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Don’s Conference Notes: The 16th Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) Conference

by | Apr 28, 2021 | 0 comments


By Donald T. Hawkins, Freelance Conference Blogger and Editor

The 16th ER&L conference was held virtually on March 8-11, 2021. It drew over 1,300 attendees from 4 continents, 21 countries, and all 50 states of the US and DC, approximately 1/3 of whom were at their first ER&L conference. The conference featured 215 presenters in 90 sessions and short talks. ER&L has been held in Austin, TX for several years, and several attendees (including me) observed that the 15th ER&L was the last conference they had attended in person and the last time they had taken an airline flight before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Numerous attendees complemented Bonnie and Sandra Tijerina, Conference Organizers, and Danielle Sell, Conference Event Planner, on the flawless running of the conference and also spoke very favorably about the user-friendly PheedLoop platform.

Opening Keynote

Keynote Panelists (L-R): Bobbi Newman, Community Engagement & Outreach Specialist, National Network of Libraries of Medicine ; Twanna Hodge, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Librarian, University of Florida; Callan Bignoli, Library Director, Olin College of Engineering, Needham, MA; Jenn Carson, Library Director, LP Fisher Public Library, Woodstock, NB, Canada

This keynote panel session examined where we have been this past year and how we are presently thinking about taking care of ourselves. 

Prior to the pandemic, many libraries lacked the basics of a healthy work environment. What have you experienced personally?

Jenn: We were immediately pulled out of libraries, and then slowly reopened. We reduced hours and put up plastic barriers. There was no loss of benefits or hours. Although we were working at full capacity, we were not open to public. Library workers are on the front lines but are not being recognized as essential.  

Twanna was working at home for the whole pandemic. Library workers should be considered essential and be there for other people. 

Callan had a compassionate response from the administration and became an advocate for other libraries. There was little pressure to reopen. She wrote a rebuttal in Library Journal about “happy go lucky” attitudes toward library workers, who were angry, frustrated, had low morale, feared for family, and were worried about getting laid off. 

What are some non-negotiable conditions for a healthy work environment?

Twanna: access to ample leave time so people could process what had happened, not being micromanaged, being able to take “mental health days”, not being controlled by HR, and being able to talk to their supervisor about their feelings. 

Collin hopes that we learn from this experience and don’t rush people back into public service. We need to look outward and draw on the strength of the community. The library should not be the only place that offers online information. 

Jenn said that they kept some computers closed to have space between them, and the Wi-Fi stayed up in the parking lot. Librarians are humans and cannot do everything. We need to give people space to be OK and not forget about social determinants of health. 

What support practices are necessary to have an equitable employee-centered environment?

Callan said that everything centers around trust, and we need to learn from bad examples; AI cannot replace people. We must temper our obsession with the future of libraries

Jenn observed that some staff are unionized and well taken care of. Don’t just fire a lot of people and do something extreme—real people’s lives are affected. Circumstances will change and we need to be prepared for that. Respect your workers, and take time to develop a plan. 

Twanna said we should define what equity means—it is not the same as equality. Recognize that libraries are a reflection of the society that we live in, and make sure people have the support systems they need. 

What systematic features contribute to a toxic work environment?

Jenn said that our system is patriarchal. Managers must make people feel that they are caring for their employees like themselves. 

Twanna: Understand that land is indigenous, generational harm and traumas exist, and people from those communities do work in libraries.

Callan: There is a lot of solidarity between different types of library workers: some have an MLS, others do not, etc. There are also different types of libraries (public, academic, etc.) We need to figure out how to interact with all types of workers.

Here are some resources provided by Twanna.

Vocational Awe: VOCATIONAL AWE AND LIBRARIANSHIP: THE LIES WE TELL OURSELVES – http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2018/vocational-awe/

AAMLA Radical Self-Care & Wellness – https://sites.google.com/view/aamla-mla/events-meetings/spring-2021/radical-self-care-wellness?authuser=0

The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work – https://www.alastore.ala.org/content/librarian-stereotype-deconstructing-perceptions-and-presentations-information-work

Mindfulinlis  https://linktr.ee/mindfulinlis

Nap Ministry https://linktr.ee/thenapministry

RenewersLIS https://twitter.com/RenewersL  

Upcoming Event – BLOSSOM – Building Life-long Opportunities for Strength, Self-Care, Outlook, Morale, and Mindfulness https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_57MvAns66FFV2MS

Kendrick, K.D. (2021). The public librarian low-morale experience: A qualitative study. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 15(2): 1-32. Retrieved from https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/5932

Kendrick, K.D. & Damasco, I.T. (2019). Low morale in ethnic and racial minority academic librarians: An experiential study. Library Trends, 68(2): 174-212. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/746745

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

Journal Pricing Transparency: Reality or Myth?

Curtis Brundy, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Communications and Collections, Iowa State University, and Joel Thornton, Director, Research & Instruction Services, University of Arkansas, described how Elsevier prices its journals and said that more pricing data will strengthen us in our negotiations.

The current journal market is very opaque: we do not know what others pay but the publishers do, which leads to asymmetry and winners and losers. Libraries are being charged differently for the same things, which lead to these questions: 

  • What is list price? Is it a factor? 
  • Are we being quoted list prices or final net prices? 
  • What are cost savings when unbundling? 

The market (what others are paying) should determine the Fair Market Value (FMV), and then the pricing would be based on the relationship among FMV, assessments of content value (what you think it is worth), and the ability to enter into a contract at the asked price. Both publishers and libraries are reluctant to disclose pricing, and some libraries are bound by non-disclosure agreements with the publishers. A database studying pricing found that libraries can realize cost savings by unbundling their Big Deals; the average cost savings was $890,000. 

The future journal market should be marked by

  • Transparency and a rejection of non-disclosure agreements,
  • Disclosure of symmetry and sharing agreements and prices paid in a format such as a spreadsheet that others can use and encouraging others to do the same,
  • Fairness, and
  • Sustainability, including managing the transition to OA.

Libraries Taking Back Control of E-Books: SimplyE and Library Simplified Working

Together to Give Libraries Simplicity and Flexibility

Bradley Bullis, Digital Content and Innovation Coordinator, Connecticut State Library, described the library’s e-book goals and the deployment of the SimplyE app to local libraries in the state. SimplyE developed by the New York Public Library, is a freely available e-book and audio book reading app that makes such books available as a single unified collection. It was adopted in Connecticut to provide one-stop access to all 24,000 e-books in the state in one system called Library Simplified, organized as shown here. 

There are no loan periods; users can download and keep the files as long as they wish. 

LYRASIS has partnered with the State Library to help local libraries get access SimplyE. 

The Future of Online Books at Oxford University Press (OUP)

Three OUP representatives described OUP’s project to move its digital books to the Oxford Academic Platform, which is currently the home of its journals. By consolidating different types of literature, users will be able to find content more efficiently. 

This figure shows the new Oxford Academic Program home page.

Enhancements to the platform include books and journals searchable across it and changes in the way books are presented. Extensive filtering options will be added so users do not have to wade through a large volume of content. Customers will have a single administrative page to manage their account. 

Migration to the unified platform will begin in mid-2021. 

Indispensable or Unnecessary? A Data-Driven Appraisal of Post Cancellation Access Rights

Michael Levine Clark, Dean, University of Denver Libraries, said that as libraries cancel their Big Deals, the issue of post-cancellation access (PCA) rights is becoming important. For example, the California Digital Library refused to renew its Big Deal and provided these methods of alternative ways for researchers to get Elsevier articles. 

Many libraries use Unsub to predict future use. When a library cancels its Big Deal, it still has access to OA content, content from aggregators, and some continuing subscriptions. 

To determine how valuable PCA rights are, a study of COUNTER data from 4 libraries analyzed of the last 10 years of usage from 5 major publishers and 8 EBSCO full-text databases and then used Unsub to analyze PCA. Here are some of the conclusions of the study.

 Deciphering Federated Access To Content

Amanda Ferrante, Product Manager, Authentication Solutions, EBSCO Information Services, moderated this panel discussion and began with a brief discussion of approaches to authentication in the changing information environment. COVID has not been the only driver of authentication; for years, we have been dealing with access to digital materials and research from outside of a library’s physical location. 

Jennifer Sterling, Librarian and Archivist, William Penn University, presented a librarian’s perspective of the pain points of using a proxy server to authenticate users, which lead to confusion and frustration for students: constant logins, then having to learn a different one for another system. Federated access helps to solve these problems because it provides intuitive screens with branding prominently displayed, single sign-on, and the ability for the library to delete and add services without going through the IT department. Statistics are available in real time, so librarians can see that students were using the library off-site at same rate as when they were on campus and can compile the usage data to allow administrators to make decisions, which was particularly valuable during the COVID epidemic when the library was closed.

Todd Carpenter, Executive Director, NISO, represented the Coalition for Seamless Access in his talk entitled “The Alphabet Infrastructure of Access: From SAML to Seamless Access”. Particularly in this COVID environment, off-campus access is a problem for users and needs to be improved. 

Federated access using the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), an XML-based protocol that is often called Single SignOn (SSO), solves most of the problem. 

Attributes are a key concept in federated access. 

NISO is developing further applications of SAML and attributes, such as bundles of attributes that can be used by an organization.

Ralph Youngen, Director, Digital Strategy at the American Chemical Society (ACS), said that SeamlessAccess.org can be applied to any service where affiliation needs to be proven. GetFTR is a service used by researchers searching online databases for full-text articles. It works similarly to Google’s Campus Activated Subscriber Access (CASA), which integrates with Google Scholar and remembers the user’s affiliation, allowing searches and content access from off the campus.

Kieran Prince, International Sales Manager, OpenAthens, said that OpenAthens, begun 25 years ago, networks organizations such as libraries, users, and publishers. Finding articles through a discovery service and being directly linked to them is a critical part of the user’s journey. 

The role of the library in authentication is to help users’ needs. 

Open Access Beyond the Research Library: Collection Building With OA Content

There is much uncertainty about OA today. The open content landscape is massive and unwieldy, and many academic librarians are likely to feel overwhelmed by it. SirsiDynix has worked to make users aware of OA and has encouraged them to publish OA, but there has been much less work on getting the resulting results into user workflows. 

Today there are more than 15,000 OA journals containing 40 million articles; 51% of all articles published in 2020 are available as OA. Mandates to publish openly by funders or institutions and transformative deals that often negotiate APCs are driving the growth of OA articles. Publishers are making room for OA in their journals because they do not want to bypass authors required to publish OA.  

The higher the impact of a journal, the higher the proportion of OA articles; for example, Nature published 2,223 OA articles in 2019 (61% of its total).  The most popular types of OA articles as determined by their altmetric rankings are news outlets, blogs, policy sources, tweets, and Facebook posts. Libraries need to pay attention to these rankings because they are the subjects people are talking about. 

Linda Barr, Head Librarian, Library Technical Services, Austin Community College (ACC), a CloudSource member library, is a small college with 20,000 FTE students on 11 campuses that share a single library collection which has 58,000 e-books and 210,000 e-journals. Here are some reasons why ACC is involved with OA content.

Welcome! To Your New Home Office?

This session featured a fascinating description of the process of bringing a new employee into an organization during the COVID pandemic. Jessica Morales, Director, Collection Strategy and Acquisitions, University of Notre Dame, began with her experiences as the manager of 57 faculty and 101 staff members.

This diagram shows what people seek when joining a new organization.

Being positioned to contribute quickly is important, and job satisfaction has an immense influence on the organization.  Much information is being given to a new hire in a short time, and they need help to understand it all. After being hired, the new person enters uncharted territory and must learn priorities, future plans, team building, the organization’s culture, workflows, and new communication channels. To combat isolation, the Notre Dame library has a “Buddy” to whom the new person can turn for advice and guidance. The Buddy has a modest budget for treating the new employee to lunch, etc. during the first year.

Before COVID, it was important to walk around and introduce the new person to existing staff, but how to welcome a new team member to an environment built on in-person service that is shut down is a problem. 

Kassie McLaughlin, now Head, Resource Acquisitions and Access, was the new person. Her welcome events were all virtual, and her main problem at the start was combating isolation and feeling isolated and out of the library culture. Zoom coffee meetings helped her to meet colleagues. Most meetings were structured with a period for socialization in the first 10 minutes. 

Some lessons learned in this process: 

  • One-on-one time between the manager and new hire and weekly check-ins between the new manager and team are important, 
  • Remote shadowing is difficult, and training pieces might get missed. 
  • Meeting frequency can be tapered; at the beginning they occur frequently, but as time proceeds, they can be less frequent. 
  • To maintain a strong company culture, employees should be in the office when possible; 85% of employers say that remote work has been successful, although some workers feel less productive when working remotely. When polled, most employees said their ideal work arrangement is a hybrid one.

Access Fees: Strategies and Ideas for Controlling the Snowball

Elyssa Gould Head, Acquisitions & Continuing Resources, and Lizzie Cope, Electronic Resources Access Librarian, both at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), noted that access fees are charged by vendors to cover the costs of hosting and maintaining a purchased online resource. Typically they are assessed annually as a percentage of the original cost. Access fees began in the early 1980s because of the move from print to electronic content and also because of the costs to the publishers (or the vendors) of maintaining the resource. (There are no access fees with physical printed resources because the library bears the costs of maintaining them, not the publisher.) The use of access fees has dramatically increased in the last 10 years. 

Access fees have many names; this word cloud was generated from terms found in publisher’s invoices received at UTK in 2020.

UTK recently reviewed its access fees and found that one resource had an annual fee of 9% of the purchase price, which they had paid for 10 years, so they had paid more than the purchase price!  (They were able to negotiate a better arrangement at considerable savings.) Another discovery was that they were spending $75,000 in access fees with a single vendor, and some resources with fees had low usage. As a result, they began developing a philosophy of purchase strategies, examined where they were spending their money and what their collection strategies were, and then looked to the future and predicted their collection goals and budget realities for the next 5-10 years. The result was that for new purchases not to impact their budget with access fees, and for existing resources, try to reduce or eliminate the fees. Current strategies for controlling costs include running trials of potential resources, negotiating prices, and having open communications with the vendor. The entire industry could benefit if vendors used a standard vocabulary to describe access fees.

Lessons learned: 

  • Libraries do not own the content, so it is reasonable to expect some ongoing costs. 
  • Data is critical in negotiations, and it takes time to gather it. 
  • Asking questions can lead to some creative solutions.

Toward an Inclusive and Transparent Standard for Implementing Open Access Agreements Between Libraries and Small Publishers

Alicia Wise, Director, Information Power, gave a short introduction, asking what we mean by OA agreements—Read & Publish, Publish & Read, Subscribe to Open, etc. During 2020, many experiments with OA agreements began, and now they are normal for some libraries and consortia. Publishers are concerned that some forms of OA may not be sustainable, and authors are confused.

Claire Moulton, Publisher, The Company of Biologists, a small non-profit organization, said that the organization has a strong and long-standing commitment to OA because they believe it is good for science. They publish 2 OA journals and have Read & Publish agreements with 4 publishers, with over 200 institutions in 15 countries participating. Feedback has been very favorable because the agreements are cost neutral with transparent pricing, and terms are generous, providing unlimited access to all their archives with no cap on the number of OA articles that can be published without charge. It is difficult for a small non-profit organization to get attention from libraries and consortia because establishing an agreement is intensive and time-consuming.  

Judy Russell, Dean of Libraries, University of Florida (UF), said that UF is a large and complex organization with nearly $1 billion in research annually, and it is very committed to OA. Its authors generate many articles in a wide array of journals; in 2020, 27% of UF authors published OA. Lack of funding for APCs hinders some authors. 

OA is not free! The UF libraries are supporting authors by entering into agreements with publishers for reducing or eliminating APCs. Limiting the agreements to publishers with moderate prices means that they are usually with societies or smaller publishers. 

OA agreements can be costly for both UF and the publishers because they take administrative time to analyze, negotiate, and establish; data from each publisher must be merged to create a unified picture; and publishers need to respond to different requirements of each library. A core set of standards and terms and a definition of the minimum necessary data would be very beneficial. 

Is Your Big Deal Still a Good Deal? Find Out With Unsub

Jason Priem, one of the founders of Unsub, noted that a large part of many libraries’ budgets is spent on Big Deals. The value of Big Deals is declining, so there has never been a better time than the present to think about eliminating them.  OA is a major reason; if content is available free, why are we paying for it? One reason is that there is a significant amount of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) in libraries, which is why Unsub was built to provide a data dashboard to help forecast and explore alternatives to a Big Deal. In its first 18 months, Unsub has been used in over 400 libraries and consortia and has won many accolades, including an award at the Charleston Library Conference for the most innovative project of the year. The SUNY network saves over $7 million/year after cancelling its Big Deal and using Unsub, and their senior strategist says “Unsub is a game changer.” 

Unsub works by using a database of 2,000 journals to create a model for each journal’s potential usage based on the number of OA articles, backfile rights of the library’s holdings, ILL percentage, and list price. The model is customized to the institution by considering faculty citations and authorship, number of articles downloaded, and special pricing, if any. The user can then choose journals to subscribe to by cost per use, subject area, and other properties, as well as assumptions to be made. 

Here is a typical first result, showing that the user will pay $348,329 for increased ILL traffic (about 15% of what their Big Deal was costing), with 54% of their usage fulfilled by OA and backfile journals. 

This graph plots the journals by cost per use; those costing less than $100 per use are also listed below the graph, which allows the library to choose some to which they may wish to  subscribe and fill gaps in their collection. Detailed data is available for each journal with a single click on its bar on the graph. 

Insights From a Challenging Year: Meeting New Challenges With the Help of a Long-Standing Partner

Rebecca Seger

Rebecca Seger, VP, Institutional Participation and Marketing, ITHAKA, described how JSTOR responded to meet the crisis of the very challenging year 2020 and supported users and the library community. JSTOR is a non-profit organization founded to help the academic community, preserve the scholarly record, and advance research and teaching. It began digitizing journals in 1995, and its database has become one of the most heavily used in the world with over 300 million users. 

When the pandemic occurred, JSTOR began identifying needs and how they could help libraries. Immediate needs included remote access as libraries closed, support to fulfil increased access demands, and help for faculty and students to find digital resources. In addition, there was a surge of interest in content related to the pandemic. 

The changes occurring in 2020 were sudden and more long-lasting than we have ever experienced. For the first time, the economic impact was global.  JSTOR’s support for libraries included expanding access to unlicensed content. Most free access has been extended to the end of June 2021. JSTOR Daily, a free newsletter, contains some of the most widely used information in its daily issues and reaches a very wide audience. 

The impact on the community was unprecedented: over 5,200 institutions from 124 countries have opted in to the expanded access programs; over 12,000 institutions have used articles and journals on COVID that were made available; 38 million requests were received; and 2.3 million registrations were received for the free to read program. 32% of JSTOR usage in 2020 was through programs offered at no cost to libraries and users. Participation was global, showing a broad desire to have access to this content.  A strong e-book demand (8 million requests) alongside journals contributed to an increase of 90% in overall e-book usage. Subject areas shifted: the most growth areas were in the humanities and social sciences, which may have an impact on future print usage.

JSTOR wanted to help as many institutions as possible, so a $4 million COVID fee relief program was started. JSTOR was willing to operate at a loss to support the community and wanted to be viewed as a partner, not a vendor that had to be negotiated with. 

Reality of Federated Access Only: How a Library and a Publisher Worked Together to Achieve It

Kelechi Okere, Global Director, Seamless Access Initiative at Elsevier, introduced this session by noting that over the past few years, Elsevier has noticed that many of its customers are shifting from IP authentication to federated access for a variety of reasons: security, better remote access, privacy, opportunities for personalization, and better integration with remote learning. These observations led Elsevier to begin a project of federated access. Here is their vision:

James Toon, Solution Lead at Elsevier, reported on some of the project activities and findings. Activities undertaken in 2020 were an internal review, a customer discovery survey of over 300 librarians and researchers, and a pilot program.  There is still much uncertainty about federated access and what it really means to institutions, and there is often a need to maintain multiple access modes dependent on context. It is necessary to provide reassurance to users; and adopting federated access is not trivial for institutions. Here are some of the opportunities and benefits of federated access

We need to understand that there are challenges faced by libraries and work toward addressing them. Some of them are:

  • Supporting users’ journeys is critical,
  • Cross vendor cooperation is important to ensure consistency in the user experience,
  • How to retain user engagement with library services when access is increasingly remote, and
  • How can a library understand user behaviors to enable developing its services to a maximum extent?

Andrew White, Director, Library Information Services, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) described how RPI, one of the oldest engineering universities in the US and a long time Elsevier customer, participated in Elsevier’s federated access project. RPI desired to streamline authentication, increase security, simplify access from outside the campus, and increase the use of federated access. The IT department is standardizing single sign-on access through Shibboleth.  In 2019, authentication was done through IP addresses, but in 2020 with the COVID pandemic and the inability to visit the campus, there was a significant increase in federated access authentications. Issues to be considered include

  • What information should be passed between the library and the vendor,
  • Usage reporting capabilities, 
  • Education of the library community through education, 
  • Sensitivity to sharing personal details online,
  • Copyright protection, and
  • Detecting network intrusions.

Adapting to a Zero Trust Network: What Libraries Can Do When e-Resource Access Models Break Down

Christine Davidian,  Electronic Resources & Serials Librarian; Jennifer Matthews, Collection Strategy Librarian; and Jonathan Jiras, Technology Services Librarian, all at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ, discussed the implementation of a zero-trust network at Rowan and some of the problems they encountered.

Rowan University’s library collections are mostly electronic and are obtained from over 250 providers. Authentication of off-campus users was done by IP addresses; on-campus users were authenticated by EZProxy. The network was based on implied trust; anyone accessing from Rowan’s IP address was assumed to be a trusted user entitled to use the library’s e-resources. 

When the COVID pandemic hit, the library discovered that the university had moved to a zero-trust network, which requires accommodation of both wired and wireless access and a wide range of devices. Computers not managed by campus IT, such as PCs and cell phones, must obtain access through Network Access Control (NAC) software. NACs require a significant amount of support and are resented by students, so many of them were simply connecting to the campus Wi-Fi for access.  

With a zero-trust network, simply being on the network was no longer proof of authorization to access resources, so all users were treated as coming from the internet and must log on each time they wish to use the network.  A zero-trust network is easier for campus IT to deal with because there are no NACs to support, and there are fewer support calls for personally owned devices. 

For libraries, these networks have caused many changes because the implied trust model breaks down and licenses based on IP addresses are suddenly broken. These problems were resolved by implementing a new access system such as OpenAthens, which relies on seamless access or federated access. For the first time, the library could rigorously enforce access regulations. Some users had accessed resources directly on the publisher’s website, but that was no longer allowed. Contacting the vendors ensured that good relationships were maintained. One new consideration was that walk-in visitors to the library had to be provided with a temporary login to the network.

Lessons learned through this experience:

Stop Sharing Too Much Information (TMI): Applying Plain Language

Principles to Database Descriptions

Lilliana LaValle and Roxanne Backowski, Librarians at the University of Wisconsin EauClaire thought that database descriptions on many vendor’s and library websites were too long and had TMI, so they decided to rewrite all 214 descriptions of the databases accessed by their library. They noted that users typically take only 10-20 seconds to decide whether or not to visit a website, and the user success rate for finding an article or database is only about 50%. The motivation for rewriting the descriptions was to increase the success rate and increase users’ chances of finding what they are looking for. 

Database descriptions should be user-focused and written accordingly. Their audience was mainly undergraduate users who are time-constrained and view websites as tools to use in their assignments.  Terminology is a major factor; database descriptions should build trust, not be selling the databases to students, understandable to novice users, and save time for them. So the decision was made to use plain language in the rewritten descriptions because it is clear, concise, well organized, and appropriate for the subject and the intended audience. The process worked better if the writers were not subject experts. Being concise was important as well as removing jargon and information about funding and updates, which is not important for students. Here are some “before and after” examples of revisions they made (removed information is highlighted).

Implementing and Expanding a Successful TDM Program: Lessons From the Front Lines

Harold Colson, Social Scientist Strategist and Stephanie Labou, Data Science Librarian, University of California—San Diego (UCSD) described the ProQuest Text and Data Mining (TDM) Studio and how it was implemented. Demand for data is growing in not only the sciences but also in the humanities and social sciences. Requests such as these are typical:

“Can we get access to a dataset of dissertations information including year, school, author, academic subfield, advisor, and abstract if available? Otherwise, we might have to try to crawl the data.”

“Our dissertations search result is quite large (about 700,000 records). Is there any service that we could use to export them in one session? We saw two products that might help us. One is called TDM Studio. Does the library have this?”

Some content acquired by the library has included TDM rights, and other collections of bulk data have been purchased and acquired by downloading. News content seems to have been the most popular; access to some aggregated content has been impossible because of licensing terms or costs.

TDM Studio first appeared at the 2020 ALA Midwinter Meeting. It offered rights-cleared content plus a power platform. A major budget windfall allowed UCSD to purchase 2 Studio workbenches followed by an upgrade to a version of the Studio featuring unlimited workbenches. User projects have centered around a database of newspaper articles from major papers, dissertations and PLoS data. The first year of experience with the Studio has been very promising.

Controlling What We Can When Things Feel Out of Control With ROAM.Plus

Corrie Hutchinson, Head, Acquisitions and Collection Development, University of Missouri Libraries, and Annie Mellott, Acquisitions Librarian, Loyola Law School, Marymount University, said that their acquisitions models were not working for them because they were unable to properly track their contracts with an e-resource management (ERM) system. There were too many people in the workflow who were using Excel files, shared drives, calendars, and email to manage more than 300 resource subscriptions. Finding new acquisitions and renewals in the process was very time consuming. The solution to these problems was ROAM.Plus which brought many people together and shared the workflow with one collaborative tool between everyone. 

Implementing ROAM.PLUS took a fair bit of training. A significant amount of programming was necessary to select the data to include. With ROAM.Plus, it is possible to categorize data by department and funding resource. The hardest part was making sure to have a consistent vocabulary for names, etc. 

Expanding and Managing Electronic Resources During the COVID-19 Crisis by

Collaborating With External Organizations

Ya Wang, Electronic Collections Coordinator, San Francisco State University (SFSU) noted that when COVID happened, most courses went online, and there was no access to the library building from mid-March to August 2020. Instruction has been remote, and the library temporarily expanded access to e-resources. Many content providers are giving free access to their content. The library collaborated with the California State University Chancellor’s Office (CO) to manage the free content. A major benefit of collaborating with the CO is streamlined communications; there is no need for each library to contact the vendors directly. The SFSU Library website links to a Libguide which allows users to access resources. 

Since online teaching began, there has been an increased demand for streaming media. E-books support online teaching. The library has participated in affordable learning projects by getting a list of required textbooks from the campus bookstore 2 weeks before each semester starts and producing a list of those the library owns. These free library e-books save the students money. The library has worked with its major e-book vendor, GOBI, to order more e-books as course reading materials.

After the library closed, their approval plan for printed books was suspended and it was decided that all purchases for books would be in electronic form this year. Special exceptions are made in unusual circumstances such as materials needed that do not exist online. 

Here are some thoughts and a wish list of e-resource projects. 

  • Vendors should improve their service platforms and provide metadata to library service platforms which will streamline workflows. 
  • Automate updating e-resource records as much as possible. (Some vendors use KBART files to reflect holdings.)
  • Collection budgets are uncertain, so vendors should provide more flexible packages tailored to local needs. 
  • COVID presents many challenges for everyone; collaboration is more important than ever to support our users.

Keep the Library Relevant—Implementing an Online Resource List System

Roen Janyk, Web Service Librarian, Okanagan College, Kelowna, BC was looking for a system that would guide students to authoritative resources and also satisfy the increasing demand for access to different types and formats of information. Professors began to use online courses even before COVID and were coming to the library with resource lists developed from applications at other institutions.

The library launched an e-textbook program, which has been very successful. Professors do not usually specify one textbook for their courses but mix and match books from several systems for supplemental readings. There was also a growing need to understand the copyright status of materials being used in the learning management system. 

Janyk was looking for the ability to integrate both print and online materials into a single system and acquired Talis Aspire, a product that creates resource lists from a variety of sources and integrates them into a learning management system. Talis benefits: The librarians can check copyright in workflows, access the back end of courses, and increase conversations with the faculty. Challenges include developing their own training materials, and solving copyright questions.

Packages, Packages Everywhere and None of Them Quite Right

Tina Buck, E-Resources Librarian, University of Central Florida (UCF), has been thinking about standard identifiers for packages and databases or collections which may be as appropriate as they are for books and journals. Selecting e-resource packages is quite time consuming because many packages have similar names, and it is hard to find out who has what or figure out what is referred to on invoices. Packages from different vendors may have the same name but varying content. Some vendors make life more difficult with packages that have the same name but vary based on when the library bought them. 

Because of these problems, packages need a standard and consistent identifier like books and journals have, which would require vendors and publishers to agree on company names etc. Useful elements for the identifier include content provider, package name, date or edition, previous name if any, and codes for availability.

Remote Access Demand: Creating Temporary User Accounts Online

Robin Hofstetter, E-Resources Consultant, and Steven Schlewitt, Information Technology & Systems Support Manager, System Wide Automated Network (SWAN) Consortium, noted that demand for remote access soared during the pandemic, so providing it through an online application was essential. The SWAN consortium serves 1.9 million users in 100 libraries in the suburban Chicago area and has a catalog of nearly 10 million items. 

In March 2021 the libraries closed, which had a dramatic impact as shown below. There was an immediate spike in circulation, followed by zero circulation of physical materials. Circulation picked up in May with curbside services. 

The largest digital collection in the consortium has 185 unique databases. The consortium staff had to figure out how to add users during the pandemic. Several options were considered, but many of them did not meet the needs of a consortium of 100 libraries. OpenAthens is a good tool for creating accounts, especially for users who do not have a local login. Accounts can be set up for specific workstations which works well for library visitors. 

Because other features were desired, the consortium built its own registration tool to make sure that data can be cleanly added without needing to manually enter the user’s information. The identification card generated by the system had to be printable so that users could use it immediately after registering to access library services. The pandemic caused a rapid launch, and the tool was made available to all member libraries. It was widely adopted; over 12,000 users have registered, and new registrations are averaging 1,000 per month. Some procedural changes were necessary as libraries reopened.

Living Through the Chaos: ILL in Uncertain Times

Gail Williams, Sr. Interlibrary Loan Specialist, University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC) said that the library was closed when COVID hit in March 2020, and during the spring and summer loans were all electronic. Curbside pickup resumed in time for the fall semester. All borrowing during the closure period was done through consortia. 

Sara McHone-Chase, Head, User Services, Northern Illinois University (NIU), said that in common with most other libraries, all services transitioned to working at home in March 2020. The stacks were closed and have not reopened for browsing. ILL was irregular because of uncertain mail deliveries. Consortial borrowing resumed in the summer. When a user found something they wanted, they emailed its record to the library which then delivered it to them in a locker which was in a location with its own secure entrance. Due dates for ILL were extended. OCLC and RapidILL were the main systems used; 81% of requests were filled through RapidILL which worked very well. 

Mike Richins, Director, Product Management, RapidILL noted that RapidILL was acquired by ExLibris in 2019 and now has over 400 members worldwide. It focuses on fast (less than 24 hour) turnaround of article and chapter requests using automated and efficient workflows. Requests and loans of articles and books declined significantly in 2020. Book chapters became important ILL requests. Electronic resources for ILL have been the main focus during the pandemic. 

The power of the RapidILL community has been especially impressive; 246 libraries in 30 countries are now being served by 190 lending libraries. Nearly 30,000 requests have been filled. Many of the libraries joining during the pandemic have become full members of RapidILL, which has further strengthened the community and has brought new resources into the platform. 

T is for Tickets: Using Troubleshooting Ticket Data to Unearth New Mysteries

Lindsey Lowry, Electronic Resources Librarian, University of Alabama Library, said that most libraries respond to problems in the same way: users submit a request and open a trouble ticket; library staff investigate and take action to resolve the issue and then communicate with the user. After the problem has been fixed, the ticket is closed and may be archived. Several barriers stand in the way of doing an assessment: constraints of staff and time, difficultly of organizing the data, lack of tools, and lack of interest by administrators. Assessments are most commonly analyzed using email. Dedicated tools are available but are not affordable for some libraries. Accessing data from email chains is not always straightforward. 

Benefits of analyzing troubleshooting data include improving the functionality of e-resources for users everywhere, understanding the frequency of problem types, and the ability to work with vendors to resolve problems outside of the library’s control. A major problem is dealing with messy and uncategorized data. Here are some suggestions:

  • Establish clear goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!
  • Plan, plan, and plan some more. Consult with your colleagues.
  • Keep your data points limited. Only gather what you need.
  • Remember that classification is subjective.
  • Consider a shared inbox just for troubleshooting requests.
  • If multiple problems are reported on one ticket, classify some of them as “Other” or “Unknown”.
  • Organize and analyze data points when they arrive. Don’t let them accumulate.

Useful tools include Excel pivot tables, OpenRefine, SPSS, NVivo.

“Opening the Future”, a new funding model for open access monographs: an innovative approach to publishing OA books through library membership funding

Martin Eve, Professor of Literature, Technology, and Publishing; Birkbeck University of London, introduced a model of funding OA books for small to midsized university presses that want to transition their books to OA at a cheaper price per book. The model has a low risk for the presses and a high return value for libraries. The press being transitioned to OA using this model is the 30 year old Central European University Press (CEUP) which has 450 backlist titles. It operates with a traditional publishing model that is changing rapidly because of the pandemic, and wishes to be a mostly OA publisher of monographs. The model being used, “Opening the Future”, combines membership and subscriptions in which the OA frontlist is funded from backlist subscriptions. The highest membership fee for 1 year of access to 50 books is about half that of a single journal’s APC, so this is a very cost-effective way to build an OA collection. Signing up is simple at the Opening the Future website.

Advantages for publishers include avoidance of book publishing charges and relatively low risk because presses do not have to commit their frontlist revenues while they are still getting revenue from frontlist sales.

US Public Access Compliance 2021: The Academic Librarian’s Role

It is relatively well known that universities receiving grants from government-funded organizations are mandated to publish the results of their research in OA publications. But how is compliance with these mandates enforced and what can libraries do to help? 

Scott Warren, Associate Dean for Research Excellence, Syracuse University Libraries, noted that institutions are facing multiple challenges in compliance:

Syracuse University (SU) has $87 billion in total funding. The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) is responsible for monitoring compliance; however, the libraries can be very helpful to OSP because they can assist with metadata.  They are also in an excellent position to contact authors to ascertain whether articles were deposited, and they can provide an institutional repository for articles that lack a specified national repository. Therefore, libraries have an excellent opportunity to be involved in the research life cycle.

Initially, the libraries did a review and followed up with authors as needed, which worked but that is not an ideal solution because it does not scale as research increases, and it is reactive rather than proactive. The Office of Research has now expanded and been reorganized, so the libraries also restructured themselves to focus on digital scholarship by forming a Digital and Open Scholarship Team to develop services for new modes of scholarship and support the creation and distribution of open content. Support of public access mandates is one of this team’s responsibilities. 

The libraries need to shift to solutions that scale because compliance will become more challenging as SU increases its research activities. There is a growing need for solutions that are more automatic, built on standardized metadata, and work across publishers.

Howard Ratner, Executive Director, CHORUS, asked how well organizations know their funded research output. CHORUS is creating a future where the output from funded research is easily and permanently discoverable, accessible, and verifiable by anyone in the world. It provides data and an audit service to funders, publishers, universities, and institutions by putting the structure developed by the scholarly community to use for OA by answering these questions: What are goals of funded research? Where should they be published? Are they publicly accessible? Are the metadata accurate? Are the associated datasets available and where?  

Researchers want to be compliant with their agencies and do it efficiently. CHORUS has 5 core services: identification, discovery, preservation, access, and compliances. It serves the needs of funders, researchers, librarians, offices of research, and the public. The public wants access to content, and the publishers want to help their authors while driving traffic to their websites. 

CHORUS is based on maximizing the use of persistent identifiers and continues to find ways to connect relevant connected metadata, and encourages innovation and discovery. Institutions can use CHORUS data to populate their learning management systems and compile reports on compliance for the funders. Libraries are encouraged to join the CHORUS community and help them meet their goals to make OA work.

Judy Russell, Dean of Libraries at the University of Florida (UF), examined the librarian’s role in compliance efforts and worked with CHORUS to design a dashboard for academic institutions. There are many challenges with monitoring compliance:

Although libraries are not responsible for compliance, they are a trusted source of reliable information. Before UF became involved with CHORUS, the library developed a database of funders’ requirements and became a place where researchers could go to find out what was necessary for compliance. Subject specialists were trained to assist faculty members with compliance. 

As UF began working with CHORUS, that data was used to monitor researchers’ outputs. The libraries were able to congratulate authors for compliance, remind non-compliant authors when the filing deadline was approaching, and provide information to Deans of Research and avoid failures to comply. The biggest challenge they faced was the identification of an author’s affiliation with a specific college or research center; surprisingly, many authors use a generic email address (i.e. Gmail) rather than their UF address. UF actively uses ORCID IDs and has encouraged publishers to require them on submitted articles.  

The process needs to be automated because of the number of researchers and the volume of articles they write. The library’s goals are to reduce the burdens on authors and administrators and strengthen their relationship with the libraries, and also to reduce the burden on library staff to ensure timely dissemination of information. The library has a network of relationships throughout the campus, and is a neutral source of information. The initiative has been very much welcomed by the Deans and VP of Research.

Leveraging the IR to Support Faculty and Students During (and Beyond) a Pandemic

Wendy Walker, Digital Initiatives Librarian, University of Montana (UM), Missoula, described 2 university events that she added to the institutional repository (IR) at the beginning of the pandemic and how she supported them. UM’s IR, ScholarWorks, was launched in September 2013, and now hosts more than 83,000 items and has had over 4.5 million downloads. 

One of the ways undergraduate research is supported is by a UM Conference on Undergrad Research (UMCUR), which began in 2001 and is held annually in April. When the COVID pandemic arrived just 5 weeks before the 2020 conference, quick decisions had to be made: should the conference be cancelled, should it be virtual, and if so, should it be synchronous or asynchronous?  One suggestion was to post recordings of the presentations in the IR, but this raised more questions: where are the recordings, are they using closed captions or are transcripts available, what about obtaining permissions from the participants? 

The decision was made to go forward with an asynchronous conference. The IR has been used to host presentations and poster sessions since 2014, so there was no major reason why the entire conference could not be hosted. All student presenters were required to put their presentations in the IR, and a Zoom connection was used for the Q&A. If students wanted their presentations to be judged for a prize, they were also required to upload a video and audio file of themselves giving their presentation. The conference was a success; 103 presentations were uploaded, and judging went very smoothly.  Based on this success, it was decided to host the 2021 conference using the IR.

The Seeking Sustainability lecture series had similar questions:

  • Did lecturers know that they were being recorded for later online availability? Would audience members be shown and recognizable? Who was recorded in the Zoom sessions—only presenters or audience members as well? 
  • Would permissions be obtained from all participants?
  • Would videos and transcripts be searchable and downloadable? Would they have closed captions? Could metadata and presenters’ slides be captured? 

One professor wanted to use the recordings in her courses, and she was able to get permissions and downloadable recordings for the IR from every presenter and all attendees. Transcripts were captured as closed captions in streaming video.

These illustrations show the importance of relationships to allow quick execution of such projects and are good examples of the support and values that the IR can provide. It is important to build relationships and trust with faculty members, students, and staff on the campus. In the case of the 2 conferences, the IR allowed them to go forward virtually. Thinking about collections can therefore help to move beyond OA goals and explain to stakeholders why their content should be in the IR. All this will help get support for the IR and build its reputation as a quality scholarly repository that provides value for its stakeholders and others beyond the university. 

Metadata Distribution: An Experience from a Scholarly Publisher

Lola Estelle, Digital Library Specialist, Library and Discovery Relations, Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), said that it is essential for scholarly publishers to share metadata with data services, A&I services, discovery, and linking systems to automate working relationships and data sharing with partners. SPIE built a digital library platform in 2017, and in 2020 BioOne and Project Euclid launched their data on the SPIE site, so now 3 nonprofit publishers are sharing a single platform. SPIE is still refining sharing of metadata on the platform. Content providers share it for discoverability, e-resource management, citation metrics, document delivery, preservation, and archiving.

Very few researchers start their searches on a publisher’s website. Instead, they find a citation elsewhere, and then link to the SPIE site to access it. So SPIE must ensure that its content is represented where the users begin their searches. Titles must also be accurately represented in e-resource management (ERM) databases. Both title-level and article-level metadata must be shared because discovery services expect that the titles they license will be current and complete. Services such as Scopus are crucial to this process; its journal impact factor relies on metadata sent to the Web of Science, and authors expect that their works will be correctly represented for their career purposes. Incorrect metadata leads to linking errors. 

Title-level metadata is provided using KBart, a NISO standard developed for sharing it with link resolvers. KBart files must be produced manually because the metadata is not structured correctly for SPIE’s files. For e-books, MARC records are produced by Special Libraries Cataloging in Victoria, BC.

Here are some best practices for content providers:

  • Develop relationships with vendors,
  • Invest in resources to comply with standards,
  • Invest in internal tools to optimize metadata sharing,
  • Test indexes for accuracy, currency, and completeness, and
  • Train staff to troubleshoot errors and gaps.

Donald T. Hawkins is an information industry freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. In addition to blogging and writing about conferences for Against the Grain, he blogs the Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences for Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and maintains the Conference Calendar on the ITI website. He is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, (Information Today, 2013) and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits (Information Today, 2016). He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley and has worked in the online information industry for over 45 years.


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