Update on Becker Library’s Bound-Journal Collection

In 2016, Becker Library’s bound-journal collection, comprising 112,012 volumes from 3,316 titles, some dating back to the 1800s, was moved to an off-site storage facility as part of a building renovation project. Since then we have been carefully evaluating the collection to determine which titles and volumes are the most important to permanently keep, while also working with Olin Library to identify a long-term home for the selected volumes. Vice Provost and University Librarian Denise Stephens was instrumental in finding room for the 12,000 volumes selected for permanent retention. Criteria used in deciding which volumes and titles to keep included:

  • Seminal significance to overall medical history
  • Subject matter relevance
  • Whether or not the title is widely held by other institutions, either locally or globally
  • Years of coverage
  • Popularity within Washington University as measured by interlibrary loan requests

This was a difficult process. The collection management team at Becker Library has done an excellent job carefully evaluating each title and making the hard decisions about which titles to keep and which to recycle. While we do our best to keep as much as possible, financial and space constraints make the weeding process an ongoing necessity. In this particular case, it was just done more aggressively and at a faster pace than normal.

In October, 278 boxes were reclaimed from storage, unpacked and reshelved on Becker Library’s lower level. These included titles such as JAMA, British Medical Journal, New England Journal of Medicine and Brain dating back to the 1800s.

During the upcoming months, Becker Library will be working closely with Olin Library to unpack 4,663 boxes of bound journals, holding approximately 12,000 volumes, and shelve them at their new home in Olin Library. Librarians will add records to Olin Library’s online catalog to reflect the new location of these volumes and create a process for delivering articles via interlibrary loan. In-person access to items in the collection will also be possible, but they must be used on the premises (i.e. they will not be available for checkout).

The remaining volumes not to be permanently stored in Becker or Olin libraries will be recycled.

We are deeply appreciative for Denise Stephens’ support for this project and the assistance of Olin Library staff. Without their help, we would have lost these important historical records of medical science.