Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Winter 1998

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

Journal Reviews and Reports

The International Digital Electronic Access Library (IDEAL)
from Academic Press

William Loughner
Science Library
University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia  30602

{The International Digital Electronic Access Library (IDEAL)} is a project of Academic Press (AP)  that allows full-text access to 175 of their journals through the Internet. To gain access to tables of contents, paper titles and abstracts users need have only an Internet connection, a WWW browser and a free Acrobat reader. A license from AP is necessary to see the complete text of papers. [Ed. note: IDEAL has been acquired by Elsevier.]

Subject Areas

A large majority of the AP journals are in the science/technology/medicine area though the social sciences and humanities are represented.  The major subject categories that AP uses are:

Display Features

Tables of contents for individual issues of journals, article headers and abstracts are displayed in HTML format and are available to all users.  The full text of articles is in the Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF).  This full text is available only to IDEAL licensees with the exception of five journals that are available free for a limited time. IDEAL has full text for issues from 1996 forward and a few late 1995 issues are also included.

Search Features

Users can gain access to the tables of contents of issues (and from there to individual papers) of the 175 journals through an alphabetical list or through the major subject categories above.  There are also Quick and Advanced searching options. The quick option allows the searching of the title, author, abstract and keyword fields by entering one or more words.  The advanced option allows for limited Boolean searching along with the possibility of adding date and journal title limits.  Neither option allows one to limit an already performed search.

The URLs generated by IDEAL are complicated and may be valid for only a short period of time.  The IDEAL LinkWizard allows the user to build, and bookmark, links to any piece of content in the journal library.  One might link, for example, to a particular abstract or to the table of contents of the latest issue of a particular journal.

Current Licensees

IDEAL can be licensed only by institutions and not individual users.  To help a user know whether she can gain access, AP has a web page where {the licensees of IDEAL} are listed.  As of early January, 1998 there were 21 consortia with 707 institutions in 8 countries with access.  A rough estimate of 6,000,000 individuals in these institutions is given.

Copying, Storing and Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

The penchant of libraries to share items in their collections with libraries who lack that item has met with some resistance from publishers and, of course, has resulted in the proliferation of ILL guidelines.  The licensing of electronic materials allows publishers to turn such guidelines into contractual obligations; obligations that libraries will view uneasily.

AP takes a hard-line with IDEAL and allows no ILL.  The relevant section from the {IDEAL license is}:  Authorized Users may transmit downloaded copies of individual items to persons who are not Authorized Users for the purpose of scholarly communication, so long as such transmission is not done on a systematic basis.  However, IDEAL may not be used, directly or indirectly, for any paid service, such as document delivery, interlibrary loan, or any other systematic supply or distribution of material to non-Authorized Users. (Authorized Users are employees, faculty, both permanent and visiting, and students of the consortium's member institutions.) There is not much wiggle room here, for what is ILL if not systematic? In its {Questions frequently asked by librarians} section AP consoles us with the observation: As more and more institutions are licensed, as part of large or small consortia, the need for ILL falls away completely.

Fair use does get a nod in the IDEAL license: Authorized Users may access IDEAL to search, display, download, print, or store individual articles from the journals for scholarly, research, educational and personal use.

Pricing for Electronic Access

This is a complicated area and Academic Press should certainly be approached for definitive details.  But the basic situation, from the {Questions frequently asked by librarians section} is The License Fee for electronic access is 110% of the Base Price. The Base Price is what the consortium would pay if the members continued their recent print subscriptions plus any new serials to be included in the license. Note that a licensed member gets access to all 175 journals in IDEAL and also discounts on new subscriptions to print journals.

The Usefulness of IDEAL - a Dilemma?

So why have 700+ institutions signed up for IDEAL and what are their 6,000,000 users getting?  Let us consider two major reasons a library user might search the IDEAL database and the dilemma the user faces.  A dilemma, it should be realized, that faces the searcher of any publisher full-text database.

First, a user may want to read, or get copy of, an article in an AP journal.  But the dilemma here is obvious : how will the user know that the journal article she wants to read is published by Academic Press?  Neither citations nor secondary indexes give this information and indeed the MARC record for a journal is not consistently updated with publisher information.  (You might check, for example, who your library lists in its catalog as the publisher of Blood cells, molecules & diseases, a journal found in IDEAL)

Or perhaps the library user is looking for information on a particular topic?  What librarian or researcher would choose to search an index that covers all aspects of science and technology and includes only 175 journals?  The high risk of discovering nothing is overcome, to some extent, by the possible high gain that if a relevant article is discovered, one gets to read it immediately.  But even this gain is diminished by the fact that there are at least a half dozen major publishers who, in the sciences alone, could produce a similar or larger full-text journal database.  Some of them, as well as smaller specialized publishers like the American Chemical Society, are already knocking on our doors.  Do librarians really want to direct their users to a great many full-text databases that even when all have been searched may still leave relevant literature undiscovered?

The Dilemma Resolved

These difficulties have solutions, solutions towards which both libraries and publishers have to make an extra effort.  And indeed Academic Press is in the forefront as we shall see.

The first problem - how can the searcher of a known item find out whether a search of IDEAL will be fruitful? - has its solution at the local level.  Some libraries make lists of AP journals available on their web pages or have printed lists available.  These are helpful but are half-way measures.  Libraries must also add this information to their catalogs.  A library's catalog, as much as possible, should be the key to ALL its holdings, print and electronic.  Thus information about the journals in IDEAL should appear in a subscribing library's catalog and this regardless of whether a print subscription is owned or not.

The second problem - how can a topic be fruitfully and reasonably searched through many publisher databases? - has a more difficult solution; one that can reached only with publisher cooperation and effort.  There are actually two methods currently being actively considered to solve this problem and Academic Press, it is pleasing to say, is involved with both.

The first method is for producers of full-text journal databases to pool their resources into one large database or, more likely, to create a common interface.  Many publishers are hesitant to go this route and not just for logistical or financial reasons.  Each publisher knows its own data best and often feels it can provide the best service to exploit that data.  In a large vanilla database an individual publisher will lose its identity and advantages.  Yet the advantages to the researcher of a single access point and a single search engine are obvious.

Academic Press is exploring this method to provide access to IDEAL by joining the OCLC FirstSearch Electronic Collections Online (ECO) service.  In the {November, 1997 press release} announcing this partnership, it was also announced that ECO will offer over 1,100 journals from 23 publishers.  And, of course, ECO hopes to add a few chocolate and strawberry features to a potentially vanilla database. See below for an example of that.

A second way out of our dilemma would be for the secondary literature such as Biological Abstracts or Current Contents to provide a link somehow between citations in the WWW versions of their databases and publisher full-text databases. An important element to help implement this service is the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) (A unique identification number assigned to online content.) If both a publisher and an index can easily assign a DOI (the same DOI!) to a journal article, then providing a hyperlink from the index to the full-text should also be easy.  {Academic Press} is participating in the online prototype of the DOI announced by the Association of American Publishers.

Academic Press is also participating in an exciting project of the National Library of Medicine (NLM).  NLM is making MEDLINE available online without charge through PubMed.  PubMed has established direct publisher links, where possible, between MEDLINE abstracts and the publishers of full-text articles.  This is a new program and, as yet, there are not enough links to AP to give this project a good test. And in mid-February, 1998, {BioMedNet ("The world wide club for the biological and medical community")} announced that the MEDLINE it offers on its site will also link directly to articles in IDEAL.

OCLC has also announced that in 1998 it will begin linking the 65 indexing and abstracting databases from the FirstSearch service with the full-text journals available in its own ECO.  Academic Press, as we have seen, will be a part of this.


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