How can our journals provision be improved?

The Journals Survey of 2002 was the third large-scale review to be undertaken by Library Services in recent years. It was prompted by a number of developments, most notably the need to assess the impact of electronic journals at UCL. The aim was to gain a better understanding of users' requirements and priorities, and to use this information ensure resources are targeted in the most appropriate way.

Questionnaires were sent out in February 2002 to over 4,000 staff and research postgraduates, and 527 completed forms were returned. At 13%, this response rate compares favourably with similar surveys. Using the same Libra software as in earlier reviews, data was gathered on patterns of usage and preferences, as well as on satisfaction with current provision. Respondents were also asked to prioritise suggestions for improvement, compiled from over 500 received in response to a preliminary email survey of academic departments.

A number of interconnected themes emerge from the findings as being of particular importance:

Overall, the highest priority to emerge was the suggestion that the Library should "extend the range of e-journals back in time". This is supported by the finding that 84% felt that an electronic version would be an acceptable alternative to older print material. In addition, the single area where dissatisfaction outweighed satisfaction was with the number of pre-current years of e-journals available.

In response, Library Services is now seeking to acquire more collections of recently digitised older volumes. There is now access to all available JSTOR collections (which focus on arts and social sciences), as well as to the American Chemical Society backfiles, and it is hoped that funding will be identified to purchase other electronic archives. This would not only provide desktop access for users in MAPS, Engineering and the School of Medicine, but would allow space on the open shelves to be relocated for journals not available electronically - another high priority, especially for STM departments.

The information gathered and the resulting recommendations will continue to play a vital role in forward planning, for example by providing a basis for further discussions with academic departments regarding choice of format, etc. The outcome will be reflected in the revised Electronic Journals Strategy.

Further information: Diana Mercer, Group Manager Bibliographic Services.