24:3 (2009:09) 24th Conference: Preconference: Navigating Your Way through the E-Journal Rapids

September 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Conference Reports, Preconferences | Leave a comment


Navigating Your Way through the E-Journal Rapids
Tina Feick, Harrassowitz; Deberah England, Wright State University; Jeff Aipperspach, Serials Solutions; Kim Steinle, Duke Univesity Press; Chris Beckett, Atypon
Reported by Janie S. Jones

Our raft included representatives from the primary players in the e-journals supply chain: the publishers and platform hosts, vendors, and librarians.  Participants had completed a pre-program survey, and our answers were provided as a handout.  In this survey, we shared concerns, frustrations, desired improvements in the e-journal process, and more.   It made for interesting reading later that night!  Susan Davis introduced the session by comparing the e-journal and print journal environments.  The e-journals world includes more players, pricing models, deals…more problems!  While serials have always been complex, the pace of activity has increased, everyone expects everything yesterday, and the work requires new skills and many new tools.  A list of tools includes:  A-Z list management, link resolvers, licenses, usage data collection, and spreadsheets ad infinitum.

Deberah England identified the various players in an increasingly complex supply chain and observed that since it is still developing, there is volatility in this marketplace.  Publishers create content.  The “Big Four” publishers, Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley, claim 50% of the market.  Aggregators compile content from multiple sources to produce a collection of titles or a database.  Republication services such as BioOne and Project Muse provide access to collections of resources published elsewhere.  Third-party platform hosts, e.g., Atypon, Highwire, etc., provide access to content via server platforms and support services.  Most provide a librarian gateway and access to usage statistics.   Subscription agents serve as purchasing and service intermediaries between publisher and institutional subscriber.  Brokers such as OhioNET, MLC, and Lyrasis, etc., serve as purchasing intermediaries between service provider and institutional subscriber.  A-Z list service providers such as CASE, EBSCO A-Z, Serials Solutions, and TDNet, offer discovery lists with links to subscribed resources regardless of how a resource is hosted or packaged.  ILS and ERMS vendors, e.g., 360 Resource Manager, CUFTS, ERM, Gold Rush, Verde, etc., install and maintain subscriber bibliographic and purchasing systems.  They provide potential for loading data from external sources.

Kim Steinle from Duke University Press explained this publisher’s role in the e-journals process, identifying some of the challenges of offering print and online.  In 2005, Duke began a Library Relations program in order to engage with and learn from libraries.  As a result, Duke has streamlined site license negotiations and has created its Library Resource Center, where information such as pricing, titles lists, urls, date ranges, etc., is available.

When Duke migrated to a print+online product, staff was not increased, but work was redistributed.  Duke strives for excellent communication with the customer, and takes pride in strong customer service.  They ordinarily have a grace period of 90 days since subscribing to and completing the activation process can be quite lengthy.

Rocky shoals that Duke faces include communicating product options, providing relevant information, urls, etc., processing orders quickly, and providing immediate access.  Perhaps most challenging, for everyone, is keeping current with new initiatives and technology, such as standards like COUNTER, SUSHI, ATHENS/Shibboleth, institutional identifiers, and SERU.  Even Duke, with only five electronic journals collections, has five site license types, and Steinle indicated the hope is that Duke can consolidate or eliminate site licenses.

Chris Beckett, from Atypon, led us in a lively ride through the rapids from a platform perspective.  Atypon hosts many familiar names in e-journals, such as ACS, JSTOR, BioOne, and it partners with CrossRef.  Beckett opined that library collections used to be assessed by quality, comprehensiveness, and relevance to the institution, but librarians ceded this responsibility to publishers.  Now libraries are organized by imprint, so the information is stored in publisher silos.  New tools have been developed to address this problem, such as federated search engines, link resolvers, A-Z lists, and even the OPAC.

For the Google generation, these interfaces are obstacles to the information.  Beckett made the point that publishers suffer from “featuritis,” the new-features arms race, because their focus has moved from users to competitors.  After a period of useful optimization, publishers continue to add features, but users find the additional features user-unfriendly, and a hindrance.

Tina Feick of Harrassowitz enlightened attendees on the many ways in which an agent can help librarians.  She noted that e-journals present agents with opportunities for providing new services in resource identification and evaluation, license management, activation of electronic resources, resource discovery and access tools, usage tracking, negotiation, and e-package sales.  All of these add complexity and require increased staffing with higher skills.  In addition, since it is all quite new, little is systemized.  Pricing is customized for each customer, and negotiations may include different format types, e-books, e-journals, e-databases; subscriptions; backfiles, and differing titles lists.  Negotiations can be quite lengthy, as well.  Feick encouraged librarians to tell their agents if they are making a deal directly with the publisher, because it could affect pricing from the vendor.  In addition, archival rights are a continuing problem.  She advised participants to learn their institutions’ policies regarding e-resources, get involved in the deal negotiations, work closely with agents, and remember to keep the user in mind.  Agents also have goals, including seamless fast ordering for e-resources, access without interruption, and e-resource information exchanged through EDI transactions.

Jeff Aipperspach of Serials Solutions discussed e-resource tools, such as the 360 Resource Manager from Serials Solutions.  This service uses centralization; data import; bulk editing; normalization, pointing to the correct title; and development of a knowledge base to meet customer needs.  He advocates industry standards, because they improve interoperability and save time and money.  He suggested that budgeting for maintenance and management of e-resources needs to be a separate category in planning and budgeting.  Concerning the value of a library to an organization, in addition to branding, Jeff suggested adding pricing data to search results to inform users of the value of a search, and collecting information about the average value of searches and publicizing it.  He noted that the Friends of the Library at Meriden, Connecticut, collect this information two weeks a year, and publish it, which has helped the library maintain funding in these times of economic stress.

The focus of the session was then directed to workflows.

Deberah England, Wright State University, addressed workflows in the electronic environment.  Since workflows are partly sequential and partly parallel, she suggested developing a workflow for the mainstream, and a checklist for other processes.  She shared the results of a study of Ohio academic libraries, in which the researchers were looking for commonalities in workflow processes.  They discovered that workflows were not commonly established; that many departments might be involved in the e-resources workflow; and that obstacles to developing workflows include time to learn new systems, volume of workload, staff changes, and lack of training.  Deberah uses OCLC Link Evaluator to check the A-Z list.  She uses a claiming function to create a report to use for checking.

Susan Davis from the University at Buffalo provided not only a general overview of the e-resource life cycle, but also a case study from Buffalo, which included their “10-step program,” aka, their checklist for processing a new e-journal.  She reminded us that documentation is a good thing!   An internal listserv is a useful tool for keeping the whole library informed about anything regarding serials—status, agreements, etc.  Susan was enthusiastic about a tracking system for reported problems that Buffalo uses, and she identified several that are available, such as Bugzilla, and RT (Request tracker).  Susan observed that MS Excel is a librarian’s new best friend.

The panel wrapped up this informative session on e-journal management by revisiting topics in which there was continued interest.  Participants commented on a range of issues:  Is archival access being given the attention it should?  SERU is one aid in the burgeoning problem of handling license agreements.  Librarians were advised to pay attention to indemnity clauses in license agreements.  It would also be helpful if publishers added a SERU logo to their web pages, similar to the logo indicating COUNTER compliancy.  In addition, the library community remains concerned about the lawsuit between Georgia State University and publishers.  Lastly, to maintain funding, use the annual report to highlight budgetary points, such as increasing journal costs or the average cost of a search, or indicating how the library user benefits from library services.


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