ER&L: Individual eJournal Subscriptions — some assembly required

Speakers: Kate Silton, Ann Rasmussen, & Quinghua Xu

Ideally, one begins a subscription to an ejournal, the publisher turns on access, and then you set up the linking. However, that doesn’t always go so smoothly for single titles or small publishers.

Just because you have a tool doesn’t mean you should use it. For activating single titles, she recommends a combination of your subscription agent reports and Excel for filling in the gaps.

When the next step in the workflow requires a response from someone else, setting up reminder triggers, either for yourself or for the other, ensures that it won’t get forgotten.

ERMes is a free alternative to commercial ERMS. It has some limitations, but it can be used to generate collection development reports.

Assume nothing. Document everything. Check in periodically.

NASIG 2010: Integrating Usage Statistics into Collection Development Decisions

Presenters: Dani Roach, University of St. Thomas and Linda Hulbert, University of St. Thomas

As with most libraries, they are faced with needing to downsize their purchases in order to fit within reduced budgets, so good tools must be employed to determine which stuff to remove or acquire.

The statistics for impact factor means little to librarians, since the “best” journals may not be appropriate for the programs the library supports. Quantitative data like cost per use, historical trends, and ILL data are more useful for libraries. Combine these with reviews, availability, features, user feedback, and the dust layer on the materials, and then you have some useful information for making decisions.

Usage statistics are just one component that we can use to analyze the value of resources. There are other variables than cost and other methods than cost per use, but these are what we most often apply.

Other variables can include funds/subjects, format, and identifiers like ISSN. Cost needs to be defined locally, as libraries manage them differently for annual subscriptions, multiple payments/funds, one-time archive fees, hosting fees, and single title databases or ebooks. Use is also tricky. A PDF download in a JR1 report is different from a session count in a DB1 report is different from a reshelve count for a bound journal. Local consistency with documentation is best practice for sorting this out.

Library-wide SharePoint service allows them to drop documents with subscription and analysis information into one location for liaisons to use. [We have a shared network folder that I do some of this with — I wonder if SharePoint would be better at managing all of the files?]

For print statistics, they track separately bound volume use versus new issue use, scanning barcodes into their ILS to keep a count. [I’m impressed that they have enough print journal use to do that rather than hash marks on a sheet of paper. We had 350 reshelved in last year, including ILL use, if I remember correctly.]

Once they have the data, they use what they call a “fairness factor” formula to normalize the various subject areas to determine if materials budgets are fairly allocated across all disciplines and programs. Applying this sort of thing now would likely shock budgets, so they decided to apply new money using the fairness factor, and gradually underfunded areas are being brought into balance without penalizing overfunded areas.

They have stopped trying to achieve a balance between books and periodicals. They’ve left that up to the liaisons to determine what is best for their disciplines and programs.

They don’t hide their cancellation list, and if any of the user community wants to keep something, they’ve been willing to retain it. However, they get few requests to retain content, and they think it is in part because the user community can see the cost, use, and other factors that indicate the value of the resource for the local community.

They have determined that it costs them around $52 a title to manage a print subscription, and over $200 a title to manage an online subscription, mainly because of the level of expertise involved. So, there really are no “free” subscriptions, and if you want to get into the cost of binding/reshelving, you need to factor in the managerial costs of electronic titles, as well.

Future trends and issues: more granularity, more integration of print and online usage, interoperability and migration options for data and systems, continued standards development, and continued development of tools and systems.

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. You can gather Ulrich’s reports, Eigen factors, relative price indexes, and so much more, but at some point, you have to decide if the return is worth the investment of time and resources.

ER&L 2010: Developing a methodology for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of journal packages

Speaker: Nisa Bakkalbasi

Journal packages offer capped price increases, access to non-subscribed content, and it’s easier to manage than title-by-title subscriptions. But, the economic downturn has resulted in even the price caps not being enough to sustain the packages.

Her library only seriously considers COUNTER reports, which is handy, since most package publishers provide them. They add to that the publisher’s title-by-title list price, as well as some subject categories and fund codes. Their analysis includes quantitative and qualitative variables using pivot tables.

In addition, they look at the pricing/sales model for the package: base value, subscribed/non-subscribed titles, cancellation allowance, price cap/increase, deep discount for print rate, perpetual/post-cancellation access rights, duration of the contract, transfer titles, and third-party titles.

So, the essential question is, are we paying more for the package than for specific titles (perhaps fewer than we currently have) if we dissolved the journal package?

She takes the usage reports for at least the past three years in order to look at trends, and excludes titles that are based on separate pricing models, and also excluded backfile usage if that was a separate purchase (COUNTER JR1a subtracted from JR1 – and you will need to know what years the publisher is calling the backfile). Then she adds list prices for all titles (subscribed & non-subscribed). Then, she calculates the cost-per-use of the titles, and uses the ILL cost (per the ILL department) as a threshold for possible renewals or cancellations.

The final decision depends on the base value paid by the library, the collection budget increase/decrease, price cap, and the quality/consistency of ILL service (money is not everything). This method is only about the costs, and it does not address the value of the resources to the users beyond what they may have looked at. There may be other factors that contributed to non-use.

swets & zeitlinger financial trouble

Swets & Zeitlinger financial trouble could be the rumblings of another Faxon/divine debacle.

Swets & Zeitlinger is the parent company of Swets Information Services, a company which mainly handles print and electronic subscriptions for libraries. My current place of work uses Swets to manage about 95% of our print subscriptions, so I was (and still am) quite unnerved to read the following news report on Tuesday (posted to SERIALST and other places, but nowhere to be found online in my Googling):

Swets at brink of ruin after accounting fault banks demand capital injection
by Gerben Van Der Marel

Amsterdam – Swets & Zeitlinger, Dutch distributors of scientific information, are in trouble. The business needs refinancing after it was found that it made losses in the past years.

As a consequence of the problems Swets no longer meets the credit conditions of the bank. On Friday, shareholders will decide on a capital injection of € 45 million.

This is confirmed by Jan-Willem Baud, chairman of the board of supervisory directors. Baud is the director of NPM Capital, which holds 26% of the shares of Swets. Other shareholders are the Swets family (29%)[1] , Nesbic (23%), Paribas (15%), and Alpinvest (7%). The business has approx. 1400 employees in 23 offices.

NPM has promised new money. Baud: “We believe that Swets can go on for another hundred years in spite of the problems.” Other shareholders are still hesitant about whether or not they should jump to the rescue, says Baud.

Already in May it became public that Swets had found ‘errors’ in their books. And that hundreds of jobs will be scrapped.

Just last year Swets was still being offered for sale to international high-risk venture capitalists with a price tag of hundreds of millions. One buyer, Candover, pulled out in the last minute.

Swets is an intermediary between scientific publishers and major users such as universities. The company suffers from the increasing distribution of information through the Internet. Attempts to become more electronically active themselves have not panned out as predicted by the management.

The last figures published by Swets pertain to 2002, when – according to the information – a turnover of € 1.2 billion and a net profit of € 30.8 million were achieved. Swets now has to review the figures over 2001, 2002, and 2003.

According to Baud, transactions between parent companies and subsidiaries were processed incorrectly for years. Swets presently cannot give insight into the adjusted results. As a consequence of debit transfers, which Baud does not want to specify, Swets ends up in the red. “But non-recurring items do not get us into loss. Profits do have to increase though.”

Fraud, says Baud, was not discovered. Finance director Eelco de Boer is said to have stumbled across errors of his predecessor after taking up office last year. Whether these events will have consequences for director Eric van Amerongen or other managers, Baud does not want to disclose ahead of the shareholders’ meeting next Friday.

Shortly after this message was passed on, Arjen Oudheusden, Chief Executive Officer for Swets Infomation Services replied to the list:

As a brief comment to the article that appeared in the Dutch press I would like to inform you that Swets is operationally sound and that management is confident that the issues will be resolved at the shareholders meeting this Friday.
We are unable to comment further until after this meeting and we will issue a press release at that point.

Today, Dr. John R. Martin, the Director of Business Development and Marketing for Swets Information Services sent the following message, in part:

Resulting from the high level of confidence of the shareholders and management in the future of the company, we shortly expect to announce a significant strengthening of our share capital through the provision of new investment funds by our shareholders. These new funds will be used to accelerate our investments in e-services which will thereby further improve our services to our clients. Moreover, we will use part of the new funds to re-structure our organisation in order to further improve service and efficiency for the longer term.

I do not find either of these messages particularly reassuring. I am concerned that Swets may crash and burn, resulting in the same kinds of financial headaches former Faxon/divine customers experienced in 2002/03. While I have had great experiences with Ebsco Information Services in the past, I have also been aware of recent problems with the Los Angeles office that have resulted in poor service for West/Pacific Islands customers. Also, I’m not sure they have the infrastructure to handle the additional customers effectively. All in all, this is bad news for libraries and publishers everywhere. I hope Swets & Zeitlinger get their act together and pull through.