According to the Wikipedia, Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely.
As far as new material in scholarly journals is concerned, serendipitous discovery often used to happen when researchers physically browsed new issues of print journals displayed in ‘current issues’ sections in their libraries, or as new issues were circulated between researchers. There were other methods as well – some libraries/information centres circulated photocopies of contents pages of journals to researchers. Both of these things still happen, of course, but to a much less degree than in the past. In the Library that I work, we still have a small current issues section, but it is rarely used nowadays.
In the digital world, seredipity isn’t always so easy.
However, the Internet has made it possible to browse journal issues at publishers’ websites, and also for researchers to subscribe to journal tables of content by email. Two examples (of many) include SAGE E-mail Alerts and Inderscience Table of Contents (ToC) Alerting.
Delivery of TOCs by email is very popular, and can work well, but it can also sometimes be intrusive to receive such emails, and it can take effort and numerous passwords and logins to manage such subscriptions at multiple-publisher websites. One commentator went as far as to say “Some users reported that the alerts they themselves had set ‘haunted them’. I have exactly the same feeling, as sometimes it feels like the alerts I have set for myself are self-inflicted spam.” [Jonas Holmstrom: Report on 8th European Conference on Digital Libraries (ECDL 2004)].
This is where ticTOCs can help. ticTOCs the free journal tables of contents service, can make it much easier to discover things by serendipity. You don’t end up getting lots of email TOC alerts, and you only have to remember one password.
First, you need to register (which is free) with ticTOCs. Then, search for journals of interest and save them to your MyTOCs. You can now browse the contents of the latest Tables of Contents of those journals. The next time you return to ticTOCs and Sign in, any journals with new TOCs will be indicated in bold. So the only thing you need to do is remember to come back to ticTOCs on a regular basis.
Once you’ve added all journal titles of interest to your MyTOCs, scanning their contents is easy, and it’s very likely that you’ll discover items of interest by seredipity.
If you want, you can Export Selected feeds to other feed readers, so you may not even need to revisit ticTOCs. But we hope that you will, because we regularly add new journal TOCs.
A couple of years ago, Lorcan Dempsey, a well-known figure in the information world and Vice President, OCLC Programs and Research and Chief Strategist, wrote “…serendipity is important, and there is an obvious imperative here: we need to make our data work harder to support the much enhanced opportunities for serendipity our network services provide.” With respect to new material in scholarly journals, this is one of the things that ticTOCs is helping to achieve.
ticTOCs Management Support