Charleston 2017: COUNTER Release 5 — Consistency, Clarity, Simplification and Continuous Maintenance

Speakers: Lorraine Estelle (Project COUNTER), Anne Osterman (VIVA – The Virtual Library of Virginia), Oliver Pesch (EBSCO Information Services)

COUNTER has had very minimal updates over the years, and it wasn’t until release 4 that things really exploded with report types and additional useful data. Release 5 attempts to reduce complexity so that all publishers and content providers are able to achieve compliance.

They are seeking consistency in the report layout, between formats, and in vocabulary. Clarity in metric types and qualifying action, processing rules, and formatting expectations.

The standard reports will be fewer, but more flexible. The expanded reports will introduce more data, but with flexibility.

A transaction will have different attributes recorded depending on the item type. They are also trying to get at intent — items investigated (abstract) vs. items requested (full-text). Searches will now distinguish between whether it was on a selected platform, a federated search, a discovery service search, or a search across a single vendor platform. Unfortunately, the latter data point will only be reported on the platform report, and still does not address teasing that out at the database level.

The access type attribute will indicate when the usage is on various Open Access or free content as well as licensed content. There will be a year of publication (YOP) attribution, which was not in any of the book reports and only included in Journal Report 5.

Consistent, standard header for each report, with additional details about the data. Consistent columns for each report. There will be multiple rows per title to cover all the combinations, making it more machine-friendly, but you can create filters in Excel to make it more human-friendly.

They expect to have release 5 published by July 2017 with compliance required by January 2019.

Q: Will there eventually be a way to account for anomalies in data (abuse of access, etc.)?
A: They are looking at how to address use triggered by robot activity. Need to also be sensitive of privacy issues.

Q: Current book reports do not include zero use entitlements. Will that change?
A: Encouraged to provide KBART reports to get around that. The challenge is that DDA/PDA collections are huge and cumbersome to deliver reports. Will also be dropping the zero use reporting on journals, too.

Q: Using DOI as a unique identifier, but not consistently provided in reports. Any advocacy to include unique identifiers?
A: There is an initiative associated with KBART to make sure that data is shared so that knowledgbases are updated so that users find the content so that there are fewer zero use titles. Publisher have motivation to do this.

Q: How do you distinguish between unique uses?
A: Session based data. Assign a session ID to activity. If no session tracking, a combination of IP address and user agent. The user agent is helpful when multiple users are coming through one IP via the proxy server.


community site for usage statistics

Usus is an independent community website developed to help librarians, library consortium administrators, publishers, aggregators, etc. communicate around topics related to usage statistics. From problem-solving to workflow tips to calling out bad actors, this site hopes to be the hub of all things usage.

Do you have news to share or a problem you can’t figure out? Do you have really cool workflows you want to share? Drop us a note!

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.

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.

ebook usage statistics

In a recent phone/web town hall discussion with Peter Shepherd, Project Director for COUNTER, mused about why publishers (and libraries) have not embraced the COUNTER Code of Practice for Books and Reference Works as quickly as they have the Code of Practice for Journals and Databases. His approach is that we are paying customers and should have that information. My perspective: meh.

I would like to see ebook usage for items that we purchase as a subscription, but for items we own (i.e. one-time purchase with perpetual access), it’s less of a concern for collection development. Licensed ebooks with annual subscriptions (like regularly updating encyclopedias or book packages) are more like online databases or ejournals than traditional paper books, so in that regard, it shouldn’t be difficult for publishers to implement the COUNTER Code of Practice for Books and Reference Works and provide use information to customers.

For books that are static and don’t have any annual cost attached to them, there isn’t much of a regular need to know what is being used. We keep track of re-shelving stats for the purposes of managing a physical collection with space limitations, and those problems are not replicated in an online environment. Where the usage of owned ebooks comes into play is when we are justifying:
a. The purchase of those specific ebooks.
b. The purchase of future ebooks from that publisher.
c. The amount of money in the ebook budget.

Hopefully Mr. Shepherd, Project COUNTER, and vocal librarians will be able to convince the publishers of the value of providing usage information. When budgets are as tight as they are these days, having detailed information about the use of your subscription-based collection is essential for making decisions about what must be kept and what can be let go (or should be promoted more to the users). Of course, in less desperate times, knowing this information is also important for making adjustments to the library’s collection emphasis in order to meet the needs of the users.