The Public-Access Computer Systems Review, an Open Access Journal, Was Launched 30 Years Ago This August

On 8/16/1989, the University of Houston Libraries launched The Public-Access Computer Systems Review (PACS Review). Its first issue was published in January 1990.

What were some of the distinguishing characteristics of this early digital journal?

  • It was a born-digital journal. Major journal publishers, such as Elsevier, would experiment with providing access to born-print journals in university settings starting in the mid-1990's.
  • It was peer reviewed by a distinguished international editorial board with members from Canada, the USA and the UK.
  • It was officially published by an research library.
  • It was a library and information science journal with librarians primarily acting as editors and editorial board members.
  • It allowed authors to retain copyright.
  • It had special copyright provisions for noncommercial use.
  • It was freely available.
  • It adopted an accelerated publication schedule to publish articles as quickly as possible.
  • It published articles by influential authors, such as Stevan Harnad, John Kunze, John Price Wilkin, Ann Okerson, Vicky Reich, and John Unsworth.
  • It allowed authors to publish updated versions of their articles.
  • It was issued an ISSN number in 1990.
  • It was indexed by three major index and abstracting services.

Below is a description of the journal. For information about other early digital publishing projects by libraries, see the Academic Library as Scholarly Publisher Bibliography.

History of the Journal

After being authorized by Robin N. Downes, the University of Houston Libraries' visionary Director, the journal was announced on the PACS-L discussion list on August 16, 1989. A call for papers was issued on October 16, 1989. The publication of the first issue was announced on January 3, 1990. The journal was cataloged on OCLC and assigned an ISSN number (1048-6542) by the Library of Congress National Serials Data Program on February 1, 1990.

Initially, the journal published scholarly papers (Communications section), columns, and reviews. Papers in the Communications section were selected by the Editor-in-Chief and the Associate Editor, Communications. A private mailing list was utilized for communication with editorial staff and Editorial Board members. Most communication with authors was done via e-mail, including paper submission.

The PACS Review was published three times a year. New issue announcements were distributed as e-mail messages on the PACS-L discussion list, and users retrieved the ASCII article files from the University of Houston's LISTSERV via e-mail. (LISTSERV distribution was suspended in 1999.)

Authors retained the copyright to PACS Review articles, and they gave the University of Houston the nonexclusive right to publish the articles in the journal and in future publications. Authors could republish their articles elsewhere, but they agreed to mention prior publication of the articles in the PACS Review within these works. Copying of PACS Review articles was permitted for educational, noncommercial use by academic computer centers, individual scholars, and libraries.

On October 29, 1991, the journal adopted a more flexible publication schedule that reduced article publication time.

A Refereed Articles section of the journal was announced on November 11, 1991, and a call for papers was issued on February 6, 1992. The Refereed Articles section included papers that were peer reviewed by Editorial Board members using a double-blind review procedure, which was usually conducted via e-mail. The publication of the first refereed paper was announced on April 6, 1992.

Between 1992 and 1996, the first five volumes of The Public-Access Computer Systems Review were also published in book form by the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA). Walt Crawford prepared the camera-ready copy for these volumes and Charles W. Bailey, Jr. provided editorial support.

Starting on April 6, 1992, PACS Review issue publication announcements were also distributed on the PACS-P list.

On January 29, 1994, the distribution of the journal via University of Houston Libraries' Gopher server was announced. (Gopher distribution was suspended in 1998.) The journal ceased publishing reviews in 1994.

On March 9, 1995, the distribution of the journal via University of Houston Libraries' Web server was announced.

Starting with the first issue of volume six (March 21, 1995), the PACS Review: (1) published articles in both ASCII and HTML formats, (2) offered HTML articles with both internal and external links, and (3) gave authors the option of updating the HTML version of their articles. The first updated article was "Network-Based Electronic Publishing of Scholarly Works: A Selective Bibliography" by Charles W. Bailey, Jr., which was updated 25 times.

At the end of 1996, Mr. Bailey stepped down as Editor-in-Chief.

Pat Ensor and Thomas C. Wilson became Editors-in-Chief in January 1997. They edited volumes eight (1997) and nine (1998). Publication of the last issue was announced on June 18, 1998. Papers were under consideration for publication until August 2000, when the journal ceased operation.

During its nine years of publication, the PACS Review published 42 issues that included 112 articles, columns, reviews, and editorials.

The PACS Review was indexed in Current Index to Journals in Education, Information Science Abstracts, and Library Literature.

The journal is archived on the Internet Archive and the Texas Digital Library.

Editorial Staff


  • Charles W. Bailey, Jr., 1989-1996
  • Pat Ensor, 1997-2000
  • Thomas C. Wilson, 1997-2000

Associate and Copy Editors

  • Leslie Dillon, Associate Editor (1990) and Associate Editor, Columns (1991-1997)
  • Elizabeth A. Dupuis, Associate Editor, Columns (1997-2000)
  • John E. Fadell, Copy Editor (1998-2000)
  • Andrea Bean Hough, Associate Editor, Communications (1997-2000)
  • Mike Ridley, Associate Editor (1989-1990) and Associate Editor, Reviews (1991)
  • Dana Rooks, Associate Editor, Communications (1991-1997)
  • Robert Spragg, Associate Editor, Technical Support (1996-2000)
  • Roy Tennant, Associate Editor, Reviews (1992-1993)
  • Ann Thornton, Associate Editor, Production (1995-2000)

Editorial Board Members

  • Ralph Alberico (1992-2000)
  • George H. Brett II (1992-2000)
  • Priscilla Caplan (1994-2000)
  • Steve Cisler (1992-2000)
  • Walt Crawford (1989-2000)
  • Lorcan Dempsey (1992-2000)
  • Pat Ensor (1994-1996)
  • Nancy Evans (1989-2000)
  • Stephen Harter (1997-2000)
  • Charles Hildreth (1992-2000)
  • Ronald Larsen (1992-2000)
  • Clifford Lynch (1992-2000)
  • David R. McDonald (1989-2000)
  • R. Bruce Miller (1989-2000)
  • Ann Okerson (1997-2000)
  • Paul Evan Peters (1989-1996)
  • Mike Ridley (1992-2000)
  • Peggy Seiden (1995-2000)
  • Peter Stone (1989-2000)
  • John E. Ulmschneider (1992-2000)


  • Priscilla Caplan (1992-1998)
  • Walt Crawford (1989-1995)
  • Martin Halbert (1990-1993)

Use Statistics

Only partial use statistics are available for the journal. LISTSERV use statistics were not tallied. From 1994 through 1996, the journal received over 81,000 Gopher requests. From March 1995 through 2006, the journal received over 4.2 million Web file requests.

Articles About the Journal

Speech about the Journal

Reviews of the Journal

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Author: Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

Charles W. Bailey, Jr.