JSTOR: A History

Copyright Date: 2003
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Ten years ago, most scholars and students relied on bulky card catalogs, printed bibliographic indices, and hardcopy books and journals. Today, much content is available electronically or online. This book examines the history of one of the first, and most successful, digital resources for scholarly communication, JSTOR. Beginning as a grant-funded project of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation at the University of Michigan, JSTOR has grown to become a major archive of the backfiles of academic journals, and its own nonprofit organization.

    Roger Schonfeld begins this history by looking at JSTOR's original mission of saving storage space and thereby storage costs, a mission that expanded immediately to improving access to the literature. What role did the University play? Could JSTOR have been built without the active involvement of a foundation? Why was it seen as necessary to "spin off" the project? This case study proceeds as an organizational history of the birth and maturation of this nonprofit, which had to emerge from the original university partnership to carve its own identity. How did the grant project evolve into a successful marketplace enterprise? How was JSTOR able to serve its twofold mission of archiving its journals while also providing access to them? What has accounted for its growth? Finally, Schonfeld considers implications of the economic and organizational aspects of archiving as well as the system-wide savings that JSTOR ensures by broadly distributing costs.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4311-4
    Subjects: Library Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Hal Varian

    My first encounter with JSTOR was at the University of Michigan back in 1993 or 1994 when Randy Frank showed me a demo of a very early version running on a Unix workstation.

    I’ve been a fan ever since.

    JSTOR has come a long way from those humble beginnings. As of May 2002, there were 218 journals online, accounting for 62,170 issues, 1,504,372 articles, for a total of 9,169,564 pages. At that time, JSTOR had 1,321 participating libraries from over 60 countries.

    JSTOR is one of those services that makes people say “How did I ever live without it?” Indeed,...

  5. A Note on Publication
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    William G. Bowen
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xx)

    In the past decade, technology has revolutionized scholarly communications. Ten years ago, virtually all scholars and students relied on bulky card catalogs, printed bibliographic indices, and hardcopy books and journals for their library research. Today, almost all card catalogs are fully electronic, forcing heated debate during the transition about what to do with the outdated manual behemoths.¹ Indices are widely available in electronic form. And the journals (and increasingly the books) to which these catalogs and indices point are found not only on shelves, but also online.

    This revolution in scholarly communications has been accompanied and facilitated by a larger...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  8. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  9. A JSTOR Time Line
    (pp. xxvii-xxxvi)
  10. CHAPTER 1 The Idea at Denison, the Project at Mellon DECEMBER 1993–JANUARY 1994
    (pp. 1-16)

    We begin in late 1993, when a discussion before the Board of Trustees of Denison University alerted one trustee, William G. Bowen, to the possible demand for a digital library of scholarly journals. Shared with colleagues at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, of which he was president, and beyond, the initial idea matured rapidly into the basis for a major project. This chapter summarizes the influences that led Bowen to his idea, and it illustrates both how much thought went into the development of the proposed project and how rapidly the project began to congeal.

    Denison University is an academically...

  11. CHAPTER 2 In Search of a Partner, but Beginning Alone FEBRUARY–MAY 1994
    (pp. 17-45)

    As we have seen, initial enquiries by Bowen, Ekman, and Fuchs produced some valuable information but no clear direction to pursue. Mellon was a grant-making, not an operating, foundation, and so any work it took on would be in partnership with a grantee. They held out hope that a suitable grantee-partner could be persuaded to participate in the project, and all signs pointed to University Microfilms, Inc. (UMI). It was hoped that UMI, about which they knew relatively little, might have the software required; the rights to reproduce the journal backfiles; and the microfilm to use as a source for...

  12. CHAPTER 3 Securing an Institutional Partner: The University of Michigan APRIL–AUGUST 1994
    (pp. 46-68)

    In the early 1990s, the academic library community was rife with tension. Some librarians saw their future in developing new technologies, such as network and computer systems, that would radically alter the availability and usefulness of information resources. Others felt it their responsibility to redouble their traditional role of buying, preserving, and making available a wealth of “conventional” resources for teaching and research. At the University of Michigan, a traditional academic library and a traditional library school were being rapidly and radically transformed.

    Elsewhere, there was retrenchment. The two most prominent private university library schools, Columbia and Chicago, had recently...

  13. CHAPTER 4 The Pilot Project SEPTEMBER 1994–APRIL 1995
    (pp. 69-94)

    Securing the partnership with Michigan was a major step forward. Once it seemed certain that Michigan would agree to work with Mellon, Bowen reported to Mellon’s trustees that “in almost every respect, JSTOR has turned out to be far more complex than I ever imagined it would be when I first discussed the project with the Trustees. I estimate that I have spent about one-third of my time on this project over the last five months, and others [including Fuchs, Woodbridge, and Ekman] have also been deeply involved.”¹ As we saw in chapter 2, this onerous task and the “jigsaw...

  14. CHAPTER 5 Evolving Organizational Decisions—and Independence FEBRUARY–DECEMBER 1995
    (pp. 95-118)

    In the aftermath of his March 1995 trip to Ann Arbor, Bowen became determined that JSTOR’s operations had to be rationalized. Although the JSTOR project was not stagnating, Mellon staff felt that its development had outpaced its organizational capacity. Michigan’s research and development structure had been invaluable in exploring options for the creation of the JSTOR database, turning a project outline into a working, if insufficient, prototype. Yet now, Mellon’s expectations had changed. Expansion—adding journals and library test sites—was on everyone’s near-term horizon. A production-level intensity would be necessary to bring such an expansion to fruition. To scale...

  15. CHAPTER 6 Defining a Mission in Partnership with Publishers SEPTEMBER 1995–AUGUST 1996
    (pp. 119-148)

    When it became independent in the summer of 1995, JSTOR inherited a project and a mission from the Mellon Foundation. In the year that followed, it faced myriad challenges as it moved to consolidate the work of Mellon and Michigan into a viable business entity. For one thing, the production arrangements that we observed in chapter 4 were substantially flawed and would have to be revamped (see chapter 7). But more broadly, the new organization had the singular opportunity to consider its mission. While it had been defined broadly at first—“to help the scholarly community benefit from advances in...

  16. CHAPTER 7 Operational Changes at Michigan SEPTEMBER 1995–AUGUST 1996
    (pp. 149-165)

    In New York, Bowen and Guthrie worked together, with only one JSTOR-specific assistant, on strategy and collections development. Guthrie took more responsibility for the operations at Michigan, where work was continuing on software developments, production, and user-services. With his engineering and software-development background, Guthrie was well positioned for this area of responsibility. But it was not yet clear how JSTOR and the university would work together, and as a result there were numerous problems in this period.

    With independence, JSTOR would gradually begin to take ownership of the Michigan operation in a way that Mellon had consciously avoided. For Mellon,...

  17. CHAPTER 8 Developing a Business Plan JANUARY–DECEMBER 1996
    (pp. 166-197)

    In the early spring of 1994, JSTOR had been little more than an idea in Bowen’s mind. None of the pilot journals had yet been approached, let alone signed, and major strategic and organizational choices were only just being considered. Nevertheless, Bowen was already thinking about how JSTOR, once fully deployed, could become self-sustaining. The attention given to this principle, and the care taken in its implementation, were inextricably linked to the archiving mission and led directly to JSTOR’s initial success and future growth.

    Over the course of the year that JSTOR was a Mellon grant project, Bowen developed several...

  18. CHAPTER 9 A More Thoroughly Professionalized Operation SEPTEMBER 1996–DECEMBER 1997
    (pp. 198-229)

    The last several chapters have followed the gradual evolution of JSTOR away from its Mellon origins. In chapter 6, we saw that Bowen and Guthrie explored the terrain of scholarly communications and focused JSTOR’s mission, while, at the same time, as detailed in chapter 7, the Michigan production operation was somewhat reorganized. In the last chapter, the board of trustees adopted an innovative pricing plan while setting down ambitious goals for growth in the number of both journals and participants. In partnership with Bowen and the rest of the board, Guthrie was pushing JSTOR to ready itself for the marketplace,...

  19. CHAPTER 10 Public Availability and Library Participation SEPTEMBER 1996–DECEMBER 1997
    (pp. 230-263)

    By late 1996, JSTOR had completed all of the work necessary for public release. Even though only seventeen journals had been digitized by January 1997, JSTOR was not willing to delay its entry into the marketplace any further. The extent, speed, and distribution of library participants would determine whether JSTOR could reach the scale necessary for success. This chapter explores how JSTOR marketed and licensed its first collection, Arts & Sciences I, through the close of 1997. First, going back to 1996, it will document the actions that followed the adoption of the business plan. Some of JSTOR’s most important policies...

  20. CHAPTER 11 Developing Two New Collections MAY 1997–DECEMBER 1999
    (pp. 264-280)

    With the advent of hundreds of paying charter participants, JSTOR’s goal of completing Arts & Sciences I by the end of 1999 had become not just a promise, but rather something of a contractual obligation. At the same time, pressure for further collections growth was mounting from multiple quarters, even though library participation was coming in fits and spurts. It was necessary to manage expectations, as well as accommodate some of the pressure for expansion. This chapter focuses on how JSTOR managed the ongoing operations necessary to meet its initial obligation, while also confronting the future.

    The context for strategic planning...

  21. CHAPTER 12 Increasing Availability and Participation JANUARY 1998–DECEMBER 1999
    (pp. 281-300)

    Although the two new collections represented something of a risk, since JSTOR committed to them in a period of little new library participation, they also held forth a great deal of opportunity. It was believed that the General Science Collection would bring greater exposure for JSTOR, and the up-front costs of both collections would be paid for by outside funders. For the year following the close of the charter period, with the Michigan renegotiations and planning for the new collections taking center stage, library participation was not as much of an institutional priority. By the summer of 1998, however, a...

  22. CHAPTER 13 Completing Arts & Sciences I and Strategizing for the Future JULY 1998–DECEMBER 1999
    (pp. 301-317)

    With two science collections being developed, JSTOR began to respond to the knowledge that Arts & Sciences I would soon be completed. The interplay between this response and the rapid increases in library participation, covered in the previous chapter, were key. As more libraries participated, JSTOR’s ambitions increased. This chapter charts the organization as it rapidly gained self-confidence.

    In mid-1998, even before any production work began on General Science or Ecology & Botany, Guthrie began to push the board to consider additional collections. He was well aware of the substantial lead-time between proposing a collection and beginning production work on it. Experience...

  23. CHAPTER 14 Challenges and Opportunities of Growth JANUARY 2000–DECEMBER 2001
    (pp. 318-354)

    The millennium celebrations were followed for JSTOR by two years of remarkable expansion and growth. At the same time, it both struggled to keep up with demand and considered branching out in other directions. The achievements in this period were many. New collections were digitized and released to acclaim. Institutional participation grewapace, especially among foreign and nonacademic libraries and in the newly released collections. Initiatives were undertaken to revamp the interface and to develop linking. And while all of this took place, JSTOR continued its thoughtful planning for future growth.

    Yet amid this progress, a number of questions lingered. As...

  24. CONCLUSION A Self-Sustaining Organizaiton
    (pp. 355-373)

    International and U.S. libraries continued to participate, while many libraries elected to take new collections as they were introduced. And the pressures to grow continued unabated. This chapter, which has four distinct components, considers JSTOR’s accomplishments and its future. First, it reflects on the context within which JSTOR matured, giving some indication of JSTOR’s unique place in the broader information industry. Second, it explores definitions of archival self-sustainability and then examines revenues and expenses to see if JSTOR has achieved self-sustainability. Third, it considers some of the broader economic and organizational ramifications of JSTOR as an archive. Finally, it evaluates...

  25. EPILOGUE Lessons Learned
    (pp. 374-386)

    At the time of this writing, about eight years after the germinal ideas for JSTOR’s creation were first heard at Denison University, there is no question but that JSTOR represents a remarkable achievement. An organization and mission virtually without precedent, JSTOR has digitized more material, and distributed it more broadly, than anyone’s wildest expectations. In this epilogue, we shall step back from the details of JSTOR’s development to try to understand what broader lessons can be learned.

    Bowen was able to use Mellon’s bully pulpit to win a place on the agenda of potential publishers and to win the ear...

  26. APPENDIX All Journals in JSTOR, by Collection
    (pp. 387-392)
  27. Bibliography
    (pp. 393-404)
  28. Index
    (pp. 405-412)