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Additional Resources: Student and Faculty

What the what is a 'Moving Wall'

Lauren Trimble

In the course of your travels through the wondrous world of JSTOR, you will likely encounter the idea of a moving wall. If you’re a fan of mysteries or a student of architecture, something like this might come to mind:

An understandable association

An understandable association

While we are a digital library, no walls of books, physical or abstract, are involved. In the world of JSTOR, the moving wall refers to the gap of content between the archival and current issues of a journal. It is set by a journal’s publisher and ranges from 0 to 10 years, although the majority of journals in the archive have moving walls of 3 to 5 years.

You might be thinking this is a lot less thrilling than a creepy old library full of walls that move, but the moving wall is a source of endless excitement for the JSTOR Support team. For one thing the moving wall flip happens every year in early January, just when our team is feeling blue that the holidays are over. This is when another year of content is added into the archive to expand the scholarly pursuits of our honored users. It is just as exciting as a physical wall that moves, with 100% less chance of bodily harm or nasty bugs being involved!

To add to the thrill factor of a moving wall, that straightforward number you see (i.e. 5 years) is tricking you! The surprising twist of a moving wall is that the number never includes the current year. So in 2017 for a journal with a moving wall of 5 years, archival content goes through 2011, not 2012 as simple subtraction might suggest.

Now that you’re excited about the moving wall, you need to know where to find it. On any journal landing page, you will see a menu to the right of the journal's title that says “Journal Info.” The moving wall is listed below "Description" and "Coverage" in that area. Let’s look at an example, The Georgia Review.

In this case, the moving wall is 3 years which means archival access is available through 2013. Fun!

Understanding the moving wall and knowing where to find it for a given journal comes in handy when you’re trying to figure out what you should have access to on JSTOR. In the example above, your institution might not license the current issues of the journal, so you might only have access to the archival portion through Arts & Sciences III. There would be icons indicating that part of the journal was unavailable in that case, but now you know another place to check!

If you ever have questions about access, or are unsure of whether you should be able to read certain issues of a journal, you can always ask our team! We’re friendly and knowledgeable, and we find the moving wall exhilarating.

Until next time!