Securing perpetual access to the JISC’s purchased resources through LOCKSS

In 2006 I bought a house. That means that I am not worried about the financial health of the company that built the house as I am not at risk of losing the property if they go bankrupt. On the other hand, I am responsible for maintaining the dodgy boiler. I mention this as an example of a model of ownership where the rights and responsibilities are clear and widely understood.

The ‘model of ownership’ is less clear when it comes to access to electronic resources. Are they owned or rented? Who would have responsibility if the resource became inaccessible? What would happen if the economic climate made the publishing of the resource no longer viable or if the publishers themselves were to disappear?

JISC Collections has purchased over £15M worth of resources for the UK HE and FE community. The collection includes ‘more than 3.75 million articles from the archives of over 450 journals of major publishers and societies – Brill, Institution of Civil Engineers, Institute of Physics, ProQuest, Oxford University Press, The Royal Society of Chemistry’. People can use these resources if their institution has signed up to access the resource, but for how long can such access be relied upon? The resource has been ‘purchased’, like my house, but delivery has not been taken. The responsibility for maintaining the purchase remains at least partly with the suppliers.

The small print on one of these resources says ‘An access fee may apply after 31/05/2013. Alternatively, institutions can host the content for a one-off payment of €199‘. The alternatives given her are to pay a further access fee or download and take possession of the content, along with responsibility for maintaining it. Might ensuring access through a digital preservation service be a further option?

There has been a longstanding interest in digital preservation from the JISC, resulting most recently in the ‘eJournal Archiving for UK HE Libraries White Paper‘. Universities are taking a variety of approaches to taking up responsibility for securing continuing access to their electronic purchases. The main digital preservation agencies are Portico, CLOCKSS and LOCKSS, with supporting roles being taken by the British Library and the KB (National Library of the Netherlands).

There are currently (April 2011) 20 participating members in the UK LOCKSS Alliance. These are universities running a local archive with the LOCKSS software and supported by a UK based helpdesk. Most will have signed up to at least one of the JISC Collections purchases. So what can be made of this overlap?

  • Securing permissions. Content can only be archived through LOCKSS with the permission of then publishers. The UK LOCKSS Alliance as a body can represent UK members in negotiations with publishers.
  • Technical advice. Publishers need to add a ‘manifest page‘ granting permission to archive and plug-ins may need to be developed so that LOCKSS archives can collect material. Again the UK LOCKSS Alliance has the ability to get these things set up.
  • Distributed Archives. Not all LOCKSS Archives would wish to collect all the available content, but so long as more than 6 wished to participate, a viable network of archiving institutions can be created. Each institution decides for itself which content it wishes to maintain.
  • Enabling access. LOCKSS is set so that only members of the subscribing institution can access the archived content. LOCKSS is suitable for ensuring that particular institutions benefit from continuing access to the content, but is less suitable for ensuing that the whole HE/FE community would benefit. For whole community benefit, CLOCKSS would be a more appropriate model (though CLOCKSS has worldwide rather than national interests).
  • Existing relationships. LOCKSS would be able to build on exisiting relationships with publishers for some of the JISC Journal Archives. For example: The Oxford Journals Archive covering articles published before 1995 is available via JISC. LOCKSS Archives are already able to collect content from this publisher, though mostly for post-1995 material. This may well apply also to the Cambridge Journals Digital Archive (archived largely through Project Muse, a separate agreement) and the Brill Journal Archive Online (available via ingenta). It would be worth checking to see if other publishers would be interested in sharing the responsibility for digital preservation with UK LOCKSS Alliance members.

UK LOCKSS Alliance members are in a good position to share in the digital preservation of the JISC Collections resources. Some legal and technical work would be required to get this established, but in some areas we would be developing existing relationships. Some publishers are not currently making material available for LOCKSS Archives and more work would be required to encourage them to get involved in this way. They may well decide that other models of ensuring digital preservation are more appropriate for them. LOCKSS, however, is best suited to archiving content for the benefit of individual institutions, not the whole HE/FE community.

About Philip Adams

Senior Assistant Librarian at De Montfort University. I am interested in digital preservation and the use of data to measure a library's impact. All comments own.
This entry was posted in Digital Preservation. Bookmark the permalink.