Conversion of an academic health sciences library to a near-total electronic library: Part 1

Virginia A. Lingle, Cynthia K. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In the last ten years, many health sciences libraries have gradually converted their collections from predominantly print journal subscriptions to electronic-only subscriptions. This is being driven by budget, space issues, and user preference. The desire to retain both the print and electronic versions of journal titles has proven to be unsustainable for many health sciences libraries in the face of flat or shrinking budgets and increased demand at the institutional level for space. Due to demand for space for a clinical simulation facility at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, the George T. Harrell Health Sciences Library was faced with the need to accelerate the shift to primarily an electronic collection when more than 80% of the print journals and 20% of the print book collection were removed from the library. A case had to be made to the college administration that the older literature was still utilized and had value-and that it would be worthwhile to selectively purchase the electronic "backfiles" or archival files to replace high-use print journals. Harrell HSL users were expected to make a fairly seamless transition to such a dramatic culture shift in the collection, but at the onset it was unclear whether this assumption would prove to be true. This article is the first part of a two-part article that will review some of the methodology and processes used to prove the value of the library collection, to make the decisions about which materials to keep, and to select electronic journal backfiles for purchase. The second part of this article will discuss the decisions that resulted from the data analysis, the subsequent actions that were taken to remove the collection, why certain backfiles were selected for purchase, and the impact on both library users and library staff workflow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-210
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Library and Information Sciences


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