Access to online journals prevents students acquiring vital sources for coursework

UWE boasts many things. Possessing the largest academic library in the South West is one of them. However, WesternEye has noted an increasingly frequent issue, whereby many students are being faced with problems accessing electronic journal articles, to which the university is supposedly able to provide instant access.

As a result, some students avoid using journals all together as it can seem a waste of time, which merely ‘stresses them out’.

There appears to be two main issues with which students are faced with regarding access to journals. One is that when searching for articles, the library lists them before describing them as ‘unavailable’ when students attempt to access them.

The second issue is the accessibility of Athens outside of the university’s computer network – a problem which UWE should be addressing, making access as easy as possible in order to encourage the use of a vital study resource.

The university’s FAQ about journal articles states: “[The] Library catalogue lists all journals that are available in both print and electronic format.”

However, one might ask: Just how many students have used the library catalogue to search for a journal article, read the description, clicked the article only to be greeted with a frustrating, ‘no text available’ webpage?

Anna Lazicka tried researching for a piece of coursework – the title of which had been given to her.

She told of how she had found some “potentially useful articles” about the topic of her given coursework, but when she clicked ‘find it’, there was no full text available – a trend that is all too apparent. She also told that the first ten results of her search all gave the same message.

Ms Lazicka stated to WesternEye, “I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong or they are actually unavailable.”

Following one of Ms Lazicka’s unavailable articles, it was discovered that UWE is subscribed to the journal in question, electronically for issue from 1990 onwards.

Information provided about the journal in print seems very vague: ‘Frenchay Holdings: Held for 30 years’, and ‘Last 10 years on shelves, earlier years in store’, states the website.

The article in question was in fact from 1970 and after confirmation from a librarian, it appears that UWE only holds journals from the last thirty years in storage.

Why then is it that the article still comes up in the e-library search?

A solution to this problem is that it could be provided by inter-library loan use, a facility whereby each student receives ten requests per year to access materials outside of UWE’s libraries.

Many students highly recommend this service and it is does seem more efficient.

However Sophie Whittaker, a third year Law student, spoke of how the said service was only mentioned through her PAL sessions last year, halfway through her degree.

Ms Whittaker also told of how she had been struggling with the unavailability of journals since her first year.

The other issue with journals, as previously noted, is the issue with accessibility.

Reports suggest that one of the biggest journal sites, SAGE Journals, does not work outside of the University – apparently a common problem for a number of students.

The website includes many journals available in the catalogue at UWE, including journals on health sciences, life and biomedical sciences, materials science and engineering, alongside social sciences and humanities, which covers Law, Education and many other subjects.

Antonia Kelly, a second year student, stated to WesternEye: “SAGE publishing does not let me access journal articles unless I log in on campus. Even though it gives you the option to log in over Athens, it just doesn’t work.”

Students have apparently also been having problems accessing Wiley Journals and Oxford Journals outside of the university network throughout this year.

Out of all the sites which host the journals, JSTOR is reported as being the most consistently reliable.

Accessibility of journals from home is a very important issue, as there are many students who commute from Bristol’s surrounding area and don not always have the time or resources to get to campus to use the library outside of class.

Is it right that students are pushed to use journals, only to find that when it comes to accessing the material, they just end up frustrated from the lack of clear information?

Claire Swaffield