Electronic Archives of Law Reviews:
An Idea on the Horizon
Recently, I attended the Charleston Conference, "Issues in Book and Serials Acquisitions," and was dazzled by the developments I found in academic libraries relating to electronic content and process, as well as the state of library/vendor relations. I intended to devote this column to one or some of the topics covered at that conference, but changed my mind upon hearing that the William Hein Company is embarking on a project to store archival law reviews electronically.
The concept is not new. The Andrew Mellon Foundation sponsored a demonstration project which has been transformed into a not-for-profit corporation called JSTOR. This organization works to store back runs of academic journals in electronic format accessible through the World Wide Web. Their address is http://www.jstor.org. At the JSTOR Web site, background and history of the project is available as well as a demonstration of how JSTOR works. At present, JSTOR has approximately sixty titles available. It is their plan to have one hundred journals in ten to fifteen disciplines available by the end of 1999. One difference between JSTOR archives and the proposed Hein archives is that JSTOR plans to put all but the current issues of their journals into their archives leaving a three to five year gap between their holdings and current issues. This approach is called the "moving wall." Many law reviews are already completely or partially available through Westlaw and Lexis. It is likely that Hein will not duplicate journal coverage of these online services.
Hein's long term goal is to provide an archive site for a comprehensive collection of pre-1980 law reviews. Page images will be identical to the print version, and full text searching will be provided. According to Dan Rosatti at the William H. Hein Company, the goal is to refine the product during 1999 and have a product which would be unveiled in the year 2000.
Hein has a small beta site which it has shown to a small number of interested librarians. Five law reviews are listed there with a total of twenty-two issues. Searching can be done across all issues by author, article title, subject or keyword.
At present Hein must overcome some technical hurdles to successfully transform text to the electronic format with one hundred percent accuracy. In addition, the technical aspects of searching within one volume or across the spectrum of volumes needs to be refined.
Of course pricing models are a question, as well as how the titles would be bundled. It will be interesting to see whether Hein will offer pricing for consortia or have pricing for individual libraries only. Will libraries be able to select individual journals or only subscribe to a package?
Questions remain regarding market strategy as well. Do people want their heavily-used titles available online first or would it be better to provide littleused titles first? The former works on the theory that libraries could eliminate multiple copies of heavily used materials, while the latter would remove low-use titles from their shelves to save space and rely on Hein for access.
The selling of journal archives presents many issues to work out in the realm of copyright, ownership of the archive, and inter-library loan. When you buy a volume of a journal which has been archived and is available through the Internet, does that entitle you to permanent access, even if you drop the subscription at some later date? What about changes in technology? What would happen in the event that the technology moves on and your library could no longer access your archive, regardless whether it was your fault or that of the provider? What about interlibrary loan? Could a library make a copy of an article from an electronic archive to send in response to an interlibrary photoduplication request?
It will be interesting to see how the Hein project moves along and whether it will be the only initiative to offer law review archives or whether other models will be offered in competition.