ER&L 2012 reflections

Texas treeTwo and a half days is just not enough time spent with my tribe. I could have gone all week. I’m not ready to go back to the real world.

This was my third Electronic Resources & Libraries conference, and I’ve been lucky to get to know a few more ER librarians every year. This year was particularly notable, as I was able to spend quite a bit of time talking with peers that I highly respect and look to as inspirations for my own work (Jamene Brooks-Kieffer and Marie Kennedy, just to name two). I did my best to keep it cool and not go fangirl all over them.

Most of the sessions I attended were solid, informative, and often inspiring in their own right. I’m still working through the project list generated last year, and now I have more to add or enhance what’s already there.

I plan to look into:

  • JTac software for acquisitions workflow
  • CORAL for ER workflow, but maybe not for ERMS, if that’s possible
  • MISO software for ingesting SUSHI (since my ERMS is only just starting to look at developing SUSHI ingestion)
  • Documenting ER workflows and procedures — I have been intimidated by this, since I’ll be starting from scratch and don’t know where to begin. I realized this week that I could use TERMS as a jumping off point.
  • Include a feedback form for each trial we do, rather than just relying on free-form email messages
  • Seeing about modifying the workflow for eDDA titles so that liaisons can move them to firm orders before the records are loaded in the catalog
  • Also, investigating options for pDDA for slip orders
  • Joining a relevant NISO working group, if anything comes up (Marie suggested we do this, and I’ve been interested for a while)
  • Being a leader in my library without being higher up in management or at least not beyond where I’m comfortable

There were a few sessions that left me wanting. For one, I keep trying to glean some insight into better ways of managing ER workflows, but our staff is so small and the people who tend to present on the topic come from libraries so large that it’s hard to see where the connections or benefits may be. I am still thinking about how to set up something that would trigger notifications of next steps, even if most of them would end up coming to me. My paper checklist form is okay, but it only works if I remember to do it and to check up on it.

Another session I attended was supposed to be all about a tech services department reorganization with an eye towards eresource trends. However, it seems that the presenter expected more results by now than what he was able to talk about, so most of the session beyond the introduction was about what should be happening rather than what has been happening. I think that it’s difficult to know six months in advance if your new project will be at a place worth sharing, but maybe conferences need to shift more of those kinds of topics to short sessions like the lightening talks, rather than risk the session being a dud because there aren’t enough relevant outcomes to share.

ER&L 2013 will be in Austin again next year, and shortly following the SXSWi conference. They hope to have some connections between the two, so if you’ve been on the fence about attending, that may be the year to take the plunge.

ER&L 2012: Consortia On Trial — In Defense of the Shared Ebook

Hi, how are you?
an Austin classic

Speaker: Nancy Gibbs, Duke & TRLN

The consortia TRLN began in the 1930’s as a shared collection development strategy for print materials. They share a catalog, print repository, approval vendor database, and they collaborate on large and individual purchases. This was really easy in the print world. As of 2006, only 8% of print books were duplicated across all three schools (Duke, NCSU, & UNC-CH).

Then ebooks arrived. And duplication began to grow exponentially. Many of the collections can’t be lent to the consortia libraries, and as a result, everyone is having to buy copies rather than relying on the shared collections of the past.

Speaker: Michael Zeoli, YBP

YBP has seen a small increase in ebooks purchased by academic libraries, and a much larger decrease in the purchase of print books, despite acquiring Blackwell last year. This is true of the TRLN consoritum as well.

About 20% of the top 24 publishers are not working with PDA or consortia, and about half that do are not doing both. Zeoli tries to meet with publishers and show them the data that it’s in their best interest to make ebooks available at the same time as print, and that they need to also be include in PDA and consortia arrangements.

Consortias want PDA, but not all the content is available. Ebook aggregators have some solutions, but missing the workflow components. Publisher role is focused on content, not workflow. PDA alone for consortia is a disincentive for publishers, it ignores practical integration of appropriate strategies and tools, and it’s a headache for technical staff.

A hybrid model might look like Oxford University Press. There are digital collections, but not everything is available that way, so you need options for single-title purchases through several models. This requires the consortium, the book seller, and the publisher to work together.

Speaker: Rebecca Seger, OUP

The publishers see many challenges, not the least of which is the continued reliance on print books in the humanities and social sciences, although there is a demand for both formats. Platforms are not set up to enable sharing of ebooks, and would require a significant investment in time and resources to implement.

They have done a pilot program with MARLI to provide access to both the OUP platform and the books they do not host but make available through eBrary. [Sorry — not sure how this turned out — got distracted by a work email query. They’ll be presenting results at Charleston.]

Questions:
How do MARLI institutions represent access for the one copy housed at NYU? Can download through Oxford site. YBP can provide them. The challenge is for the books that appear on eBrary a month later, so they are using a match number to connect the new URL with the old record.

And more questions. I keep zoning out during this part of the presentations. Sorry.

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.

ER&L 2012: Electronic Resources Workflow Analysis & Process Improvement

workflow at the most basic level
illustration by wlef70

Speakers: Ros Raeford & Beverly Dowdy

Users were unhappy with eresource management, due in part to their ad hoc approach, and they relied on users to notify them when there were access issues. A heavy reliance on email and memory means things slip through the cracks. They were not a train wreck waiting to happen, they were train wreck that had already occurred.

Needed to develop a deeper understanding of their workflows and processes to identify areas for improvement. The reason that earlier attempts have failed was due to not having all the right people at the table. Each stage of the lifecycle needs to be there.

Oliver Pesch’s 2009 presentation on “ERMS and the E-Resources Lifecycle” provided the framework they used. They created a staff responsibility matrix to determine exactly what they did, and then did interviews to get at how they did it. The narrative was translated to a workflow diagram for each kind of resource (ebooks, ejournals, etc.).

Even though some of the subject librarians were good about checking for dups before requesting things, acquisitions still had to repeat the process because they don’t know if it was done. This is just one example of a duplication of effort that they discovered in their workflow review.

For the ebook package process, they found it was so unclear they couldn’t even diagram it. It’s very linear, and it could have a number of processes happening in parallel.

Lots of words on screen with great ideas of things to do for quality control and user interface improvements. Presenter does not highlight any. Will have to look at it later.

One thing they mentioned is identifying essential tasks that are done by only one staff. They then did cross-training to make sure that if the one is out for the day, someone else can do it.

Surprisingly, they were not using EDI for firm orders, nor had they implemented tools like PromptCat.

Applications that make things work for them:

JTacq — using this for the acquisition/collections workflow. I’ve never heard of it, but will investigate.

ImageNow — not an ERM — a document management tool. Enterprise content management, and being used by many university departments but not many libraries.

They used SharePoint at a meeting space for the teams.

ER&L 2012: Next Steps in Transforming Academic Libraries — Radical Redesign to Mainstream E-Resource Management

The smallest details add up
photo by Garrett Coakley

Speaker: Steven Sowell

His position is new for his library (July 2011), and when Barbara Fister saw the job posting, she lamented that user-centered collection development would relegate librarians to signing licenses and paying invoices, but Sowell doesn’t agree.

Values and assumptions: As an academic library, we derive our reason for existing from our students and faculty. Our collections are a means to an end, rather than an end to themselves. They can do this in part because they don’t have ARL-like expectations of themselves. A number of studies has shown that users do a better job of selecting materials than we do, and they’ve been moving to more of a just in time model than a just in case.

They have had to deal with less money and many needs, so they’ve gotten creative. The university recently realigned departments and positions, and part of that included the creation of the Collections & Resource Sharing Department (CRSD). It’s nicknamed the “get it” department. Their mission is to connect the community to the content.

PDA, POV, PPV, approval plans, shelf-ready, and shared preservation are just a few of the things that have changed how we collect and do budget planning.

CRSD includes collection development, electronic resources, collections management, resource sharing & delivery, and circulation (refocusing on customer service and self-servicing, as well as some IT services). However, this is a new department, and Sowell speaks more about what these things will be doing than about what they are doing or how the change has been effective or not.

One of the things they’ve done is to rewrite position descriptions to refocus on the department goals. They’ve also been focusing on group facilitation and change management through brainstorming, parking lot, and multi-voting systems. Staff have a lot of anxiety over feeling like an expert in something and moving to where they are a novice and having to learn something new. They had to say goodbye to the old routines, mix them with new, and then eventually make the full shift.

They are using process mapping to keep up with the workflow changes. They’re also using service design tools like journey mapping (visualization of the user’s experience with a service), five whys, personas, experience analogy, and storyboards (visualization of how you would like things to occur).

For the reference staff, they are working on strategic planning about the roles and relationships of the librarians with faculty and collections.

Change takes time. When he proposed this topic, he expected to be further along than he is. Good communication, system thinking, and staff involvement are very important. There is a delicate balance between uncertainty/abstract with a desire for concrete.

Some unresolved issues include ereaders, purchasing rather than borrowing via ILL and the impact on their partner libraries, role of the catalog as an inventory in the world of PDA/PPV. The re-envisioning of the collection budget as a just in time resource. Stakeholder involvement and assessment wrap up the next steps portion of his talk.

Questions:
In moving print to the collection maintenance area, how are you handling bundled purchases (print + online)? How are you handling the impression of importance or lack thereof for staff who still work with traditional print collection management? Delicately.

Question about budgeting. Not planning to tie PDA/PPV to specific subjects. They plan to do an annual review of what was purchased and what might have been had they followed their old model.

How are they doing assessment criteria? Not yet, but will take suggestions. Need to tie activities to student academic success and teaching/researching on campus. Planning for a budget cut if they don’t get an increase to cover inflation. Planning to do some assessment of resource use.

What will you do if people can’t do their new jobs? Hopefully they will after the retraining. Will find a seat for them if they can’t do what we hope they can do.

What are you doing to organize the training so they don’t get mired in the transitional period? Met with staff to reassure them that the details will be worked out in the process. They prepared the ground a bit, and the staff are ready for change.

Question about the digital divide and how that will be addressed. Content is available on university equipment, so not really an issue/barrier.

What outreach/training to academic departments? Not much yet. Will honor print requests. Subject librarians will still have a consultative role, but not necessarily item by item selection.

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?

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.

ER&L: When Two Become Three — adding additional staff to eresource management

Speaker: Carolyn DeLuca, Dani Roach, & Kari Petryszyn

Over the past six years, they have seen an increase in users, use, and eresources, but not in staffing. In fact, they lost staff. This is not unlike most places.

You need to illustrate the staff need story using the data you have already, both for internal and external comparison. Pie charts showing the percentage of staff dedicated to eresources versus the percentage of the budget spent on them can be poignant.

Initially, they pulled in staff from other areas to do bits and pieces, but it was decentralized and not without problems. Some of the tasks were so splintered that no one was seeing the big picture, or taking ownership.

They took the HERMES report and adopted the lifecycle workflow to redesign locally. That worked, until ebooks, which are even more complex and un-standardized.

In order to convey your needs, you must speak your leader’s language. They don’t need to hear about the problems all the time, they need to hear about the solutions. Then, when they had finally reached the point where eresources took on 70% of new acquisitions, things finally began to change. Their leaders had a soundbite.

In the spring of 2010, they lost seven positions across all departments. They had one position coming back, and because they had been pounding the pavement for years, their director decided to follow the money and put it in adding and eresources staff person. You don’t need people to leave. Space issues can also lead to staffing reorganization.

By re-centralizing the team, they are able to focus the work so that they have the right outcomes in mind. Liaisons benefit because there is one more person to troubleshoot eresources issues. Collection development gets additional assistance. Users benefit because the data is kept cleaner and more accurately.

Fit is as critical as job skills. And once that person is hired, you note only need to train them on the tools, but you also need to indoctrinate them with your philosophy so they understand why things are the way they are.

Tools & strategies: online tutorials and webinars — use the stuff that’s out there already. Talk to other library staff in order to get the big picture.

Unexpected outcomes: the effect of new eyes, fresh energy, and enthusiasm. It also freed up other staff to work on different projects.

ER&L: Innovative eResource Workflow

Speaker: Kelly Smith and Laura Edwards

Their redesign of workflow was prompted by a campus-wide move to Drupal. They are now using it to drive the public display of eresources. They are grouping the resources by status as well as by the platform. On the back end, they add information about contacts, admin logins, etc. They can trigger real-time alerts and notes for the front-end. They track fund codes and cost information. In addition, there are triggers that prompt the next steps in workflow as statuses are changed, from trials to renewals.

Speaker: Xan Arch

They needed a way to standardize the eresource lifecycle, and a place to keep all the relevant information about new resources as they move through the departments. They also wanted to have more transparency about where the resource is in the process.

They decided to use a bug/issue tracker called Jira because that’s what another department had already purchased. They changed the default steps to map to the workflow and notify the appropriate people. The eresource order form is the start, and they ask for as much as they can from the selector. They then put up a display in a wiki using Confluence to display the status of each resource, including additional info about it.

Speaker: Ben Heet

The University of Notre Dame has been developing their own ERMS called CORAL. The lifecycle of an eresource is complex, so they took the approach of creating small workflows to give the staff direction for what to do next, depending on the complexity of the resource (ie free versus paid).

You can create reminder tasks assigned to specific individuals or groups depending on the needs of the workflow. They don’t go into every little thing to be done, but mainly just trigger reminders of the next group of activities. There is an admin view that shows the pending activities for each staff member, and when they are done, they can mark it complete to trigger the next step.

Not every resource is going to need every step. One size does not fit all.

Speaker: Lori Duggan

Kuali OLE is a partnership among academic libraries creating the next generation of library management software and systems. It has a very complex financial platform for manual entry of information about purchase. It looks less like a traditional ERMS and more like a PeopleSoft/Banner/ILS acquisition module, mostly because that is what it is and they are still developing the ERM components.