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From Innovation to Transformation: Managing the Transition from Print to Electronic Journals

September 29, 2008

From Innovation to Transformation: Managing the Transition from Print to Electronic Journals

Patrick Carr, the Electronic and Continuing Resources Acquisitions Coordinator at East Carolina University, spoke next. He began by recapping the problem currently faced by libraries: rising serial subscription costs of roughly 10% a year and flat library budgets. Expenditures for serials consume an ever-greater percent of the library budget, and libraries have been faced with essentially two alternatives: consortial buying partnerships or pay-per-view access. Consortial partnerships have become the dominant model for acquiring e-journal content.

At Mississippi State University, where Patrick previously worked, the Library was able to increase the number of journals they subscribed to via their “journal expansion project.” By working with liaison librarians and faculty subject experts, they identified duplicate titles and titles to be cancelled, and swapped them for desired titles. Working with vendors like Wiley and Elsevier, they were able to add new subscriptions for less or only slightly more money.

Patrick commented that the pay-per-view model isn’t really a mainstream model. It requires libraries to develop accounts whereby authorized users can download articles at the library’s expense. The problem with this model is that it’s difficult to keep control of costs. However, some institutions have adopted this model, providing their users with access to journals they would normally be unable to use.

With regards to providing users with content, Patrick noted two trends.

Trend #1) Every user his or her access point
There is no one correct way of approaching or accessing information. For example, users might find their information via the OPAC, A-Z Journal lists, a metasearch engine, link resolvers, and so on.

Trend #2) Toppling information silos
There is a greater reliance on using a single knowledge base (a la VuFind, metasearch, etc.) to access information. The number of libraries using metasearch continues to grow as more and more librarians accept the reality (to paraphrase Jane Burke) that a federated search engine is a necessity, not a luxury.

Patrick next discussed the administration and support of e-resources, which are closely allied. In particular, he discussed several standards/initiatives that will impact e-resources:
1 – Electronic Resources Management Initiative (ERMI) – Its goal is consistent, industry‐wide e‐resource management guidelines.
2 – Shared E-Resource Understanding (SERU) – This is a pragmatic alternative to license
negotiations. Patrick shared an instance when instead of renegotiating an unacceptable license agreement, he was able to persuade the vendor to accept the standard SERU license agreement. He was happy, the vendor was happy.
3 – TRANSFER – This refers to a code of practices dictating what happens when an e‐journal transfers from one publisher to another (not a pretty situation as every tech services and public services librarian knows)
4 – Knowledgebases and Related Tools (KBART) – Provides guidelines for the effective interaction between members of the knowledge base supply chain (e.g., publishers, aggregators, link resolvers, libraries).
5 – Cost of Resource Exchange (CORE) – Its goal is interoperability between the acquisitions’
data in a library’s ILS and ERM system.

He noted that “effective e-journal management requires personnel capable of adapting to and mastering a complex and constantly changing array of tools, interfaces, and workflows,” and he demonstrated this complexity by showing us a flowchart taken from an article by Rick Anderson and Paoshan Yue, “Capturing Electronic Journals Management in a Flowchart” (Serials Librarian 51:3/4: 101-8, 2007).

One piece of e-journal management is evaluation. Formerly, when evaluating a print subscription, librarians had a pretty clear-cut decision: either maintain a subscription or cancel it. With e-journals, there are more questions to be answered:

  • How many ‘simultaneous users’ does the library need to pay for?
  • What interface is best when there are several to choose from?
  • Should the library subscribe to individual titles or to a package?
  • Should it subscribe to archives or just current issues?
  • Should access be by IP address or password?
  • And so on…

He next talked about the impact of e-resources on the print collection, noting that libraries are devoting less space to housing print materials and more space to areas for patron collaboration. Some of the challenges faced when weeding the print collection include identifying titles, evaluating the quality of online access, finding environmentally responsible means of disposing of the print, and (very important) avoiding negative PR.

Finally, libraries need to ensure that they will have perpetual access to their electronic journals. Libraries should become members of some initiative to ensure this such as LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) and Portico, a non-profit initiative developed with support from JSTOR, Ithaka, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Library of Congress.

Last of all, Patrick (who holds an MA in English) shared a poem by Samuel Beckett with us that sums up his belief that we need needn’t be afraid to “Fail Better!”:

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.

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