direction. This was accepted practice before more precise instruments and methods were developed—indeed, the original 13 U.S. states were laid out by metes and bounds. More accurate means of measuring were established to overcome the method’s serious shortcomings: streambeds move over time, witness trees are struck by lightning, compass needles do not point true north, and measuring chains and surveyor strides can be of slightly differing lengths. However, the metes and bounds system is still used when it is impossible or impractical to make more precise measurements.

Highly recommended.

Which archival programs were studied?

  • Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI Csi)
  • LOCKSS Alliance and CLOCKSS
  • Koninklijke Bibliotheek e-Depot (KB e-Depot)
  • Kooperativer Aufbau eines Langzeitarchivs Digitaler Informationen (kopal/DDB)
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Library (LANL-RL)
  • National Library of Australia PANDORA (NLA PANDORA)
  • OCLC Electronic Collections Online (OCLC ECO)
  • OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center (OhioLINK EJC)
  • Ontario Scholars Portal
  • Portico
  • PubMed Central

There are very brief descriptions of other “promising e-journal archiving programs” mostly from national libraries–the British Library, Det Kongelige Bibliotek (Denmark), Library and Archives Canada, National Diet Library (Japan), National Library of China, and several others starting out.

If you don’t wish to read the full report, read the conclusion and recommendations–but you really should read the whole thing. To cite the first of ten conclusions:

It is a matter of when, not whether, e-journal publishing programs will suffer significant trigger events that put at risk ongoing access to vital scholarly resources.

One Response to “E-Journal Archiving Metes and Bounds: a few belated words”

  1. Dorothea says:

    The attack on publishers isn’t that they’re not archivists. It’s that their words and actions CLAIM FALSELY that they are.

    When they all join Portico or CLOCKSS, or make some other sensible plan for e-journal archival, I’ll shut up.