ARL and DLF libraries have gradually increased the amount of money spent for electronic resources over the last decade or so, and they are spending an increasing proportion of their budgets on such resources (Kyrillidou 2000, Jewell 1998). In each of the last five or six years, the percentage of their resource budgets that these libraries earmarked for electronic resources has grown by about 1 percent, and in 1998-1999, both ARL and DLF member libraries spent about 10 percent of their resource budgets on electronic resources. More than 85 percent of such expenditures were for serials and represented ongoing commitments. If prices for electronic resources rise as rapidly as have serial prices in general, the shift in spending could lead to additional financial pressures for libraries. The apparent need to maintain print copies of electronic resources while electronic archiving agreements and technology are developed will add further pressures.
There is good reason to predict that e-resource expenditures will accelerate rapidly over the next few years. For example, more and more journals from established publishers are becoming available on the Web, and tens of thousands of electronic books are now available through a single new company: netLibrary. Questia, another new company, has begun to offer an extensive collection of electronic resources directly to users. Although it is too early to tell whether such new services will take hold, there is substantial concern in some libraries that they must respond to this competition if they are to remain important sources of information on their campuses. For these libraries, one response to this new “competitive space” (Hughes 2000) will be to invest more heavily in electronic resources.
As libraries spend more money acquiring electronic resources or access to them, there are growing concerns over the interrelated problems of vendor pricing and institutional finances. In particular, there is a common perception that libraries are at a disadvantage when acting alone in this environment and that collaborative effort is necessary. This is perceived to be especially true when libraries negotiate with large corporate entities. Two important and fairly distinct types of collaboration have begun to shape the electronic resource market. The first of these is cooperative purchasing through library consortia, and the second is the development of alternative outlets for scholarly communication. The ultimate impact of each of these developments on prices and the marketplace remain to be seen.
2.1.1. Consortial Purchasing and Pricing
The importance of consortia and consortial buying has become obvious to librarians around the world who are involved in acquiring electronic resources. Consortia have been formed for a variety of reasons and exhibit a number of similarities and differences. Some of them, such as OhioLINK, VIVA, and the California Digital Library (CDL), are state-based and limited to academic libraries. Other academic library consortia, such as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, include members in multiple states within a region. The NorthEast Research Library (NERL) consortium also includes members from several states, but its members are primarily private universities. There are also many state-based multitype consortia, such as NC Live in North Carolina and INCOLSA in Indiana, as well as national consortia based in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. Some of these consortia originated with broad mandates to foster resource sharing through online catalogs; they are relevant to this report to the extent that they attempt to negotiate better prices and other terms for libraries that are purchasing electronic resources.
Consortial arrangements for databases can benefit libraries financially in various ways. Usually, as the buying group expands, prices are lowered. One common practice is to put in place a price per full-time equivalent (FTE) student that is based on a sliding scale; as more FTE students are added to the consortial contract, the price is lowered. Another approach, taken by journal publishers, is to determine the scope and content of a consortial e-journal collection on the basis of library holdings within the consortium. Examples of this include the arrangements that OhioLINK and NERL have with Elsevier under which members have access to all ScienceDirect titles. Since no individual library is likely to be able to subscribe to all of this publisher’s titles on its own, even the best funded of them stand to gain access to considerable content under such arrangements. Smaller libraries may be able to dramatically improve access to resources for relatively small amounts of money. Sanville (2000) has shown that this content is likely to be used when made available, and has called into question the traditional assumptions on which librarians have made local journal selection decisions.
Consortial purchasing also must be profitable for publishers and vendors, and many of them see these arrangements as opportunities to reduce marketing and invoicing costs. It has been argued that consortial contracts for e-journal packages enable publishers to gain revenue from smaller institutions that could not otherwise afford to subscribe to any of these journals.
Although consortial arrangements can provide libraries with much better pricing or other advantages, those benefits must be weighed against the costs of doing business consortially, which can include substantial staff time and some losses of local control and flexibility. An added complication is that libraries can be formal or informal members of a number of different, and sometimes competing or overlapping, consortia and buying groups. Deciding which arrangements make the most sense in a given situation may be difficult.
An examination of public consortia member lists and other sources reveals that most DLF libraries are members of multiple consortia. As shown in Table 1, they are most likely to be members of a regional consortium such as the Center for Institutional Cooperation (CIC), NERL, Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL), or the Big 12 Plus. Most also belong to at least one major state-based consortium. For example, Penn State is a member of the regional CIC and two state-based groups: PALCI and PALINET. As noted, many group-buying arrangements seem to be ad hoc and difficult to identify. Consequently, it seems likely that the typical DLF library (and by extension, ARL library) will be involved in many collaborative buying arrangements with varying degrees of formalization.
Table 1. DLF Member Libraries’ Consortial Memberships
|DLF Member Institution||Regional Consortia||State Consortia|
|Carnegie-Mellon||NERL (affiliate)||PALCI; PALINET|
|Illinois, Urbana||CIC||ILLINET; IDAL; ILCSO; ICCMP|
|Library of Congress|
|Michigan||CIC||Michigan Library Consortium|
|New York Public Library|
|North Carolina State||ASERL||NCLive; TRLN|
|Penn State||CIC||PALCI; PALINET|
|Southern California||Big 12 Plus||SCELC|
|Texas||Big 12 Plus||TexShare|
|Washington||Big 12 Plus||Washington Cooperative Library Project|
|ASERL = Association of Southeastern Research Libraries|
|CDL = California Digital Library|
|CIC = Center for Institutional Cooperation|
|IDAL = Illinois Digital Academic Library|
|ICCMP = Illinois Cooperative Collection Management Program|
|ILCSO = Illinois Library Computer Systems Office|
|NERL = NorthEast Research Libraries consortium|
|PALCI = Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc.|
|SCELC = Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium|
|TRLN = Triangle Research Libraries Network|
This study attempted to discern the extent to which these libraries are currently purchasing selected databases and e-journal access through consortia by checking the Web sites of member libraries for a limited number of expensive “big-ticket” databases and selected e-journal packages. Appropriate consortia Web sites were then checked to determine whether there seemed to be a consortial role, and further contact was made with a few key individuals to double-check the information.
Several of the databases selected for this review are prominent general-interest and business-related full-text aggregator services, such as Academic Universe from Lexis-Nexis; EBSCO’s, Gale’s, and Bell & Howell’s primary academic and business databases; and H. W. Wilson Company’s “Wilson Select” and Omni products. To help reflect buying patterns in scientific, technical, and medical (STM) fields, Chemical Abstracts Services’ (CAS) Scifinder Scholar and the Institute for Scientific Information’s (ISI’s) Web of Science products were chosen. Holdings of significant full-text databases in the humanities from Chadwyck-Healey and participation in the Early English Books Online (EEBO) project were also reviewed.
Of the full-text aggregator databases selected for this review, the most widely held among DLF libraries is Academic Universe, to which all the academic members currently subscribe. This may not be surprising, since more than six million FTE students across the country have access to it through a national consortial arrangement brokered by SOLINET. The popularity of this service among academic libraries of all sizes is probably due in part to the vendor’s adoption of the sliding-scale fee structure described earlier. The situation with the other competing full-text aggregator databases offered by EBSCO, Gale, Proquest/Bell & Howell, and H. W. Wilson Company is much less clear. The Proquest ABI/INFORM and Research Library databases are the most commonly held of these services (about half of the libraries subscribe to one or both of them), but consortial arrangements seemed to be involved in only a quarter (or fewer) of those cases. Gale’s Expanded Academic Index and Business databases are also relatively popular, but consortial buying appeared to be involved in only four cases. EBSCO’s general academic and business databases were somewhat less popular, but statewide contracts appear to be the major factor where they were available. H. W. Wilson’s databases appear rarely to be purchased by DLF libraries through consortia.
Among DLF libraries, ISI’s Web of Science is almost as popular as is Academic Universe; 21 of the 22 academic DLF member libraries offer it. Roughly 80 percent of the subscribing libraries were purchasing it through consortia (primarily through the CIC or NERL). Eight of the nine DLF libraries having access to Scifinder Scholar subscribe through consortia, but six of those eight institutions were buying through NERL. Fourteen DLF libraries provide significant full-text databases from Chadwyck-Healey. Six of these libraries were buying through NERL. Seven libraries, five of which are NERL members, subscribe to EEBO. Consortial arrangements appear to be important factors in buying most of these databases, with the apparent exception of full-text aggregator databases.
To gain a sense of the role of consortia in the selection of electronic journals by DLF member libraries, a list of more than 20 prominent e-journal publishers and vendors was assembled. The for-profit publishers selected were Academic Press, Annual Reviews, Blackwell Science/Munksgaard, Elsevier, Kluwer, MCB Universities Press, Springer, and Wiley. The following university presses or university-based publishers or providers were included: Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Project Muse, and HighWire. In addition, a number of association publishers were included, such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Mathematical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). The two first JSTOR collections (Arts and Sciences I and General Sciences) were also included, although they do not provide the current journal access that the other publishers do.
To determine which DLF libraries had online access to journals from these publishers and providers, their gateway e-journal lists and online catalogs were searched. Publisher and consortia Web pages were also examined to see which DLF-relevant consortia might have signed agreements with which publishers. Because of the prominence of its Electronic Journal Center, OhioLINK was included in the study and was contacted for a current list of e-journal packages available to its members. It was decided to consider only the access that was available at the end of December 2000.
A few tentative conclusions may be drawn from this investigation. First, many of the listed publishers were offering individual libraries “free electronic access with print subscriptions” at the time of study. Most DLF libraries had taken advantage of those offers and were providing their users with such access. Second, consortial arrangements appeared to be somewhat less common and important for the not-for-profit publishers than the for-profit group.
To illustrate, almost all DLF libraries provided access to the two JSTOR collections, but largely because JSTOR does not provide special consortial pricing, only three libraries subscribed via consortia. Other publishers with relatively high rates of subscription (i.e., 60 percent or more) but low rates of consortial adoption (i.e., four libraries or fewer) were ACM, the American Institute of Physics, SIAM, and Oxford University Press. The publishers showing similar rates of subscription, but higher rates of consortial adoption (i.e., six or more libraries), included two not-for-profits (Project Muse and ACS) and a number of for-profit publishers (Academic Press Ideal, Annual Reviews, Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley). Fewer than half of these libraries appeared to have online access to journals from two other for-profit publishers (Kluwer and Blackwell Science); however, consortial arrangements were generally found to exist for the Kluwer subscribers, and almost always for Blackwell Science.
2.1.2. Scholarly Communication Reform Initiatives
Although the consortial movement appears to have had a significant effect on prices, the recent development of Web-based alternative outlets for scholarly communication may also influence the market for scholarly information. One of the earliest and most successful of these alternatives is the physics preprint server at the Los Alamos National Laboratories, now known as arXiv, which is provided free of charge and serves researchers in a wide variety of physical science disciplines (Los Alamos National Laboratories 2000). Within a relatively short time, it has become an important part of the research culture in several of these disciplines. For example, a recent study of the 20 most cited sources in Chemical Abstracts revealed that the fourth, eighth, and sixteenth most-cited sources are, respectively, the arXiv preprint archives for High Energy Physics, Condensed Matter, and Astrophysics (Roth 2001). The success of this initiative has inspired other efforts, such as those of Pubmed Central and the Public Library of Science, to make research articles available free via the Web.
The ARL has organized several initiatives aimed at addressing the problem of high journal prices. Most recently, these efforts have focused on three complementary programs. The first of these is the Scholarly Publishing and Resources Coalition (SPARC), which has helped fund the development of a number of electronically based scientific journals and resources (Case 2001; Michalak 2000; Stoffle 2001). One of SPARC’s main goals is to foster competition in the STM journal market; consequently, some SPARC journals have been developed to compete directly with specific journals deemed to have especially high prices. SPARC’s related Create Change and Declaring Independence initiatives are aimed at raising journal editors’ awareness of pricing issues and at encouraging them to take remedial actions to restrain prices. Suggested strategies include negotiating with publishers about pricing policies or, if pricing negotiations are unsuccessful, starting competing journals.
Some of these efforts have been successful. For example, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists has reported that the publisher of its journal agreed to significantly reduce its subscription price after lengthy discussions and negotiations (Albanese 2000). The SPARC initiative appears to be well received among ARL members, and most DLF member libraries have supported it by becoming founding members or initiating SPARC-affiliated projects (e.g., Columbia’s Earthscape, Cornell’s Project Euclid, and CDL’s e-scholarship initiative). Nevertheless, the program is not free of controversy. For instance, librarians sometimes complain that faculty may not accept the cancellation of established but expensive titles or the packages that include them and that funds must therefore now be found both to pay for the SPARC titles and to continue the established titles.
Although libraries seem to have good reason to support both the consortial and scholarly communication reform movements, a number of recent articles have pointed to a tension between the two approaches. For example, Landesman and Van Reenen (2000) have posited that there is a natural affinity or congruence between consortia and large publishers or vendors. Both are looking for the economies of scale that are represented by large packages, and although these packages typically do provide subscribers with more content for their money than individual print subscriptions used to, the large dollar commitments required can quickly claim larger and larger shares of scarce resources. These commitments will appear more justified as usage climbs because of visibility and easy availability. When that happens, there will be less money to pay for the individual titles and smaller packages that consortia are poorly equipped or unprepared to handle; these will tend to be the more modestly priced offerings from the scholarly associations and university presses. In a similar vein, Frazier (2001) has warned of the dangers of the “big deal”-high-cost packages of e-journals from for-profit publishers. In response, supporters of such package deals have emphasized the added content that may be made available and the importance of user choice. They have also stated that libraries do not surrender their ability to negotiate terms when they enter such agreements (OhioLINK 2001; Mulliner 2001).
There seems to be much value in both the consortial and “reform” approaches to influencing the market, and thoughtful people might reasonably lean in one or the other direction. However, as Landesman and Van Reenen (2000) suggest, consortia could help ensure the success of SPARC-like initiatives if those initiatives could be made more “consortia friendly.” Bundling significant amounts of content, as the SPARC BioOne initiative is doing, seems to be one way to address the need for economies of scale. As noted earlier, some for-profit publishers have also found that consortial contracts can provide them with new income from smaller institutions if the contracts provide those institutions with substantial content for little money. In addition to supporting these institutions financially, consortia could facilitate faculty education efforts and help create alternatives to established publishing outlets.
2.2. Selection Policies and Strategic Plans
Faced with high user expectations, rapid change, and competitive pressures, it is not surprising that many librarians characterize local selection decisions as ad hoc or opportunity driven. Such decisions are also sometimes described as having strong political elements; this may be especially apt when the purchase of one expensive service for a particular group rules out the acquisition of another service that a different constituency may feel it needs.
Many libraries have tried to overcome such tendencies and perceptions and to give shape to their licensed digital collections by writing and adopting formalized local policies and plans. It seems clear that such documents should reflect and support the differing missions of these libraries and their parent institutions, and several do, although sometimes in only in a general way. For instance, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) document, entitled “Toward a Networked Resources Policy,” begins by noting that the library “seeks to acquire access to the primary digital information resources which support the educational and research missions of the Institute” (MIT 1997). A similar statement appears in the University of Southern California’s (USC’s) Collection Policy Statement for Information in Electronic Formats (University of Southern California, undated).
A general sense of institutional mission may or may not prove helpful in making real-life decisions. Libraries that are funded to serve broader state, regional, or national constituencies face special dilemmas in the digital environment. For example, the Library of Congress has traditionally served an archival function for printed materials, and that will be more difficult when these materials are both digital and licensed (National Research Council 2000). Similarly, the libraries of large, state-funded universities are often expected to share their resources with other libraries or individuals in their states. When subscriptions to scholarly e-journals come with significant license-based restrictions or prohibitions on use for interlibrary loan, the institution can find itself caught in a new way between the priorities of local users and other groups.
2.2.1. Selection Policies
Perhaps the most common thread running through the selection policy documents sampled for this project is that although electronic resources raise new questions, the value system brought to bear on selecting more traditional resources is still valid. That idea was promulgated several years ago in Demas’s (1994; Demas, McDonald, and Lawrence 1995) descriptions of efforts to “mainstream” selection of electronic resources at Cornell. It is also expressed in policy documents used at Penn State University (2000), the California Digital Library (1997), and the Library of Congress (1999). The University of Texas’s General Libraries Digital Collection Development Framework elaborates on this notion, noting that, “as with all formats, digital material should meet the same subject, chronological, geographical, language and other guidelines as outlined in the library’s subject collection policies; and possess the same standards of excellence, comprehensiveness, and authority that the library expects from all of its acquisitions” (University of Texas 1999).
It may be difficult to translate such general considerations-well stated as they may be-directly into decision making. Several selection-policy documents also refer to the need to support programs or to define the constituency to be served by a given resource. The documents mention other interesting considerations, including the need to maintain a balance among disciplines or subject areas, or with traditional formats, when choosing electronic resources. Some policies stipulate that there need to be identifiable and strong reasons for selecting electronic access over print or other formats. The CDL’s Collection Framework document points to six pertinent factors, among which are the potential added values of greater timeliness, more extensive content, and greater functionality or access (California Digital Library 1997).
Selection guidelines also typically discuss factors unique to electronic resources. In some cases, these are presented in checklist form, but the Database Selection Criteria in use by the CDL (California Digital Library 1999b, 2000d) incorporate an interesting refinement to this approach by differentiating between the non-content factors deemed “critical” and those viewed only as “important.” Yale’s Examining Networked Resources checklists (Yale 1998) are unusually thorough, but have much in common with those used elsewhere. The following list of topical categories is based largely on Yale’s lists:
- Content: Comparisons with printed versions in terms of such considerations as completeness versus selectivity, back-file coverage, and update frequency
- Added Value: Wider access, searchability, potentially greater currency
- Presentation or Functionality: Usability, searching and limit functions, linking
- Technical Considerations: Hardware and software requirements, including storage space, Web browser compatibility, plug-in requirements, and authentication
- Licensing and Business Arrangements: Problematic license restrictions, ongoing access rights, costs
- Service Impact: Documentation, publicity, staff training needs
2.2.2. Strategic Plans
Many institutions are beginning to consider project-selection decisions more carefully and to strategize about the acquisition of different types of resources. For example, the University of Texas “framework” document incorporates strategic considerations in a section on Observations and Qualifications that concerns different categories of resources, such as electronic journals and indexing and abstracting databases (University of Texas 1999). These sections contain discussions of the context for each type of resource and attempt to delineate goals.
Several other DLF member libraries have gone much further in strategic planning for electronic resources, and there are interesting differences in their respective planning timeframes. For example, the time span covered by Cornell’s Digital Futures Plan is 2000-2002. It seems especially valuable because it targets specific planned actions or outcomes (Cornell 2000). Virginia’s Library of Tomorrow plan (University of Virginia 2001) is somewhat more visionary, as appropriate for its five-year scope. Carnegie-Mellon’s Digital Library Plan is for an even longer period of time (seven years). It presents three progressively more ambitious levels of project development for different levels of funding: “steady state,” “higher profile,” and “leading” (Carnegie-Mellon University Libraries 1999). The University of Illinois Library Electronic Collections Plan is notable because it mentions the challenge that licensing poses to its traditional role as a resource for other libraries in the state–a concern that is probably shared by many state-funded DLF and ARL libraries (University of Illinois 2000).
The futures projected in these plans and the issues identified in them are somewhat different, but like selection policy documents, they highlight a set of core concerns. These concerns, identified in the following bullets, might serve as a starting point for other libraries interested in forming their own strategic plans for electronic resources, including those to be digitized locally or selected from among freely available Web sites.
- Value Context. Decision making should be done with reference to the traditional values articulated by the policy documents mentioned earlier in this section.
- Funding Issues. Additional internal funds will need to be reallocated to fund electronic resources, and consortial arrangements will need to be pursued to conserve funds.
- Scholarly Publishing. It is important to be proactive and to develop alternative services and publications that libraries and their institutions will be able to afford over time.
- Licensing and Fair Use. The emerging reliance on licensing as the basis for access rights poses challenges that must be understood and actively addressed.
- Evaluation and Usage Information. Vendors have generally not supplied the kinds of quantitative information that libraries need to evaluate the resources they have licensed. Cross-library efforts are needed to motivate vendors to correct the situation.
- Archiving. Archiving is a serious problem that may require maintaining both local print and electronic subscriptions while working toward long-term technical solutions.
2.3. Institutional Finance and Organization
The discussion of costs and expenditures thus far has focused on subscription and purchase prices and on how collaborative action through consortia and publishing initiatives can help control those prices or mitigate their rates of increase. The prices of electronic resources represent only a part of the larger cost picture.
The University of Michigan’s 1997 Electronic Resources Task Force Report offers a useful list of some “non-content costs” and shows how those costs might be distributed locally (University of Michigan 1997). Libraries must consider acquisition and processing costs, as well as the costs of providing “intellectual access.” For nonelectronic resources, the latter costs were attributable strictly to cataloging; however, because electronic resources are now commonly presented through gateway lists, this category also includes the costs of adding and maintaining list entries. An analysis of Drexel University’s move toward a completely electronic journal collection found that the costs of acquiring and providing intellectual access to electronic journals were actually higher than those of other formats (Montgomery and Sparks 2000). The Michigan report also found that access systems (including interface design, application development, and server capacity) and library infrastructure (workstations and connectivity) required more funding. There is also a need for what the Michigan report identified as “user support.” Drexel referred to this as “information services” and determined that increased staff time was required for reference support and instruction, preparation of documentation, and selection.
The decision to acquire a given resource must consider these “non-content” costs and ramifications; as has been seen, questions of policy, strategy, and mission may also be involved. It is not surprising that libraries have recently been experimenting with different organizational approaches to these questions. Some have tried to address the apparent tension between centralized and decentralized decision-making models. Several institutions have made large amounts of money available to centralized budget lines. This seems particularly appropriate when resources are heavily interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, when large amounts of resource funds are involved, or when there is a contractual requirement to maintain a certain level of expenditure with a given publisher. On the other hand, many institutions believe it important that subject selectors or specialists have the leeway to spend noncentral or subject funds for electronic resources without having to go through multiple levels of review and approval. These considerations have prompted some institutions to write guidelines on such questions as how different categories of funds should be used, who should be involved in decision making, and how to develop new committee structures.
A number of interesting but similar organizational models rely heavily on a specially constituted, broadly representative group to make decisions. For example, Yale’s Collection Development Council has a Committee for Digital General Resources (CoDGeR) reporting to it (Yale 2000b). This group consists of nearly a dozen members representing various subject or functional areas. Harvard’s Committee on Electronic Reference Services includes more than a dozen representatives from a wide range of libraries; in contrast to the Yale model, it reports to the Libraries’ Public Services Committee (Harvard 1999).
Some institutions involve subject-oriented groups in discussions and decision making. For example, since the 1980s, Stanford has had an Access to Information Committee reporting to its collection development officer. It has added three resource groups: for humanities, social sciences and government publications, and sciences and engineering. In addition to evaluating resources within their subject areas, each group is expected to maintain contact with the libraries’ systems department. Michigan has a steering committee (the “E-Team”) plus a core resources group and several other groups that focus on broad subject areas, such as humanities or science (University of Michigan 2000). How these arrangements work in practice and how tied they may be to a particular setting and context are interesting questions that could not be pursued during this project.
Aside from the fact that many staff in these libraries have absorbed several related tasks, there appear to be two fairly distinct and interesting trends in how job tasks are distributed. The first of these is a trend toward having single individuals responsible for coordination or orchestration of electronic resource purchases. There are many examples of these positions among the DLF member libraries and elsewhere. Stanford has recently defined and filled the position of digital program officer, who reports to the collection development officer (Pisani 2000). Harvard has a coordinator for digital acquisitions, who reports to the Systems Department, and MIT has an assistant acquisitions librarian for digital resources. The California Digital Library has a director of shared content.
One of the problems for electronic resource coordinator positions is the broad scope of possible responsibility. To respond to this problem, several institutions have been developing ways to distribute some of the tasks; this emerged as the second trend. The CDL, for example, has defined what it calls resource liaisons, who are responsible for monitoring the “technical and content performance” of major products or product groupings, for reviewing and compiling usage data, and for identifying and communicating “enhancement requests and performance failure reports” to vendors. Harvard has a somewhat similar Resource Stewardship Program, in which “stewards” serve functions similar to those of CDL’s resource liaisons (Harvard 2000b, 2000c). MIT has defined the role of product sponsor (MIT 1998c), and Yale maintains a “list of contacts for electronic resources” (Yale 2000a).
2.4. Internal Procedures for Initial Evaluation and Purchase
Many large libraries have invested substantial time and effort in trying to understand, document, streamline or rationalize, and communicate their local procedures for acquiring e-resources. The resulting documentation may be of significant value to other libraries grappling with the same issues. For example, Loghry and Shannon (2000) provide a window onto many operational complexities in their discussion of workflows and forms devised for use at the University of Nevada-Reno. Some MIT internal documents provide especially helpful glimpses into their local process. One of these is a map that illustrates the process of acquiring electronic resources (MIT 1998a). Another is a detailed workflow proposal that deals with ordering, cataloging, managing, and maintaining such resources (MIT 1998b). Although the California Digital Library is larger and more complex than most library systems at single institutions, its acquisitions procedures outline could serve as a helpful template for some of them (California Digital Library 2000a).
Many different pieces of information must be gathered and organized as a particular acquisition makes its way through most local processes. As with the acquisition of traditional materials, much of this information, such as basic descriptive information, vendor, selector or selectors, and fund or funds involved, is fairly standard. For resources accessed through the Web, the appropriate URL or URLs, relevant user names and passwords, Internet protocol ranges from which they are available, and system requirements are needed. The ability to determine the status of a resource within the overall selection process is also important, and that can be a complex question. For example, libraries typically establish trials of resources that they are considering buying, and it is important to know when and to whom the resources are available for review, how and by whom input about them is to be received, and so on. Establishing funding for large expenditures can also take time, as can resolving license details and issues.
To accommodate the complexity and range of these details, several libraries have developed standardized forms for selectors and other staff. These forms may be used simply as templates for gathering appropriate information, which is then used in paper form-as is the case at Nevada-Reno-or they may be transferred more or less by hand to other systems or Web pages (Loghry and Shannon 2000). In large-scale operations it may be a challenge to track and identify what resources are under consideration or “in process” at a given time. Some large libraries, including Harvard, Yale, the CIC, and the CDL, maintain trial or “status” Web pages for staff and, in some cases, users. Although some of these pages continue to be edited manually, some libraries have developed automated approaches (see Section 2.10).
2.5. Licensing Issues and Practices
One of the biggest and most often-discussed changes facing libraries as they increase their reliance on electronic resources is that the use of these resources is typically governed by contract rather than solely by copyright. The full significance of this development and its impact on libraries have yet to be realized, but there are reasons for concern.
For example, while existing copyright law provides for the time-honored practice of interlibrary loan, licenses may forbid or so constrain this practice that it becomes too costly or otherwise impractical. Such license provisions can undermine a library’s ability to continue serving as a regional or state resource. Licenses may also interfere with a library’s archival roles and responsibilities if ongoing access rights are excluded or if there are severe restrictions on photocopying. There may also be prohibitions against user copying that the library is unable to enforce. Noncompliance by library staff or end users may permit the vendor to discontinue the service without a refund for time remaining on the contract. In addition, the parent institution may be put at financial risk if its libraries are required to accept responsibility for user actions or agree to indemnify the provider against third-party damage claims. Finally, if, as frequently happens, a distant state’s or country’s laws and courts are named as the contractual authority, the institution could incur substantial travel and other costs in the event of litigation.
Many of these issues are now widely recognized within the library community, partly because of initiatives that have been organized over the last few years to help educate librarians. For example, for several years ARL has offered excellent training materials and classes for librarians wishing to upgrade their skills and to institute organized local processes for dealing with licensing issues. The popular Liblicense Web site and Liblicense-l listserv have also had considerable impact, because they facilitate discussions among librarians and publishers about licensing issues. Efforts to develop more favorable license terms and standardized language have also been important. For example, the International Coalition of Library Consortia’s “Statement of Current Perspective and Preferred Practices for the Selection and Purchase of Electronic Information” articulates a library-oriented viewpoint on several licensing issues, including fair use and perpetual access rights and liability for user actions (ICOLC 1998a). The concentrated purchasing power within that group has undoubtedly prompted some vendors to be more responsive to the concerns of potential buyers about licensing terms. Some consortia (California Digital Library 2000b, 2000e; Center for Institutional Cooperation 1999) and individual libraries (Harvard 2000a, 2000b; University of Washington 2001a) have clarified and strengthened their bargaining positions by defining their own sets of standardized license terms or requirements. Additional impetus to standardize has been provided by the development of a suite of model licenses by John Cox Associates (Cox 2000), the CLIR/DLF Model License (CLIR 2001), and Liblicense software (Liblicense 2000), which libraries and publishers can use to negotiate mutually agreeable licensing terms.
Despite these noteworthy efforts, libraries may still agree to terms that they regard as less than ideal. For example, if libraries are not required to accept responsibility for user behavior, they may still agree to make “reasonable efforts” to inform users of license terms. Most library compliance efforts have focused on presenting standardized disclaimers to users, such as the following statement found at the top of MIT’s database and e-journal lists:
Use of many of these resources is governed by license agreements which restrict use to the MIT community and to individuals who use the MIT Libraries’ facilities. It is the responsibility of each user to ensure that he or she uses these products only for individual, noncommercial use without systematically downloading, distributing, or retaining substantial portions of information (Duranceau 2000a).
It should be relatively simple for libraries to adopt and use such a general disclaimer, but because license details vary from one product or service to another, a general statement may be insufficient to make users aware of relevant terms. Some licenses require that subscribing libraries route their users through a “click-through” page containing standardized language about use restrictions and may also require users to certify that they are eligible to use the product. It seems impractical for libraries to consider investing the staff time required to write and maintain such pages for a large number of products.
If vendors do not provide rules of use or brief versions of license terms through their Web sites and services, libraries must devise and implement their own ways of tracking license terms and making them available to users and staff. Several libraries have done so. As interesting and promising as their efforts appear to be, there are still significant barriers to developing truly efficient systems for addressing this problem. One alternative that has recently been proposed is for libraries to share the effort of analyzing and reporting license details, much as cataloging effort is shared through bibliographic utilities (Richter 2001, Okerson 2001). Libraries could then incorporate a license profile for a given product into appropriate gateway or catalog descriptions of the resource. This idea seems to have merit, but since licenses for a product can vary among institutions, it could be difficult to establish the canonical version. The development of standard definitions of key provisions could facilitate the growth of such a system.
2.6. Web Presentation Strategies
There are three general strategies for providing access to commercially available electronic resources: local loading by an individual library, loading by a consortium, and relying on vendor sites. Individual libraries have generally been moving away from the local load strategy because of its cost. Consortia have done likewise, although there are notable exceptions, such as OhioLINK. Whether reliance on publisher and vendor services is truly the most cost-effective strategy is an interesting question, since an argument can be made that it entails a range of hidden costs. Local loading provides some important advantages, including control over the number and functioning of user interfaces and normalization of usage measurement.
Presenting electronic resources effectively to users poses challenges for collections of locally digitized, commercially available, and “free” Web resources, and each type of resource has its own distinctive issues and complications. The role online catalogs should play in providing access to these resources is controversial because users accustomed to the Web expect to be able to locate resources through just a few mouse clicks. This is especially true of students who, without a quick means of retrieval, will tend to rely even more extensively on Web search engines than they currently do. A number of institutions have observed that the use of specific resources jumps or declines quickly on the basis of their gateway placement and visibility, and this phenomenon has recently been documented (Ockerbloom 2000).
Large libraries appear to follow a strategy in which resources are presented both through catalogs and e-resource gateways. These gateways typically provide alphabetical or subject lists of databases or electronic journals, along with an effective gateway search tool. Providing such multiple paths to resources in a cost-effective manner requires establishing synergy between cataloging and the methods used to generate lists, which can be accomplished by systematically deriving metadata from an online catalog system and using it to create a separate database from which resource lists are generated (Jordan 2000). The practice of highlighting and making new resources more visible has also been reflected in the Web pages of a number of libraries, including those at the University of Texas (2000b).
Several writers have pointed to the extent and importance of the trend toward customized services (Ketchell 2000; Lakos and Gray 2000), and there have recently been efforts aimed at providing closer fits between user needs and the organization of resources than may be provided through established subject schema. For example, a system at the University of Pennsylvania organizes resources according to flexibly defined communities of interest (Ockerbloom 2000). In this system, bibliographers identify the resources they believe to be the most critical to a particular user community, and new resources are brought to the attention of users through highlighting. The University of Washington’s (UW’s) HealthLinks service provides a number of “role-based toolkits” targeting specific user groups, such as administrators, clinicians, instructors, and students (University of Washington 2001e).
Several institutions have taken this approach a step further by introducing fairly simple but effective ways for users to personalize their views of available resources. Among the more prominent efforts in this area are those at Cornell (Cohen et al. 2000; Cornell undated); North Carolina State University (Morgan 1999; Morgan 2000; Morgan and Reade 2000); the University of Washington (Jordan 2000); and the California Digital Library (2000g). Through these systems, once users have identified resources of particular interest, the selected resources are visible as a default when that user logs in to the local system. Though important, such services are unlikely to become the predominant means by which most users will access libraries’ electronic resources (Jordan 2000; Ghaphery and Ream 2000).
Both established and newer presentation strategies tend to treat e-resources as distinct entities that are located and then searched and used one at a time. However satisfactory the presentation of distinct databases may be, users may find the effective integration of disparate resources to be just as important. One step in that direction was the development of broadcast search functions, which were introduced first for traditional indexing and abstracting databases. Useful as those functions are, it is also important to integrate full-text content with the indexing and abstracting services.
As suggested in the section on buying strategies, many libraries subscribe to one or more aggregator full-text databases that may cost tens of thousands of dollars and contain full-text coverage for thousands of periodicals. Until recently, few libraries had been able to systematically make users aware of what periodicals were included in which aggregator databases; however, techniques for doing so are now being developed (Sanders, Goldman, and Fitzpatrick 2000). An important step toward making the content of these collections more visible and usable is the development of the jake (for Jointly Administered Knowledge Environment) initiative (Chudnov, Crooker, and Parker 2000) and the related jake2marc program (Simon Fraser University 2000). Both of these services are available to interested libraries free of charge. jake incorporates periodical holdings or coverage information for nearly 200 databases and enables users to determine which database or databases include a given title. Institutions can customize jake to reflect their own holdings. The jake2marc service uses the jake database to enable libraries to generate catalog records for local use. Companies such as SerialsSolutions and Bell & Howell have also begun to provide full-text list-generation, URL maintenance, or MARC- and MARC-like catalog record services.
Still greater user convenience is provided by systems that provide article-level links between abstracting and indexing databases on the one hand, and aggregator databases and e-journal collections on the other. Several vendors have developed such services. These offerings include PubMed’s LinkOut (National Center for Biotechnology Information 2001), Silverplatter’s Silverlinker, ISI’s Web of Science linking feature, and OCLC’s links between their databases and Electronic Collections Online (ECO). Similar services are available from Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, OVID, and others. Though popular, each of these systems has drawbacks, such as the ability to link only to specific islands of content. For example, Silverlinker and ISI links feature offer links only to content from publishers with which these companies have agreements. Similarly, the OCLC linking utility currently works only for e-journals that a library accesses through the ECO service. This means that many links to available and locally licensed content cannot be presented, and differences in vendors’ linking coverage can be confusing to users and staff alike. Most also require setup and ongoing maintenance, and since large libraries often have subscriptions to abstracting and indexing databases from multiple vendors, much of this effort must be duplicated.
Libraries clearly have reasons to want more universal, standardized solutions to the problem of providing such links to full text. One new approach is Crossref; an industry-based initiative aimed at enabling article linkages across participating publishers (Brand 2001). Although the initiative includes a significant number of for-profit and nonprofit publishers, it has some drawbacks, the most important of which may be libraries’ inability to control which links are enabled. This can be an important issue, since publishers can provide Crossref links only for their “premiere” e-journal services, and links to less-costly alternatives from a given publisher may not work. Some librarians believe that what is needed is a single utility that can be used to establish and maintain full-text links for indexing databases from various publishers and that gives them control over which links are enabled. A particularly promising alternative solution to this problem is the SFX service that is based on open URLs (Van de Sompel and Hochstenbach 1999a; 1999b; 1999c; Van de Sompel and Beit-Arie 2001). In addition to providing local choice and control of links, SFX enables libraries to administer and maintain links for multiple vendor offerings without duplication of effort.
More visionary is the idea of establishing a broader “scholars’ portal” (Campbell 2000) or commons that could be searched more or less like such established Web search engines as Yahoo, Alta Vista, and Google. The advantage of such an approach is that it combines convenient access with appropriately “vetted” academic content. Practical means toward achieving such a vision may be available through metadata harvesting, a method being investigated and developed through the Open Archives Initiative (Open Archives 2001). The viability of the scholars’ portal idea may depend on the availability of consistent and comparable metadata, and this may be difficult to achieve.
2.7. User Support
As libraries have increased their investments in electronic resources, providing ongoing support has become more complex. For example, as libraries rely more heavily on access through multiple remote vendors, interfaces and potential points of failure have proliferated. As indexing services and e-journal collections become more closely linked, such “pieced-together” or eclectic systems present additional possible points of failure. Any number of problems may arise for users accessing licensed resources remotely. For example, a particular service may suddenly become slow to respond or unavailable because of technical problems, Web browser configuration or unrelated connectivity issues, or invoicing and payment problems. Users coming to a library’s gateway through a commercial Internet service provider may also find services to be unavailable to them and not realize that this is because they have not authenticated themselves through a proxy service.
Most users of Web-based services expect these services to be understandable and usable with a minimum of help or intervention from others. When users do need support, their expectations are high. For example, users may wish to use a consortium’s or library’s gateway at any time of day and may expect live support at those times. Just what support may be needed and how it is to be provided are continuing questions, and libraries’ responses to them are based on local perceptions, resources, and priorities. Of course, users need to know what services are available, who is eligible to use them, and how to connect to them. These basic needs have typically been addressed through the design of gateway Web pages and e-resource lists mentioned in the previous sections. These approaches can be helpfully supplemented by basic “how to use” instructions (California Digital Library 2000f; University of Texas 2000c).
Connectivity and other technical problems are more difficult and seem likely to require ongoing efforts of various kinds. Provision of basic information about how to make a library-specific connection may be necessary (University of Washington 2001b). Lists of known problems and solutions can be posted for users (University of Washington 2001c), as can browser configuration pages that inform users if they need to adjust settings and that provide information on how to contact staff for help (University of Texas 2000d; University of Washington 2001d). Some libraries have begun to experiment with online “chat” functions for reference and other services (Tennant 1999; LiveRef 2001), and it seems reasonable to suppose that such an approach would work for asking questions and receiving advice on access problems.
Several libraries and consortia have determined that they can respond more effectively to support problems if the work can be distributed among a number of units or individuals, such as those identified as resource coordinators or liaisons. This strategy necessitates some coordination and orchestration; some libraries have done this by establishing and communicating triage paths for different situations. Doing so may be easier if vendor contact information is assembled and maintained centrally.
2.8. Ongoing Evaluation and Usage Information
Libraries have long had a strong interest in knowing how, how much, and by whom their collections are being used. A prevailing motivation has been to focus spending on those parts of the collection that appear to be used most heavily, although it has long been recognized that some specialized materials are likely never to receive much use. Measuring the use of print collections has been approached in various ways; early efforts to develop and apply unobtrusive techniques have given way to reliance on online systems for tracking external circulation and systematically recording in-library use.
It has been possible to track the use of electronic resources for many years, and many libraries have considerable experience gathering, analyzing, and presenting such data for internal and external consumption. In addition, libraries have come to expect vendors to provide usable and useful data. Although it may be possible to state such an expectation fairly simply, defining it has proved to be difficult. Just what should be measured, how the information should be presented, what data might mean, and how they might be used confidently in decision making are all questions without obvious answers.
ARL has recently launched an intensive investigation of some of these questions. The first detailed report on this project (Shim, McClure, and Bertot 2000) identifies three types of situations in which such usage information may be used for decision making. The first category is termed “external resource contracts” and includes the use of data for journal or database renewal or cancellation or for changes in numbers of concurrent users. The second is “reporting and communication” and includes budget justification (the most common response in this category), strategic planning, and comparisons with other institutions. Third is “service assessment and improvement,” which includes the use of data for the redesign of Web pages, marketing and instruction efforts, staffing changes, and the evaluation or assessment of resources available on a trial basis.
There are some obvious impediments to obtaining data useful for these purposes. First, most libraries currently depend on vendors for usage information, and many supply no data at all. As noted by Luther (2000) in a white paper on e-journal usage statistics, “less than half of the publishers who offer journals in electronic form today are able to provide statistics on the usage of these journals.” Second, data provided by different vendors may not be comparable. Again, quoting Luther, “librarians currently receive reports with different data elements that are not clearly defined and that cover different time periods, making it impossible to analyze them in a consistent way.” The extent of this problem is indicated by the frequency with which libraries complained about it to the ARL team and by the diversity of measures and other practices reported in the detailed inventory of electronic vendor statistical reporting capabilities reproduced in the team’s report (Shim, McClure, and Bertot 2000).
A number of responses to these problems warrant mention. First, it is important that libraries institutionalize evaluations of their electronic resources on the basis of what is currently available from vendors. One part of such a strategy may be to treat the available information, despite its inconsistencies and other problems, as good enough for “best guess” decision making. Such an outlook has been adopted by Virginia Tech, which routinely assembles the available data into simple but useful spreadsheets. Yale has also established clear Web pages for reporting usage information to interested staff (Shim, McClure, and Bertot 2000), as have several other libraries, including Harvard (2000d). Another useful strategy is to adopt a plan for evaluating each resource before renewal and to distribute responsibility for the evaluation, a practice adopted by Harvard’s resource stewards and coordinators (Harvard 2000b; 2000c; 2000e) and the CDL’s resource liaisons (California Digital Library 1999e, 1999f, 2000c).
Second, it is important for libraries and vendors or publishers to reach a consensus on standard definitions and reporting practices. The International Coalition of Library Consortia took a significant step in this direction when it published its Guidelines for Statistical Measures (ICOLC 1998b). This document provides a reasonable standard that many vendors have already attempted to reach. The group is reviewing the guidelines and vendor responses, and it plans to review the extent of vendor compliance, which may have further positive impact. The ARL E-metrics initiative may also hold potential for establishing additional consensus, as well as for encouraging reform and standardization of vendor practice. Finally, when vendors do not provide what individual libraries need, it is important that they be encouraged to do so.
Standardization need not be the only goal of measurement efforts. Libraries and consortia such as OhioLINK, which rely on their own equipment and staff for access to electronic resources, are well positioned to develop and initiate measurement and presentation methods that could become standards in the future. The usage measurement and presentation methods developed at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrate that it is possible to be innovative without an extensive local investment in infrastructure (Shim, McClure, and Bertot 2000). Some libraries are also attempting to show how electronic resources affect student learning or facilitate research productivity (Blixrud 2000; Smith 2000). If successful, these efforts could also be widely emulated.
2.9. Preservation and Archiving
The need to preserve electronic resources and continue to make them available has been recognized for years, but only recently have there been serious and broad-based efforts in this area. One reason is that many libraries now have experience with significant numbers of electronic journals and have started to consider whether they can truly afford both online and print subscriptions. The prospect of relying completely on electronic access to large numbers of journals or other resources raises a number of questions. For example, if libraries rely completely on electronic access and have to cancel their electronic subscriptions in the future, or if the publisher goes out of business or discontinues access to older content, the library risks losing access to back issues. If the publisher provides libraries with electronic files in those eventualities, how are libraries to use them? Last, there is increasing awareness that electronic versions of journals may differ significantly from printed versions. Electronic versions may include video and sound clips, special-purpose data requiring specific software, and links to ephemeral Web sites that may be difficult or impossible to archive.
Several recent articles have explored the meaning of electronic archiving and who should take responsibility for it (Anderson 2000; Boyce 2000; Douglas 2000; Graham 2000; Hunter 2000; Leggate and Hannant 2000; Marcum 2000; Morris 2000). There seems to be a growing consensus that although publishers might be expected to provide archival access in the short term, libraries are the appropriate agencies to serve this function for posterity. Possible costs of long-term preservation could be substantial, if, for example, data must be frequently refreshed and migrated or if emulation software must be developed and maintained (Rothenberg 1999, 2000). Most libraries will have difficulty devoting substantial local funds to these activities.
A few key and related initiatives take on special significance in this context. The first is the effort by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the DLF to establish shared understandings within and across the publishing and library communities about the elements that will be required to successfully establish working archival repositories. The second is The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s award of planning grants to a number of larger libraries. CLIR identifies the roles of these libraries as follows:
Yale, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania will work with individual publishers on archiving the range of their electronic journals. Cornell and the New York Public Library will work on archiving journals in specific disciplines. MIT’s project involves archiving “dynamic” e-journals that change frequently, and Stanford’s involves the development of specific archiving software tools (Digital Library Federation 2001).
The importance of these efforts to publishers and libraries is indicated by a joint announcement by Yale and Elsevier of their intent to work together on this problem (Yale 2001). Both parties hope to establish a model archive within the next two or three years.
2.10. Toward Integrated Systems for Managing Electronic Resources
Several locally developed computer-based systems for acquiring, managing, and supporting electronic resources were identified during the research for this project. Among them were MIT’s VERA system (Duranceau 2000a, 2000b; Hennig 2001), Penn State’s ERLIC (Stanley, Holden, and Nirnberger 2000; Pennsylvania State University 2001), and the License Tracker system developed at the University of Texas at Austin (Rowe 2000). These and other systems were found at larger institutions with significant levels of investment in electronic resources and substantial organizational complexity. In some cases, considerable amounts of staff time have been devoted to designing, implementing, and maintaining them.
Although these electronic resource management systems vary in purpose and function, they have all been implemented to remedy perceived deficiencies in these institutions’ online cataloging, acquisitions, or other systems. For example, some are used to generate alphabetical lists of databases and electronic journals or to keep track of important license terms. Some integrate the listing and license tracking functions; others focus on tracking acquisition status or organizing technical information. As these systems’ similarities and common functions began to emerge, the value of a more thorough and systematic inventory became apparent. That is, if many libraries are trying to solve much the same problem, it might be possible to devise common functional and data definitions and standards that could be used as the basis for future design and implementation work—by libraries working individually or collectively or by vendors.
With this in mind, the author and another librarian at the University of Washington performed a thorough review of known electronic resource management systems. On the basis of this initial review, a coding form containing appropriate functions and data elements was developed and used to profile the systems. Staff at the institutions having relevant systems generally performed these reviews, but UW staff analyzed a paper-based system in place at the University of Nevada-Reno on the basis of a published article about it (Loghry and Shannon 2000). In some cases, UW staff did an initial analysis of a system’s functions and data elements and sent it for review to staff at the library responsible for that system. Thirteen electronic resource management systems were analyzed. These included the four already mentioned (MIT, Penn State, Texas, and Nevada-Reno) and five other systems that are in place and operating (Michigan, Notre Dame, Simon Fraser, Virginia, and Yale). Three of the remaining systems analyzed (Cornell, Stanford, and UCLA) are in various phases of planning or development. A similar analysis of functions and data elements was also done for the University of Washington, although its current system consists of its Innovative Interfaces system, Digital Registry, and paper-based license file and inventory tool.
The results of the analysis are summarized in a spreadsheet in Appendix B: Functions and Data Elements for Managing Electronic Resources. The systems are presented in three categories: paper-based, systems in production, and systems in planning or development. The appendix lists nearly 150 functions or data elements, although careful analysis will probably reveal some overlap. Seven fairly distinct functional areas were identified, including listing/descriptive; license-related; financial/purchasing; process/status; systems/technical; contact and support; and usage. For the first category, it seemed useful to distinguish between “listing or reporting” functions and the data elements themselves. That distinction seemed less clear or relevant for the other categories.
The spreadsheet points to some interesting similarities and differences among these systems. First, they are based on several different database software packages or other platforms, although Filemaker and Microsoft Access are in use at five of the institutions. As seen in category 1.A. of the spreadsheet (listing and descriptive functions), several of the systems are used to generate “production” alphabetical and subject lists of resources for users and staff. Separate lists of databases and electronic journals are frequently generated, and several libraries generate “composite” full-text lists that include both e-journals and coverage by “aggregator” full-text database providers. A few libraries also generate lists by “package” or publisher. Many of the data elements used to describe print resources, such as title and publisher, are shown in category 1.B (listing and descriptive data elements). A few fields that are particularly appropriate or uniquely relevant for electronic resources are also shown, such as description, genre, and inclusion of full-text. Two institutions also facilitate their reporting of e-resource expenditures to ARL by recording appropriate expenditure categories from the ARL Supplemental Survey.
License term recording and display practice (Section 2) is somewhat more varied. Several institutions track and display common license terms for users and staff. For example, Yale’s system uses a clear, standardized format to inform users whether a resource can be used for Interlibrary Loan, e-reserves, or course packs. MIT had one of the more interesting display strategies. In addition to a standardized notice about appropriate and prohibited use, MIT’s resource lists display a red “L” icon appears when a license for a resources contains specific terms of which users and staff should be aware. When the icon is clicked on, the terms are displayed (Hennig 2001). Several institutions record and display links to electronic versions of their licenses, and Penn State has initiated a special project to digitize and make its licenses available.
As noted, libraries rely extensively on established online acquisitions systems for tracking and reporting financial details (Section 3). Whether the complexities involved in e-journal pricing and their many permutations can be successfully captured in this way is open to some question, however. Interestingly, several libraries try to save key e-mail correspondence with vendors because they record important transaction details.
Where traditionally designed online acquisition systems appear to be least successful in supporting the purchase of electronic resources is in how they allow for coverage of “process” or status information (Section 4). The importance of doing so is indicated by the fact that most of the electronic resource management systems incorporate some sort of “order status” information. However, the range of relevant system characteristics suggests that devising a standardized approach to process tracking may be difficult. One reason for this is that keeping track of a resource as it passes through the local acquisition process is likely to require steps that are highly specific to a given institution.
Several of the systems track and provide reports of upcoming renewals. This is important for two reasons. First, an unpaid invoice may result in the sudden interruption of an institution’s access to an electronic resource. Second, as mentioned in the section on evaluation and usage information, several libraries and consortia conduct cyclical reviews of electronic resources prior to renewing them. It would be difficult to plan for and coordinate such reviews without being able to see which resources will be up for renewal at what time. A couple of institutions have also included a “follow-up needed” reporting function in their local e-resource management systems, which should help prevent staff from losing track of problems.
Section 5 of the spreadsheet summarizes the technical and access details that are routinely recorded to assist in managing collections of e-resources. Six of the systems allow for tracking availability or “problem status,” which is important when collections consist of resources from dozens of vendors. An attractive feature of the VERA system is that a special “resource broken” icon can be displayed on resource lists when a resource is unavailable. To support multiple vendor offerings, the recording of vendor billing and technical support information is also required, and most of the systems evaluated allow for that (Section 6). In addition, most allow for the identification of an internal contact person who might be responsible for resolving a particular problem and reporting back on it to staff and users. A few of these systems also allow for recording where usage information can be obtained or include a usage reporting function (Section 7).