AVMA collaborates with veterinary libraries to digitize journal articles

Back issues of JAVMA, AJVR from the 1990s now available, with more decades coming soon

Updated February 07, 2024

Thanks to a collaboration among the AVMA and veterinary libraries, past issues of both JAVMA and AJVR are being digitized. Readers can now view all issues from the 1990s on the journals’ website, which can also be found with search engines such as PubMed and Google Scholar.

The task force behind the effort combined expertise from AVMA staff members and librarians from Cornell University, Texas Tech University (TTU), the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis), and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). 

“The most important role of any scholarly communication is ensuring accessibility to scholars who need and apply research that has been published. This project will do that,” said Erik Fausak, a health sciences librarian with a veterinary focus at UC-Davis.

Print covers of back issues of JAVMA, AJVR surround a computer and cell phone showing a journal article on screen

“This is something I dreamt of doing for years,” said Howard Rodriguez-Mori, PhD, associate professor and librarian at the TTU School of Veterinary Medicine. “Information, articles, and research results transform into knowledge only when processed and used by people. But this can only happen if people have access to those resources. By converting our passive resting collections into digitized, open-access resources, we are allowing decades’ worth of research to reach its full potential, unrestrained.”

Dr. Lisa A. Fortier, editor-in-chief of the AVMA journals and chief publications officer, said digitization of past issues of JAVMA and AJVR has been a priority of the AVMA for a very long time.

“It was only through the expertise of the collective library task force that this vision came to fruition,” she said. “I would like to also thank the veterinary college deans who encouraged these amazing librarians to serve on our task force. We are very proud to be bringing this important scientific and clinical content to the veterinary community.” With tens of thousands of pages involved, the task force plans to digitize scientific articles from the 1970s and 1980s in the next few years.

Margy Lindem, head of veterinary libraries at UPenn, quantified the volume of requests for digitized articles by decade at the University of Pennsylvania and the estimated impact on staff time and researcher's wait time, to help determine which decades should be digitized.

Along with Martin Barbone, an AVMA consultant, Lindem analyzed metadata of the two journals from the bibliographic databases MEDLINE and CAB Abstracts to see how useful it might be to index the articles online.

She inventoried the issues already digitized in the Internet Archives—a nonprofit digital library—and HathiTrust—a repository of digital content from research libraries—to determine how many more issues needed to be scanned and if metadata could be extracted from older issues. Lindem cataloged the journals and other AVMA publications on the HathiTrust site and supplied instructions on how to release these for public access.

“We are daily aware of the demand for the older articles, not just from our clinicians and researchers, but from public health organizations and researchers from other fields,” Lindem said. “Like the AVMA, we understand and advocate for our veterinarians’ needs and want to eliminate the barriers to their swiftly having the best evidence to inform their clinical decision making, teaching, and writing.”

Most veterinary libraries have digitization and metadata expertise as well as hosting platforms and experience with open access. By digitizing the backfiles, the libraries can move these volumes to remote storage and newer veterinary schools will have access to this material.

Fausak and his team performed article-level scans and worked with Google Books and HathiTrust to perform high-end volume scans.

“I think as we see more and more transformative agreements with publishers and libraries to make content open access, not only do both institutions benefit, but so do researchers around the world,” Fausak said.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez-Mori and his team were responsible for the 1990-99 JAVMA articles. With the task force’s consent, they broke down bound JAVMA volumes into single issues and eventually into individual pages for large-volume, high-speed scanning. After digitally parsing 40,000-plus pages, they delivered 4,569 digitized articles, 240 covers, and 240 tables of content to the task force for further processing.

“After 30 years as a librarian, I still can't get over denying service to people who are actively—and sometimes desperately—seeking access to the information they need. So, if it takes the scanning of hundreds of thousands of pages to help bring down those access barriers, bring it on,” Rodriguez-Mori said.

As the task force members continue their work on the digitization of the 1980s and 1970s, they will load the content as it is completed.

“We loved working with the AVMA digitization team, who were very solutions oriented and collegial,” Lindem said. “Veterinary publishers are often small and have limited resources, and I hope they consider working with librarians on similar projects.”