Saturday, December 10, 2005

Jan Szczepanski: collecting for the world

The Directory of Open Access Journals has a page for Special Thanks to the volunteer contributors of journal titles. One special contributor is Swedish OA Librarian Jan Szczepanski, who has the world's longest list of OA journal titles in the world that I'm aware of - as of the beginning of December 2005, 3,948 titles and 757 retrodigitized titles, for a total of 4,705.

Jan, in turn, recognizes the help of his many friends from around the world. Collecting and organizing all the bibliographic information to connect everyone with all the free e-journals is a major undertaking; something that no individual or single library could do individually - but we can do it, if we work together. More help is needed!

John Kjellberg has created a web page for links to Jan's lists of OA journals in Word, Excel, or Open Document Format.

Jan was kind enough to write me an e-mail about his work; even though this was not meant to be organized for formal publication, I liked it so much that it is posted below pretty much as it was written (with Jan's permission). Some highlights: after decades of experience in acquisitions in humanities and social sciences, Jan began collecting free e-journal titles in the late 1990's, inspired first by an important journal he could not purchase, then through a study which uncovered just how many free e-journals there are. From the beginning, Jan has been supplying his list of titles to DOAJ. In May 2005, Jan decided to go public with his own list, for several reasons: DOAJ is a bit slow at adding titles (no doubt due to the vetting process); the main focus of the open access movement is STM, so that many important OA developments in humanities and social sciences do not get as much attention; and, in the UK, misinformation about the extent of open access has been presented to the government, in relation to the RCUK position on open access.

In Jan's words:

Background 1998-2004

Do you remember the ads for Postmodern Culture in the early 90's? The journal was not available on paper! I wanted to buy this important journal but couldn't. I never forgot that.

In 1998 I made a study for the library on how many free e-journals existed and what was the worth. In the beginning of 1999 we presented a report. By we I mean some memberts of my staff at the Department of Humanities, where I was Head at the time: Gun Fridell, Gunnar Holmlund, Lise-Lotte Larsdotter and Martin Oxelqvist.

We made a study in two areas, music and philosophy. We found that the amount of free e-journals was impressive and of high quality, well worth collecting.

Since then I continued collecting free e-journals in the humanities. In January 2002 the library had created a local database for electronic journals and I started to put also the free e-journals there. At the end of 2002 I had included over 300. In December that year I checked the statistics. They had been used 7.500 times, that is 25 times in avarage. This was impressive so I continued collecting.

During 2003 I included 800 more living titles and 400 retrodigitalized titles. Now the statistics showed that free e-journals had been used 28.000 times in total, 18 times per title in average.

During 2004 I found 864 new titles to add and now I had totally 2.420. I got the impression that there were more titles than ever and it was very easy to find new nice titles. Now I included even journals in social sciences, geology and mathematics. The statistics figure had now risen to 50,051 and the average figure to 2,068. I was pleased with myself.

Mathematics was added just for fun. I wanted to get the feeling for the other side of scholarship. (I have read Snows book on the two cultures).

Everything exploded during 2005. In 2004, I had collected 2.400 titles I have now in the beginning of December 2005, 3.948 titles and 757 retrodigitized titles, totally 4.705.

The open access movement is not only STM-journals fighting commercial publishers it is also a very quiet but strong movement within the other culture, humanity and social sciences. They are not competing with commercial publishers because these journals have never been extremly expensive. They start new journals because the technology is there and they are used to writing and working for free and want to communicate and give the world the results of their work.

Peter Suber

In May 2005 I contacted Peter Suber because I wanted to help my journals to be better known and used and disseminated. Peter helped me. I had found out that it wasn't enough just to start up a free e-journal if nobody knows about it. So I thought, I will try to see to it that thousands of libraries all over the world will include them amongst their electronic Elsevier-titles.


What is the difference between the commercial packages and my titles? One of the most important differences is that I have titles from all over the world and in many more languages. Small countries are represented, other continents. I have broken the anglo-american dominance! This feels good and right. And I have made humanities and social science free e-journals more visible. That gives also a good feeling. I have not earned a penny and for that I will get a reward in heaven.

I have a background in acquisitions. During twenty years I was personally responsible for that in the humanities and also for the social sciences during ten years. This means that nearly everyghing of foreign books and journals was collected by me. Now I can say that I collect for the whole world.

Jan Szczepanski's list of OA-journals

A collegue in University of Skövde, John Kjellberg, offered to make a
homepage after that people had problems with Peter Subers linking.

Why did I turn public? One of the reasons was that I thought DOAJ was working too slow. A bottle-neck! New titles were popping up daily and it's our duty as librarians to collect them and give them to our customers. The second reason was the UK government assertion that the open access movement had lost in momentum. There were wrong.

After three months I asked John Kjellberg if he could send me some statistics. 463 request had been made from the English page. 18 from US, 16 from Sweden,13 from Finland, 10 from Germany, 8 from Japan, Argentinga, Austria, Australia, 6 from France, Canada, Italy, Romania.

The Swedish page had 764 successful requests, 56 from Uppsala, 37 from my own library, 24 from the Royal Library and so on.

With the help of my friends

During the years I have got a lot of friends all over the world, USA, UK, France, Germany and Mexico. These friends are interested in collecting free e-journals. [Heather: Some of Jan's friends just might appear in future OA Librarian postings].

Things that make life worth living
Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies, creates "a global forum for African women scholars, analysts and activists to participate on an equal footing with their contemporaries worldwide in debates, exchanges of ideas, and the creation and documentation of knowledge." Though the journals were designed to take advantage of the bibliographical resources on the site. The integrated layout employ search functionality. At the left-hand side of the table of content page of each journal are links to the section containing a fairly deep Africa-focused bibliography, organized by topic.

Heather again: speaking of things that make life worth living, having friends like Jan Szczepanski is definitely on my list! Best wishes to Jan, his librarian-wife, and Göteborgs universitetsbibliotek

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1 comment:

kg said...

Nice piece. See my suggestions (in German)