Thursday, March 24, 2005

Bibliotheca Sacra and Lesson in Stature

Just over a week ago, AKMA had an interesting post headed Lesson in Stature all about the troubling phenomenon of his students citing articles from Bibliotheca Sacra disproportionately often when their more natural hunting grounds ought to be NTS, JSNT, JBL and the like. He put this down to Bibliotheca Sacra having a more marked on-line presence from early on, with free-for-all archived articles available:
Why do they turn so frequently to BibSac for exegetical guidance, when they dissent so firmly from the authors’ presuppositions? Because BibSac got to the digital party early.
Stephen Carlson, On the Importance of On-line and Open Access to Articles, has a thorough discussion with bags of useful links. Stephen comments:
However, it appears that BicSac [sic] has gone to a more restricted access model since the last time I visited, so I predict that they should slowly lose their head-start over the coming years.
If Stephen's and AKMA's diagnosis is correct, there is a really important lesson here for any journals wanting to make a real impact on the students of today -- get yourselves on-line for free as quickly as possible! I'd have guessed that this lesson would be particularly valuable for the smaller scale journals.

But is the diagnosis correct?

In an update to Stephen's original post, he writes the following:
AKMA himself graced Hypotyposeis with this comment (Mar. 15, 2005):
I thought that BibSac was freely available, and was flummoxed when I couldn’t turn up the repository — I ended up rewriting the post considerably.
The same thing happened to me! When did BibSac begin restricting access?
I can help out a little with this question by looking back through the NT Gateway archives. On 5 June 2001, the NT Gateway Journals page still featured the following entry:
Bibliotheca Sacra 1985-94
Full text reproductions of all articles from 1985-1994. [NB: to read the Hebrew and Greek characters, you will need to download Biblescript from Galaxie Software.]
But by 26 November 2001 that entry had dropped out because the link was dead, and only the main Bibliotheca Sacra link (itself now dead) remained.

But here's my question. If BibSac's 1985-94 repository went off line in 2001, that's surely too long for it to have any impact on current student preferences, is it not? There's a way of testing it. Are AKMA's students accessing BibSac articles in that 1985-94 time span?

I'm interested in this discussion because it's not a pattern I am seeing with my own undergraduate students, who do prefer electronic resources over print ones, but tend to be accessing articles listed on the NT Gateway, or which are linked on my reading lists and course materials. This includes things like scholars' homepage reproductions (e.g. Fredriksen, Kloppenborg), but also repositories of on-line articles on given topics like The Paul Page -- I see increasing numbers of students finding sites like the latter their hunting grounds of choice. In other words, their thinking is less journal-based than it is author- and site- based.

Here's another way of testing whether students are more likely to access free-for-all electronic journal articles than other, more restricted journal articles. Are students accessing Biblica more than other journals? This has had a free-for-all policy now since 1998 and a prominent web presence. For my own students, I would say that this has made relatively little impact and so a free-for-all journal policy is not greatly affecting student consultation rates.

Update (Good Friday, 10.28): Tim Bulkeley comments on Sansblogue and Rubén Gómez comments below to the effect that BibSac is available cheaply as part of a commercial package. My problem is that I am so internet focused.

1 comment:

Rubén Gómez said...


I believe one of the key factors (Tim hints at it in his blog), is the fact that BibSac and other "conservative" journals are available in a reasonably priced CD-ROM collection for Libronix and Accordance (The Theological Journal Library). I wish other journals in the field would follow the same path... (sigh)