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E-Preferred subscription policy

In the mid-1990s, University Libraries began to license electronic journals. Since the early 2000s, individual journal subscriptions and packages have been converted to online subscriptions whenever possible. The quality and availability of online journals continues to improve. Numerous publishers have now designated their online journals as the official publication of record and many articles appear online before their print counterparts. University Libraries supports preservation of journal content through its participation in LOCKSS and the ASERL Collaborative Journal Retention Project. The Libraries subscribe to a number of JSTOR collections and have purchased journal back file content from major commercial publishers such as Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, and Emerald.

Online subscriptions are preferable because they:

  • increase accessibility to library resources,
  • save money on staff processing costs such as check in, shelving, and binding,
  • allow space saving in library facilities.

This policy documents University Libraries' e-preferred subscription strategy and is adapted from similar policies at Cornell University, Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. From May 2012 forward all journal subscriptions will transition to digital only unless one or more of the exception criteria below are met. The order of preference for new subscriptions when print and online formats are available shall be:

  1. E-only
  2. Print + online
  3. Print

Exceptions - There may be instances where the online version of a journal is not sufficient and a print subscription is still justified. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Examples of valid concerns include:

  1. Function - If the print journal functions better as a browsing journal or current awareness source (e.g., due to poor interface design in the electronic version).
  2. Content - If the content of the print differs from that of the electronic (e.g., the print version contains significantly more substantive material than the electronic version).
  3. Images – If the quality of images, graphs, charts, etc. is substantially inferior to the print version
  4. Timeliness - If there is a significant delay between publication of print and the availability of online content.
  5. Reliability - If the provider of the electronic journal is consistently and flagrantly unreliable (e.g., an aggregator which has swapped journal titles in and out of coverage in the past.
  6. Use restrictions - If license restrictions require the university community to use the electronic version in a way that differs materially from use of the print version.
  7. Archival rights - If there is no assurance that the publisher will continue to provide access to the electronic volumes to which University Libraries subscribed in case of future cancellation.
  8. Preservation - If there is no evidence of an institutional commitment to the journal's long-term preservation (e.g., through membership in LOCKSS, Portico or another systematic e-archiving agency at the local, national or international level.)

Adopted April 19, 2012


Contact us

Leslie O'Brien
Director of Collection Management
(540) 231-4945

Edward Lener
Associate Director of Collection Management 
(540) 231-9249

Tracy Gilmore
Collection Assessment Librarian
(540) 231-4956

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Collection Management mission

The mission of the Collection Management Department is to build and manage a collection offering the breadth and depth of subjects, formats, and languages necessary to support diverse fields of scholarly endeavor and to advance Virginia Tech's efforts to achieve excellence as a comprehensive land-grant university.


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