AnthroSource – Reviewed Spring 2008


Jeffrey A. Knapp, Penn State University, Altoona College

Review of AnthroSource, accessed November 2007–February 2008
Publisher: The American Anthropological Association, in partnership with Wiley-Blackwell.
Reviewed: November 2007–March 2008
Date span of coverage: Historical to the present

Address: Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 350 Main St., Malden, MA 02148 USA Tel: 800.835.6770 or 781.388.8599 Fax: 781.388.8232
Email: Web:

Cost (annually): $1,268 for universities; $865 for baccalaureate colleges and specialized institutions; $396 for two-year colleges, law libraries, medical libraries, and high schools; Free for U.S. tribal colleges, Historically Black Colleges/Universities, and Canadian Arctic and First Nations Colleges.

For those not familiar with AnthroSource, it might be best to start with what AnthroSource is not. Generally speaking, AnthroSource (AS) is not an index—it doesn’t include detailed metadata, such as subject headings or descriptors. Searching within AS is primarily by keyword, and the journals included are all published by the same publisher, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in association with Wiley-Blackwell. Based on these characteristics, AS could be defined as a “journal aggregator,” similar to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect, or SpringerLink.
AS is not just a journal aggregator either. Aggregators tend to actually “hold” or “aggregate” all the digital files of their articles on their own servers so that requested articles can be delivered from one website. AS departs from this model in the fact that a substantial portion of its historical content is provided by JSTOR[1]. Generally articles published prior to 1997 are accessible through JSTOR, with more recent articles actually provided by AS itself. AS can be thought of as a “bridge” from JSTOR’s “moving wall” to the present.

So what is AS? Librarians with a need to classify things could use the term “portal” to describe AS— it is a single online location that expedites access to specific content that can be located in multiple places.

AnthroSource was launched in 2005 as a partnership between the AAA and University of California Press, and was the culmination of a five- year project to transform the way the AAA provided its members access to its publications. For information about the creation of AS and the factors that contributed to it, see Susan Skomal’s article in the ARL.[2]

The biggest news recently about AnthroSource was the AAA’s decision to switch publishers for their journals from UC Press to Wiley-Blackwell, announced in September 2007.[3] While there was understandable concern among librarians about the move from a university press to a commercial one, the true impact of the switch is not immediately apparent. Sources at Blackwell have indicated that no changes to the AS platform or interface are planned for 2008, although there are likely to be some changes and updates in 2009.

A potential area for expansion would be the fulfillment of the original vision for AnthroSource. Skomal’s article envisions a scholarly portal that would include periodical articles, but also monographs, textbooks, open access journals, learning objects, data sets, and user forums, and other web communities of practice and interest.[4]

It must be noted that AS is offered as a free service to all AAA members. In other words, anthropology faculty most likely will already have access to it on their own. While this is not meant to imply that AS will only be used by faculty, it is important to note this in any selection decision.
To get the maximum benefit from AS, a library needs also to subscribe to JSTOR, particularly the “Arts & Sciences” and “Arts & Sciences II” collections. Without subscribing to JSTOR, an institutional subscription to AS will only provide access to the content actually contained in AS, none of the older content offered by JSTOR. Individual AAA members do have access to JSTOR content, however.

In theory, the scope of AnthroSource contains all issues of all AAA journals, newsletters, and bulletins. The reality is that there are some missing issues of some journals. AS has a detailed holdings list on its site that presents the date ranges covered for each journal: of the 32 publications listed, 8 indicate missing content. A quick review reveals a few scattered issues missing in most cases, with no major spans of issues missing.

The following list will give an idea of the age of the publications offered, by decade:

  • 1 journal going back to 1888 (American Anthropologist);
  • 2 newsletters beginning in the 1960s (including Anthropology News);
  • 13 publications beginning in the 1970s;
  • 6 publications beginning in the 1980s;
  • 9 publications beginning in the 1990s; and
  • 1 publication beginning in the 2000s.

Considering that Anthropology is frequently broken down into four sub-fields: Archaeology; Biological Anthropology; Linguistic Anthropology; and Sociocultural Anthropology, the publications offered in AS were analyzed to see what the balance is among them. Using descriptions secured from a number of sources,5 each publication was tagged with one of five identifiers: one for each of the aforementioned “four fields,” and one for “general.” Since AS consists of publications from a scholarly society whose goal is to promote the discipline as a whole, it was not surprising that “general” was the largest category. The breakdown by field was as follows:

  • Archaeology, primarily: 2
  • Biological Anthropology, primarily: 2
  • Linguistic Anthropology, primarily: 1
  • Sociocultural Anthropology, primarily: 10
  • General Anthropology: 16

The content of AS can also be analyzed by type of publication. Currently, all of the AS content is from AAA periodicals, but not all of these periodicals are journals. Many are newsletters, bulletins, or conference proceedings. Here is the breakdown [6]:

  • Scholarly Journals, Refereed: 14
  • Scholarly Journals, Non-refereed: 8
  • Monographic Series: 4
  • Bulletins: 2
  • Newsletters: 4

Like most electronic resources available today, AS offers features to assist the search process. By registering with AS and setting up a free account, users can receive notifications by email or RSS when a new issue of a journal is published, or when a selected article is cited. Searches can be saved, so that they are automatically run at regular intervals and send a notification with the results.
AS does not offer any citation tips, such as “How to cite this article” in different citation styles. There is a “Download to Citation Manager” link, allowing the user to download the bibliographic information directly to any of the major citation management applications available (such as ProCite, EndNote, or RefWorks).

The search interface is very simple, offering a single text box to enter search terms. An “Advanced Search” option allows the user to search specific index fields. As mentioned previously, AnthroSource is not a highly-indexed resource. Searches are run entirely by keyword in one of three fields: article title; article full text; and author’s last name. The Boolean operators and, or, and not all work if typed into the basic search field. In the “Advanced Search” mode, the user can use special fields to get the same results (“Find articles with: all the words/the exact phrase/at least one of the words/none of the words”). Searches can be limited by date range, or publication title, and users can choose to search either all available publications or one specific publication title.

Although AS does not include subject headings or descriptors to identify specific articles, the available full-text search capabilities are well developed. Search terms are “stemmed,” so a search for “anthropology” will retrieve “anthropologist” and “anthropological,” for example. Citations listed in articles are linked via CrossRef7 to the articles they represent, where available. AS also is compatible with the link resolver SFX and is compliant with the OpenURL standard.

Search results can be sorted either by relevancy or by date. It is unclear how “relevancy” is determined for purposes of ranking search results. The AnthroSource site does not address this explicitly and a satisfactory answer was not received from Blackwell. Articles are delivered as PDFs.

Comparisons with AS are difficult for reasons mentioned earlier—AS is somewhat unique among anthropology resources. Databases like Anthropological Index, Anthropological Literature, and AnthropologyPlus are purely finding tools, offering no full-text access, but very precise subject search capabilities. Conversely, AS is a repository, offering simplified search capabilities with a robust collection of full-text articles.

For those institutions with the financial resources available for both, AS would serve as an excellent complement to an index like AnthropologyPlus, combining AnthropologyPlus’s robust search capabilities with the full-text access of AS.

Perhaps the most appropriate comparison would be with Blackwell Synergy, the e-journal collection containing all of Blackwell’s journals. With AnthroSource’s migration to Blackwell, all of the recent issues of AAA journals will be available on Synergy in a la carte fashion. According to Blackwell’s price list, if online access to all 17 of the AAA journals were purchased individually, the annual price tag would be $1,773, compared to the annual price of $1,268 for all 32 of the AAA publications in AS.

Recommendations would be difficult at this early stage in Blackwell’s stewardship of AnthroSource. Rising periodicals costs are forcing many libraries to take a hard look at their e-journal collections. AS moving to a large commercial publisher makes many librarians believe that AAA journals costs will only increase. Since many anthropology faculty will already have access to AAA journals through AnthroSource by virtue of their membership, many libraries may decide to go without AS by subscribing to just those AAA journals that focus on the specific fields of anthropology emphasized at their institutions.

A possible benefit to subscribing to specific AAA journals a la carte through Blackwell Synergy is that Blackwell is also the publisher of a number of non- AAA anthropology journals. This might be a better option for smaller college libraries without an anthropology program.

The resources of a large commercial publisher like Blackwell, however, may add more value to the current legacy product from UC Press. If Blackwell can help the AAA grow AS into the portal it was originally intended to be, it might provide enough added value to make any price increases worthwhile. Whether such a portal will be created, or even desired by users, remains to be seen, but the potential is there for AS to evolve into a very unique and interesting resource. And, while the move to Blackwell has caused some concern in libraries, the best-case scenario for the future of AnthroSource would be that efficiencies (hopefully) gained by moving to a commercial publisher will decrease the
cost of access and expose the AAA’s resources to a broader audience.

If funds allow, there is no question that AnthroSource would be an asset to a library’s electronic collection. However, if the decision comes down to dollars and cents, there are ways to survive without an institutional subscription to AS. Blackwell’s contribution to AS remains to be seen, and as of right now, there simply is not enough unique content in AS to justify a new subscription to it. Libraries should hold off another year to see what Blackwell has in store for AS in 2009. If new, more unique content is introduced, then that would serve as a very good sign that AS might live up to its original vision. If not, then the more prudent course of action would be to subscribe to individual AAA journals electronically through Blackwell.


1 JSTOR is a non-profit organization that provides access to a huge backfile of scholarly journals in electronic format. See:
2 Skomal, S. (2005). Transformation of a scholarly society publishing program. ARL, 242, 1–5. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from
3 Blackwell Publishing. (September 17, 2007). Wiley- Blackwell and American Anthropological Association Announce Partnership. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from pressitem.asp?ref=1435
4 See aforementioned article by Skomal, S.
5 The author consulted UlrichsWeb (the online version of Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory), the AAA’s publications page at, or simply the title of the publication or goals of the AAA section that publishes it.
6 Document types were identified through UlrichsWeb, or in the event that the publication was ceased or not listed in Ulrich’s, the author made a judgment based on available issues.
7 CrossRef is a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) Resolver that facilitates linking within online literature. For more details, see


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