Professional Development

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ALA TechSource webinar on eBooks in Libraries, 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013 2:42 pm

On February 14th and 21st I attended a two-part webinar on e-books in libraries. The webinar was sponsored by ALA TechSource, and was presented by Sue Polanka, author of the blog No Shelf Required and of two books by the same name.

Part 1 of the webinar was primarily about different types of e-books and different purchase models. Part 2 was about e-reader lending programs, and was mainly targeted toward public libraries. As you might guess, both parts covered ground that we’ve already pretty well covered at ZSR. But I was able to pick up a few tidbits of knowledge that I’ll share here.

Polanka cited a Library Journal survey that found that about 92% of academic libraries provide some sort of access to e-books. I think that was intended to show the growth and prevalence of e-books, but it made me wonder about the remaining 8% (schools to avoid, perhaps?).

She talked about the advantages and disadvantages of buying e-books (1) directly from publishers, (2) from aggregators [think EBL or ebrary], and (3) from wholesalers [e.g. YBP], as well as hosting your own e-books locally (requires enormous IT and infrastructure resources). Polanka also brought up self-publishing, in which individual authors use a proprietary software service to publish their own books, and wondered aloud: How do we discover, review, purchase, and access these e-books?

My favorite insight from part 1 was Polanka’s Rule #1 of buying e-books: “You are not just buying content, you’re buying content inside a container.” In other words, collection decisions must also take the user experience into account. The container might include DRM, specific software or interface, or a specific vendor relationship. The content you want to purchase will often determine the business model, vendor, or license.

Part 2 of the webinar was about lending e-readers, and seem to be mainly aimed at public libraries-types of devices, how to set up a lending program, etc. [*yawn* been there, done that]

One caution Polanka discussed was new to me. She cautioned against lending out e-readers that are not “fully accessible.” This means that a blind individual must be able to access the same content as the sighted, with reasonable ease of use. Polanka described a presentation she attended in which a blind audience member demonstrated with a Nook. The audience member was able to push the power button, but that was all; she didn’t even have a way to tell if the device had actually powered on. According to Polanka, Apple devices (iPad, iPhone, etc.) are fully accessible, as is the Kindle 3; the Kindle Fire, Kindle DX, Nook, and Sony e-readers (among others) are not. (I found it ironic, however, that throughout the presentation, Polanka continued to use the Kindle and Nook among her examples of lending programs.) She also gave three examples of libraries that have been sued (and lost) over this. Yipe!

Derrik at NASIG 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 12:00 pm

One of the things I have always liked about NASIG is that representatives from journal publishers and subscription agents participate fully as members of the organization. Our Alexander Street Press sales rep, Jenni Wilson, has been serving on the NASIG Board, and the new President of NASIG is from Springer. I also find it valuable to attend presentations given by vendor reps, since these sessions teach me about the vendors’ processes, timelines, values, etc.

One such presentation this year was called “JSTOR and Summon Under the Hood.” Summon Product Manager Laura Robinson talked about how Serials Solutions approached the development of Summon. She said their goal is to help researchers start broad and then focus. She explained a little about their relevance ranking, and said they are exploring using the searcher’s geographic location to influence the rankings. Robinson also said that Summon is building a new knowledge base; this sounded important to me, but she made the comment in passing and didn’t go into any detail.

Ron Snyder from ITHAKA spoke about upcoming changes in JSTOR, based on their analysis of actual users’ behavior. He spoke about their Local Discovery Integration pilot, which I reported hearing about at this year’s ER&L conference. He also said they are trying to develop a machine-based article classifier, in an attempt to assign subject disciplines at the article level (JSTOR disciplines are currently at the journal level). Snyder also announced that there will be a complete overhaul of JSTOR’s search infrastructure this summer (but no mention of whether or how the user interface will change).

Another session, presented by Eleanor Cook from ECU and Megan Hurst from EBSCO, talked about the use of mobile technologies in libraries. Hurst gave some excellent definitions of the differences between mobile apps vs. mobile websites, e-readers vs. tablets, etc. She said that currently in the U.S. and its territories, there are more mobile devices than people (how many devices do you have?). Hurst also said that over the last 4 years, mobile traffic as a percentage of total web traffic has been roughly doubling every year; as of January 2012 in the U.S., mobile traffic accounted for about 8.75% of total web traffic.

The opening keynote address was given by Dr. Lynn Silipigni Connaway of OCLC. Dr. Connaway presented results from multiple studies from the US and UK on information-seeking behavior. Much of it sounded familiar (users prefer keyword searching, they are confident in their skills, and they value convenience and speed), but I appreciated that it was backed up by evidence, not just anecdotes. Dr. Connaway was an entertaining speaker, and included many direct quotes from users that were both humorous and a little painful. She said that many users don’t want to approach a librarian for help because we look busy and they don’t want to bother us. She also said that users often complain about insufficient or cryptic signage (e.g. “I’m a smart person, but when I go to the library it makes me feel stupid”). She also spoke about avoiding jargon, and urged us not to put it on the users to figure things out (e.g. Don’t say “former title,” say “used to be called”). She told about walking into a library where she saw a sign that said “Help”; she was confused by it and wasn’t sure what the desk was for, but observed that the users were ok with it and weren’t confused at all.

In another keynote address, Duke University’s Kevin Smith talked about copyright and fair use in light of current litigation. The main points I took away were (1) Don’t put professional activities on hold while waiting for the outcome of cases “out there”; and (2) Fair Use is always a risk analysis: when weighing the risks, be sure to consider the risk of doing nothing.

In Rick Anderson’s closing keynote address, he spoke about the shifting scholarly communication landscape and questioned the continuing relevance of the scholarly journal. He wondered aloud how long it will be before we can ask our smartphones: “Siri, I need 5 scholarly articles on the demographics of Iceland, published in the last 5 years, in journals with an impact factor of at least 11.” Anderson talked about blurry boundaries between types of information, saying that these changes will be a tremendous boon for researchers even while making things much harder for librarians.

I guess that about wraps it up for me. I’ll let Chris tell about the totally awesome presentation he heard about CORAL.

NISO webinar on Usage Statistics

Friday, June 15, 2012 4:35 pm

On Wednesday June 13, Lauren, Chris, and I met to watch a NISO-sponsored webinar on the latest developments in usage statistics standards COUNTER and SUSHI. For those of you wondering, COUNTER is the standard that defines what statistics should be provided by vendors and in what format; SUSHI is a communication protocol that defines how those stats can be shared between computers (and can thus be set up so that harvesting the stats can be automated).

In Wednesday’s webinar, Peter Shepherd (project director for COUNTER) and Oliver Pesch (co-chair of the SUSHI standing committee) spoke about changes coming with the newest release of COUNTER (release 4), then Amy Lynn Fry (E-resources Librarian at Bowling Green State University) described some of the methods and workflows BGSU uses to collect and record usage statistics.

Release 4 of the COUNTER code includes some good changes, IMHO. Shepherd described some of the committee’s objectives in developing the new release, including wanting all publishers to be able to use it, and also making it possible to include usage for local institutional repositories. Some of the new report features include:

  • no longer requires database “session” counts; instead reports “record views” and “result clicks”
  • allows for reporting usage from mobile devices (optional)
  • includes a report specifically for usage of “Gold” Open Access journals
  • will include additional data to facilitate the linking of usage stats to other data (e.g. subscription info)
  • a new report specifically for usage of online multimedia resources
  • a new report that will list journal stats by the year of publication (not just current vs. archival as in release 3)

Pesch said that automating the collecting of usage statistics (i.e. SUSHI) is a step toward “comprehensive” usage collection and increasing the value of usage stats. He also said that although there are changes to the COUNTER code, there are no changes to the SUSHI schema in COUNTER release 4 (the SUSHI communication protocol has been a part of the COUNTER standard since release 3). He described the tools available to providers at the SUSHI website, including FAQ, tools, and a COUNTER-SUSHI Implementation Profile.

Compliance with the COUNTER code of practice is verified by auditors, and compliant vendors are listed on the COUNTER website. Because of the number of changes in release 4, vendors have until December 31, 2013, to adopt the Release 4 standard in order to remain compliant.

… Now, where did I put my notes from NASIG?

Derrik at ER&L 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 11:35 am

I had a very good conference experience with the 2012 Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) conference. It’s almost overwhelming just to look at all the notes I took! ER&L really packs a lot into a 2.5-day conference, averaging 8 sessions a day. And if that’s not enough going on, you can follow even more sessions via Twitter.

My two main areas of focus for this conference were e-resource management systems (ERMS) and demand-driven acquisition (DDA).

ERMS. The first set of breakout sessions included a panel of 8 librarians representing a total of 5 ERM systems. I was one of two CORAL users on the panel. For those of you who are wondering, an ERMS helps Resource Services personnel keep track of databases and licenses-things like license terms, user limits, vendor contact information, etc. The panel discussion used a “buffet” metaphor, and the idea was for audience members to get a sampling of the different ERMS options. The format was fast-moving, even with a two-hour time slot. It was interesting how different sites use the same product differently, and see different strengths & weaknesses of that product. Common themes that emerged in the discussion included using the ERMS for internal communication, desires for better usage statistics management, and Interlibrary Loan permission as the only license term that anyone outside of e-resource management really cares about. And I discovered I’m not the only one who thinks CORAL should include subject headings for databases.

ERMS buffet

At the CORAL user group meeting (my first as an actual user), I learned more about the new CORAL Steering Committee. As I have described in previous blog posts, CORAL was developed by librarians at Notre Dame. But as adoption has increased, Notre Dame’s capacity to develop the product has been diminished. So they have formed a Steering Committee, with librarians from Texas A&M, Duke Medical Library, and the College of New Jersey. The committee will make product decisions and actively develop fixes and enhancements. As always, other libraries are also allowed to contribute code.

On a more general ERMS note, I attended a presentation by Tim Jewell, who has chaired a NISO working group on ERM Data Standards and Best Practices <>, a successor to the ERMI data initiative. Among other things, ERMI defined standards for what data elements should be tracked by an ERMS and has given direction to the development of other e-resource management standards such as SUSHI (usage statistics) and ONIX-PL (communication of license terms). The working group released a report in January (available at the website). The report (and Jewell’s presentation) recognizes that other standards initiatives, many of which have grown out of ERMI, provide greater granularity than ERMI. Thus the working group recommended that NISO not continue to develop the ERMI data dictionary, but instead continue to support these more targeted initiatives.

Sorry for the ERM geek-out; I hope I didn’t overwhelm you too much. Moving on…

DDA. Based on this conference, it seems like demand-driven acquisition is moving out of the pilot phase and is moving toward becoming a more accepted practice. Carol and I presented stats and findings from ZSR’s first year of DDA. We also saw data from the University of Denver’s DDA program, and it appears that they spent about $6 per FTE during fiscal year 2011, close to ZSR’s per-FTE spend of $5. But librarians from Calif. State Fullerton said that their DDA expenditure increased significantly in the second year-something for us to keep an eye on. We also learned that NISO is reviewing a proposal to develop best practices for DDA.

One question about DDA that was brought up a couple of times was planning for removal of titles. As the number of available titles increases, is there a need to “weed” outdated ones? If so, how would this be accomplished? No one offered any answers, just raising the question.

Publishers and vendors are also coming to grips with DDA. DDA is forcing them to re-think their sales models, moving from the predictability of Approval sales to the unpredictable volume and timing of patron-driven sales. Oxford Univ. Press is investing more heavily in discoverability, trying to make all Oxford content cross-searchable. Matt Nauman, from YBP, described their DDA service, and said that YBP is seeing a need to develop an e-book collection management service rather than relying strictly on sales.

JSTOR. John Lenahan from ITHAKA described some of the results of JSTOR user data analysis, and some of the projects they are working on as a result. JSTOR has found that a major portion of their users are coming to JSTOR from outside the library (mostly via Google), resulting in a high number of unnecessary turnaways. So JSTOR is developing some really cool features to address this. First of all, JSTOR has made all journal content published prior to 1923 free to anyone. The are also working on a “Register to Read” function, where a user can “borrow” up to 3 articles at a time. What’s really cool, though, is the “Institutional Finder,” which will prompt the user saying “You are not logged in from an affiliated institution,” and will allow the user to select their university and log in via the proxy server. Finally, they are building an integration with discovery services, providing the user with a link to re-do their JSTOR search on their library’s Summon instance.

Turnover. I attended a session on reducing information loss when there’s staff turnover, thinking of all the information stored in an individual’s memory, e-mail account, hard drive, etc. Strategies suggested included using an ERMS, wikis &/or LibGuides, and project management tools. The speaker also suggested using a checklist for departing personnel. One tip I liked was to create a generic institutional e-mail account to list with vendors so that when a person leaves you can just redirect that account rather than having to contact all those vendors.

AR. I learned about a project at the University of Manchester, where they have developed Augmented Reality (AR) apps in conjunction with Special Collections exhibits. For example, a student might point their smartphone camera at a 200-year-old printing press, or a copy of Dante’s Inferno, and can tap certain areas of their screen to get more information. The externally-funded project represented cooperation among software developers, tech support, librarians, and academic departments. They found it to be most meaningful for 1st- and 2nd-year undergraduates, less so for experienced students and researchers. In case you’re wondering (like I was), their Special Collections dept. has iPads available for checkout for patrons who don’t have a smartphone. More about the project is available at .

ER&L is a great conference to follow on Twitter. There are quite a few attendees (including yours truly) who tweet during sessions, and with only three or four concurrent sessions, the conversations are fairly easy to follow. The conference organizers tried something new this year–in addition to the conference hashtag, they assigned a separate hashtag for each session. It was a good idea (IMHO), but apparently wasn’t publicized very well and had only moderate uptake. It will probably work better next year.

Finally, here are some miscellaneous sound bytes either from my notes or from the conference Twitter stream:
@AnAnarchivist: “Accepting other people’s opinions is an expectation, we want other’s opinions, and expect our opinions to be welcome. #erl12 #millennials”
“Unlikely you’ll ever be down to 1 tool” for managing e-resources – Heidi Zuniga, University of Colorado medical campus
“IP addresses are not an identity” – Thomas Blood, Naval Postgraduate School
@library_chic: “print books were all shareable across consortia. ebooks are, in most cases, not shareable #consortia #erl12″
@annacreech: “What a cataloger thinks a title is and what a vendor thinks a title is are two different things. #ebookpbook #erl12″
@tmvogel: “UDenver: Going through data fast, but it looks like they saw higher per title usage for the titles in both formats #erl12 #ebookpbook”

Derrik at NCLA 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011 2:37 pm

I just realized I haven’t yet posted a report of my attendance at NCLA. Should be a good test of my note-taking. As I had observed at ALA this summer, I found the presentations by and one-on-one discussions with vendors to be a very valuable part of the conference.

During a presentation by the Executive Director on NC LIVE, I learned about a “vendor showcase” immediately afterward, highlighting EBSCO e-books. So I skipped the exhibits and poster sessions (sorry Carol) and went to learn more about this successor to NetLibrary. Through this presentation and subsequent discussions with the EBSCO Steves, I learned much about this new product, and I have already been able to make some improvements to our service. For instance, I obtained the correct database-level URL to direct users to the EBSCO e-books home page. I also learned how to set up a “notify” option so that when an EBSCO e-book is in use, the user can have an e-mail sent when the e-book becomes available (before NCLA, our users simply got the NetLibrary equivalent of a busy signal). I also learned that users can share notes, citations, etc., by creating shared folders in MyEBSCOhost.

I attended an informative presentation by Andrew Pace of OCLC about their new product Webscale Management Services (WMS). WMS is a cloud-based integrated library system; my impression was that they had added Circulation and Acquisitions functions to WorldCat. Three WMS Beta implementers-a public library system, Davidson College, and High Point Univ.-spoke about their experience thus far with WMS. All three spoke favorably of the product and of OCLC (perhaps because they were co-presenting with OCLC?). One said that “the support from OCLC has been wonderful”; another said that students have taken to the product with little or no training; and the librarian from Davidson said “I hope I never have to do another ILS migration in my career.”

I also had a couple of good conversations with our EBL representative about managing our DDA title files. We didn’t solve any problems (yet), but I learned more about how the process is designed to work, and he learned more about how we want it to work.

Other sessions I attended:

  • e-book approval – this enlightening discussion of the e-book approval plans at NC State and Duke was previously described by Carol
  • providing access to online resources – this presentation turned out to be too basic to be helpful, with its tab-by-tab tour of LibGuides and its very rudimentary explanation of how a proxy server works.
  • authentication on public computers – staff from the WCU Hunter Library reported on their research into academic libraries’ practices for authenticating users at public computers


Derrik at ALA 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 4:55 pm

I felt I had a very productive conference at ALA Annual this year. Once again, the conversations with vendors were the best part. I stayed very busy and came home exhausted.

I’m currently on two ALCTS committees-the Acquisitions Section Technology Committee and the ALCTS Task Force on Transforming Collections. The Transforming Collections meeting was covered on the American Libraries ALA Membership Blog []. As the report says, the task force “is interested in reexamining how we define collections and approach collection management in the future.” I also attended (and served as a volunteer at) the “ALCTS 101″ session Friday night. Rather than have a representative from each Section speak to the whole group, the meeting was set up as “speed networking”; each Section had a table, and participants would choose a table and sit there and talk with the Section rep and others at the table for 5 minutes, then move to another table. I met lots of people and thought the speed networking worked very well.

Most of the regular sessions I attended were somewhat disappointing. I found that the descriptions often didn’t quite match the content. For example, I really looked forward to a session called “Implementing and Managing Webscale Discovery Services: Implications for E-Resources Librarians,” but it ended up being just another “here’s the decision process we went through, and this is the decision we made” presentation.

One session that started out disappointing but got better was called “Getting on Track with Tenure.” This panel discussion started as a discussion of pros/cons of faculty status for librarians, but did include (as advertised) some tips for the research/publication/advancement process. Some examples:

  • create a coherent research record (what is your area of specialty?);
  • don’t let Service get in the way of Research;
  • identify your best setting (time/place/atmosphere) for research, and build it into your schedule;
  • have benchmarks, map out where you want to be in ___ years;
  • own your research, but be open to criticism;
  • read more of the research published in your field;
  • don’t compare yourself to others (expectations can be very different);
  • don’t wait!

The Publisher-Vendor-Library Relations Interest Group was the last session I attended, though I wish it had been the first. It was a very good, frank discussion of specific challenges that all players in the e-book market are facing. The three panelists were from YBP, Project MUSE, and the Univ. of North Texas Library. Michael Zeoli (YBP) said that only 20% of approval titles are available simultaneously in print & as e-books, even fewer are available for demand-driven acquisition, and fewer still for consortial purchase. He spoke about the proliferation of e-book platforms, and how even when publishers do make e-books available through aggregators (EBL, ebrary, etc.), they often sell different titles through different aggregators. He also showed data that backlist e-book titles are seeing high use.

Melanie Schaffner, from Project MUSE, described some of the challenges of their venture to offer e-books from various university presses on the Project MUSE platform: getting timely & consistent metadata from publishers; dividing content into subject-based collections (granularity of subject areas, what number of titles in a collection is appropriate, etc.); how to price a subject collection; and institutional customization (most existing Project MUSE customers subscribe to all their journal content, so the platform isn’t currently set up for customized collections).

Beth Avery (Univ. of N. Texas) presented 41 “theses” (she said she was tempted to nail them to the door) of problems with the e-book market. The overarching idea was that now, while the simultaneous print & electronic availability is at 20%, is a great opportunity; we should work with suppliers now to shape the market, not wait until we get to 85-100% saturation. A few other highlights:

  • What is the unit of transaction? Our users deal in articles/chapters, but publishers/vendors/libraries deal in journals/books;
  • archiving – How long will publishers keep an e-book in inventory? How compatible will file formats be in 10, 20, 50, 100 years?;
  • How do we assess the vendor we’re working with? What do we measure? Should university accounting & legal offices fit into the assessment of a vendor? How?

I also attended a few presentations sponsored by vendors. EBSCO sponsored a luncheon specifically targeting e-resource management, but it was essentially a (too) long sales pitch. But other presentations on specific new products were well worth the time. I got a lot of information about the forthcoming E-books on Project MUSE product, and I’m fairly excited to see it roll out. It won’t be perfect, but I think the vision they have is looking in the right direction; for example, while initially the e-books must be bought in collections, by 2013 they hope to be able to offer purchase of individual titles through book vendors like YBP. Commenting on the many issues that must still be worked out, the Director of Project MUSE remarked, “this is 1998 all over again.” I also attended a session on Thomson’s upcoming Book Citation Index on the Web of Science. This will be analogous to their familiar journal citation products, but users will be able to search citations from books, journals, and conference proceedings simultaneously. They expect to have over 30,000 books indexed by the Dec. 2011 launch, and add about 10,000 per year. I do expect it will be a valuable product, but my thought upon leaving the presentation was, “Well, that’s a few more databases we’ll have to cancel to cover the cost…”

My time in the exhibits was more piecemeal than last year, so I didn’t have as much time to wander and explore new products. But I did make a list ahead of time of the vendors I wanted to be sure to talk to, and I felt that my time there was well spent (I ran into two BYU colleagues who were there with an Exhibits Only registration, something I might consider in the future). I had some good conversations with reps at the EBSCO, Overdrive, 3M, Springer, and Palgrave Macmillan booths about their respective e-book platforms and purchase models. I tried to explain why the single-user/unlimited-user dichotomy does not serve us well, and urged all of them to explore other models. I received the usual push-back from Springer when I brought up single-title purchasing (they claimed they wouldn’t be able to make money that way – hmph!). But Steve O’Dell from EBSCO told me that they are developing an e-book option where a library could buy a single “copy” of an e-book, but then lease more “copies” short-term if they knew, for example, that a class was going to need to use it. I also spoke with Drew Watson, product manager for EBL; it’s nice to deal with a company that is still small enough that I could tell Drew “this is a question that came up” and have him make a note and say “I should be able to fix that.”

Electronic Resources & Libraries, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 3:04 pm

Last week I attended the 2011 Electronic Resources & Libraries conference in Austin, TX. I can’t say I learned anything really earth-shaking; one Twitter comment said the presentations were long on “descript-o’-problem” but short on solutions. But there was lots going on; Monday & Tuesday each had 4 sets of concurrent sessions in the afternoon alone, and there were several times I wanted to divide myself into two or three to attend multiple sessions.

This was also the first conference I’ve followed on Twitter, which was quite fun. Not only did it give me a window into some of those sessions I couldn’t attend, I also enjoyed how it allowed me to participate in some side conversations.


I went to the conference a day early to attend a pre-conference on the CORAL Electronic Resource Management System. It includes modules for managing acquisition workflow, storing vendor info and licenses (and making some license terms/permissions visible to the public), and compiling usage stats. This was a very practical workshop, and I got some hands-on experience. I’ve blogged about CORAL before; it is now fully developed, and I would love to get it implemented, but I’m afraid it will require a significant investment of time to get it populated.


Keynote 1 was by Amy Sample Ward, who spoke about innovation, and the need to actively work with (not for) our community. My impression during her presentation was that ZSR does very well in this area.

For Keynote 2, Dr. Amanda French spoke about the Digital Public Library of America initiative, and explained some of the challenges and obstacles they are facing. She said that the biggest obstacle to creating a national digital library in the U.S. is copyright. One of my favorite statements she made was, “imagine an American national library consortium, and imagine the bargaining power such a consortium would have with STEM journal publishers.” The full text of her talk, including pictures of the National Digital Library of Korea, is available at

Streaming Video

I attended two sessions on streaming video. One, by a librarian at UNLV, was primarily an overview and not particularly enlightening, though he did say the UNLV library uses a subject heading “Streaming video,” which I thought sounded like a clever idea. The other presentation was by Christine Ross from U. of Illinois-Springfield. Ross, who also has a Law degree, had some interesting ideas about Fair Use and public performance rights. She told about a lawsuit between the Association for Information Media and Equipment (AIME) and UCLA, in which AIME sued UCLA for streaming content contrary to licensed permissions. The case has several potential implications, including whether federal copyright law can trump state contract law. Ross also talked about alternatives to licensing streaming content, including requiring students to pursue individual subscription options, such as subscribing to Netflix for a semester (hey, it’s cheaper than textbooks).

Demand-driven Acquisition (DDA)

I went to two sessions on DDA that actually presented data, not just “here’s how we’re doing it.” The presenters, from Sam Houston State University, had asked several librarians to go through the 100,000 potential DDA titles and make hypothetical selections for the library. The researchers compared the 8,500 librarian selections to the 637 actual patron-triggered purchases over the first 4 months of the program. Only 116 of the 637 patron purchases were also selected by librarians, but the vast majority of both patron (69%) and librarian (79%) selections were in the Gen-Academic and Adv-Academic categories. The researchers were also surprised to see that patron selections didn’t necessarily match the institution’s curricular emphasis; for example, SHSU has a strong program in Education, but only 4% of patron purchases were in that subject area.

The other DDA session I attended featured reps from ebrary, EBL, YBP, and the University of Denver. According to a Jan 2010 ebrary survey, 80% of librarians view DDA as fitting into their collection development strategy, but only 30% see it as a means to save selectors’ time. EBL said that, based on 100 customers and about 1 year of data, access via Short-term Loans (where the library pays a small percentage of list price for temporary access to an e-book) resulted in libraries paying 14% of list price to facilitate access, whereas access via up-front purchases resulted in paying 247% of list price (because approx. 50% of the purchased books were not used in that year). The YBP rep noted the rapid uptake of DDA, and said they are working on developing management tools. The Denver librarian said he sees DDA as analogous to approval (he didn’t say “replacement”); for example, their university has no architecture program, so they now use DDA for purchasing books in that area.

Mobile services

Another session with research results presented findings from a survey done at Utah State University. 54% of student respondents said they currently use their mobile device for academic purposes (Blackboard, electronic course reserves, etc.). 71.5% said they were “likely” or “very likely” to use their smartphone for assignments or research if library resources were easily accessible that way. When asked what mobile services they would like the library to offer, the highest responses were catalog, articles, and study rooms. The presenters noted that mobile websites are device-agnostic, so a small amount of work has potential to benefit many users. Some examples they gave were Ball State’s databases list (selected databases with mobile interfaces), BYU’s study room reservations, and NCSU’s library mobile site (including a live webcam shot of the coffee line).

Web-scale Discovery

There were several sessions on Web-scale Discovery at ER&L (click here for an overview of them). I went to one by librarians from Montana State Univ. They participated in a WorldCat Local pilot and discovered that getting it to work for them would require large-scale data cleanup. So instead, they implemented Summon. They discussed a number of problems they had experienced-poor communication (diffusion of responsibility problems), misuse/misunderstanding of the search box (top searches included “” and “”), difficulty tracking broken links, unclear how to tweak settings for results ranking, no overall limiter for peer-reviewed results. The presenters were not entirely negative about Summon, but cautioned not to expect it to be an out-of-the-box discovery solution.

In other sessions…

A librarian from Indiana State Univ. presented a schema he developed to systematically evaluate free online resources to help decide how much staff time it’s worth investing to track and manage the resources. A librarian from Illinois Wesleyan U. discussed a method she developed using Excel and Access to conduct overlap analyses of databases; in one case, she found that a particular A&I database had only 3 unique titles. And librarians from Virginia Tech demonstrated the upcoming release of LibX 2.0. LibX is a Firefox plugin that allows users to search library holdings without having to go first to the library’s website (so for example, from the user can check whether the library has a book they looked up). They also demo’ed LibApps, which will allow libraries to place content onto third party pages; the example they demo’ed was to place an icon next to the JSTOR search box, so that all the library’s users with a LibX plugin would be able to click it and see a video tutorial (they did this live, in the session, in about 5 minutes).

Finally, I want to make sure you all know that Harper Collins has put a limit on the number of times their e-books can be lent by a library (26 times, then the library has to pay for more). Even though this primarily affects public libraries for now, I was surprised at how many at ER&L hadn’t heard about it.

And that was the ER&L conference… well, that’s the short version anyway. ;)

Derrik at ALA 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010 4:00 pm

This was my first ALA Annual. As I prepared for the conference, I was amazed (and a little disconcerted) at the amount of relevant programming. Every slot seemed to have multiple programs that looked good; one time slot had at least 6 programs of interest. Plus I knew I needed time to visit the vendor exhibits. This was bound to be a good conference.

Three of the sessions I attended dealt specifically with e-resources:

  • Sue Polanka of Wright State Univ. spoke about e-book formats and freeing e-books from DRM. She recommended that librarians urge e-book publishers to use the ePUB standard. Polanka also talked somewhat about electronic textbooks and problems such as ADA compliance and increased demand for bandwidth.
  • In another session, four presenters spoke about usage statistics. One common theme was the need for more content providers to use the COUNTER standard. One speaker described how her library had used usage statistics to communicate value to the university administration, comparing their ScienceDirect payment to what it would have cost to pay for individual downloads.
  • Another presentation dealt specifically with measuring e-book usage, and featured my former department chair, Tom Wright of BYU. He noted that the apparent low use of e-books seems to parallel print; about 50% of print books purchased by his library from 2000 to 2010 have never circulated. BYU is currently working on devising a way to integrate patron-driven acquisition with an approval profile, an intriguing idea which an audience member from Univ. of Iowa said had worked fairly well for them.

I also saw a demo of Notre Dame’s new ERM system, CORAL, which I originally saw last February at the ER&L Conference. CORAL is a fairly simple, open-source system for managing e-resource licenses and acquisitions. The libraries at Stanford and at Duke’s Medical Center have recently implemented CORAL, and Emma Cryer at Duke said that she is “a big fan.” She said it took their programmer an hour to get it set up! I’ll definitely be taking a closer look.

As I said, I knew I would need to spend time in the exhibit hall. What I didn’t anticipate was how productive that time would be; as Susan put it, I had work to do! In my first half-hour visit to the exhibits, I discovered a new full-text Latin American periodicals database. Then a Saturday afternoon program got out early so I spent another half hour in the exhibit hall and learned about a new web-scale discovery product called Deep Web (or something like that), which I’ll be following up on soon. In other visits to the exhibit hall I checked up on upcoming platform changes to ProQuest, SpringerLink, and Wiley Journals, I told Alexander Street Press that we wanted a la carte purchasing &/or customized collections (they’re coming), and spent some time talking with ebrary about their proprietary reader and their web-based reader.

Finally, I’ll add my voice to Lauren’s comment about the iPad with 3G. The instant-on feature is great; if I’d had to wait for it to boot up, I’m not sure I would have used it at all, at least not for taking notes. And the 3G access was important since very few of the places I went had free wi-fi access. Very nice tool; thank you to those responsible!

Derrik at ER&L 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 1:21 pm

On Feb. 1-3, Carol and I went to Austin, TX, to attend the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference (ER&L). Our original Sunday flight was cancelled due to the weather, so while everyone else was sleeping in due to campus opening late, Carol & I met at 4:00 a.m. Monday morning to head to Greensboro to catch our 6:00 a.m. flight. Our flight went to Austin by way of Detroit (somebody at Delta needs geography lessons) and featured a hearty breakfast of Biscoff cookies and soda. We ended up missing more than half of Monday’s sessions; even so, there were a lot of sessions and lots of good information.

I attended three different sessions on e-books, hoping, I suppose, for some brilliant idea or approach we could implement here. There was plenty to learn from others’ experiences, but alas no great epiphany. In one presentation, representatives from Connecticut College, Univ. of Texas at Dallas, and Duke Univ. spoke about their pilot projects with patron-driven selection of e-books. In at least 2 of the cases, there was no indication to patrons that their use was triggering a purchase, and purchase was automatic within certain parameters (e.g. price). The programs were very popular at all 3 schools; Duke had budgeted $25,000 for the pilot, and spent that out in less than 2 weeks. I asked where the funds had come from-Duke had received a grant; Connecticut College also received a grant, plus diverted some money from the book budget (he didn’t know more specific than that); U. Texas-Dallas had diverted money from their approval plans (she said they had only been spending about half of their approval budget anyway). I also attended a presentation by librarians from the Univ. of Alabama. They are moving heavily into e-books, although not (yet?) using patron-driven selection. They budgeted for e-books by cancelling all print approval plans (yipe!). To date they have focused on buying large pre-defined packages of e-books, but are now trying to come up with a procedure for ordering single titles. They also mentioned the question of dealing with edition updates (and whether they need to retain edition history).

I went to two sessions about implementing an Electronic Resource Management System (ERMS); for those who don’t know, that’s kind of like an ILS for databases and e-journal packages, managing acquisitions, license terms, etc. (only without the public catalog component). The Systems Librarian from Harvard described their migration from a home-grown system to Verde. I suppose we don’t have much in common with their 70-library system, but takeaways include her recommendation that you shouldn’t expect perfection, so identify your priorities and delineate a scope for the project. She also pointed out that a new system will mean a major shift in workflow; don’t expect to keep doing things the same way.

The other ERMS presentation I went to featured the ERMS that librarians at Notre Dame are building. They had decided that vendor systems tend to be too complex, and they wanted something simpler (“Just show me the information I need to do my job”). They decided to build the system using a modular approach, building one module at a time. The modules are designed to be inter-connected but not inter-dependent (so, for example, a library could use the licensing module without using the purchasing module). They are now about 2/3 of the way through. I thought the product looked good, and would be very interested in a closer look. Notre Dame intends to share the finished product and may consider a development partnership (didn’t know if we were interested…).

I attended a very interesting discussion about the changing nature of article access. Users tend to want an article, and no longer need to access or even identify the journal that published the article. There was discussion about tools needed (and being developed) to facilitate article access, e.g. article-level usage data, article-level purchasing options & acquisition workflows. The speaker pointed out that OpenURLs are based on ISSN, which is not article-level, so if we move toward article purchasing, how would we provide access? Audience discussion got into other aspects of the feasibility of article-level acquisition, including the observation that such a shift involves not only libraries and publishers, but also researchers/authors, deans, and university administrators.

Several of the themes from that presentation came up again the next day in a presentation about recommendation services and libraries. The presenter was the product manager for bX, ExLibris’ new recommendation service, although her presentation looked at various recommendation systems (online shopping-“you might also like…”), and only talked about bX a little bit at the end. She discussed possible applications to library searches-e.g. Harvard Bus. Review: “People who read this also read…”; Univ. of Huddersfield library (Engl.): “People who borrowed this also borrowed …”; and PubMed’s “Related articles, which uses a usage algorithm in addition to subject headings. She described bX, which uses aggregate usage and clickstream data across many libraries (collected from SFX usage) to recommend related articles. They are also looking for a way for users to rate the recommendations. The presentation reminded me of one I went to 8 years ago where another presenter from ExLibris described a new standard called OpenURL; I expect to see lots of development in this area of usage-based recommendations.

Other miscellaneous presentations: One of my BYU colleagues described their project to identify overlapping access to e-journals and to weed based on usage, including a fairly thought-provoking discussion about access vs. ownership. A librarian from Montana State Univ. described their internal tool for tracking e-resource problem reports, which I thought was a good idea, but she didn’t discuss implementation or describe the costs/labor involved. I also attended a session describing Western Michigan Univ.’s implementation of Summon. The presentation was fairly even-handed, not full of hype nor gloom & doom; for example, he reported that Summon integrates well with VuFind, but also said it is hard to tell exactly what’s included in searches (e.g. searched for Kellogg’s Annual Report, which is in the catalog, but couldn’t find it in Summon).

Whew! Long post, but a very good conference overall. I’m happy to talk more in depth if anyone wants.

NISO Webinar on ONIX-PL

Monday, December 21, 2009 1:09 pm

On Dec. 9, 2009, Lauren C., Carol, Chris, Erik, Jean-Paul, and I viewed a webinar, sponsored by NISO, on the ONIX-PL standard. (Special thanks to Chris for his work in getting audio set up when the initial plan failed.)

What is ONIX-PL? Well, I’m glad you asked!

ONIX-PL is a fairly new standard for encoding e-resource license terms. It is a communication standard; that is, its purpose is to enable libraries, publishers, and vendors to express e-resource license terms in machine-readable format. This would allow terms to be shared between different computer systems, such as being loaded into electronic resource management systems (ERMS) and being more easily shared among library staff as well as patrons.

Webinar presenters were Rick Burke, Exec. Director of the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium; Wilma Mossink, Legal Adviser for the SURF Foundation, a higher-ed organization in the Netherlands; and Mark Bide, Exec. Dir. of EDItEUR (ONIX-PL is a joint project of NISO and EDItEUR). Burke spoke about a pilot project his consortium is working on with EDItEUR to develop and open-source ONIX-PL editor to help map license terms into an ERMS. Mossink spoke of the potential of ONIX-PL to help member libraries more easily access e-resource permissions, e.g. whether a particular resource can be used in course packs. She also stressed the importance of asking publishers and ERMS vendors to support the ONIX-PL standard. Bide spoke about a current project, in collaboration with JISC in the UK, to develop a Registry of electronic licenses that would, for example, allow an end-user to click on a link to see a pop-up window of specific license permissions/restrictions. Of course there are some significant challenges to be overcome before this will work smoothly, but the potential is exciting.

Slides from the webinar are available at

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