E-Resource Workflow for a Small/Medium Academic Library
Agenda: My introduction to eresources management Tracking eresources Assessment of eresources Outsourcing eresource management tasks Questions
My first electronic resources management task was given to me almost 9 years ago: catalog all of the electronic journals in two publisher packages, each consisting of several hundred titles. It wasn’t hard, since most of it involved locating the records on OCLC and importing them into our ILS.
However, I began to see some problems with this method less than a year later when the URLs for the journals changed, requiring someone to go in and change them in the records. Just maintaining the URLs alone was becoming an uphill battle.
This was my first “fail” lesson in electronic resource management, and it wouldn’t be my last.
Tracking resources requires a lot of communication and teamwork. Even if you are a department of one, you will still end up working closely with folks in other parts of the library to purchase and manage electronic resources.
We use a commercial electronic resource management system (ERMS), but home-grown systems can be sufficient as long as you are consistent and document procedures. I worked out of manila folders and archived email messages for years before I had a commercial ERMS to play with. But even with an ERMS, sometimes it’s better to use tools outside of the ERMS to track a resource through its lifecycle. Here are a few that I find work best for me.
When I set up a trial for an eresource, in addition to linking it where relevant, I also set a task reminder in Outlook for the day the trial ends. That way, it doesn’t hang around too long, and makes sure that step isn’t lost in the shuffle.
I tried several different methods including PDF forms and digital checklists to keep track of all of the steps required when we purchase a new eresource, but eventually I realized that the simplest and most effective was to create a paper checklist.
I hang it on my cork board and check periodically to make sure that the resource is still moving through the process, and then recycle the paper when everything is checked off.
Also, because we have specific metadata associated with the eresources on the website and in LibGuides, I created a simple web form for the requesting liaison to fill out. Having a standard form has helped get this information in a more consistent (and digital) format. I usually try to have them do it as soon as we place the order so that I can have everything in hand when access is turned on, but sometimes it takes a while to get a response.
One of the things I have been very thankful for is the practice of digitizing license agreements that was in place at my library before I arrived. We keep the paper copies as well, but it’s been very handy to have access to the license agreements without having to get up and go dig thorough a file drawer to find the one I need. We also store them in a network folder, which opens up access to other library staff as needed.
I haven’t yet figured out a secure way to make them available online via our ERMS, but when I do, they’re ready to go.
I spend most of my time on eresource assessment, since we outsource most of the heavy lifting like cataloging and link maintenance. Assessment comes in many different flavors, but right now I’m focusing mainly on data sets such as COUNTER reports and cost/use, a.k.a. counting beans. They’re among many tools in the liaison’s arsenal, and they’re frequently a good way to flag resources that are under-used and in need of attention.
The season for gathering usage reports is in January and February. Some institutions collect them every month or every quarter, but except for a few on-demand cases, I find that annually is frequently enough for us. Our ERMS can’t ingest SUSHI (Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative) reports yet, so I’m gathering these by hand, or in the rare instance where it’s possible, I have a report set up to email me once a year for the previous year’s COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) data.
All of the admin access information is in our ERMS, but I find it’s easier to export it into a spreadsheet and work my way down the list. For resources that provide non-COUNTER statistics, I massage them into the COUNTER format. I know I can’t compare apples to oranges, but generally I’m not comparing resources with each other, but rather assessing them over time, and the COUNTER format allows me to keep it somewhat consistent.
Getting cost data out of our ILS has been a long and arduous process. As much as I hate the interface, I am thankful that we have an ILS that allows us to create and run reports that pull in data which can be filtered and massaged in Microsoft Access.
Once you’ve gathered all of your data (or even before it, if that’s your preference), you’ll need to build the connectors that link them together. I’m using the identifiers for each resource in our ERMS, but anything that can bridge the two (or more) sets of data will work. This takes time to set up, depending on how many eresources are involved. Just keep reminding yourself (and your boss) that once you have this in place, generating annual reports (or on the fly) will be a snap.
In July, I pull a report of the previous fiscal year costs from our ILS, and upload them into our ERMS. This allows me to generate a cost/use report as needed for any of our eresources.
I’ve also created an eresource renewal decision database in Access that pulls together cost, use, and renewal deadlines, among other things. It also took some time to pull together, but maintaining and updating it is simple. The big benefit is knowing exactly when a resource renews and how much advance notice we need to give the publisher. Also, by having all of the statistical data together in one place, the liaison can more effectively use it to make renewal decisions.
I briefly mentioned this earlier, and I wanted to address it a little more fully now. A big part of why I am able to do so much of what I do is because we have outsourced as much of the work as we can.
Automation is your friend. If you have the budget, pay for a MARC record service to maintain and update your ejournals. It's likely to cost less than staff time.
Also, if your ERMS works with OCLC's eHoldings service (free for OCLC members), you won't have to worry about maintaining your holdings there, either. This makes ILL happy, and if ILL ain't happy, ain't nobody (in serials/eresources departments) happy.
Almost everyone now has an A-Z list of some sort, and almost everyone is using an automated process to manage it. Both my assistant and myself have administrative access, so if there is a problem with an individual link, either of us can get in and fix it. However, for more systematic issues, we turn that over to the ERMS vendor to handle.
I experimented with outsourcing the use statistics data collection, and if you’re only interested in data from COUNTER-compliant sources that provide clean reports and admin access outside of the institutional IP range, then it’s not a bad deal. However, that is such a small portion of our resources that I’ve decided to go back to manually collecting everything myself.
So, that’s it in a nutshell. Thank you for listening. Any questions?
Anna Creech firstname.lastname@example.org