Library of Congress Acquires Electronic
The Library of Congress is acquiring its first
complete electronic archive of a set of publicationsjournals published
by the American Physical Society.
The library will provide a backup archive for the Society's
physics journals, guarding them in the event that the Society's main server
is destroyed by a disaster or if the Society goes out of business.
The Society's eight physics journals together publish
about 14,000 articles every year. Under the deal, the Library of Congress
will assume ownership of the material if the Society goes under or is
no longer able to maintain its electronic archives.
Other than the cost of buying and maintaining the server,
the Library of Congress will not have to pay anything for the arrangement.
Nancy Davenport, the library's director of acquisitions, says the library
can't estimate the cost of setting up the server until the American Physical
Society begins providing electronic copies of its journals, sometime this
Robert A. Kelly, director of journal information systems
at the Society, estimates that a server and storage unit might cost the
library $125,000. Mr. Kelly says the institutions began discussing the
arrangement a year and a half ago, when he ran into a Library of Congress
representative during a fire drill at a National Institute of Standards
and Technology conference.
Although the library will not be charged for the online
data, it will still pay subscription fees as long as it gets the paper
versions of the journals. Library users will have access to the electronic
The agreement, which was announced last month, seems
to begin to provide solutions to a set of nagging problems and challenges
facing both organizations. "This was a very convenient set of circumstances
in that APS was looking for a solution to the archiving problem, and the
Library of Congress was looking at getting into electronic publications
in a substantial way," says Thomas McIlrath, publisher and treasurer
of the Physical Society.
The Society had been looking for ways to back up the
electronic versions of its journals, one of which is published only in
electronic form. By the end of the year, the Society hopes to have the
entire history of its publications online. Although the Society's oldest
publication began in 1893, the electronic archives go back to only 1981.
The Library of Congress, meanwhile, was recently criticized
by the National Research Council, which reported that the institu
tion was lagging behind in receiving and archiving "born
digital" documents of American history and culture. Congress recently
approved $100 million for digital archiving projects at the library. Of
that amount, an initial $25 million can be used to start the program and
form a plan for its operation, which must first be approved by the appropriations
committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The library
will have to work with various government agenciessuch as the National
Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Standards and Technologyalong
with private electronic publishers in writing the plan.
The remaining $75 million will be provided only to match
donors' contributions, which the library will have to raise before March
2003. Guy Lamolinara, a spokesman for the library, says it is too soon
to say where the library will solicit funds.
Ms. Davenport says the arrangement with the Physical
Society was not a direct response to the critics: "We were in discussions
with [the Society] long before this report came out. But the agreement
is absolutely in the spirit of the report." She says that the library
will begin talking about similar arrangements with publishers of other
electronic journals and publications this year.
Ms. Davenport says that some people think that the software
used in the archiving system should be preserved, but the library is mainly
interested in protecting the journals' content and providing access to
them. "There may be occasions to preserve software because it is
important unto itself, but as we see this developing into the future,
we want to preserve access to the content, even if that means creating
new access," she says.
Past critics of the Library of Congress see the agreement
with the American Physical Society as a positive development since the
release of the National Research Council report.
"I think they are making efforts to catch up,"
says Margaret L. Hedstrom, an associate professor in the School of Information
at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a member of the committee
that wrote the report. "They've taken the report from the National
Research Council fairly seriously, and this is a good indication of starting
to put some of those things in practice."
Archive of APS Publication
By Scott Carlson