Access by UK small and medium-sized enterprises to
professional and academic information
Mark Ware Consulting Ltd for the Publishing Research Consortium
This is an interesting report as it addresses the problem that led to the creation of SINTO in 1932 - the provision of specialist journal articles to small businesses. The report points out that research journal literature is important to the success of many SMEs. While a majority (71%) of respondents for whom journal access was important reported reasonably good overall access to journals this figure was smaller than for large businesses and academic bodies. A majority (55%) reported that they had recently experienced problems in accessing articles and a payment barrier was the most likely cause. Again this was larger than the figure for large companies (34%) and universities (24%).
The majority of respondents in SMEs obtained journal articles via Pay Per View services. Where they had problems in obtaining articles in this way, the following alternatives were used
Look for an early version of article on web 28%
Check access via in-house library or information service 15%
Check access via colleagues subscription 15%
Approach author directly 11%
Check access via local academic library 7%
Request an ILL from library 7%
Check access via local public library 0%
Did not try any of above 11%
Respondents were also asked if they had used a variety of sources for meeting their general information needs (not just journals). Replies included professional society membership (81%), in-house information services (56%), local academic libraries (51%), ILLs via local libraries (42%) and local public libraries (38%). When asked about monthly frequency of use of different sources the results included professional society membership (10%), in-house information services (15%), local academic libraries (2%), ILLs via local libraries (1%) and local public libraries (1%). (The percentage represents the proportion of total uses).
The report concludes that access by SMEs via local academic libraries is currently negligible. Suggested reasons are lack of interest or resources among librarians, inconsistent or ambiguous publisher licences and the requirement for access to be provided on a walk-in basis.
SINTO has received e-mails from local companies that suggest that cost as a barrier to access to journal articles is a major problem for SMEs in the SINTO area and there is not much that SINTO can do to help. Although some of these journals will be held by local academic libraries, local SMEs cannot get on-line access to articles for a number of reasons.
SMEs are an important part of the local economy, as they were in the 1930s. It is a pity that we seem less able to respond now than we were then due, in part, to the present dominance of free-market thinking.