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The long tail: a usage analysis of pre-1993 print biomedical journal literature


Objective: The research analyzes usage of a major biomedical library’s pre-1993 print journal collection.

Methodology: In July 2003, in preparation for a renovation and expansion project, the Biomedical Library at the University of California, San Diego, moved all of its pre-1993 journal volumes off-site, with the exception of twenty-two heavily used titles. Patrons wishing to consult one of these stored volumes could request that it be delivered to the library for their use. In the spring of 2006, an analysis was made of these requests.

Results: By July of 2006, 79,827 journal volumes published in 1992 or earlier had been requested from storage. The number of requests received declined with age of publication. The usage distribution exhibited a ‘‘long tail’’: 50% of the 79,827 requests were for journal volumes published before 1986. The availability of electronic access dramatically reduced the chance that corresponding print journal volumes would be requested.

Conclusions: The older biomedical print journal literature appears to be of continued value to the biomedical research community. When electronic access was provided to the older literature, demand for older print volumes declined dramatically.

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