Posted by: Emily | September 16, 2008

What in the world will we do about print?

Like most of the rest of us, I bet, I’ve done lots of work to cut print periodical subscriptions in my time as a librarian. But as I sent out a plea last week to support Radical Teacher, a small independent magazine I work on and want to continue working on (c’mon! subscribe! you know you want to!), and as I saw a similar plea from Bitch begin to make rounds, and remembering the loss of Clamor and Punk Planet and so many others, I started to wonder this morning: Am I missing something in my auto-shift-to-electronic response?

At my last gig, I was part of a team that did the first pass through our print subscriptions, looking for cuts. We cancelled anything and everything that we could get full-text through stable repositories like JSTOR (where we were often willing to risk trusting our Ebsco up until the moving wall) and databases like Project MUSE. Cut, cut, cut. I was so happy to free up a cool $20K or so on our first go-round, a good chunk of which went to pay for a link resolver that did wonders to elecronic usage statistics, providing even more hard numbers to make the case for a second round of ruthless pruning. Do we have, though, some kind of responsibility to support alternative print media via continuing institutional print subscriptions as part of our mandate to connect users to as wide a range of sources as possible? Radical Teacher is available full-text via Wilson’s Social Sciences Full Text product, and we’re in Project MUSE as well. When I’m wearing my pointy budget-conscious librarian hat, I can’t think of a reason in the world to continue our institutional print subscription. But is this short-sighted?

I’d love to hear how other librarians handle such questions. What’s your critical perspective on print publications in your library?



  1. going thru the same deal here.I’m about ready to turn in my renewal list with some 100+ cuts. We have had to re-subscribe to print after an aggregator mysteriously dropped a title or 2, but for the most part, print is not missed for academic journals as long as it is in pdf. I can’t say the same for my favorite browsing mags!
    Thanks for the heads up about Bitch


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