Strategies for Expanding eJournal Preservation


The Columbia University Libraries, in collaboration with the Cornell University Library are conducting a Mellon-supported project intended to expand significantly the preservation coverage of eJournals and to develop and implement strategies that will sustain the initiative beyond the duration of the project.

Our goal is to identify priority content from the research library perspective and make progress towards increasing the number of eJournal titles preserved.  Towards this end, we will develop and test methods to encourage the preservation of eJournals.  In addition, we will document the practices used to encourage others to participate in this critical effort.

We intend to develop and test methods tailored to specific types of eJournal publications, recognizing that different approaches may be needed for various types of publications.  For each category of publication, a senior administrator experienced in negotiating e-journal licenses and business terms will take the initial steps in analyzing current impediments to securing preservation agreements, and test methods of working with appropriate parties (publishers, professional societies, e-journal aggregators, and preservation agencies) to overcome these obstacles. Once successful strategies have been developed, an E-Journal Preservation Librarian, hired for the project, will apply these methods to secure preservation of additional titles.

At the completion of the project, we expect to achieve the following goals:

  • Identify important and vulnerable e-journal content from the perspective of the research library through a quantitative and qualitative methodology
  • Select a set of representative titles from high-priority categories to develop, test, and promote appropriate archival strategies based on content type and origin
  • Create and test methodologies that will result in preservation of this content
  • Document and share findings to facilitate the continued expansion of e-journal preservation through ongoing assessment of priorities and documented practices
  • Collaborate with the BorrowDirect Collection Development group to validate the assessment of priorities and the selection of titles for initial action, to advise on proposed methods of work, to refine recommendations for best practice and model license terms, and to assess results (ensure the generalizability of the findings and strategies)
  • Work to broaden the impact of the project’s activities by raising awareness of e-journal preservation risks and identifying effective ways for libraries to engage in addressing those challenges (encourage and expand community engagement)
  • Document and promote practices designed to expand the number of libraries actively engaged in pursuing and supporting e-journal preservation
  • Engage libraries, publishers, societies, and other key stakeholders in analyzing current impediments to securing preservation agreements and test methods of working with appropriate parties (publishers, professional societies, e-journal aggregators, and preservation agencies) to overcome these obstacles. Ensure the sustainability of the proposed project, develop strategies to address e-journal preservation upstream as a shared responsibility (e.g., creation and implementation of model license agreements)
  • Create forums for exchanging information about relevant preservation strategies and their implications and the roles of libraries in advancing the e-journal preservation front in order to encourage streamlined processes for attending to the archival status of e-journals

Our overall goal is to take actions that will secure a preservation strategy for 5,000-7,500 additional eJournal titles.

By analyzing in detail the preservation status of the e-journal holdings of two major research libraries, the project will provide reliable data on the extent and nature of current gaps, and will promote a methodology for continuing and extending the analysis after the project’s completion. The data provided through these comparisons will help the research library community to determine priorities for action using multiple criteria (‘Importance’, as measured by titles that are most widely held; ‘Risk’, as measured by titles uniquely held and/or not falling under an existing preservation mandate such as that of the British Library or other national library; etc.).

Using specific examples of titles identified as having high priority for action, the project will also test and promote methods appropriate to different categories of e-journals, to enable libraries, publishers, aggregators, and preservation agencies to take more effective action, including language to include in model licenses, procedures for working with publishers to facilitate adoption of sound preservation practices, recommended actions for preserving content locally, and suggested materials that can be used to raise awareness among university administrators, faculty, and authors. Project results will be broadly disseminated, with the intention of building wider community participation and sustained momentum.

All data, procedural documentation, guidelines, and promotional materials developed in the course of the project will be published and made freely available, through the 2CUL website ( and/or publicly accessible sections of the library websites at Columbia and Cornell.  Articles, conference presentations, and underlying datasets developed through the project will be made available through Columbia’s institutional repository, Academic Commons.

The primary objective of this project is to increase the number and range of e-journals that have been committed to preservation. However, at the project’s completion, there will remain a very large number of titles that will not have been effectively covered, with many more new titles continuing to appear. An equally important objective, therefore, is to develop and promote methods that can be broadly adopted to continue and expand the work we begin. This objective of long-term sustainability is built into the work plan throughout its course. Finally, based on the project’s findings, an attempt will be made to estimate the collective investment needed to bridge the gap between current e-journal preservation activity and that needed to ensure near-comprehensive coverage.