NASIG 2010: What Counts? Assessing the Value of Non-Text Resources

Presenters: Stephanie Krueger, ARTstor and Tammy S. Sugarman, Georgia State University

Anyone who does anything with use statistics or assessment knows why use statistics are important and the value of standards like COUNTER. But, how do we count the use of non-text content that doesn’t fit in the categories of download, search, session, etc.? What does it mean to “use” these resources?

Of the libraries surveyed that collect use stats for non-text resources, they mainly use them to report to administrators and determine renewals. A few use it to evaluate the success of training or promote the resource to the user community. More than a third of the respondents indicated that the stats they have do not adequately meet the needs they have for the data.

ARTstor approached COUNTER and asked that the technical advisory group include representatives from vendors that provide non-text content such as images, video, etc. Currently, the COUNTER reports are either about Journals or Databases, and do not consider primary source materials. One might think that “search” and “sessions” would be easy to track, but there are complexities that are not apparent.

Consider the Database 1 report. With a primary source aggregator like ARTstor, who is the “publisher” of the content? For ARTstor, search is only 27% of the use of the resource. 47% comes from image requests (includes thumbnail, full-size, printing, download, etc.) and the rest is from software utilities within the resource (creation of course folders, passwords creation, organizing folders, annotations of images, emailing content/URLs, sending information to bibliographic management tools, etc.).

The missing metric is the non-text full content unit request (i.e. view, download, print, email, stream, etc.). There needs to be some way of measuring this that is equivalent to the full-text download of a journal article. Otherwise, cost per use analysis is skewed.

What is the equivalent of the ISSN? Non-text resources don’t even have DOIs assigned to them.

On top of all of that, how do you measure the use of these resources beyond the measurable environment? For example, once an image is downloaded, it can be included in slides and webpages for classroom use more than once, but those uses are not counted. ARTstor doesn’t use DRM, so they can’t track that way.

No one is really talking about how to assess this kind of usage, at least not in the professional library literature. However, the IT community is thinking about this as well, so we may be able to find some ideas/solutions there. They are being asked to justify software usage, and they have the same lack of data and limitations. So, instead of going with the traditional journal/database counting methods, they are attempting to measure the value of the services provided by the software. The IT folk identify services, determine the cost of those services, and identify benchmarks for those costs.

A potential report could have the following columns: collection (i.e. an art collection within ARTstor, or a university collection developed locally), content provider, platform, and then the use numbers. This is basic, and can increase in granularity over time.

There are still challenges, even with this report. Time-based objects need to have a defined value of use. Resources like data sets and software-like things are hard to define as well (i.e. SciFinder Scholar). And, it will be difficult to define a report that is one size fits all.