Webology, Volume 5, Number 4, December, 2008

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LIS Open Access E-Journal - where are you?

Izabella Taler
MLS, MPA, Associate Professor, Queens College/City University of New York, Flushing, New York, USA. Email: izabella.taler (at) qc.cuny.edu

Received September 2, 2008; Accepted December 20, 2008


Access to published information is of interest to many users. Library and information science (LIS) professionals are especially interested in gaining access and guiding users to all available information. Though they are often dependent on traditional subscription-based library resources, moving away from the costly ones and replacing them with usage of available open access sources, presents practitioners with a significant budget consideration in today's shrinking economy. This paper examines the availability of current LIS open access e-journals; their presence in well- and less-well known abstracting and indexing sources, their inclusion in standard library bibliographic tools as well as coverage by Google Scholar, a computer generated search engine.


Open access; Library science; Periodicals; Free e-journals; E-journal indexing


The mid-1990's witnessed an increase in the Internet popularity and with it a birth of a variety of open access electronic journals in the field of library and information science (LIS). As time progressed, some of the e-journals with earliest start dates have actually ceased to exist. These include but are not limited to: Public-Access Computer Systems Review (PACS Review), Review of Information Science, and Journal of Library Services for Distance Education.

However, a large group of open access LIS e-journals including titles such as Ariadne, D-Lib Magazine, First Monday, Information Research, Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship and LIBRES, continue to be published. These, and many other online journals, have been included in multiple abstracting and indexing sources, and so they have successfully reached the high status of "respectability" among library professionals.

Now, as we come upon the end of the second decade of open access electronic journals, researchers have an opportunity to examine how the landscape of online journals has changed. While previous studies (Jacsó, 2001; Hawkins, 2001) have documented and analyzed coverage by databases of LIS e-journals that began publishing in the 1990s, no one has reviewed the much younger group of open access LIS journals that began publishing in the 21st century. This study aims to fill that void and will explore (1) whether their existence is known, (2) if their content is easy to locate, (3) if they have gained acceptance among the producers of the bibliographic directories and indexing and abstracting tools, and (4) the extent to which they have established their reputation.


To determine the journals to be considered for this study, various directories of open access e- journals were consulted. The following sites were of primary interest:

Subject selection for the core group of e-journals for this study, was limited to library and information science with inclusion of a few closely related disciplines such as archives, teaching and research. Every e-journal in this group had to meet the following criteria:

The resulting list of e-journals was further analyzed and titles were excluded if:

The accuracy of the author's established selection and exclusion criteria for each periodical title were checked against information provided in the following standard bibliographic sources:

Each selected e-journal was further evaluated for access and subject coverage in the following abstracting and indexing sources:

A final list of 31 e-journal titles was created and is presented in Table 1 below.

Table 1. E-Journals Examined
Title of Periodical ISSN
Code4Lib Journal 1940-5758
Communications in Information Literacy 1933-5954
Contemporary Issues in technology and Teacher Education 1528-5804
EDUCAUSE Quarterly 1528-5324
Electronic British Library Journal 1478-0259
Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education 1556-5378
Electronic Journal of e-Learning 1479-4403
European Journal of ePractice 1988-625X
Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 1715-720X
Focus on Global Resources 0275-4924
High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine 1424-2729
Innovate: Journal of Online Education 1552-3233
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management 1555-1229
Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects 1552-2210
Interface: The Journal of Education, Community, and Values 1940-915X
International Journal of Digital Curation 1746-8256
International Journal of Doctoral Studies 1556-8881
JLAMS Journal of the Library Administration and Management Section 1931-8936
Journal of eLiteracy 1745-4360
Journal of Information Literacy 1557-1319
Journal of Information Technology Education 1750-5968
Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations 1547-9714
Journal of Interactive Online Learning 1541-4914
Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 1558-9528
Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries 0036-0473
Library & Information Research : Research into Practice for Information & Library Services 1756-1086
Library Student Journal 1931-6100
MLA Forum 1539-4123
North Carolina Libraries 0029-2540
Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 1911-9593
Webology 1735-188X

Results and Discussion

The starting publication dates of each of the thirty-one e-journals that were established in the 21st century are summarized below in Figure 1. As shown, the years 2002 and 2006 saw an increase in the number of LIS e-journals. Despite these peaks, the number of emerging journals has been fairly steady from 2000-2007. Furthermore, interest in publishing new LIS e-journals has not declined; four new e-journals were created in 2007 alone.

Figure 1. E-Journals Examined by Publication Start Date
Figure 1. E-Journals Examined by Publication Start Date

The data obtained in examining the bibliographic utilities sources and DOAJ (Figures 2 and 3) clearly show that WorldCat is "the" source to go to in order to verify bibliographic information about a LIS e-journal. Its 100% coverage of all thirty-one titles stands out in relation to other examined sources.

Though Ulrich's and DOAJ did not match exactly the e-journal titles coverage, Figure 2 shows that they each reached 87% coverage success rate. The lowest figures for inclusion of titles go to SD with 39% and MFL with only 3% of all titles. Though Ulrich's and SD sources are often viewed by library professionals as competitors for providing comprehensive bibliographic information, the SD's poor coverage of LIS e-journals supports previously reported analysis of this product by Jacsó (2007).

Figure 2. Inclusion of E-Journals by Bibliographic Utilities and DOAJ
Figure 2. Inclusion of E-Journals by Bibliographic Utilities and DOAJ

Figure 3. Percentage of Bibliographic Utilities and DOAJ Coverage of E-journals
Figure 3. Percentage of Bibliographic Utilities and DOAJ Coverage of E-journals

In analyzing data obtained in examining the coverage of LIS e-journals by databases and Google Scholar (Figure 4), one observes complete absence of these journals in Academic Search. The other fee-based databases, LISA and Lib.Lit, do not fare much better.

Figure 4. Coverage of E-Journals by Commercial Databases & Google Scholar
Figure 4. Coverage of E-Journals by Commercial Databases & Google Scholar

However, as shown below in Figure 5, EBSCO Publishing's free database, LISTA, does surprisingly well by providing indexing and abstracting for 23% of e-journals. The two major subscription-based commercial databases have a fairly low coverage, with LISA and Lib.Lit covering only 6% and 10% of e-journals respectively.

The data in Figure 5 show how Google Scholar outperforms all other databases by covering 84% of examined LIS e-journal titles. This figure confirms Hamilton's (2007) conclusion that "Google Scholar can pick up articles cited in journals that may not be well indexed or included in standard citation indexes." Furthermore, it supports Swan's (2006) analysis about open access material that identified Google Scholar as the search engine of choice by many users. Google Scholar "does not systematically index according to a set of structured fields, for example . . . it does use a Google algorithm that returns a highly relevant set of documents in response to a (usually amateur) user query." (Swan, 2006) Therefore, LIS students and practitioners can easily turn to this free source for bibliographic citations in the LIS field, as opposed to relying on expensive subscription-based databases.

Figure 5. Percentage of E-journal Coverage by Databases and Google Scholar
Figure 5. Percentage of E-journal Coverage by Databases and Google Scholar


Library professionals who want to refer users to the most appropriate sources will often gravitate to long-established indexing and abstracting sources, which also happen to be most often subscription-based. However, this study showed that there may be faster and easier approaches requiring fewer stops on the research road.

What are the best venues for users to find open access LIS e-journals that began publishing in the 21st century and to get access to the research that these e-journals provide? The findings reported above certainly point against the use of many traditional library resources such as SD, MFL, LL, LISA, and AS because they fail to cover a significant number of LIS e-journals examined herein.

There is no clear explanation as to what is to blame for commercial databases not covering a significant number of e-journals. Databases do not clearly explain on their websites the procedure and policy about how they select the journals they cover. Perhaps some editors actively seek inclusion in commercial databases, and are therefore more successful in getting their journals covered.

Regardless, the results of this research easily support Swan and Hamilton's findings about the effectiveness of Google Scholar. Furthermore, as shown above, there are other free resources to keep in mind when assisting users with open access LIS e-journals and its contents: DOAJ, WorldCat, and EBSCO's LISTA. The data summarized herein show that users can easily bypass expensive resources, and go directly to free resources. This fact may be an important consideration for libraries that are facing tight budgetary climates.


The author wishes to thank Julia I. Kohen, Esq. for reviewing the manuscript.


Bibliographic information of this paper for citing:

Taler, Izabella (2008).   "LIS Open Access E-Journal - where are you?"   Webology, 5(4), Article 62. Available at: http://www.webology.org/2008/v5n4/a62.html

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Copyright © 2008, Izabella Taler.