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Journal Retention and Discard  

Last Updated: Feb 13, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Journal Backfile Retention Policy

Journal Backfile Retention Policy for Paper and Microfilm (“hard copy”)

Jan. 24, 2012.  Reviewed by Academic Support Committee.

Recent conversations with faculty about journals have focused on current subscriptions and been driven by budget constraints. Space is another limited resource, and we are investigating whether some Pelletier space might be better invested in program rather than storage. In particular, we are considering discarding print journal backfiles when doing so will not adversely affect and might improve program support. To that end, during the Spring semester 2013, the library will review with the departments which hard copy journal volumes we should keep, based on the following guidelines:


1.  We will keep, in some format, items which serve one or more of the following purposes:

Support of the current and probable future curriculum

Preservation of the history of the College and the Region

2.  We may discard hard copy materials that fulfill the first guideline when they are available from an affordable and reliable online source. (Note 1)

3.  Even if there is acceptable digital access, we will keep in hard copy materials that fulfill the first guideline when the print format provides added value such as illustrations and cultural content.


Favors Retention

Favors Withdrawal

Content supports the current and probable future curriculum (1)



Content preserves Allegheny and/or regional history (1)



Content is pictorial in nature (3)



Paper format is culturally significant (3)



Content is of marginal interest; use is expected to be low but there is no good indexing available (4)



Content is irrelevant to our current or likely future curriculum (1)



Content does not reflect Allegheny or regional history (1)



Content is available from a reliable, affordable online source (2)



Content is of marginal interest; use is expected to be very low, good indexing is available and there are sources to easily obtain articles. (5)




4.  We will keep in hard copy materials with very low anticipated use, if we do not have good discovery tools (indexes).  These materials may rely on browsing as the sole way that people find the information. 

5.  We may discard hard copy with very low anticipated use if there are sources to easily obtain individual articles, and we have excellent discovery tools (indexes).

6.  We may discard materials that do not fit the first guideline even if they are not available in digital format.

7.  We may discard part of a backfile and retain other parts.  There is no mandate to retain complete runs.

8.  In making purchases of digital files we will seek to provide materials to meet current and future needs rather than electronic replacements for unneeded/unused hard copy. That is, whereas having digital access will play a role in our decision to discard some paper titles, we will not purchase digital access solely to replace discarded paper materials.

The table on the right summarizes our proposed approach to assessing paper and microfilm holdings for retention.

Any materials we decide to discard will be offered to faculty and then to other Pennsylvania libraries for their collections.

Note 1:  “Reliable sources” means journals to which we have purchased permanent rights and which are backed up by an archive service or sources which are not-for-profit, supported by a broad base of the academic community and are very unlikely to increase ongoing cost beyond what we can pay.   Some examples:

  • Emerging preservation coalitions (note 2)
  • Journal archives from major academic publishers for which the price is reasonable and has not increased significantly in the last 5 years and where the archives are available on the same terms even if we cancel other purchases.
  • Journal collections which we can purchase with a one-time payment and for which there is a reliable backup delivery service.
  • Titles and runs covered by an archiving service (note 3) for which we have persistent rights
  • Open Access journals from reliable sources or sources covered by an archiving service.

 “Available in online sources” includes these criteria:

  • The electronic version is complete and includes all articles, letters, announcements, supplements, etc., found in the print.
  • The quality of images, figures and pictures compares favorably with the print version.
  • Access is through an acceptable interface and provided by IP authentication and our off-campus proxy service.
  • The license allows printing of content and other reasonable uses without unusual software requirements.

Note 2:  “Emerging preservation coalitions”.  There are several growing efforts to digitize, preserve and make available scholarly content, most notably Google Books and HathiTrust, both of which contain journal literature.  We do not consider Google Books in itself a good source chiefly because its retrieval system is unworkable.  HathiTrust, which incorporates many items digitized by Google Books, has a reasonable search, retrieval and display interface.  The College intends to join HathiTrust in FY2014 so that our users have extended access to its materials.  HathiTrust is a not-for-profit cooperative endeavor whose members include many major universities.

Note 3:  “Archiving service”.  There are two not-for-profit archiving services which are used by most scholarly publishers to deposit their content so that, should the publisher go out of business, the content can be made available to any library with persistent rights.  Allegheny belongs to both of these services (CLOCKSS, and Portico) and we keep track of all journal titles and issues to which we have persistent rights.


Memo to Faculty - February 2013

Pelletier journal removal project
February 2013

This spring, the library is preparing to discard a significant portion of its physical journal collection, based on a journal retention policy approved by the ASC.  This is the first comprehensive review of our journals since the move to Pelletier and reflects both changes in our curriculum needs and online availability of many sources.

Each department has received lists of the hard copy journals the library has relevant to their discipline.  Some journals will be on more than one department list.

The lists are divided between journals we recommend be discarded and those we think should be retained.  If the department believes that any “retain” journals are no longer needed in hard copy, please advise us!  Many of these do have online sources as well.

Any hard copy that is being replaced by JSTOR will be removed only when the JSTOR coverage overlaps our print holdings.  That is, if our only current holdings are in print, we will continue to maintain those issues.  In most cases our current holdings are online as well from a different source.

Some titles are not on any department list because they cover very broad areas or they do not have any departmental home.

A list of all titles we are recommending for discard is on the google drive, open to the Allegheny community.  Use this link:

Volumes in Arter and Alden are not part of this discard project.

Allegheny faculty and staff can ask for any of the volumes we eventually remove – we will be happy to give them away on a first-come basis.  All other materials will be offered to other libraries.

Allegheny College

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