Digital Sustainability and Cleaning Up

Published on
March 24, 2009

Digital sustainability for electronic journals has been an important subject for the library for some time now. The Wageningen UR Library is currently being confronted with this problem by the merger of the Leeuwenborch and Forum Library collections. The available storage areas do not have enough space for the integration and responsible solutions needed to be found so that part of the paper collection could be removed. It has been decided that this goal will primarily be achieved by removing the overlap between the paper and digital journals. This mainly yields results with journals that are available from volume 1 both in print and digitally.

This seems simple enough, but it isn't actually. There is still not enough trust in the guaranteed, perpetual access to digital journals. Until now, safe accessibility has been guaranteed by the availability of a paper back-up. However, we cannot continue to operate in this way even if only because many libraries already switched to e-only a number of years ago, and as such, there is often no complete paper back-up.

We have made solid agreements with the large publishers about continuing availability ('perpetual access') to the volumes which have been paid for. This, however, is not enough. Publishers can disappear and perhaps not fulfil the agreements made; an even larger danger is the technical ageing of the saved material. In short, it is not only about saving data but also about perpetual access to it.

To clean the storage areas with peace of mind and to be able to increasingly trust the digital library, it is necessary to make solid agreements both nationally and internationally and to find structural solutions. As part of this endeavour, a discussion has been started with the National Library of the Netherlands(KB), publishers and university libraries. The KB carries the responsibility of sustainably saving literature. Under the current agreements, this is, however, not enough to completely solve the problem of digital sustainability for the scientific libraries. In the coming months, various options will be researched including which initiatives we can join. The current situation will also be better charted.

Out of safety concerns, the Wageningen UR Library will, in the meantime, keep a number of journal volumes that are also digitally available in reserve in a depot outside of the Forum. To further reduce the dependence on paper, many older digital volumes of important journals will also be purchased.

    (newsletter 6-2009)