Ithaka’s What to Withdraw tool

Have you seen the tool that Ithaka developed to determine what print scholarly journals you could withdraw (discard/store) that are already in your digital collections? It’s pretty nifty for a spreadsheet. About 10-15 minutes of playing with it and a list of our print holdings resulted in giving me a list of around 200 or so actionable titles in our collection, which I passed on to our subject liaison librarians.

The guys who designed it are giving some webinar sessions, and I just attended one. Here are my notes, for what it’s worth. I suggest you participate in a webinar if you’re interested in it. The next one is tomorrow and there’s one on February 10th as well.


  • They have an organizational commitment to preservation: JSTOR, Portico, and Ithaka S+R
  • Libraries are under pressure to both decrease their print collections and to maintain some print copies for the library community as a whole
  • Individual libraries are often unable to identify materials that are sufficiently well-preserved elsewhere
  • The What to Withdraw framework is for general collections of scholarly journals, not monographs, rare books, newspapers, etc.
  • The report/framework is not meant to replace the local decision-making process

What to Withdraw Framework

  • Why do we need to preserve the print materials once we have a digital version?
    • Fix errors in the digital versions
    • Replace poor quality scans or formats
    • Inadequate preservation of the digital content
    • Unreliable access to the digital content
    • Also, local politics or research needs might require access to or preservation of the print
  • Once they developed the rationales, they created specific preservation goals for each category of preservation and then determined the level of preservation needed for each goal.
    • Importance of images in journals (the digitization standards for text is not the same as for images, particularly color images)
    • Quality of the digitization process
    • Ongoing quality assurance processes to fix errors
    • Reliability of digital access (business model, terms & conditions)
    • Digital preservation
  • Commissioned Candace Yano (operations researcher at UC Berkeley) to develop a model for copies needed to meet preservation goals, with the annual loss rate of 0.1% for a dark archive.
    • As a result, they found they needed only two copies to have a >99% confidence than they will still have remaining copies left in twenty years.
    • As a community, this means we need to be retaining at least two copies, if not more.

Decision-Support Tool (proof of concept)

  • JSTOR is an easy first step because many libraries have this resource and many own print copies of the titles in the collections and Harvard & UC already have dim/dark archives of JSTOR titles
  • The tool provides libraries information to identify titles held by Harvard & UC libraries which also have relatively few images

Future Plans

  • Would like to apply the tool to other digital collections and dark/dim archives, and they are looking for partners in this
  • Would also like to incorporate information from other JSTOR repositories (such as Orbis-Cascade)