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Medical Serials Print Preservation Program

"... let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use, in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident."  - Thomas Jefferson

February 18, 1791 in a letter to Ebenezer Hazard,commending his efforts to collect and preserve "valuable historical and state-papers"

The Network of the National Library of Medicine (NN/LM) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) are working to ensure the preservation of and continued access to the literature through a national cooperative medical serials print retention program (MedPrint).

Since 2000, U.S. medical libraries increasingly have shifted their journal subscriptions from traditional print to the electronic journal version to meet user expectations of immediate access to material 24 hours a day.  While this shift has freed limited physical space in libraries, libraries also have come under pressure to give up physical space to other areas of their parent organizations, and thus have had to discard print holdings of some, many, or all of their journal titles - limiting access to the years/volumes available online.

Although some publishers have been converting earlier print issues to electronic format, not every digitization project has taken care to ensure that each article is complete, that the graphics are readable, colors are in proper tones, and that all parts of the journal are in place  -- including advertisements and administrative matter, which can provide context for the article and the time period in which it was published.  It is important to note that not all journal titles and volumes have been digitized, and for some volumes and some titles, the print copy in libraries may be the only record.  Furthermore, future access to backfiles at publisher sites cannot be guaranteed. The potential loss of the archival record is a serious concern for libraries and the research community.

In consultation with the Regional Medical Libraries (RML), NLM has initially identified approximately 250 [Abridged Index Medicus® (AIM)/PubMed Central® (PMC)] journals as the primary set of materials to preserve in print. Libraries can commit to retain titles beyond this initial list; however they would not be part of this program.  The official print retention title list may be expanded at a future time.

The retention model is distributed.  Ideally, all titles will be held across all of the eight regions of the NN/LM.  The minimum number of copies to retain in the NN/LM is 12.  The NLM copy will be the 13th copy.  NLM will work with OCLC on exchanging print retention information between WorldCat and DOCLINE.   This is a voluntary national cooperative program.  Funding will not be provided to help libraries maintain or store the titles they commit to retain.

Library guidelines for MedPrint program participation are:

  1. U.S. libraries must be DOCLINE participants to be eligible to serve as participating partners.

  2. The period of commitment is 25 years.

  3. Libraries must hold the titles they agree to retain from the first published volume until the title ceased in print or, if still published in print, at least until the year 2000. Libraries are not required to commit to the preceding or succeeding titles. For example, a library may retain American journal of obstetrics and gynecology (1920- ), but not American journal of obstetrics and diseases of women and children (1868-1919).

  4. Library holdings must be 95% complete at the volume level.  Complete holdings are preferred.

  5. Journals must have all of their parts in place including covers, tables of contents, advertisements and administrative matter.  If your holdings are in offsite storage, you do not need to visit the facility to verify that all parts are intact.   If your holdings are reported as 95% complete in DOCLINE, and you think the collection is in fair to good condition, you may make a commitment to retain a title for MedPrint. 

  6. Libraries will record their commitment to the national retention program in DOCLINE.

  7. Libraries will maintain accurate level 3 (volume/year) holdings in DOCLINE.