The Journal Supply Chain Efficiency Improvement Pilot:
The Journal Supply Chain Efficiency Improvement Pilot:
What’s Good, What’s Bad, What’s missing?
Donald Chvatal -- President, Ringgold, Inc
NASIG, June 1-2, 2007
Introduction and summary:
The title of my presentation was developed some months ago from my expectation that
by the time I came to Louisville, the Pilot Project described would be nearly over. The
results would show much “good” to have been accomplished; no real “bad” results, and
there would be nothing “missing”.
One thing is sure, the Pilot is alive and well and will be extended through 2007 and
probably well into 2008. The most important conclusion to date: there remains much that
is “missing” primarily in the lack of direct participation by libraries and vendors of
ERMS and ILS software. There’s little to say about what is “bad” simply because the
connotation of what might be “bad” as the opposite of “good” is the same as what is
missing: we need more participation by all parties in the journal supply chain to gain
improved efficiency, particularly in delivery of eContent.
One “excellent” result from the Pilot is that there is a growing appreciation for the need
for improved institutional identification, particularly within the context of electronic
delivery of information from publisher to end user. As electronic content availability
during the past ten years became more pervasive for commercial STM publishers, there
has been an emerging revenue shift from print to digital within libraries; likewise
publisher delivery mechanisms changed everything, the effects of which have given us
challenges not experienced previously.
Defining the Journal Supply Chain:
Let’s take a look at some of the dynamics now at work between parties in the supply
chain, starting with a working definition of the goal of the supply chain: to effectively
deliver information (content) from producer to end user. Defining the supply chain
participants and characterizing their activity in broad terms, the components of the
journal supply chain are the following:
• Publishers, creating content in multiple formats
• Publishers’ distributors, re-distributing the print and electronic content for
• Hosting platform services, organizations providing digital server platforms for
content delivery to users, both institutional subscribers and individuals
• Subscription agents, processing orders and servicing delivery contracts for
• Subscription fulfilment software vendors, providing subscription management
services to publishers
• Integrated library system & ERMS software vendors, installing and
maintaining subscriber purchasing systems
• Institutional subscribers, purchasing and/or using content created by publishers
• Individuals, purchasing and/or using content created by publishers
Perspectives from within the current supply chain:
The present supply chain picture is messy, particularly for those of us (librarians and
others) who represent the end users and who are charged with supplying patrons,
students, faculty with the resources they expect to need. As end user representatives,
librarians represent their institutions by purchasing information direct from publishers, or
through various agents. For such purchasing the subscriber sometimes must decide to do
a solo purchase or use the financial leverage of a consortium. The purchase will balance
questions of format, print vs. electronic. If electronic, will purchase guarantee “access
forever”? What about sustaining guarantees for uptime maintenance of entitlements over
time? Temporary or permanent loss of service is deadly to service-minded institutions.
What are your access issues? So you purchase something, now how are you going to
access and display it in your catalog? Deploy link resolvers and consolidate search
formats? Does your OPAC properly display holdings in a context where the users
understand what they are looking at?
It’s messy for publishers too. One of their biggest problems is pricing. How to price
electronic journal content so that it is at least “revenue neutral”. The presumption is
always that when electronic content is sold, the print subscriptions will be canceled. So if
“x” number of copies are delivered to an institution at “y” dollars each, then the total
delivery of electronic content should be made for no less than the sum of (x) times (y) =
(z). The problem can be even more complicated. Your institution shares its resources
directly with a neighbor or through a consortium, and this relationship is unknown, and
therefore unaccounted for by the publisher. A further unknown is the potential number of
personal or individual subscriptions that might be cancelled when electronic access is
available currently “free” through a local library source.
It’s messy for agents and other supply chain participants also. But do we much care
about them? Their job is to help us solve our problem, that’s why they get paid. But they
are required to deal with our library and other institutional information, translating it into
useful transactions for publishers to supply what is purchased.
Identify: Ringgold provides improved Institutional Identification
The idea of uniform identification for institutions is not new, but it came to Ringgold
from the experience of Oxford University Press (OUP), their Journals unit, where they
decided some five years ago (2002) to establish unique identifiers for the “licensing
units” represented by their institutional subscribers. A company called Information
Power in the UK worked out a program with Oxford to create a hierarchic database of
institutions, properly named and identified and carrying associated metadata about their
size, type, and nature of their ownership (e.g., private, public, governmental).
Information Power audited Oxford’s subscriber files; the British Medical Journal
followed, and today approximately 35 publishers are in some processing stage with
Ringgold. Along the way Information Power merged with Ringgold, which itself was
working a different angle of the supply chain in the form of developing OpenRFP, a
webservice devoted to online procurement of ERMS, RFID, and other solutions
appropriate to ILS software.
There are five active partners in the ownership of Ringgold: four are librarians, all five
have been active in automated systems development, and all five have been consultants to
various organizations within information technology. Two of the partners, Helen
Henderson and Chris Leamy, were founders of Information Power, the company that
originally contracted with OUP. Some twenty-five contracted researchers work for
Ringgold in the process of establishing and maintaining a registry of institutional
identifiers, called Identify.
Identify represents Ringgold’s branding of its database, now listing nearly 75,000
institutions worldwide. Publishers drive the major decisions about database content.
Their concern is for the “licensing units”; for example, the identity of a university is its
formal institutional name, not necessarily the library or various departments. However,
within the institutional identification, and linked to it, are “children” each uniquely
identified where such have independent purchasing control as with schools or faculties of
law, medicine, or business. Narrowly-defined but associated and jointly-funded institutes
(that might purchase electronic content) are also included. Hospital groups and
independent hospitals, government agencies that do purchasing, other corporate bodies
are included as well.
Identify is available as an online webservice and there are considerations for access to
the metadata. Some of the data is regarded as “public” and standards-based; some is
“conditional” and based upon the publisher’s requirements for an audit of their
subscribers. Not all fields are available for every institution, but the basic information
1. Institution formal name
2. Alternative names for the identified institution
3. Institutional Identifier Number (unique: Ringgold)
4. Physical Location (City, State, Province, Country)
5. Postal code
6. Links: Website URL
7. Type of institution (defined by Ringgold and Publishers)
8. Size of institution, based on type (staff, faculty, hospital beds)
9. Rank or tier of institution, as defined by external agencies (e.g., Carnegie for US
and JISC-Joint Information Systems Committee in UK)
10. Institutional hierarchies with links
11. Consortia memberships
12. Other Identifiers: IPED (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data – System
numbers under the auspices of the US Dept. of Education
13. Other fields in preparation, planning, etc.
The Journal Supply Chain Efficiency Improvement Pilot (JSCEIP)
As delivery of electronic content became more pervasive for STM publishers, Ringgold
looked at the supply chain and realized that many traditional relationships had become
broken as new hosting services and aggregators demanded establishment of new
relationships. Older delivery methods and agency relationships were becoming
dysfunctional and there was a lack of trust among competing parties.
How could Ringgold make it better for all parties in the chain? Coming from outside the
traditional supply chain, Ringgold could more easily become a catalyst for change.
Existing parties reasonably could be suspicious of each other working in the same
competitive context. Boundaries are clearly present when parties provide existing and
competing services. But institutional identification represented only a contextual
boundary, one that required bridging by all parties, similar to what ISSN is for item
identification in a supply chain, or what ISIL and SAN represent to physical locations.
The willing partners to a year-long Pilot Project were:
• Swets as agent representative
• HighWire as hosting representative
• Select HighWire publishers (Oxford Univ. Press, Rockefeller Univ. Pr.)
• Independent publishers, BMJ (British Medical Assn) AMA (American Medical
• British Library, representing UK libraries and possible ISIL national registry
The partners created a narrow definition of investigation: could the creation of a
standard, commonly-used identifier for institutions worldwide be of benefit to all parties
in the journal supply chain, specifically to gain efficiencies. We decided to apply specific
focus only to UK institutions for all aspects of supply. It is important to note here that
“institution” does not equate always with “library”. There are approximately 8,000 UK
institutions in the Identify database; by comparison, OCLC may identify only
approximately 1/3 of these as their member libraries. This point of disparity is to show
that from the supply chain perspective, many journal subscribers are simply organizations
that do not consider or identify themselves as libraries.
With specific focus on the UK and all aspects of supply, we looked at various roles to be
played by pilot participants in working groups and with project packages. We created
two committees, one for strategy and another for communications, both internal and
external. A website at www.journalsupplychain.com is maintained, with documentation
of all sorts relating to Pilot Project activity.
We set about to “audit” the UK institutions as represented in the databases of Swets,
Oxford, Rockefeller, and BMJ (British Medical Journal), insuring that a common number
existed in all databases for testing any scripts that might be devised for researching and
Some of the immediate issues and questions that captured the attention of supply chain
Mapping the supply chain
In devising a graph showing the key components and information exchanges within the
supply chain, and working with Swets data, we immediately ascertained that the
Ringgold identifier, in its current form, would not serve the delivery address needs of
agents such as Swets. In traditional print delivery the material goes to a physical address;
electronic delivery is made to a server that is recognized as more “virtual” than physical.
Publishers paying Ringgold to organize their subscriber information have not been
inclined to worry about print delivery addresses other than to associate them as part of
their (logical parent) institutional identifications to cover this contingency. To satisfy
specific addressing delivery points requires more granularity in the identification
IP address questions
What are the correlations between publisher and agents in terms of the identities of
institutions; for example, the correlation between IP address ranges as held by each? The
single error in an IP address range can wreck havoc by opening doors to unlicensed
groups or deny service with little to no knowledge that service has been denied.
Preliminary matching of IP addresses between participants shows discrepancies enough
to point to a need for more control to be executed across the chain in copying and sharing
Electronic data exchange
Participants were keen to explore how to do “early access authorization” as new orders to
publishers or agents might easily trigger an immediate release of content from Hosting
services. Why not allow agents upon receipt of new orders immediately to authorize
access to content where the institution is “known” and “trusted” to make payment, thus
avoiding delays associated with transfer of the related ordering information up to the
publisher and subsequent payment confirmation and advise to a Host that service can
then, subsequently, be turned on? Weeks and months in delivery time might be saved.
What’s in it for publishers?
To understand better the context for this Pilot Project we need to consider what’s in it for
the participants. A database audit of the subscribers to a publisher’s journals provides
links for each subscriber to an authoritative master record for that institution and provides
additional metadata for the institution and its related organizations. Publishers then can
apply metrics for market penetration study while being able to automatically produce
institutional holdings reports—clearly necessary for producing fast pricing quotes. This
also gives the publisher a handle on knowing all subscriptions going to a particular
institution, regardless of what appears on the order forms. In other words, it is the sales
and marketing departments in publishing houses where the initial appeal for institutional
There are operational impacts as well, notably the elimination of false lapses for renewals
where often renewals get treated as new orders, subjecting the former order to
discontinued service. It becomes easier to merge/purge customer/subscriber lists when
companies or journals change ownership. In the longer term, it may prove equally
advantageous to publishing house operations to deploy institutional identification as part
of order fulfilment.
In summary, the commercial value in Identify services includes:
1. Customized lists (reports) to link institutions (publisher’s subscription data).
2. Webservices to show publisher journal titles arrayed with subscribing institutions,
including numbers of subscriptions.
3. Market segmentation reports to analyze by title and by the institutes or
subsidiaries within institutions.
4. Market reports to show “gaps” .by region or type.
What’s in it for Agents and suppliers?
A summary of numerous potential values to agents (courtesy of Swets and others…)
1. Easier ordering process: Fewer problems with duplication, aided by proper
identification of the institutional source for the order.
2. Speedier eContent activation.
3. Renewals recognition: with title changes, subscription agency changes, and even
institutional reorganization, subscriptions lapses are counted as new, unidentified
subscriptions, causing an interruption in the supply, even with gracing periods.
4. Customer service gains: Faster problem resolution, easier to locate records for
customers; ensuring accuracy and prompt handling of changes or updates as to IP
ranges, contact names, etc.).
5. Simplify obtaining price quote information from publishers for various E-
packages, or “big deal” or for title lists representing tier and band levels.
6. Corporate transfers: publishers working with aggregators, or even with other
publishers, often need to assess current total lists and the degree of market overlap
between potential business partners and knowing the definitive customer base of
each is essential.
7. Usage analysis: now that industry standards are being followed for usage
reporting, it is possible to merge reports incorporating institutional data from all
channels. There is a need to be able to authoritatively identify the institutions in
different reports, perhaps generating new licensing and pricing opportunities.
8. End-user identification: It will be easier to track end-users of consolidated
subscriptions supplied by third parties, like subscription agents, without additional
work from all parties.
9. Automatic institutional holdings reports: frequently, the library is not aware of all
the subscriptions a publisher maintains for its institution and this now means that
the publisher or agent view of holdings for that institution is clear and time is not
wasted debating between publisher/supplier and customer what the holdings are.
10. Coherent reporting is represented in the form of a centralized reporting system,
providing accurate and up-to-date listings of all subscribed eResources with
additional, consolidated information. Some of the existing ERM systems have a
central database of content control, and it may be possible to have a database of
what publishers consider institutional entitlements.
11. Existing subscriber identification for users who register for document delivery, or
for access to free content. It is possible that the institution is already a subscriber
and once identified as a member of that institution, the user can be set up for full
access to the content.
What’s in it for Libraries and other subscribers?
Here are some of Ringgold’s positions and reactions from librarians:
1. Many identical improvements as for agents and publishers, but in different
2. Complete holdings lists in the form of internal views of institutional relationships
and entitlements: who are you as an institution for all of your component parts,
what are all of you buying, including individuals. Publishers have this
information, so why not for subscribing institutions, then all parties are working
from a common playing field.
3. Local campus agencies, departments, and personal subscriptions become
identified and classified.
4. Reduced delays in activation.
5. Minimal loss of service.
6. Simplified renewals.
7. Easier usage statistics updating (COUNTER).
8. Improved reports of title and subject coverage, with metrics to provide
authoritative lists of subscriptions by publisher to negotiate a ‘big deal’ or bundle.
What’s in it for Consortia, or Library surrogates?
Ringgold is in discussions with two consortia to define possible services that could be
performed on behalf of membership:
1. Service improvements to membership in the form of support for central directory
programs where information is lodged about each institution for central
administration, particularly where the consortium must supply data to all of its
information providers (allows existing “many- to- many” relationships to become
“one-to-one” relationships or “one-to-many” services).
2. Supporting surrogate IP provision.
First, a broad understanding for the principles of governance and control over
“Information” of various types is necessary at all levels in the supply chain for its proper
functioning. This “information” is owned by different entities in the chain. In effect,
there are different kinds and levels of “information” held or owned by the supply chain
parties. Let’s examine this ownership proposition in more detail:
Examining the issue of ownership in more detail, it should be intuitively obvious that the
subscriber owns one’s institutional information, that the ownership and control over an
institution’s identity is retained by that institution. So to populate an external database
with information about an institution, would it not be so that the best source for such
information would come from a designated agent of that institution? Therefore, the
responsibility for maintaining institutional identifications resides with the local institution
—or maybe an “authorized” surrogate.
Similarly, the publisher owns its journal title and its content information.
The subscription information (e.g., what is being ordered, its price, delivery address) is
jointly owned, shared by the parties involved in the subscription transaction; this would
include, for example, transactions involving the exchange of money.
Ringgold’s thinking about supply chain efficiency improvements recognizes the
“principle of subsidiarity”, defined broadly by Wikipedia and other sources as “…the
principle which states that matters ought to be handled by the smallest (or, the lowest)
competent authority.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as “…the idea
that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks
which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.”
This concept is applicable in many fields of political science, government, and
management. It applies equally under the 10th amendment to the American constitution:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it
to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people”. A classic
example for the application of subsidiarity in government administration is that of road
building. The city builds roads within its jurisdiction, the county and state do likewise,
and our federal system does what cities, counties, and states cannot do, providing for an
interstate highway system. According to this principle and within its charter, the
European Union may only act (i.e. make laws) where member states agree that action of
individual countries is insufficient.
Applying “subsidiarity” to the supply chain, therefore, simply means authorizing and
supporting each organization’s level of competence and ability to contribute its “value” to
the chain. A lower level can delegate responsibility to another (intermediate) level, but,
properly understood, responsibility for ownership lies within the organization itself.
Libraries might delegate interlibrary lending responsibility to a consortium authority, but
it is clear they own the rights to their property in the form of their print and electronic
resources. Similarly they own their IP addresses while they transfer use of such numbers
to agents vested with responsibility to deliver services to users on their behalf.
In conclusion, the owner of the information (or the owner’s surrogates) control, supply,
and maintain the information in the chain in the most desirable structure and with the
most economic methods. A successful model for improved supply chain efficiency
should enable institutions to provide for and control information about their identities and
provide for the communication of this information effectively.
Where there is exchange of information between supply chain participants there is the
need to properly identify who is represented; particularly in computer-to-computer
exchange of information, the standardization of the conventional identification of an
institution would insure accuracy.
Second, an international” standard” for institutional identification
Are standards needed? Yes, but we can’t afford to wait for standards to be developed.
Commercial practices are likely to dictate results. We do need standards if we expect that
this work will move onward, faster and more successfully. As soon as standards are
adopted, everyone can place greater reliance on the information content and make
decisions more reliably.
Take, for example, the MARC format; it works because we all understand what it is and
what to expect. We could not have had as much success with our integrated library
systems without a cataloging standard to enable faster development of OPAC display
options and to ease the costs of maintaining proprietary data. The transfer of information
from one system to another is simple because the exchange is based upon a common
expectation of what to expect at either end.
Ringgold is not exempt as an organization from the potential demands that standards
impose. In fact, the larger an institutional initiative standard grows, the more important it
is to Ringgold and to other agencies. Having standard metadata definitions in any area of
activity common to similar organizations is important for all elements of information,
whether they are openly shared or available only on a restricted basis. A standard is
developed in open dialog from which would evolve a separation of institutional
identification and the set of metadata that will support identification. Even where
associated with a public identification, one can imagine all sorts of information that will
be private, shared only where there is a purpose on the part of the owner of the
Library representation through standards keeps the doors open to new or additional
players at any level in the supply chain. The standard restricts monopoly control using
proprietary data. In fact usually the “winners” deploy quickly around the standard while
the market moves faster as well. It may be difficult for us to understand, at this point in
time, that MARC, having used it as an example above, is almost taken fully for granted.
It’s only upon reflection that we realize its impact. Bridging to another example where
standards will play strongly, RFID deployment is likely to move more quickly when a
standard data model is deployed—this has already happened in Europe. Linking
protocols need to be intelligent, with both sides knowing what to expect in terms of data
formats. Standards will help insure this.
Third, good examples to prove the validity of concept
Missing from our real-life experience are explicit examples of data exchange between
supply chain participants based on XML “standards-driven” data definitions. One
example of electronic messaging exchange proposals being considered between EBSCO
and THINK is a draft proposal and test under ICEDIS message protocols and it does
include a proposed XML schema. In simple form, the new order or renewal from a
customer to EBSCO will trigger near-simultaneous transmissions by the agent of an order
to the publisher and a request to the Content Host for immediate, provisional activation of
access. Details should better be secured from EBSCO or THINK. Meanwhile, within
our Pilot Project, test messaging for early activation of new subscription orders is being
tested in a similar manner between Swets and Rockefeller University Press. A critical
element in the metadata exchanged will be an institutional identifier.
Fourth, lack of participation by librarians and representative suppliers, particularly the
ILS and ERMS vendors
ERM and ILS suppliers may perceive the value for supplying institutional identifications
to libraries as part of their service, but they will likely be driven by customer
requirements and not by altruism. Using EDIFACT deployment as an example, it was
only in the context of suppliers like Harrossowitz, EBSCO, Swets, teaming up with
specific libraries that moved the ILS vendors to implement the exchange of order and
financial information within parties of the supply chain. What’s missing is a “tipping
point” at which institutional identification becomes a functional requirement, not an
The Pilot remains very much a work in progress. Institutional subscribers and libraries
represent end users and ultimately qualify success. The goal of the Pilot is becoming one
that transcends a fear of loss of service to one where information professionals are
becoming committed to more efficient electronic content delivery: faster, cheaper, with
more effective access for users across all available resources and copies. Information
professionals are being challenged to participate in this program by:
1. Supporting NISO standards development, particularly the development of an
Institutional metadata standard.
2. Demanding use of identifiers and participation by all agents, ILS and supply
3. Using Ringgold’s public version of Identify to incorporate local identification
numbers into communications with publishers and agents.
4. Join the Pilot as a library (question: do you have leverage that would be a catalyst
for change?) One option for subscribing institutions would be to use Ringgold’s
Identify registry service to maintain IP address ranges.
Successful business models, over time, insure there is a recognized value for service
provided. For all parties revenues must be greater than costs and services must be
perceived as providing “real” and sufficient value. To date publishers are willing to pay
for the organization of their subscriber data. Other intermediate players in the supply
chain are beginning to perceive value to identifiers; these other parties must also pay, or
contribute, in order to control their expected outcomes.