Managing the Virtual Library
Jane Burke, Vice President, Proquest CSA, General Manager, Serials Solutions
As a broad introduction, Burke announced that her presentation would do the following:
- Ignore day-to-day issues.
- Ignore traditional values in order to preserve an ability to deliver information to end-users.
- Attempt to be deliberately controversial.
And her warning about what she was going to say was on target—except that she failed to disclose that much of what she was going to say dovetails nicely with the goals of the companies which she represents. This remark isn’t a criticism of her talk because I tend to agree with her compelling ideas; it’s just a reminder of the lens through which we need to view her comments.
Her ideas on the current state of libraries and some developments she’s heard about through her work:
- The old model of library use is gone. It was developed in 60s with big bucks being infused into universities. Librarians spent the money on what they could buy—big buildings and print collections. This is no longer the environment in which we operate—for multiple reasons.
- Most libraries are approaching 50% of their materials budgets spent on e-resources; we know that these resources are under-utilized. We also know that these electronic collections are much more volatile and thus harder to manage than traditional print resources. But rather than bemoaning the paradigm shift, we have to remember it’s all about the USERS and what they need.
- Burke referenced a recent article in the Feb. 15 Library Journal on Google Scholar and its popularity. We can’t bother trying to teach users individual interfaces any longer; we have to meet them at Google which is what they prefer to use. There has been a paradigm shift.
- There has been a fundamental change in the academy: Courseware and Google are the lingua franca.
- A university in Minnesota (one of the satellite campuses) has moved the reference librarians’ offices from the library into academic departments. They no longer live in the library.
- Disintermediation—a “coming apart” is a current risk for libraries.
So, what can we do?
Align priorities and behaviors with reality. Stop doing lots of stuff that isn’t appreciated by users. Her basic mantra: you can do anything but you can’t do everything. Included among the activities Burke recommends us giving up or revising:
- Reintegrate technical services and put E-resources at the heart of your activities. Discontinue all the processing activities associated with print resources—“Starve the books; they won’t go away. Just don’t focus on them.”
- Stop doing Bibliographic Instruction. It doesn’t work.
- Don’t accept the “long tail” as an excuse—there aren’t enough staff resources. The long tail doesn’t apply to us in libraries.
- Stop serials check in; don’t worry about claiming. Rely on RSS to alert readers to new issues/articles.
- Treat the ERM as the acquisitions module for E-resources.
- Buy your metadata when possible and use local expertise to develop only that which can’t be purchased.
- Use hosted systems. Think: SaaS (Software as a Service). This will preserve time and money for unique resources
Tools for our use:
- On Discovery: You must make some sort of federated searching option available for your patrons. No, it won’t be perfect, but they’re using Google Scholar as their federated search engine now, and if we don’t offer an alternative, we’ve lost the battle.
- On the new Discover layer: Burke thinks there are a few main players: Primo, Encore, Open World Cat, and Google Scholar. It’s too early to tell which will win out, but something will. You can’t wait, however, to see which one wins. All solutions are temporary until something better comes along.
- Push your link resolver to get what you need. Hold your vendors accountable. Also, skip the landing page; you don’t need it. Patrons find it intrusive; instead, put branding on the article and save the patrons a step. If it fails, then have a landing page. But remember they want one-click access.
- “Gotta have XML.” Get an XML server layer for your ILS; understand XML gateways to publishers.
- Support the NISO MXG effort. (This gets XML into federated search products.)
- Learn to speak ONIX (XML-based set of standards): This is one of the tools that Barnes and Noble and Borders use to present data to their customers.
- Participate in the development of ERAMS. (In some ways, Burke seemed to be suggesting that this would replace ERMs; then at other moments, she suggested that ERAMS would live on top of and be supported by ERMs.) So what does ERAMS stand for? E-Resource Access and Management Services. It’s a new way of thinking about how we manage library collections and make them accessible. ERAMS will:
- Collect—a comprehensive e-resource knowledgebase which will allow the deployment of a library’s entire e-resources collection in one single, easy-to-use interface.
- Correct—maintain the accuracy of currently available content through a team-maintained knowledgebase (because no single library can manage a thorough knowledgebase).
- Connect—provide users with answers using the best method.
- Control—give libraries the tools needed to budget, analyze collections, etc.
We don’t know what will make ERAMS complete, but that’s why librarians have to help vendors design them.
“Being” truly Web 2.0 means that you do the whole thing: harness the collective intelligence and judge ourselves by YouTube and Fickr. Are we the center of our community?
After all, the relevance question is on the table…. If we’re questioning it ourselves, then you’d better bet the provost is questioning our relevance when he or she talks to the president.