The Keepers Registry: who is looking after what e-journals?

De Montfort University is one of the 17 UK Higher Education/Museum institutions actively involved in preserving electronic journals for current and future users as members of the UK LOCKSS Alliance. But LOCKSS is not the only agency preserving such content. Other schemes include The British Library, CLOCKSS, Portico and others. These agencies have overlapping areas of interest, so any journal of concern might be preserved by one, some, all or none of these preservation schemes.

The Keepers Registry (a name strangely missing an apostrophe) is a useful website for keeping track of who is preserving which journals. You can use it to search for journals by title or ISSN. For example:

  • British educational research journal [0141-1926]: 4 hits
  • Diversity in health and care [1759-1422]: 0 hits
  • European Journal of Marketing [0309-0566]: 2 hits + 1 in progress

One way of thinking of the preservation agencies is to consider their distance from you as a user. For example, if your institution takes part in LOCKSS, then the preserved content is in your institution somewhere. You can view the preserved articles through an ordinary web browser. Your library may be making the preserved content available through an A-Z list of electronic journals.

If the preserved content is in the British Library, then you will need to visit that library in London if that turned out to be the only (or nearest) available version.

CLOCKSS uses a world-wide network of institutions to build a closed archive of electronic journal articles. From this store it can decide to make material available where some ‘trigger-event’ has meant that the publisher is no longer willing or able to host the articles. In 2012, the DMU A-Z list of journals includes 4 such journals already. Decisions about what to archive and when to release it are made somewhat remotely, but once released the content can be viewed in a web browser.

Portico is another network of publishers and libraries working together, but at present De Montfort University is not participating in this scheme.

It is not easily to interpret these results. It is a pretty good rule of thumb that a journal preserved by two or more agencies can be considered ‘well preserved’. After all, preservation agencies as well as publishers can fail in their aspiration to be around for the long-term.

Another assumption might be that because a journal has been putting out issues for 50 years or more, then all of that content is being preserved. This is not the case, more often than not. Again, the Keepers Registry helps to highlight the date ranges where preservation is taking place for each agency.

Most library users would not need to bother about these questions, but they could be very urgent to librarians considering how best to subscribe to the resources a university relies upon for its teaching and learning.

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.
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