my presentation at PTPL

A couple weeks ago I gave a presentation on our ERMS implementation at the annual meeting of the Potomac Technical & Processing Librarians. It was a great honor to be asked to present along with a panel of other librarians talking about their ERMS. It was also the longest I’ve been asked to speak, and while a completely nerve-wracking experience internally, it seemed to have been well-received. If you are interested, my notes and slides are now available on SlideShare.

ER&L 2012: ERM Workflow and Communications Panel

218/365 - communication problems?
photo by Josh Fassbind

Speakers: Annie Wu & Jeannie Castro

They used a HelpDesk Ticket for new subscriptions to manage the flow of information and tasks through several departments. Sadly, it’s not designed for ejournals management, and not enough information could be included in the ticket, or was inconsistently added. So, they needed to make some changes.

A self-initiated team decided a new workflow using a spreadsheet to keep the info and set up status alerts in SerialsSolutions. The alerts and spreadsheets facilitated the workflow through all departments.

A lengthy description of the process, spreadsheets, action logs, email alerts, and I’ve concluded that my paper checklist is still the best solution for my small library.

Challenges with their system included the use of color to indicate status (one staff is color blind, which is why the also use an action log), there is some overlap of work, and tracking unsolved problems is difficult. Despite that, they feel it is better than the old system. It’s a shared and transparent process, with decent tracking of subscriptions, and it’s easy to integrate additional changes in the process.

Speaker: Kate Montgomery

They initially had Meridian, and while it was great that they followed the ERMI standard, they didn’t need everything, so it was a sea of bits of data with lots of blank fields. Meridian is dead, so they had to look for alternatives. Considered Verde, but sensed that it was to be replaced by Alma. So, they had to decide whether to build their own tool, using an open source product, or purchasing something. They were limited by time, staffing, and money.

Ultimately, they decided to go with CORAL. They didn’t have to learn a lot of new skills (MySQL & PHP) to set it up and get it to work. Rather than looking at this as a whole lot of work, they took the opportunity to make a product that works for them. They reviewed and documented their workflows and set some standards.

CORAL can create workflows that trigger actions for each individual or group, depending on the item or situation. Hopes to use this to create buy-in from library departments and other small libraries around campus.

peer-to-peer sharing — the legal kind

I’ve been watching with interest to see what comes out of the TERMS: Techniques for Electronic Resources Management, for obvious reasons. Jill Emery and Graham Stone envision this to be a concise listing of the six major stages of electronic resources management, as well as a place to share tips and workflows relating to each. As they publish each section, I’ve marveled at how concise and clear they are. If you do anything with electronic resources management, you need to be following this thing.

Evaluation of resources has been a subject near and dear to my heart for many years, and increasingly so as we’ve needed to justify why we continue to pay for one resource when we would like to purchase another equally desired resource. And in relation to that, visualization of data and telling data stories are also professional interests of mine.

renewal decision report
renewal decision report example

When the section on annual review was published last month, it included an appendix that is an example of usage and cost  data for a resource delivered as both flat numbers and a graph. While this is still a rather technical presentation, it included several elements I had not considered before: cost as a percentage of the budget line, cost per student, use per student, and a mean use for each year. I decided this method of delivering statistical information about our electronic resources might be more useful to our subject specialists than my straight-up number approach. So, I’ve now incorporated it into the annual review checklist that I send out to the subject specialists in advance of renewal deadlines.

I’m not going to lie — this isn’t a fast report to create from scratch. However, it has made a few folks take a hard look at some resources and the patterns of their use, and as far as I’m concerned, that makes it work my time and effort. Repeat use will be much faster, since I’ll just need to add one year’s worth of data.

musing on the next generation of electronic resource management

It’s funny how expectations are raised each time they are met. I think about this a lot when I’m working with our ERMS. My first experience with an ERMS was overwhelming and confusing, mostly because I didn’t have the time to really implement it, and it was far more robust than what we needed at the time. The next ERMS I used was simpler, and built off of a system I already knew well. It wasn’t perfect or comprehensive, but it was enough to get going.

Now that I’ve got a few years under my belt with this ERMS, I find myself longing for the next generation tool. Sure, it does this one thing really well, and sometimes even continues to do it well when the coders “enhance” it. But to get more out of it requires a lot of work-arounds, and often those are broken with the “enhancements.” And I’m still porting data from our ILS and massaging it into something our ERMS can ingest properly, often times having to do this manually.

I saw a demo of Ex Libris’ next generation ILS, Alma, a few weeks ago. It’s not perfect, and I could already see how it will require some significant workflow changes. However, the workflow/resource management problems that ERMS have been trying to solve are no longer partitioned off into something other than the “normal” ILS workflows, but rather acknowledged as at least half or more of the workflows that happen within the ILS. That’s what the first gen ERMS tried to do, but as add-on modules with connectors and legacy deadweight. Alma, from what I understand, has been rebuilt from the ground up. That seems to be making a huge difference in performance and integration.

I’m pretty excited about this because it solves two (or more) problems with one product. First, we get a next gen back-end catalog that works with more than just MARC, allowing us to integrate our digital collections metadata in whatever language that may be. Second, we integrate the workflows of all of acquisitions, not just print resources.

I’m also excited about this because I know that the other ILS vendors and ERMS vendors are going to have to step up their game as well. That can’t be bad for libraries and users, right?

nifty enhancement for the A-Z journal tool

Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but my library uses SerialsSolutions for our A-Z journal list, OpenURL linking, and ERMS. I’ve been putting a great deal of effort into the ERMS over the past few years, getting license, cost, and use data in so that we can use this tool for both discovery and assessment. Aside from making the page look pretty much like our library website, we haven’t done much to enhance the display.

Recently (as in, yesterday) my colleague Dani Roach over at the University of St. Thomas shared with me an enhancement they implemented using the “public notes” for a journal title. They have icons that indicate whether there is an RSS feed for the contents and whether the journal is peer reviewed (according to Ulrichs). The icon for the RSS feed is also a link to the feed itself. This is what you  see when you search for the Journal of Biological Chemistry, for example.

Much like the work I’m doing to pull together helpful information on the back-end about the resources from a variety of sources, this pulls in information that would be tremendously useful for students and faculty researchers, I think.

However, I have a feeling this would take quite a bit of time to gather up the information and add it to the records. Normally I would leap in with both feet and just do it, but in the effort to be more responsible, I’m going to talk with the reference librarians first. But, I wanted to share this with you all because I think it’s a wonderful libhack that anyone should consider doing, regardless of which ERMS they have.

NASIG 2011: Gateway to Improving ERM System Deliverables – NISO’s ERM Data Standards and Best Practices Review

Speaker: Bob McQuillan

I had notes from this session that were lost to a glitch in the iPad WordPress app. Essentially, it was an overview of why the ERM Data Standards and Best Practices Review working group was created followed by a summary of their findings. The final report will be available soon, and if the grid/groupings of ERM standards and best practices that Bob shared in his presentation are included in the report, I would highly recommend it as a clear and efficient tool to identify the different aspects of ERMS development and needs.

guest post on ACRLog

I see a strong need for the creation, support, and implementation of data standards and tools to provide libraries with the means to effectively evaluate their resources.

A few months ago, Maura Smale contacted me about writing a guest post for ACRLog. I happily obliged, and it has now been published.

When it came time to finally sit down and write about something (anything) that interested me in academic librarianship, I found myself at a loss for words. Last month, I spent some time visiting friends here and there on my way out to California for the Internet Librarian conference, and many of those friends also happened to be academic librarians. It was through those conversations that I found a common thread for the issues that are pushing some of my professional buttons.

Specifically, I see a strong need for the creation, support, and implementation of data standards and tools to provide libraries with the means to effectively evaluate their resources. If that interests you as well, please take a moment to go read the full essay, and leave a comment if you’d like.

my presentation for Internet Librarian 2010

I’ve uploaded my presentation to SlideShare and will be sending it to the ITI folks shortly. Check the speaker notes for the actual content, as the slides are more for visualization.

ER&L 2010: ERMS Success – Harvard’s experience implementing and using an ERM system

Speaker: Abigail Bordeaux

Harvard has over 70 libraries and they are very decentralized. This implementation is for the central office that provides the library systems services for all of the libraries. Ex Libris is their primary vendor for library systems, include the ERMS, Verde. They try to go with vended products and only develop in-house solutions if nothing else is available.

Success was defined as migrating data from old system to new, to improve workflows with improved efficiency, more transparency for users, and working around any problems they encountered. They did not expect to have an ideal system – there were bugs with both the system and their local data. There is no magic bullet. They identified the high-priority areas and worked towards their goals.

Phase I involved a lot of project planning with clearly defined goals/tasks and assessment of the results. The team included the primary users of the system, the project manager (Bordeaux), and a programmer. A key part of planning includes scoping the project (Bordeaux provided a handout of the questions they considered in this process). They had a very detailed project plan using Microsoft Project, and at the very least, the listing out of the details made the interdependencies more clear.

The next stage of the project involved data review and clean-up. Bordeaux thinks that data clean-up is essential for any ERM implementation or migration. They also had to think about the ways the old ERM was used and if that is desirable for the new system.

The local system they created was very close to the DLF recommended fields, but even so, they still had several failed attempts to map the fields between the two systems. As a result, they had a cycle of extracting a small set of records, loading them into Verde, reviewing the data, and then delete the test records out of Verde. They did this several times with small data sets (10 or so), and when they were comfortable with that, they increased the number of records.

They also did a lot of manual data entry. They were able to transfer a lot, but they couldn’t do everything. And some bits of data were not migrated because of the work involved compared to the value of it. In some cases, though, they did want to keep the data, so they entered it manually. Part of what they did to visualize the mapping process, they created screenshots with notes that showed the field connections.

Prior to this project, they were not using Aleph to manage acquisitions. So, they created order records for the resources they wanted to track. The acquisitions workflow had to be reorganized from the ground up. Oddly enough, by having everything paid out of one system, the individual libraries have much more flexibility in spending and reporting. However, it took some public relations work to get the libraries to see the benefits.

As a result of looking at the data in this project, they got a better idea of gaps and other projects regarding their resources.

Phase two began this past fall to begin incorporating the data from the libraries that did not participate in phase one. They now have a small group with folks representing the libraries. This group is coming up with best practices for license agreements and entering data into the fields.