Hello Everyone:

*Please excuse cross-postings*

Recently I posted a query on behalf of Jill Rafuse, Canadian Medical
Association Publications Department, regarding the usefulness of the
print index in journals. Jill has prepared a summary of the replies and
I am providing it below, for your information.

Thanks to all who responded to the question.

Deidre Green
OSLER Support Librarian
Canadian Medical Association
Ottawa, Canada

Relevance of subject and author index for print journals

Online searching has prompted many publishers to ask whether the print
journal's author and subject index is still relevant, and whether it is
of sufficient value to librarians and readers to justify the expense of
producing it. Some journals have eliminated the annual/semi-annual index
altogether, and others are only posting the indices online as PDF

CMAJ recently invited comments from librarians on the CANMEDLIB and
MEDLIB list-servs on the relevance of the print journal index. The
response was inconclusive:

6 librarians said they still need a print index.
9 librarians said they don't use the print index at all.
7 librarians would prefer to have a print index, but could make do
without one.

However, the comments were quite interesting, as these (abridged)
excerpts show:

"If there is still a print issue, there should be a print index. We have
had too many cases of not being able to retrieve citations using the
electronic sources only... I have found and reported several incidences
to the National Library of Medicine where author name, name format or
citation were not accurate or did not reflect the actual item and did
not lead to retrieval of the article electronically. The future is not
here, yet, for fast, accurate, reliable online citation retrieval... in
about 5 years, I suspect."

"Short items like obituaries are not picked up by the databases, and
some journal website searches don't pick up all their content,
especially supplements. "

"Print indexes are valuable, but they need to be printed with the last
issue of the volume/year."

"For all the technology, it is still faster to flip to the index in the
back if you know the year and topic than to pull up PubMed, search, then
go to the shelf or get the article online (IF your institution has
activated online access)."

"If a citation is off just a little, it's not hard to correct if one has
the volume in hand with an index."

"Journals not indexed in Medline or CINAHL are far less available - a
journal specific index helps us search those."

"Most patrons come to the journal after doing a lit search, so we
rarely, if ever, use the index."

"As long as a journal is in Medline there's no need for a paper index."
"Our small library can't afford subscriptions to many of the online
databases, so we rely on the printed index that comes with the final
issue. And in the area of complementary medicine, many of the larger
databases do not index the CAM literature sufficiently."

"We encourage all clients to use PubMed or Medline and limit to the
specific journal title rather than using the published index."

"Since the Internet, many 'essential tools' became redundant ... annual
or semi-annual indexes essentially are not essential anymore."

"The printed index is absolutely not necessary. PubMed is free."

"100% of our users locate their research through sources such as PubMed
or CABI, not the print index."

"Here's a description of our procedure for including an online-only
index in the bound paper version: 1) print the PDF index off the Web, if
you have access to it, 2) take that copy to the print shop with
specially-purchased acid-free copy paper and make a two-sided copy, 3)
send that copy to the bindery with the journal, and 4) pay extra to trim
the index to the same size as the journal."

"I don't like to bind a journal without an index and am quite happy
printing off a PDF to include in the bound volume. Don't phase out the
index completely."

"As space is at a premium at our library, there is no printing out of
anything [such as a PDF of the index] in addition to the hardcopy
"We'd prefer to get a print copy of the index, but we have printed out
the PDFs."

"I wasn't aware that some journals have stopped sending paper copies of
the indexes. We'll now have to think about possibly downloading and
printing the PDFs."

"If the index is only produced in PDF online, are all subscribers
notified by email so they can download it if they want to."