V. Journals


Librarians and researchers throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union consistently identify donations of Western journals as one of the most needed forms of assistance. Several journal donation projects have been established to provide the region with journals covering a wide range of subjects. Like book donation projects, they have pursued a variety of approaches and met with mixed results.

5.1 Journal Donation Projects

The main donation projects in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are run through the New School for Social Research, the International Science Foundation (ISF) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The New School's journal donation project focuses primarily on the social sciences and humanities. The ISF and AAAS projects concentrate on the natural sciences, medicine and engineering. In addition, a major new project in the social sciences will be launched in the next year by the Open Society Institute in Budapest, and a discount purchase project in the natural sciences sponsored by the Sabre Foundation is in its initial phases. A variety of learned societies and individual publishers have contributed donations and substantial discounts to institutions throughout the region.

5.11 Natural Sciences, Medicine and Engineering

The ISF project, which currently is limited to the former Soviet Union, is designed as a stop-gap effort to assist scientific research. The program reaches 350 central scientific and university libraries in the former Soviet Union. Recipients have been selected by panels of experts in the former Soviet Union and the West on the basis of their research productivity. During the initial phase of the project, which is set to run through the end of 1994, the content of donations has been determined by ISF, with some input from recipients. In all, the project distributes between fifty and sixty subscriptions to 107 titles. Recipients receive a varying number of journals, depending upon their location, specialties and needs. About 20-25 receive complete sets of all 107 titles.

The titles are either donated or purchased at substantial discounts. In all, journals with a value (if purchased at institutional rates) of approximately $7 million have been acquired for slightly more than $1.35 million. The journals have been acquired from learned societies, and commercial and university publishers. All donations are printed editions. ISF is seeking funding to continue the current program, to expand it geographically to incorporate Eastern Europe and to offer recipient institutions greater input into the selection of titles. It also seeks to make available its vast distribution network to other interested organizations.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science journal donation project sends science journals to libraries in the former Soviet Union. Currently, the project sends 12 copies of 138 journals to 21 academy, public, university and medical libraries in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev and Minsk. Subscriptions last for two years. Many of the journals, which are published by 17 U.S. scientific societies, are donated; others are acquired at publishers' cost. The project is currently funded through June 1995.

The Sabre Foundation has recently introduced a reduced-cost scientific, technical and medical journal service in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The service makes available discounted subscriptions to commercial scientific publications from European and American publishers. Its discounts average 50 percent. Subscriptions are available for up to three years and are offered to both public and private institutions whose efforts primarily focus on educational, scientific or scholarly purposes.

5.12 Social Sciences and Humanities

The New School Journal Donation Project provides journal subscriptions to libraries throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The project, which began in 1991, donates 15 to 20 subscriptions to over 600 publications, primarily in the social sciences and the humanities, but also in scientific and medical fields. Subscriptions are normally for two or three year periods, though some are ongoing. Nearly all donations set to expire at the end of 1993 have been renewed for a second 2-3 year period.

The New School distributes subscriptions among approximately 220 libraries, which normally receive between 10 and 50 titles. The recipient libraries are responsible for selecting journals from lists of available titles. However, with the limited number of subscriptions available for each publication, many requests for the most essential and popular publications are rejected. Some libraries, particularly in Poland, Hungary, and the Baltic republics, have benefitted more than others because of their earlier involvement in the project. The imbalance is being partially redressed, as a large number of the 1994-1996 subscriptions are being sent to libraries in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova.

The New School project has recently received additional funds to expand its activities through the purchase of a limited number of core disciplinary journals at steep discounts. These journals will be provided to major libraries which entered the project after the allocation of many of the core disciplinary journals had been completed. Subscriptions will last from three to five years.

The Open Society Institute in Budapest will soon launch a program to support the purchase of social science and humanities journals in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The project, as it is currently structured, will provide approximately 160 recipient libraries with $6,000 worth of credits towards the purchase of journals, chosen from a list of approximately 400 titles. The list was created on the basis of recommendations of academics and learned societies. All subscriptions will last for one year and will be purchased at institutional rates.

5.13 Other Sources

There are several other sources of journal donations and support for journal purchases in the region. The United States Information Agency has provided funding for journal subscriptions, though funding for such purposes has recently been reduced from $40,000 per year to $10,000. Learned societies ranging from the American Physical Society to the American Historical Association, offer a limited number of donations to eligible individuals and institutions. Moreover, learned societies frequently offer discounts to institutions which request support. Commercial publishers are less generous, providing discounts in the 5-20 percent range.

5.2 Efficacy of Donations

As with book donation projects, journal donors and suppliers have not created any internal mechanisms to assess the impact of their donations other than to measure the volume of deliveries. However, the interviews and surveys conducted for this report provide useful insights into the nature of journal donation projects and their impact on the region.

5.21 Quality vs. Quantity

Donors and suppliers of Western journals tend to over-emphasize the quantity, rather than the quality, of the journals they donate. While many donors and suppliers point to the vast quantity of journals sent to the region, librarians and faculty members often complain that the journals which they receive are of limited utility because of their relatively obscure subject matter. Recipients consistently indicate that they would prefer to receive fewer donations of higher quality.

The difficulties of quality control are in many cases a product of the selection process. Many librarians indicate that they have difficulty making selections from the lists provided to them by suppliers, particularly by the New School Journal Donation Project. The core journals, with which many librarians are familiar, frequently are fully subscribed, leaving 'second-tier' journals from which to select. Librarians often are unfamiliar with the content of 'second-tier' journals and have become disappointed when the journals which they receive do not correspond to their expectations or needs. The problem is compounded by the lack of faculty input in the selection process (see section 3.21). The New School, and others who choose to follow a list system might improve the selection process by offering potential recipients sample tables of contents of their offerings. Those tables of contents could be distributed by mail or, better, by representatives of Western teaching organizations who are present in the region and who might be familiar with many of the listed journals.

There is no perfect solution to the problem of selection. Many librarians in the region are well aware of their needs and have prepared lists of desired titles. When ISF requested recommendations for titles from its recipient libraries, it received over 2,000. Such a large number would be a logistical nightmare to sort and would prove costly because of the difficulty of arranging discounts. ISF's alternative -- donations determined largely by a panel of experts -- is considered overly restrictive by some of the recipients. ISF is now considering a policy of giving librarians more input and is planning to expand its offerings when a sufficient number of recipients request the same title.

The Open Society Institute's approach of permitting libraries to choose from a broad yet selective list of journals, and to spend from a set budget, has many benefits. First, it allows for the screening of many relatively superfluous titles. Second, it provides libraries the 'core' journals which are most in demand. Third, it forces libraries to budget money for their purchases and thereby requires librarians, some of whom are poorly acquainted with market realities (because they have no money to spend), to consider the financial implications of their selections. The main drawback to the Open Society Institute's approach, as it is now conceived, is that most purchases will be made at or near institutional rates. The libraries will thus lose considerable purchasing power.

5.22 Length of Subscriptions

Probably the most consistent comment made by librarians in interviews and surveys is that it is an absolute necessity that journal donations be made in the form of subscriptions for a minimum of three years and preferably five years or more. Many librarians claim that donations for shorter periods are nearly useless, and object to the implicit pressure which such donations place on them to continue the subscription. They would prefer to receive fewer journals for a longer period of time.

The New School project adheres to preference in most cases, but ISF and AAAS offer only two years worth of subscriptions, and the Open Society Institutes's project foresees only one year subscriptions. A longer term approach, even if it required greater limits on selection, might yield better results.

Similarly, librarians object to donations, often offered by major book suppliers, of short-term collections of back issues. A donation of a collection from a single journal from 1982-1984 is unlikely to have a significant impact, particularly if the library possesses no prior or subsequent issues of the same journal.

5.23 Overlap

One area of concern for donation projects, particularly those in which recipients do not have significant input on donated titles, is overlap. In some instances, more than one donor donates the same title to the same library, as the AAAS and ISF have done in the former Soviet Union. In other cases, more than one library at the same institution, and at times in the same building, receives the same title. The danger of such duplication is particularly high in the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Hungary, where there is a plethora of department and faculty libraries.

Three remedies to the problem of overlapping donations are available. First, donors could increase consultation among themselves. Organizations which store their distribution information on databases could, quite easily, provide that information to other donors in the region. Second, donors could examine more closely the relationship between recipient libraries. Department libraries located in the same building or in relative proximity should not receive the same journals, especially if subscriptions are limited. Instead, efforts should be directed at improving communication between libraries at the same institution. Third, donation projects could consult potential recipients about their current subscriptions and adjust their donations accordingly.

5.24 Access

Donated journals are often inaccessible, although they are accessible more often than book donations. Investigations of libraries which received donations reveal an average disappearance rate at approximately 25 percent.[8] As with book donations, there were instances of journals found in faculty members' and librarians' offices. In one case, only when a librarian was confronted with a list of donations were the journals 'found'. In other cases, journals were kept in faculty libraries and their use by students was restricted.

Journal donations are also poorly publicized. Many libraries in Eastern Europe keep journals on closed stacks and, as a result, faculty members and students are unaware of new acquisitions. Awareness of journal donations might be increased if donors, suppliers and distributors were to require recipients to make a special list of donated materials available in the cataloguing room of the library. That list might include information about other libraries in the same institution (which is necessary because faculty and department libraries, even those in near proximity, frequently fail to communicate with each other). Donors might also assist users by sending lists of donated materials to faculty members, or at least to departments, as well as to other libraries at the same institution.

5.25 Usage

Although it was not possible to establish a consistent means of checking whether donated journals are actually read, circumstantial evidence suggests that they are used less often than donors expect. Especially in the social sciences, many journals appear to be used rarely. Readers prefer newspapers or current affairs publications, perhaps due in part to the relatively obscure nature of many of the donated journals.

In a few instances, librarians placed sheets of paper inside of journals which asked readers to indicate when they had consulted the journals. Most of these sheets in social science journals were blank. For the natural sciences and medicine, there appeared to be considerably greater interest. Donors might be advised to adopt such a system on a regular basis in order to identify whether and which publications are used, and to focus their resources on desired journals and receptive libraries.

5.26 Distribution

The success of journal donation projects is unquestionably affected by the mode of distribution. Different organizations have used different methods. The New School has journals sent directly from publishers via surface mail. AAAS uses Matrix International, which delivers journals door to door in the former Soviet Union. ISF has established its own distribution network through its representatives throughout the former Soviet Union.

The choice of distribution system depends on two factors: cost and the speed with which journals need to reach their recipients. Delivery of journals in Eastern Europe by Western companies is generally expensive but reliable. The surface mail appears to work in the Visegrad countries, so the high expenditures for Western delivery services are unwarranted, unless timeliness is crucial. The former Soviet Union is a different story. Libraries do receive journals successfully via surface-mail, but the postal system loses journals at a relatively high rate and journals usually take a considerable amount of time to reach their destination.

There are alternatives to paying distributors. Many state libraries and academies of science have long-established distribution networks which are cheaper than Western firms. In addition, entirely new networks can be established. ISF has now created its own distribution system in the former Soviet Union. Other donors might, in the future, be able to feed into that system.

5.3 Needs

The ability of libraries to purchase Western journals varies throughout the region and even within individual countries.

In the Czech Republic, the capacity of most libraries to purchase Western journals has increased dramatically over the last few years. Only 6 percent of the libraries surveyed indicated that they experienced declines in purchases of Western journals over the last three years, while 53 percent reported substantial increases and 35 percent reported moderate increases. In the Slovak Republic, Estonia and Romania, libraries reported overall increases in their purchases of Western journals, though a significant number of libraries reduced their purchases.[9] Some, and in Romania's case many, institutions still require the assistance of Western donors.

Other countries reported declines in purchases of Western journals. In Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Bulgaria, the majority of libraries have reduced their purchases of Western journals over the last three years. In Poland and Hungary, over 40 percent of libraries indicated that their purchases of Western journals over the last three years have declined.

Librarians' predictions of their future capacity to purchase Western journals are not optimistic. While librarians in the Czech Republic generally remain sanguine, those in most other countries, particularly in the Slovak Republic and Poland, have a great fear of their institutions' future purchasing power.

The dire financial conditions of many libraries suggest that discount purchasing projects, like Sabre's, will have a limited impact. While they will be of considerable value in the Czech Republic, and, to a lesser extent, in Hungary and the Slovak Republic, on a region-wide basis they are not a viable alternative to donation projects.

Table Three:

Faculty Without Reasonable Access to 'Essential' Foreign Journals

             Arts/Social        Natural/TechScie    
             Sciences           nces, Medicine      
Czech        70%                74%                 
Slovak       64%                50%                 
Hungary      87%                N/A                 
Poland       50%                53%                 
Bulgaria     100%               92%                 
Estonia      33%                73%                 
Latvia       50%                94%                 
Lithuania    N/A                N/A                 
Romania      85%                84%                 
Ukraine      82%                100%                

The influx of journal donations has not satisfied the demand for journals in the region. Librarians and faculty members consistently cite journals as one of the most needed forms, if not the most needed form, of assistance. Given the choice among nine different forms of donation, ranging from general book donations to computerization of library resources, librarians only ranked reference books higher.[10] Journals are in particularly high demand in the natural and engineering sciences and medicine, where current information is crucial.

The demand for journals is further highlighted by faculty members, a large percentage of whom indicate that they do not have reasonable access to foreign journals which they consider to be essential to their work (see table three).

The most common request, in terms of specific needs, is for scientific, medical and technical abstracts. These abstracts provide invaluable information about current research and references to articles of fundamental interest to researchers. They also are extremely expensive, and publishers are loath to donate them.

In addition to abstracts, libraries in the region require donations of indexes to journals in both the social and natural sciences. Those indexes are important for two reasons. First, they allow researchers to make better use of journals which are already present in libraries, particularly when journals are kept on closed stacks. Second, indexes can provide information about useful articles which potential users might find in other recipient libraries or through alternative means.

A third need which is rarely addressed by donors is back-issues of journals. Many librarians cite a need for back issues, particularly for journals on economics. In some instances, recipients would like to acquire back-issues of donated titles. In many cases, libraries are missing two or three years of issues. Donor organizations may be able to emulate ISF and donate back issues along with current subscriptions.

Libraries in the region also need donations of journals from other Eastern European and former Soviet countries. With the breakdown of trade between the former COMECON members and the skyrocketing cost of subscriptions across the region, the volume of intra-regional journal subscriptions has plummeted. For example, in the Czech Republic and Hungary, where many institutions have been able to increase their volume of Western subscriptions, the volume of subscriptions from Eastern Europe has fallen drastically. In Ukraine, access to Russian journals has declined substantially.

A project which included donations of East European journals would offer great benefits. It would re-institute a high level of intra-regional communication, which is often lacking. It also would support the region's flagging publishing industry, provided that the project involves some form of payment for the subscriptions.

A final item on the list of needs neglected by donor organizations is material providing information on current affairs. Students in particular voiced concerns about the absence of objective contemporary material. Where such material is available, it appears to be extremely popular. Subscriptions to newspapers and to contemporary publications on conditions in Eastern Europe, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Report, would be of tremendous assistance to students and faculty members alike.

5.4 Alternative Technologies

Computer and other technologies provide a variety of means through which journals and other information can be sent to the region. Alternative media, such as CD-ROM, microfiche and on-line networks can provide the same information at lower distribution costs. They should be considered as potential and long-term alternatives to journal donations.

Many libraries, especially in the Czech Republic and Hungary, already own CD-ROM readers. Several of those libraries had multiple, networked machines. The University of Economics in Prague, for example, has a larger network than most North American universities. The desirability and availability of CD-ROMs and CD-ROM databases in the Czech Republic is underlined by their popularity among those surveyed, who rank them as the most preferred form of donation. The situation in the Czech Republic contrasts strongly with that in Ukraine and Romania, where many librarians are unfamiliar with CD-ROM technology.

In spite of the networks which exist in some of the libraries of Central European countries, CD-ROM technology is seldom used to its full potential. Frequently, the intricacy of the networks is not matched by the volume of databases available on them. Donors to the Czech Republic and Hungary could increase the utility of networks by initiating programs to offer donations of, or discounts on, CD-ROM databases (and not simply for journals), or by coupling gifts of CD-ROM hardware with those of software. The coupling of hardware and software donations might persuade distributors of databases to offer larger discounts.

The advantage of CD-ROM technology is multi-fold. First, donations of databases, provided that they were contingent upon broad accessibility to networks, would increase the difficulty for individuals to monopolize information. Second, CD-ROM technology facilitates the acquisition of back issues of publications. Third, the distribution of information on CD-ROM is considerably easier and far less expensive than on paper. Finally, donations of CD-ROM hardware and software clearly direct recipients towards the future.

5.5 Conclusions and Recommendations

The declining capacity of libraries to purchase foreign journals and the great demand for journals among faculty members suggest that journal donations will be needed well into the future.

Journal donation projects, however, frequently suffer from shortsightedness and an emphasis on breadth over depth. Journal donation projects which offer short-term subscriptions are expensive, offer limited returns and place pressure on libraries to expend their limited resources. Donations of 'second-tier' journals are of limited utility, especially when many libraries do not have 'core' disciplinary journals. Journal donation projects also suffer from the same problems related to access and publicity as book donation projects.

The effectiveness of journal donations might be enhanced in the following ways:


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