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Cutting journal subscriptions or cutting databases? – a user study from UC-Santa Cruz

December 4, 2010

In the current environment of tightening budgets and increased vendor costs, libraries often have to make a decision on what to cut, a decision that often pits journal subscriptions against database subscriptions.

An article released this week in Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship reported on the results of a survey conducted by UC Santa Cruz libraries in their scientific population.  Some useful findings from their research:

  • When comparing Web of Science, Google Scholar, and PubMed, the leading most used database was Web of Science (41.6%), largely because of confidence in quality of results and also ability to sort/filter results.  Google Scholar was a close second and was ranked highest as being easy to use.
  • The top two databases used routinely were Web of Science (67%) and Google Scholar (65%).
  • 83% of those surveyed had used Google Scholar, with an additional 13% that had not used it but wanted to try it.
  • So the perception of “everyone uses Google Scholar” may not be too far from the truth.
  • Very few researchers valued alerts.
  • When they asked their clients to choose between cutting subscriptions and cutting databases – 2/3 preferred keeping journal subscriptions over databases.
  • Researchers hypothesized that those who preferred databases over journals felt less strongly about it than those who preferred journals over databases, guessing that the former group were probably ready to make a switch to free databases if necessary.
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