Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Cover to cover

I don't know about you, but I like to get my money's worth out of things. That might mean staying to the bitter end of a film I hate, just because I paid to get into the cinema. More usually it means that when I buy magazines I like to read from cover to cover and back again. If there are a couple of bits I can cut out and keep - a review of a book I want to order from the library, a recipe I want to try, a web address I might visit - so much the better. The thought of paying out for an annual subscription to a magazine where I might - if I get round to it - flick through some of the copies, and perhaps read bits of one or two articles, makes my toes curl.

How is this relevant to you? Well, as departments find their budgets being nibbled away I find more of them phoning me up to ask if I will take on their journal subscriptions for them. My standard response is that I wont.

That's partly because the library budget has had its fair share of cuts, the same as everywhere else. But it's also because I don't believe that having two, three or four journals in a department is useful any more. Most people in the department wont know they are there. Those who do wont always remember to look at every issue, and when they do they will probably just flick through it. The number of papers that are read from end to end is probably very small. And when you want an older copy...well, somehow it isn't on the shelf and no one has seen it.

The better way to go about keeping up to date is to have the table of contents of journals sent to you on a regular basis. You can do this using eTOCs, where the journal itself emails the contents to you, or you can try RSS feeds using a feed reader. Either way you can normally see abstracts. Then, when you find a paper you actually want to read you ask us to send you a copy. We will get it from one of our partner libraries or the British Library. Yes, it costs us, although we don't charge you. But I guarantee that your department will not request enough papers from any given journal for the total cost to match or exceed the cost of subscribing.

Better still, in addition to the eTOCs or feeds - as many as you like - do a regular search on Medline or Cinahl. The point is that you will find papers of interest published in your favourite journals, some in more general journals, and others in journals you hadn't even heard of. Yes, there are standard journals that like to think they cover everything, but why miss out on papers just because they haven't appeared in the two titles you hoard in your department? There's a whole world of evidence out there - why restrict your reading?

Now, if you'll excuse me, there are still some snippets in the latest IWR I haven't read yet...

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