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ERMes: An Open Source ERM Galadriel Chilton
Speaking Points Slide
Hello, I’m delighted to be here today and share information about ERMes, the
homegrown e-resource management system that I co-designed with my
colleague, William Doering, now UW-L's Metadata and Document Delivery
Librarian (former Systems librarian), and that Bill constructed in Microsoft
o Towards the end of my presentation, I will mention other open source projects
related to e-resource management and give a tour of ERMes, but first…
o This is ERMes’ story…
In the beginning, there was an e-resource librarian, a systems, cataloging, and
digital collections librarian, and a piece of paper called “Database of Databases.”
For context here is an overview of the e-resource management environment at
UW-L and what lead us to create an ERM instead of buying/subscribing to a
o We have 200+ E-Resources – primarily subscription databases, but a
few CD-ROMS, and promote access to freely available aggregate
o Subscription resources come to us via local purchase directly from
the vendor, through our consortia, or buying groups. We also have
access to resources purchased by the University of Wisconsin -
Madison or via the University of Wisconsin System’ Shared Electronic
o When I began managing the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse’s e-
resources in 2003, I had a file cabinet, a couple of static intranet
pages, and 3-ring binders as my e-resource management toolbox.
File cabinet folders included license agreements, print-outs
of e-mail correspondence, contact info, print outs of usage
reports, admin URLs usernames/passwords.
Binders included invoices
Intranet pages listed an out-dated inventory with user limits,
subscription origin (local, consortium, etc.)
o Very quickly, I had an easel in my office where I planned a database
of databases; I envisioned an MS Access relational databases that
would significantly help me manage e-resources.
o Then, in January 2004, I attended Taming the Electronic Tiger:
Effective Management of E-Resources at ALA Midwinter. Presenters
spoke of how integrated library system vendors were creating robust
ERM systems that would surpass the need for homegrown systems. I
came away with the message that if you don’t have an ERM now,
don’t spend time creating one because better commercial ERMs
o After attending "Taming the Tiger," I continued adding to my list of
desired attributes for an ERM but put plans of creating an Access
database on hold. Instead, I began contacting vendors who had or
were developing ERMs. I attended webinars, requested pricing
In the beginning…
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Speaking Points Slide
information, and also began monitoring listservs for posts by
librarians who had begun to use commercial ERMs.
o My desire for an ERM grew, but commercial ERMs are expensive.
Furthermore, listserv posts and survey results began to reveal that
commercial ERMs were not necessarily living up to librarians'
o A combination of factors led me to reignite my dream of a Microsoft
Access database of databases:
• Mounting evidence that commercial ERMs were not living up
to expectations--For example, in March 2008. I attended
ER&L, and in one session with about 75 attendees, the
audience was asked "How many of you have a commercial
ERM?" followed by "How many of you are happy with your
ERM?" While about half of those in the room worked at
libraries with commercial ERM systems, no one was happy
with his or her system.
• Budget deficits were forcing cuts to acquisitions; our budget
has been cut repeatedly over the past few years--thus the
possibility of purchasing a commercial electronic resource
management (ERM) system was a pipe dream at the very
• My extended absence from the office in Fall 2008 and the
necessity for colleagues to be able to cover my
responsibilities--They would need to be able to quickly and
easily access a variety of data about our libraries' e-
First there was a colorful diagram
o I was delighted when Bill, who uses Access for other library
functions, data collection, and reporting, agreed to help create an
o To communicate what I needed in ERM, I created a chart showing
the tables and data fields I imagined would be needed; the green
and purple boxes represented Microsoft Access tables.
o This diagram became a blueprint and a discussion point for our
conversations about what I needed and what he could do with
Microsoft Access. While aspects of the overall ERM were refined as
it was developed, most of the changes were due to Bill's insight
after he extensively reviewed the Digital Library Federation’s
Electronic Resource Management Initiative’s recommendations for
ERM data elements and recommendations by other e-resource
librarians! Though no attempt was made to incorporate all of the
Picture of ERM
Screen Shots of old
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Speaking Points Slide
Then there was a simple ERM!
o Our ERM was quickly available and functional. Bill had students
entering test data in less than 3 weeks, and while small
enhancements continue, the system went from concept to fully
functional in about a month.
Then the ERM grew; hello ERMes!
o In spring 2009, Norma J. Dowell from Iowa State University
contacted Bill, and shared her significant enhancements for the
o Highlights of this version include:
• New and vastly improved interface
• New reports and much improved integration of the data from
• A basic A-Z list that developed by our colleague Jenifer
Holman that we use as a back-up to our primary A-Z list.
Screen Shots ERMes
…and grew again.
o In early June 2010, we released the latest version of ERMes.
o Highlights of this current version include:
• Fixing a known bug, many new data entry fields, new
reports, expanded documentation, and a new open source
• An enhanced A-Z list
Screen Shots ERMes
Now, ERMes is part of…
… a suite of tools that I use for E-Resource Management
While this may not be ideal for some, it’s working. (One bonus to having
multiple tools is that if one goes down, I still have the others to work with
in the interim; they serve as back-ups for one another)
o PSP (Student hired for PHP skills)
o Of these, the only tool that has an annual fee is LibData and that is
a very modest hosting fee. The other tools use software already
available on our campus (Microsoft Office) or are freely available
(e.g. Word Press)
Screen shots of
Blog, Excel spread
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The Good, The Bad
• ERMes did not cost four to five (or more) figures to purchase.
• There is no annual access fee or reliance on an outside
vendor for functionality updates.
• If we need a new field for our ERM, we can add it
immediately and have it function within a few minutes.
• ERMes provides reports and functionality that facilitates
better management of e-resources, such as keeping track of
training sessions and quickly generating a list of databases by
renewal, access type, user limits, a problem log by database
that I refer to when negotiating database renewals, etc.
• Ideal for small to medium e-resource collection or as a tool
to transition to a commercial system.
• Open Source which means that anyone can download and
adjust/customize the database to suite their institution;
their e-resource workflow. Thus saving funds that would be
spent on a commercial management system to
• Can import COUNTER JR1 stats into ERMes
• Upon download, ERMes, comes pre-populated with some
vendor/database which helps one understand how ERMes
works, but there is no thorough Knowledge Base
• V. 2009.5 and 2010.5 require MS Access 2007; older version
that works with older MS Access is still available.
• As with any ERM, there is the time-consuming, tedious task
of data entry and workflow alteration – it is very true that
old processes, despite their inefficiencies, sometimes die a
slow, agonizing death.
• Access us not always the most intuitive program – after data
entry, the most common road-block for users is learning
basic Access skills.
• Right now I’m using ERMes to manage aggregate databases,
e-reference books, and journal packages – NOT – individual
journal titles. This is in large part because of workflow
distribution at Murphy Library.
• Time to implement all of the ideas we have to enhance
ERMes and support ERMes users.
• No web interface
• No known easy solution for migrating data to new ERMes
• Still working on multiple user rights
• ERMes does not integrate with our ILS or Open URL resolver
Freely Available: http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/erm/
ERM Download Site
Where in the world are ERMes users?
In Spring 2009, 12 libraries were using the ERM.
Map of ERMes users
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By October 2009, 27 libraries including the NSF library and the Irish Research
eLibrary were using ERMes.
As of November 1, 2010, 51 institutions around the world are using ERMes
including 6 outside the United States (Canada, India, Ireland, Denmark, New
Zealand and the United Kingdom)
o States represented include: Alabama (1), California (1), District of
Columbia (1), Florida (1), Georgia (1), Idaho (1), Illinois (2), Iowa
(2), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (2), Minnesota (4), New Hampshire
(1), New York (2), Pennsylvania (1), South Carolina (1), Wisconsin
Use of ERMes varies – for some it is a repository for vendor contacts and user
names and passwords only. The great thing is that you can use the piece that you
need; you can try it but if you don’t like it, you’ve probably lost a bit of time but
not thousands of dollars.
The Next Chapter(s)
Hopes & Dreams
Bill and I are in the process or exploring grants that would support future
development and support of ERMes
In September 2010, we surveyed ERMes users and those interested in ERMes
about what they would like to see for the next round of enhancements and
how we could best support users.
o So far, for the next release users have indicated that e-journal
management at the title level and a read-only interface would be
Long term goal is compatibility with OpenOffice.org’s Base database
application so that ERMes would be open source at the application level
and not rely on MS Access.
More developers --- lending a head where our skills stop and others begin.
Other open source, freely available ERM solutions
o ERMes is one of 4 open source ERM solutions that I am aware of. As
mentioned earlier, we believe ERMes works well for small-medium
libraries or for libraries. The other open source solutions have
technical requirements and expertise that we don’t have right now.
o CORAL, developed at the University of Notre Dame
The fact that in two years ERMes has been through three releases and has over 50
users from around the world, and that there are other fantastic developments
occurring right now in the world of open source ERMs not only suggests that
commercial systems are not meeting librarians’ needs – either through cost or
functionality – but also that librarians are fiercely talented folks that are good at
sharing/collaborating and have the ability to change the world – at least the small
world of e-resources - and that if the people who manage e-resources create the
ERM, then we’ll end up with a powerful tool that does exactly what we need and
doesn’t cost 4-5 figures to purchase + annual maintenance fees.