ERIC Documents, as you’ll recall, are non-journal items that are indexed in the ERIC database, which is an open-access education index provided by the US Department of Education. ERIC Documents are identified in ERIC with accession numbers beginning with ED, as opposed to EJ for journal articles. ERIC is also licensed to libraries by vendors who provide their own interfaces for it. For many years, ERIC Documents were sold as a microfiche collection. The ERIC Microfiche Collection has gradually been digitized, so some libraries have discarded their microfiche. As the ERIC website explains:
“From November 1966 through July 2004, ERIC indexed more than 470,000 documents, reproducing most of them on microfiche with copyright-owner permission. This effort generated nearly 650,000 microfiche, requiring significant storage capacity by libraries that acquired the collection. As the result of a phased effort, the complete ERIC Microfiche Collection is now archived in a digital format. ERIC currently provides online access to more than 300,000 of these documents, either with copyright-owner permission or due to their public-domain status.”
So here’s where it gets really interesting. ERIC recently took down the online ERIC Document collection. Some, but not all, have since been restored. A notice on the website currently reads:
“A limited number of ERIC full-text documents are available at this time due to privacy concerns about information contained in some of the collection. Although the documents in ERIC had been publicly available in microfiche for many years, the advent of the Internet has amplified the possibility that someone could make improper use of information in these ERIC documents.
We are seeking to restore access to documents as soon as possible. Our number one concern is to ensure that any full-text documents we provide do not violate any individual’s privacy. We believe that if any of us were to have our privacy compromised by an ERIC document, we would want the same consideration.”
I haven’t found any details about the sort of privacy concerns they mention.
As you might expect, librarians on EBSS-L have been discussing this. Among the questions prompted by this event: What does this mean for the same documents on microfiche? Which documents are in question? When will more than “a limited number” of the documents be restored? Yesterday, a representative provided an update to EBSS-L: “We have made all peer reviewed articles publicly available again-this is approximately 20,000 full-text articles. We are also in the process of creating a request process for individual records to be given priority in being returned to the site.”
Have you experienced any difficulties from the ERIC Document takedown?
Leah was appointed Executive Director of the Charleston Conference in 2017, and has served in various roles with the Charleston Information Group, LLC, since 2004. Prior to working for the conference, she was Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions for the College of Charleston for four years. She lives in a small town near Columbia, SC, with her husband and two kids where they raise a menagerie of farm animals.