JSTOR expands access to academic journals in Hawaiʻi
50,000 students and 15,000 faculty members across ten 4- and 2-year colleges now have access to thousands of academic journals through JSTOR
The University of Hawaiʻi system has invested in the complete JSTOR Archival Journal Collections for all ten of its institutions, including seven community colleges. More than 50,000 students and 15,000 faculty members now have digital access to the complete archives of 2,800 of the world’s leading journals across 70 academic disciplines.
Clement “Clem” Guthro, University Librarian at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and Interim Director, University of Hawaiʻi Press, was instrumental in bringing together the vision and resources for the investment. “Our role is to help students succeed and to provide resources and an environment to support them. It’s important to think holistically about solutions,” Guthro said. “Given the high volume of transfer students at our institutions and the need to prepare them for upper-level work, I don’t think the first time a student should encounter JSTOR should be as a junior. We can do better for them.”
Allyson Ota, Electronic Resources Librarian at Kapiʻolani Community College Library, agreed. “Our faculty and students need access to broader resources. We knew from faculty and student surveys and reference interactions that JSTOR was one of the most requested resources, but we did not have the budget for it,” said Ota. “Each campus has a separate budget throughout our 10-campus system, and to my knowledge, this is the first time UH Mānoa Library has used their funds to acquire library resources for the entire system, so it’s been really nice to have Clem looking out for us.”
The impact of access has been immediate. Since the start of the program, the University of Hawaiʻi system has seen nearly 50,000 unique item requests from JSTOR. Usage data shows that over half came from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, with others spread across institutions. Most unique item requests stem from the arts and sciences and life sciences collections.
Over time, Ota sees the opportunity to help students financially since instructors are able to assign articles from JSTOR, which can help free students from the financial burden of buying textbooks. Guthro is focused on preservation and space management. “We were looking for a way to discard some of our print journals to free up space, and we typically don’t discard journals unless we have permanent access to collections, so that was also part of the decision to move forward with JSTOR.”
Unlike other online databases, JSTOR is viewed as a long-term investment. Founded as a way for libraries to develop a shared digital infrastructure to preserve and provide access to their collections for the future, JSTOR has worked with academic libraries and publishers to select and digitize journals dating back to the 1600s, to add new material each year, and to ensure the preservation and sustainability of the resulting digital library. By making a large one-time investment, the University of Hawaiʻi system has guaranteed access to the material for all its institutions while supporting long-term stewardship of the collections by JSTOR.
Hawaiʻi is not alone. Nearly 500 colleges and universities have begun using JSTOR’s one-time payment model, including a growing number of community colleges. “Increasingly we see libraries and library systems investing one-time funds to ensure affordable long-term access for all their constituents,” said Jane Hetherington, JSTOR Director of Institutional Development and Strategic Partnerships. “Coming out of the pandemic shut-down, which rapidly moved classes online and shined an even brighter light on equity issues in our country, libraries see the critical need to invest in highly accessible, trustworthy digital collections to support teaching and learning, whether it’s a university, community college, secondary school, or public library. And for some, investing upfront to eliminate ongoing costs is important.”
When asked about the motivation to pursue a system-wide investment of this scale, Guthro said, “We live within a culture of scarcity. I constantly hear from people, ‘We don’t have enough people. We don’t have enough money. It’s never going to change.’ That shuts down any creative thinking about the possibilities of doing things differently. I’m trying to break that cycle; there are ways to make a difference. I knew we had various foundation funds — which many people treat as ‘rainy day’ funds — so I said, ‘Well, it’s raining. Let’s get into some of this money and try something new.’”
On November 18-19 librarians across the islands are coming together at the Hawaiʻi Library Association Conference, where strategies for gaining access to larger, diverse collections affordably is likely to be a theme. Hetherington will be there, eager to talk with more libraries about their needs. “This is our mission in action,” she said. “There is nothing better than working with librarians to deliver on our common goal of making knowledge accessible to everyone in a way that is affordable and supports its ongoing use not just by today’s students but for generations to come.”