You Do Read Some Of Those Journals

Thanks to everyone who took 2 minutes or so to complete the completely unscientific survey instrument I created to capture some information about your reading habits when it comes to scholarly journals targeted to academic librarians. I learned that some of you do read these journals. Given the number of ACRLog’s overall readers the number of responses seem on the paltry side (about 250), but let me share what the readers had to say.

One thing I can gather is that the majority of the respondents are ACRL members. College & Research Libraries is the most read of the three scholarly journals that focus on academic librarianship with 215 responses, and I suspect most of those folks get the issues with their membership. Journal of Academic Librarianship clocked in with 114 readers and portal came last with 89 readers. Twenty-six brave souls admitted they hadn’t read any of the three in six months or more. Respondents added a list of 25 or so other journals they read.

Paper is still pretty popular as the medium for reading the journals. Just over 200 respondents indicated they either get a personal copy (again I imagine many of these are ACRL members who get the C&RL issues) or read a library copy. But a good number use electronic methods as well because 94 indicated they use TOC alerts to be notified when new issues are available. Another 26 depend on their colleagues to alert them to worthy articles, but that’s far fewer than the 41 who depend on bloggers to let them know of articles worth reading. More than a few folks indicated that they use their own library’s e-journal collection to tap into the journals, but there are still a few traditionalists who reported browsing the periodicals stacks as their approach to reading the journals.

Most of you, if the respondents are a representative group, read your issues within the first month you receive it: 24% read it within one week of receipt and 37% read it within one month. Another 21% manage to get to it within 6 months, but 6% admitted they still have 2006 issues sitting in their inbox. The rest of the batch seemed to pick up the journal when they got it, but just to scan the contents. Then they might read an article or just toss it aside if there was nothing of interest. I know what they mean.

So what do academic librarians actually do with these journals when they get them? Well the vast majority (133) say they just read the full text of one or two articles. That seems reasonable. No one reads every article in these journals cover-to-cover. Many (81) do print out or copy articles to read them later on, but nearly as many (75) indicate they just scan and rarely read any of the articles. Many fewer (36) report reading the complete text of more than two articles, and yet others (23) scan a few of the articles they copy or print and then file them away neatly just in case they should be needed in the future.

No survey would be complete without that final open ended question. The responses seemed to fall into these general categories:

* the articles in these journals provide strong evidence that tenure for librarians leads to a glut of unnecessary or pointless scholarly articles (our discipline isn’t the only one)
* the respondents depend on their rss feeds and blogs for news and readable content – not these journals
* librarians open the journals quickly to see who published and to look at job ads – and it’s downhill after that
* despite all of the above it’s still important to read these journals

While I don’t think this survey is going to garner as much attention as a survey about blogging librarians and the blogs they read and blog about, I found this an informative exercise. I’m glad I took the time to put this together, and I really appreciate the time you took to respond. It’s good to see that academic librarians are reading the scholarly journals after all – or at least scanning the contents. Hey, one person even admitted to reading the book reviews. Now I’m satisfied.