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JMU Libraries Join LOCKSS
by Cheri Duncan

During this past summer, JMU Libraries implemented the LOCKSS archival system and joined the LOCKSS consortium.  LOCKSS, the acronym which stands for “Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe”, was developed by Stanford University as a method of preserving electronic content, particularly journal articles. As the LOCKSS organization’s website notes, publisher websites “are becoming the version of record for many scientific journals.”  Libraries are faced with the challenge of ensuring that these online collections are as permanent as traditional paper copies.


JMU Libraries currently maintains subscriptions to approximately 8,500 electronic journals with over 1,500 additional journal titles accessible through Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) state consortium.  LOCKSS provides a way for the Libraries to protect this substantial investment by collecting and storing articles for which the Libraries have contracted for perpetual access and the publishers have given permission for creating an archival copy in LOCKSS.   


LOCKSS uses open source software that provides libraries with a way to easily and inexpensively collect, store, preserve, and offer access to their own local copy of online journal content they have purchased.  LOCKSS runs on a standard desktop computer and requires only minimal technical administration.


LOCKSS LogoLOCKSS’ archival capabilities provide several benefits for the JMU Libraries.  First, the LOCKSS system enhances the JMU Libraries’ electronic journal collections by ensuring that JMU users have access to a journal article even if a publisher’s website is temporarily unavailable.  Using the Libraries’ proxy server, the JMU Libraries’ Serials Unit has configured their LOCKSS server to receive an alert whenever a LOCKSS-certified article is unreachable and to immediately serve up a local copy of the article without any noticeable interruption in service. 


Secondly, LOCKSS stores and updates the full text to which JMU Libraries’ have purchased perpetual access, or for open or free access content, with minimal intervention from Serials staff.  If a publisher discontinues its website or hosting services for any reason, the Libraries’ will retain permanent access to the journal articles through the LOCKSS copy. 


The reliability of this access is guaranteed through the LOCKSS consortium.  Numerous other libraries worldwide also maintain LOCKSS systems. JMU Libraries’ system continually checks the full text on its server against files on other LOCKSS servers, as well as the publisher’s website, to ensure that JMU’s LOCKSS content is current, complete, and uncorrupted.  If the system encounters any incomplete, corrupted, or otherwise inconsistent files, the LOCKSS server automatically downloads the appropriate copy either from the publisher website or from another library.   


Finally, the JMU Libraries’ Serials Unit is also able to add its unique or non-certified full text holdings to the LOCKSS system, based on individual vendor agreements.  JMU Libraries may then make these holdings available as a system “plug-in” to other libraries within the consortium which later obtain the rights to archive the same content.  JMU Libraries’ Serials Unit is currently investigating expanding these LOCKSS system capabilities to include content storage for non-journal collections purchased by the Libraries, such as Evans Digital collections, Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), and Sabin Americana.


In addition to maintaining and growing the system, the biggest challenge facing all LOCKSS libraries is petitioning publishers to collaborate with the program.  JMU Libraries now requests this LOCKSS participation of each publisher from which it purchases content and, as a result, a growing number of publishers have agreed to the archiving of their full text content in LOCKSS.   In fact, JMU Libraries has been able to obtain rights to store some larger journal collections in LOCKSS, such as Springer/Kluwer, for which permission has not been granted to the LOCKSS community at large.


For more information on LOCKSS and a list of participating libraries and publishers, visit the LOCKSS website.


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