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Managing Electronic Resources in the Tri-College Consortium

Norm Medeiros

The Tri-College Library Consortium of Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges has a history of collaboration that began in the late 1980s, when a shared, integrated library system was purchased. The shared catalog and twice-daily delivery service among the colleges have enabled patrons to view and access the three libraries’ resources as though they were a single, large collection, similar in scope and size to that of a research library.

The Tri-Colleges’ history of collaboration with electronic resources (e-resources) began in 2000. At that time, the libraries began the collective purchase of e-resources in an effort to deliver consistent content to patrons as well as to capitalize on more-attractive pricing than the libraries could garner individually. A Tri-College committee was established to review potential purchases, and this group continues to perform its charge well. When the libraries began acquiring databases and large sets of e-journals, item-level records were entered into the Tri-Colleges’ online catalog. The libraries were also doing a reasonably good job of highlighting new e-resources on their individual Web sites.

One troublesome area that soon emerged, however, was the recording of license terms. The need to make interlibrary loan restrictions on e-journals available to staff was of particular importance, since these restrictions directly affected business practices. For a while, licensing information was stored in bibliographic records, but the need to store additional elements soon made it clear that the catalog could no longer serve this purpose.

As a result, in early 2001 a meeting of serialists, catalogers, and technical services administrators was convened for the purpose of discussing options for more-effective management of licensing and affiliated administrative metadata. The libraries decided to build a central database where information about e-resources would reside. At that time, only a few such systems were in use, and all were at much larger institutions. Nevertheless, the Tri-Colleges forged ahead, and by early 2002 they had implemented the Electronic Resource Tracking System (ERTS). This database stored and provided access to administrative metadata, but did not address many other important e-resource management tasks, particularly workflow efficiency and communication.

After attending a workflow redesign seminar in July 2003 sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and led by consultants from the Stillwater Group, the Tri-College libraries decided submit a proposal that would enable them to tackle the difficulties they were still encountering with respect to e-resource management. The proposal outlined a plan for recasting e-resource management holistically; that is, examining all the activities that occur from the moment a decision is made to evaluate an e-resource through the decision to renew or cancel it. The libraries were already performing some of these functions well; nonetheless, holes remained. Staff members were also aware that efficiencies could be realized even in the tasks that were being performed well.

Principles of Workflow Redesign

The principles of workflow redesign, as instructed by the Stillwater Group, involve surrendering presuppositions, allowing all affected staff to have a voice, using an impartial facilitator, and learning from mistakes. Mindful of these principles, the libraries began the two-year project in January 2004 by assembling Tri-College staff deeply involved in e-resource management. This group met three hours a week over six months to detail e-resource management practices and to envision how e-resources management could be improved. The group used an impartial facilitator, a member of Bryn Mawr College’s communications department, to mediate and to keep discussions on target.

This six-month period of discussion provided ample time to strategically plan a series of workflow improvements. Members of the work group interviewed librarians in other institutions, who indicated they had merely reacted to changes forced upon them by the proliferation of e-resources. They had deployed staff to areas of need without a great deal of forethought. The Tri-College Libraries, before having the opportunity to examine their own practices for e-resource management, had reacted in much the same way. Although the libraries had spent a few months planning ERTS, the workflows that developed around it, and the pre-existing workflows for e-resources management, simply evolved. The working group sought to use the redesign project as a means of improving workflows that had been created without any serious or central planning.


Formation of Working Group

Management of electronic resources in the Tri-Colleges, as in many academic libraries, is a distributed process. Most of the tasks, however, are performed by technical services staff. Consequently, the libraries’ three technical services administrators formed the steering committee for this project, with Haverford’s associate librarian of the college leading the group. The most appropriate working group draftees were the Tri-Colleges’ serials specialists, who perform the bulk of e-resource tasks. For years, the Tri-Colleges have had a licensing librarian who brokers many e-resource purchases on behalf of the libraries. His participation in the group was also critical. Given the prospect of engagement in technical work, the Tri-Colleges’ Web editor was asked to join the group. Cataloging of e-resources is a coordinated activity in the Tri-Colleges, and one that is quite time-consuming. Consequently, the steering committee asked the e-resource cataloging coordinator to join the group. Finally, recognizing that the ultimate purpose in streamlining management of e-resources is to benefit library users, two public services librarians were invited to fill out the group.

Workflow Sessions

The work begun in January 2004 sought to document how the Tri-Colleges managed e-resources, both as a consortium and on an individual basis, since the redesigned workflows would need to accommodate both acquisition paths. The agenda developed for examining the libraries’ current workflows was divided into 10 weekly meetings, each of which lasted approximately three hours. The agenda was based on a combination of the following:

  • a discussion paper documenting how consortium-purchased e-resources are managed by staff on the three campuses, and
  • institution-specific documents describing how each library purchases e-resources.

These documents provided the basis for discussions during the 10 meetings. These sessions were critically important, since they illuminated the facets of e-resource management to all members of the group and provided a common understanding of the processes that needed reshaping.

Before starting the weekly meetings to rebuild the workflows, the libraries invited publisher and serials agency representatives to talk about e-resource licensing and services, respectively. These meetings helped the group understand the pressures and work habits of vendors with which libraries did business.

Process-Rebuilding Sessions

The working group then began a seven-week period during which it redesigned the processes for consortium-purchased e-resources. The group concentrated on the following areas:

  • discovery and trial
  • ordering, licensing, and payment
  • access
  • administration
  • control
  • renewal

These areas grew naturally from working group discussions of e-resource management, as well as through review of an R2 Consultants’ white paper that expertly detailed the variety of tasks inherent to e-resource management (Lugg and Fischer 2003). The role of the facilitator was especially important during this phase of the project to ensure that all group members’ voices be heard and that no idea be dismissed out of hand.

At the end of the sessions, the working group documented the redesigned workflows for a consortium-purchased e-resource, beginning with the evaluation decision and concluding with the renewal or cancellation decision. The group also agreed on functional requirements and desirables for a new e-resources management system, such a system being deemed the engine that would power the revised workflows. The group used a secure folder in the Tri-College Consortium’s Blackboard system to store this document and the plethora of other documents pertinent to the project. This central repository provided a simple means of keeping the files safe and available.

Marketplace Investigation

In summer 2004, the group began to investigate products and services that could help achieve the new e-resource management workflows. The steering committee created subcommittees and charged them with gathering information and making recommendations. The key item to investigate was an e-resource management system. As the working group had hoped, the ERMS marketplace had matured. Several library vendors now had products on the market or in the works. Some of the functional requirements identified as being part of the desired ERMS had been present in the Tri-Colleges’ locally created ERTS system, but many others had not. The working group deemed such new functionality as critical to effective management of electronic resources. Some of these functions included the ability to port “server down” notices to end users, to generate an assortment of reports, and, most important, to monitor resources through the spectrum of workflow processes. Given Tri Colleges’ participation on the reactor panel of the Digital Library Federation’s (DLF’s) Electronic Resources Management Initiative (ERMI), the working group knew that the commercial system chosen should conform to the functional specifications disseminated by ERMI in August 2004.

The group also investigated e-resource services provided by serials agents EBSCO, Harrassowitz, and Swets. The group sought to determine the services these agencies provided vis-à-vis electronic resources, since members felt strongly that outsourcing certain e-resource activities might enable sustainable management of a growing and complex e-resource collection.

A third marketplace investigation involved MARC records. Although services that provide catalog-ready bibliographic records are not new, the Tri-College Consortium had performed e-resource cataloging work in-house throughout its history. The group recognized that the time needed to continue performing such cataloging in-house would continue to increase. For this reason, it decided to review commercial MARC record providers to see whether their offerings matched the libraries’ exacting standards.

The final area of investigation involved development of a Tri-College license for electronic resources that would govern the terms of use for e-resources purchased by the libraries. With such a license, the colleges would no longer be governed by terms set by the publisher.


On the basis of an exhaustive review of products and services, the working group made four decisions. These decisions resulted in the implementation of three new tools-VTLS Verify, Harrassowitz HERMIS, and the Tri-College License-and the deferment of implementation of one tool, a MARC records provider.

VTLS Verify. The most significant decision-selection of a commercial ERMS-was not an easy one. Mindful of the functional requirements and desirables identified months earlier, the working group invited vendors of three systems (Innovative, Ex Libris, and VTLS) to campus to provide live (or, in the case of Ex Libris, simulated) demonstrations of their products. Each of the three systems had advantages and disadvantages.

Innovative’s product, ERM, was commercially available, and the libraries could have had it installed within 45 days of committing to it. ERM had been used by several beta testers, and many of the problems had been resolved. Because the Tri-College Consortium was already a current Innovative customer, ERM would have synchronized with Tri-Colleges’ integrated library system in a way that would allow display of license data to catalog users. On the down side, the libraries were not attracted to Innovative’s Millennium interface: ERM did not adhere strictly to the DLF specifications, and it provided little support for consortium-related tasks. Moreover, the working group did not consider the much-touted benefit of porting license data to catalog users a strong incentive, since the catalog is often circumvented when users access e-resources through the Tri-Colleges’ SFX link resolver.

The second product demonstrated, Ex Libris’ Verde ERMS, was in a largely conceptual stage when shown to the working group, but the system seemed to have great potential. The main architects of the system were Ivy Anderson (Harvard University) and Ellen Duranceau (Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT]), two of the most experienced e-resources experts in the field. Given Anderson’s membership on the DLF ERMI group, the working group assumed that Verde would conform to DLF specifications and that it would interface with SFX, creating a powerful synergetic resource. The working group was intrigued with the prospect of implementing Verde, but only if Ex Libris would agree to incorporate the Tri-Colleges into Verde’s beta testing pool. When the group inquired about this possibility, Ex Libris responded that it already had sufficient library partners. Although the group was disappointed with this response, Verde’s relatively distant release date was the group’s strongest reason for not selecting it as the Tri-Colleges’ ERMS.

The third visitor, VTLS, showcased its ERMS, Verify. Members of the working group were impressed with the system, both aesthetically and functionally. Perhaps the greatest challenge for ERMS vendors is in providing support for consortia, and Verify by its nature was an extensible system. Considering the number of libraries that join forces to purchase e-resources, it is not beyond reason to think that a group of libraries less united than the Tri-Colleges might share ERMS. The demonstration of Verify showed clearly how the system could accommodate entities from multiple libraries. The hierarchical display of the entity structure was logical and easy to decipher.

The group considered Verify the best of the three ERMS at meeting the consortium’s needs. Verify would also have the greatest impact on system development. After further discussions with VTLS, the Tri-Colleges were invited to become development partners for Verify. A three-year contract was executed in early 2005.

Harrassowitz HERMIS. Although officially considered still under development, Harrassowitz’s suite of e-resource services, named HERMIS, offered the Tri-Colleges an opportunity to outsource a number of activities previously done internally, including resource identification and evaluation; license management; ordering, payment, renewals, and cancellations; activation of electronic resources; technical access management; and usage tracking. Of this list, the four services deemed most valuable to the Tri-Colleges were (1) resource identification and evaluation, a service in which the libraries receive customized and detailed reports of available electronic content; (2) license management, whereby Harrassowitz acts as licensing agent during the early stage of negotiation for nonconsortium purchases; (3) activation of e-journals, which includes e-resource registration procedures and notifications; and (4) technical access management, whereby Harrassowitz’s help desk handles troubleshooting for resources the libraries purchase through them. In preparation for the Tri-Colleges’ grant request, the steering committee estimated that 35 hours per week were being spent troubleshooting e-resource access issues. The committee estimated that using Harrassowitz’s help desk could cut that number in half with no loss in response time. Clearly, in order to continue to fund HERMIS, the libraries will need evidence that outsourcing these tasks is less expensive than performing them internally.

Tri-College License. Licensing electronic resources in the Tri-College Consortium is an arduous and often frustrating activity. The Tri-College licensing librarian brokers deals, with the Bryn Mawr College attorney serving as counsel. Since vendor licenses vary from publisher to publisher, negotiating and parsing these contracts on a case-by-case basis take a great deal of time.

While discussing improvements to e-resource processes, the working group read about MIT’s experiment to provide publishers with the institution’s license for the electronic resources they sought to purchase (Duranceau 2003). The working group was inspired to create a Tri-College license for electronic resources, drawing heavily from the NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium (NERL) license. The Tri-College license was finalized in January 2005.


Detail of Workflow Changes

Not to be overlooked by the glamour of the new tools and services purchased are the workflow changes that resulted from the sessions held during the second quarter of 2004. Although these tools and services hold great promise, the process improvements created by the working group influenced these purchases. Without a thoughtful assessment of how best to manage e-resources, the rest of the group’s activities would have been useless.

During the discussions it became clear that the full details of e-resource management were not well known by any single committee member. Each library had created its own e-resource workflow, and participants were often unclear as to how the entire process was handled. An early discovery for how e-resource management could be improved involved electronic resource trials. Before this project, trial establishment was handled by the Tri-College licensing librarian, who was responsible for negotiating electronic resources on behalf of the libraries. Given that the libraries purchase only about 20 percent of the resources they obtain on trial, the licensing librarian was spending much time on resources that would never be used by patrons. Furthermore, the librarian found it difficult to keep up with requests for trials, and thus a haphazard approach to handling them was the norm.

To resolve this problem, the working group carved out a “trials coordinator” role, which is currently filled by a Swarthmore College librarian. The trials coordinator contacts vendor representatives to establish trials and receives preliminary pricing. She enters this preliminary information into Verify, to which many additional data will ultimately be connected. The trials coordinator collaborates with the Tri-College committee responsible for determining which resources to evaluate. Establishment of this role has helped the libraries standardize the trials process and has freed the licensing librarian to concentrate on purchases. Given the number of trials established each year and the communication challenges of working with staff and faculty on three campuses, the trials coordinator has been a valuable addition to the staff.

Enhanced communication is the other significant change that informs the development of Verify and will ultimately determine the success or failure of the libraries’ new e-resource processes. Given the array of tasks and associated staff necessary to manage e-resources, effective communication is critical. The real promise of the DLF ERMI specifications is not in the hundreds of elements in which data can reside. Indeed, numerous libraries store such administrative metadata in spreadsheets and find this solution just as functional as a database system, if not more so. For the Tri-Colleges, it is the Processing Workflow Entity interface of Verify that provides the breakthrough opportunity for minimizing the inefficiencies caused by communication breakdowns.

To this end, the working group developed a communications channel within Verify that is predicated on discrete e-resource status values, each value being the smallest transaction unit. Almost without exception, when an e-resource transfers from one management activity to the next, the status of that e-resource changes. For example, when the trial period for an e-resource ends, the status of that resource changes from “on trial” to “under consideration.” Such status changes require certain staff to be notified in order to perform their work. The makeshift means by which the Tri-Colleges had performed such communication to date relied on inefficient and error-prone e-mail correspondence. The new means of communication within Verify’s staff interface will generate personalized screens of pending activities for classes of users. Verify will run silently in the background for most staff until a notification arrives, at which point the window will maximize and display the notice.

Typical ERMS predicate e-mail “ticklers” on date fields, but the Tri-Colleges’ design predicates notification on status fields, since it is the completion of a task, rather than arrival of a date, that typically requires an action to be taken. Developing a sophisticated alerting system within Verify that can deliver notifications to staff members on the basis of a matrix of e-resource status, user log-in, and user class was among the working group’s major achievements. It is also the area where the group’s contribution to the library community may ultimately be most valuable.

Assessment of Decisions

It is still too early to evaluate the working group’s efforts. Results will be assessed once the group’s decisions have been fully implemented. However, review and appraisal processes were part of project development and are ongoing.

Tri-College Symposium. In July 2005, e-resource management experts Ivy Anderson, Trisha Davis (The Ohio State University), Ellen Duranceau, Sharon Farb (University of California, Los Angeles), and Diane Grover (University of Washington) were invited to attend a one-day symposium at which the working group reported on its progress. When scheduling the symposium in summer 2004, the working group anticipated being farther along with its ERMS implementation by the time of the symposium; this would have allowed the symposium to be a more useful assessment tool. Although the symposium presentations were limited by the project’s slower-than-expected progress, the program succeeded in raising the awareness of the working group in three underexplored areas: a public interface to Verify; the malleability of the ERMI specification; and the strategic nature of the Tri-College license for e-resources. The working group was encouraged by the attendees’ universal support for the libraries’ holistic approach to e-resource management.

VTLS Verify. The Tri-Colleges’ engaged in a development partnership with VTLS because the working group was attracted to Verify’s initial design, believed in the approach VTLS was taking with Verify, and wanted an opportunity to craft an ERMS to meet local needs and the needs of other consortia. The libraries had built their own e-resource management system a few years earlier. Although this system was on a smaller scale than Verify, they believed they had sufficient expertise to assist VTLS staff in creating a comprehensive ERMS.

Their experience with the minutiae of e-resource activities, the workflows that encompass e-resource management, and the vision of the ERMI specification prepared the group well for its work with VTLS. Moreover, the working group recognized quickly the deficiencies of the ERMI specification vis-à-vis consortia and helped Verify accommodate the needs of multilibrary users. The initial testing of the first version of the Verify system in March 2005 illustrated several shortcomings that would have made it unusable for consortia. Because of this, VTLS decided to scrap its original hierarchical structure and to redesign the system using XML for greater flexibility. Much of 2005 was spent not in testing a complete system, as had been anticipated, but in helping VTLS work on system design and function. Verify is shaping up to be the kind of tool imagined when the group was considering ERMS options. The true test of Verify’s success will be its ability to be the communications medium envisioned. Without complete development of the robust, task-based notification system the working group prescribed, Verify will have little more value than a spreadsheet has.

If the working group was unprepared in a single area, it was in expectations. The group anticipated a speedier development cycle. Having no commercial-development experience, the group presumed a timeline mirroring that of locally developed systems. Such was not the case. It took months for the working group to grow comfortable with Verify’s seemingly slow maturation.

Two activities resulting from the libraries’ ERMS implementation deserve mention: the mapping process and status values list development. In preparation for loading pre-existing administrative metadata from the libraries’ home-grown systems into Verify, a subcommittee of the working group mapped local elements to ERMI elements. This process resulted in an approximate 50 percent success rate; that is, 50 percent of the local elements in use in the Tri-Colleges had a corresponding ERMI element. For the remaining 50 percent, the subcommittee identified the ERMI entity into which the data should be ported. This mapping exercise illustrated the deficiency with the ERMI specification for accommodating consortium needs, since most instances of noncorrespondence was attributed to the Tri-Colleges’ consortium issues.

Perhaps a more significant activity for libraries elsewhere preparing for ERMS implementation was the Tri-Colleges’ values list development. In many areas, the ERMI data structure does not prescribe the values of elements when possible values are numerous. A subcommittee of the working group identified these elements and provided VTLS with the values for incorporation into Verify. At some point, the Tri-Colleges intend to share these lists with the e-resources community, since they may save considerable work for libraries in the early stages of ERMS implementation.

Harrassowitz HERMIS. The working group justified outsourcing certain e-resource management activities to Harrassowitz on the basis of the libraries’ inability to perform well all of the tasks inherent to controlling these coveted and proliferating resources. The libraries’ technical services staffs simply could not handle the number of tasks associated with e-resources. Harrassowitz, much like the Tri-Colleges, was trying to redesign the way in which it handles e-resources. It was prepared to offer innovative services to its customers. The timing of the two initiatives coincided, and resulted in a partnership from which both Harrassowitz and the Tri-Colleges learned a great deal. At the end of the first year of the HERMIS contract, the libraries knew that the mix of services offered by Harrassowitz was important to libraries, but some were better suited to being done in-house, while others seemed prime candidates for sustained outsourcing.

Members of the working group could not achieve a consensus about the value of having Harrassowitz mediate license terms on behalf of the Tri-Colleges. Some thought this service added unnecessary time to the negotiation process; others found it worthwhile and time-saving. More experimentation is necessary to determine the value of outsourcing this service.

On the other hand, the working group unanimously endorsed the registration and troubleshooting services that Harrassowitz has performed on behalf of the libraries. These services are recognized as time savers that do not impede access to the resources. The troubleshooting service is especially valued. During 2005, the working group compared the amount of time it took Harrassowitz to resolve access problems for e-resources brokered through them with the amount of staff time it took to restore access to e-resources the libraries purchased directly from publishers. No deterioration in service resulted from outsourcing troubleshooting, but significant staff time was saved as a result. Although it is still too early to assess the work of Verify, it is not too early to assess that of HERMIS. After a year of contracting for these services, it is clear that some combination of e-resource activities can be outsourced successfully. Further, in many academic libraries, outsourcing will be the only means of sustainable administration of a diverse and proliferating e-resources collection.

Tri-College License. The Tri-College Library Consortium license agreement for electronic resources was provided to a handful of publishers as part of the negotiation process. Although no publisher accepted it outright, a few agreed to incorporate parts of it into the binding contract. In some cases, publishers approached the licensing librarian to ask whether the Tri-Colleges had a model license. Although the working group had anticipated opposition from publishers, nearly all the licensors were courteous and responsive. This initiative, which members of the working group believed to be in some ways outrageous and in others arrogant, was more successful than anyone had predicted. Given the enthusiasm of Bryn Mawr’s counsel, who helped craft the document, and the Tri-College licensing librarian, this new approach to licensing will persist.

Aside from the moments of joy when a publisher agrees to incorporate a clause into the executed license, or when a publisher asks for our model license, the benefits of an institutional license have not yet been realized by the Tri-Colleges. The main reason for this assertion is that Verify has yet to provide a means of automated encoding of values based on the Tri-College license. When Verify can default values from the license into the Terms Defined Entity, staff time parsing licenses may be significantly reduced. The project group looks forward to the day when the license of execution is predicated on the Tri-College contract, not a publisher-supplied agreement. Nonetheless, the group’s original definition of success relative to licensing-that the Tri-Colleges’ efforts serve to inform publishers of terms libraries find acceptable-has been achieved.


Continued Development of Verify, HERMIS, and the Tri-College License

Refinement of each of the three major initiatives began in the last quarter of 2005. Swarthmore’s assistant director for acquisitions, systems, and data management; Haverford’s serials specialist; and the Tri-Colleges’ Web developer visited VTLS headquarters in Blacksburg, Virginia, to work through various aspects of Verify’s functionality and design. They found it valuable to meet face-to-face with Verify’s product manager and lead developer. The working group members returned from their excursion feeling confident about VTLS’ ability to deliver Verify’s finishing touches.

Haverford’s associate librarian of the college attended a weeklong strategic planning retreat at Harrassowitz headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany. He and a colleague from Stanford University were invited to help shape Harrassowitz’s 2006 goals. In preparation for this retreat, Harrassowitz dispatched a representative of a consulting firm to spend a half-day discussing with Tri-College staff the benefits and shortcomings of HERMIS. The consultant’s report of that meeting informed discussions during the retreat in Wiesbaden. As the largest implementer of HERMIS services, the Tri-Colleges had significant input during the retreat; indeed, the vision for improving and extending HERMIS services was largely driven by the Tri-College’s representation at the retreat.

A powerful example of the Tri-College’s influence in shaping the direction of HERMIS occurred just before this writing. The Tri-Colleges and Harrassowitz agreed to become among the first vendor/library partners to adopt the Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative (SUSHI), a developmental protocol supported by the National Information Standards Organization and the ERMI group. SUSHI seeks to automate harvesting and aggregation of COUNTER-compliant usage statistics. A similar data-exchange experiment was tested in early 2006, in which Harrassowitz created an ONIX Serials Products and Subscriptions (SPS) file from their internal database that was ingested into Verify. The result was successful and has saved the libraries a great deal of time in data entry.

The final initiative was a planned revision of the Tri-College license to improve the language that has consistently proven problematic to publishers. When the review process was undertaken, few changes resulted. The license is available at

Ongoing Assessment of Workflows

In substance and in spirit, this project is about workflows. The tools the group has chosen to implement, although a means to an end, will not be the ultimate determinant of the libraries’ success in managing e-resources. The lifeblood of this project is discrete tasks that form an intricate matrix of processes that rely on timely, appropriate information exchange among distributed staff. Not until the libraries have sufficient experience incorporating the new workflows into their overall management schemes will the working group be prepared to fully assess the project. It is anticipated that such an assessment will begin at the close of 2006.


The working group has taken seriously its commitment to advertise the project to the larger library community. Members of the working group have presented the work at several national conferences, including the 2005 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago; the 2005 ASIST Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina; and the 2006 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. A recent ALA monograph included a chapter written by Haverford’s associate librarian of the college that discusses the history of e-resource management in academic libraries and the work the Tri-Colleges are doing to streamline workflows (Medeiros 2006).

Less formal means of communicating the libraries’ work have occurred on numerous occasions. Many colleagues have been intrigued with the Tri-Colleges’ approach. Three areas elicit the most interest among colleagues. The first is the libraries’ holistic approach to redesigned workflows. Many colleagues have addressed certain aspects of e-resource management, but not the overall corpus of activities. Second, while the development of the Tri-College institutional license appears to some as overtly aggressive and unlikely to succeed, others are impressed with the idea and recognize that working from a known, fair license may have great value. Third, the Tri-Colleges’ service agreement with Harrassowitz has raised questions, since few know such services exist, and those who do question vesting such complex tasks with an agent.

This initiative has made a remarkable impact on the way in which the Tri-College Libraries think about and approach the management of electronic resources. Before this project began, the steering committee felt confident in the libraries’ overall ability to tackle this work. The Tri-Colleges had been one of the first academic libraries to develop a local ERMS and was the only small institution thinking about e-resource management in such an advanced way. Now, having completed a rigorous, two-year journey in theory and practice, and to places as diverse as Blacksburg, Virginia, and Wiesbaden, Germany, the group understands the complexities presented by the digital medium in a much more sophisticated way. This experience has been humbling, yet empowering. The Tri-Colleges are far more potent and knowledgeable than they were before this project began. They have learned from others farther along, contributed their knowledge to similar and not-so-similar libraries, and undergone a process that can be applied in nearly every group of processes that occurs in library departments. The Tri-College Libraries will benefit from this experience for many years to come.


Duranceau, Ellen Finnie. 2003. Using a Standard License for Individual Electronic Journal Purchases: Results of a Pilot Study in the MIT Libraries. Serials Review 29 (4): 302-304.

Lugg, Rick, and Ruth Fischer. 2003. Agents in Place: Intermediaries in E-Journal Management. Available at

Medeiros, Norm. 2006. House of Horrors: Exorcising Electronic Resources. In Managing Electronic Resources: Contemporary Problems and Emerging Issues, edited by Pamela Bluh and Cindy Hepfer. Chicago: American Library Association.


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