Hitting a moving target : ejournals, subscription agents and holdings

In light of the recent posting by Mitchell Dunkley at DMU, I thought it might be useful to share some of our recent experiences about trying to track down ejournal content. We share what seems to be a similar problem : that of actually finding out what holdings we have – and particularly for ejournals, there are different issues than with ebooks.

Stormtrooper plays human target for kids. Image credit : PopCultureGeek.com

Our main point of contact for ejournals data (as opposed to journal titles in databases) has been our subscription agent Swets, and following a recent account meeting with them we flagged several inconsistencies between content available Swetswise Online Content (SWOC) and content available via some publisher’s sites. Swets are still looking into this for us but uncovering some of these problems has raised several issues that I think are generic and the examples below apply across the board. (I have used screen shots from http://screencast-o-matic.com to amplify some of these points – in this the small set of journals happen to be from Oxford Journals.)

1) Differences in holdings between subscription agent and publisher. There seemed to be often a wide variety of conflicting data depending where we looked: for example we found 37 OUP titles on SWOC but only 29 listed on Oxford Journals site. I found downloading information from SWOC problematic and unfriendly – we had to break up a download into several spreadsheets and couldn’t download one spreadsheet for all our holdings.(see this screenshot : http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/clf0XPCns). We have no idea of how often our subscription agent and the publisher update each other – these conflicts may be a simple mistake, or a reporting error that has lasted for years. Again OUP was only one example, we know of at least two other publishers where this is happening.

2) Publishers approach the problem of ejournal data in different ways. If we turn to the publisher, the Oxford site in this case seems to be structured around a  volume issue-based system – which is great for an individual user but access entitlements are shown as being an long HTML through which we had to scroll down http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/clf0IlCel. It was difficult to work out our holdings start and enddate from this, and as far as I can see an Excel list of holdings was only available on request from Oxford’s help desk.

Not all publisher administrative sites are the same – and in fact access to ejournal holdings may be reported differently depending on whether the publisher is showing holdings via our subscription agents entitlements or via a different account.The package under which a group of titles is accessed or set up may also efffect access – for example we also get Oxford titles through Oxford University Press Archive via JISC http://www.jisc-collections.ac.uk/Catalogue/Overview/Index/1171. Bundles of titles tend to be reported better than individual ongoing ejournal subscriptions.

3) Technical reasons :any discrepancies about content entitlement are often compunded by technical confusion – because of an IP-check the publisher’s site  will often say the user is recognised as belonging to the University but then is prompted to login : see http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/clf022Cek (incidently this is a article we can currently access via SWOC but not via OUP ).This is often compounded when the user logs in off-campus – we have licenses with other publishers where off-campus accesss has not been made available.

4) Every institution has a different subscription history  : ‘retrospective’ entitlements to content may be complicated by insititutions not maintaining a print run in the past –  broken runs or cancellations can lead to an interruption in electronic access. This similar to the problem that has been mapped by the KB+ project  : http://knowledgebaseplus.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/historical_entitlements/ ; and the reality is (like in most things) there is no single source of truth. 

Country pursuits : Image Credit neilrickards

5) Free access – is often used by publishers as a marketing tool, which leads to difference between what content the library says is available and what the publisher is actually offering. There is usually no clear statement on how long the offer is for. Publishers vary in how they signal it.

The national work being carried out at KB+ (a JISC project led by @liamearney) is relevant here, but the key question for us is that of scale. When these issues are scaled up per publisher, the inaccuracies can be too resource-intensive to deal with en masse, especially in the light of implementation of a resource discovery system such as Summon. This adds another layer of dependency into the the mix : for example our Elsevier Freedom collection titles also appear in SWOC and we initially found that  there are around 390 titles (about 18%) in Summon’s KnowledgeWorks’ definition of the Freedom Collection that don’t appear in our Swets holdings.

It may be that in implementing a resource-discovery system we have to review where we get the data from, and who best to trust. And also be preprared to be flexible. There’s no guarantee. Put up the best that we have, when we have it then take it down later. Journal holdings, like clay pidgeons, never stay still.

WOWslider – Cool way of displaying images on a webpage

Have you ever seen a webpage which contained a banner or a picture which either scrolls or slides from one side to the other and thought to yourself ‘how cool is that’? Well me too. So having been asked to include a few photos of the recent The Missing Link conference, I thought to myself “let’s see if I can do something similar” or dare I say it even better. Surely not… better….. I hear you say.

Well after spending three whole time consuming minutes on Google using the term “sliders”,  I stumbled across a free (well for non-commercial use anyway) program called WOWslider from a company surprising called WOWSlider.com – pretty lucky that the company has the same name as the product! What are the chances of that happening?

The software was downloaded from their website and surprising installed onto my PC – without the aid of CICT assistance – previously I had ADMIN privileges but since having a new PC that luxury had been long withdrawn and I dreaded the prospect of having to enlist the help of our IT professionals to simply evaluate whether the software would fulfil my self-imposed brief. I need not have feared the worst as for some strange reason I had managed to get round any such restriction and without sounding smug the installation was successful. Little did I know the fun was about to begin…or the nightmare to commence! 

On opening the program you are faced with a rather amateur looking control panel:

Having said that the lack of options at the top ensure that the user has less to worry about rather than having numerous button/options which would only confuse users perhaps.

While the program supports ‘Drag & Drop’ functionality I preferred to use the + button and merely browsed to the folder in which the images were stored and selected them from there. Once loaded in the program the control panel looked like this:

You can add a title and description if need be. By adding this information you can display it on the actual image (see bottom left below) while it is being shown – however I decided against this as I didn’t have enough descriptions to place upon each image.

Once the images are loaded by clicking on the spanner icon you can decide on a number of display options (auto play once loaded, descriptions to appear, thumbnail images to appear, navigational buttons to appear). All fairly straightforward by clicking in boxes to select the feature concerned.

The images icon is where all the magic takes place. Or were you can get your hands dirty and get “under the bonnet” so to speak. There are various effects too numerous to mention. Every individual will like different effects so you can let your creative juices run wild….well within the constraints of the options that is. I adopted a more conservative approach and selected a simple slide in and out effect. But I was tempted to incorporate an effect called “Kenburns” – slow zoom in while slight movement to one side.  Very arty I think.

The final part of this process is to create the finished WOWslider and where to store it. To do this the aptly named Publish icon is chosen:

The above panel is displayed and by selecting the ‘Publish to folder’ option you can browse to a location on your PC and insert a name of the file.

You can even create a WordPress friendly version which will sit on our blog – however when I went to do this our WordPress interface didn’t show the option to select a “Plug-in” and hence I have been unable to produce this. 

Here is a link to the one I created and you never know it may see the light of day again in a different disguise on one of our webpages.

While the creation is the first part, the real challenge starts when you try to recreate the same path structure on the web server so the feature will actual run and display all the chosen images once selected. Not a mean task as that structure has to be retained precisely. The creation of new directories on the webserver took place and once all relevant files had been uploaded to the correct location I was ready to enjoy the fruits of my labour…..not.  However nothing worked first time of testing. After a sleepless night and much hair pulling (that explains a lack of my hair coverage then) the feature worked.

The joys of formatting  the page was undertaken to ensure the feature would display properly (Alignment issues. Thanks to Lee for the testing) and I included a border round it to help make it easier on the eye. Hooray it worked and after a long three days of blood, sweat and tears…..not to mention less hair, the first WOWslider had been delivered to a proud father. Yes it was a difficult birth and the initial parenting experience with me trying to coax it to run first time was stressful to say the least. However those first few moments when it took its first tentative steps in the HTML world I had tears in my eye….or was that my bad eye watering again.

Since then I can report that father and WOWslider are doing well. Now is that a ‘twinkle’ in the eye of father again….stay tuned for further ‘off-spring’ from the daddy of the eLibrary Team.

More EZProxy, a visit to Wolverhampton, some cake and Athens LA

Robin and I had a very productive visit to Wolverhampton University yesterday to talk about authentication, EZProxy, OpenAthens LA, football and also consume some of these.

Ben Elwell from  Wolverhampton was able to share with us their latest news on how they had implemented Summon as- ‘the new Library Catalogue‘.

He reinforced the point that having access to resources in Summon without any proxy at all was a major stumbling block because the student found it hard to navigate between the provider’s logins. This was something we had also experienced.

Although they were running EZProxy for a few resources, Wolverhampton are moving to a later version of Athens, Athens LA 2.2  - which also includes an integrated proxy and improved statistics. One observation to make is that this appears to have better support for username and password protected resources, and configuration seems lot a easier than in EZProxy. 

In a tweet exchange with Eduserv they say there are 60 database configurations out of the box, and more will be contributed by the user community – so Athens LA 2.2 as a alternative solution to EZProxy seems definitely worth looking at.

eCopyLite Twitter or You may find yourself…*

A4 File BindersThe world of copyright has notched up a gear recently. It’s getting a lot of press and there are many moves mooted. The Hargreaves’ Report has been significant in generating discussion, particularly with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)  petitioning for copyright consultation with regard to the proposals. Many groups have posted their responses on the web; an example of which is the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA). Ploughing through 114 questions (none of them tick box) wasn’t something that I had ever envisaged doing but I responded. How did I get here? *

Increasing moves towards electronic services and improving their accessibility means that copyright is becoming more of an issue for the eLibrary team‘s Digital Library Officers. It is certainly taking up more of our time. The eCopyLite Twitter account is an attempt at keeping abreast of current events and tweeting those that may be relevant to staff and students. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have taken a once in a lifetime* chance to shape the future of copyright. With regard to the resulting legislation, our job will still be about balancing expectation against what can be delivered. In terms of librarianship that is the same as it ever was*.

*acknowledgement: Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime .

Summon : Marketing

After having a quick read through if the 7P’s of marketing I decided to focus on product & promotion.

With the product I wanted to think about how Summon would be of value to our key users, students & academic staff. In a recent library users group meeting, I asked colleagues to complete the following sentences, ‘As a student/staff summon will be of value because….’  fold over their response & pass to the next person,

Once completed I read out what people had written which led to a useful discussion on how we describe & promote summon.

Examples include ‘Summon will be of value because’ -

  • useful starting point
  • provides serendipity & a wider range of sources at their fingertips
  • a quick way to keep up to date with subject interests
  • It can help students do original research

With regards to promotion I created a table listing various communication routes, ie library website, newsletter, plasma screens etc. I then asked the group to consider from the point of view of either a student, academic staff, researcher or library staff whether the communication route was appropriate, to describe a scenario in how they might encounter this route and consider the tone of language.

I found this useful in  focusing on routes which we could make best use of. I am also hoping once I collate this information it will provide a good starting point for a marketing plan.

I enjoyed the focus of these activities as opposed to a general discussion on marketing and I am more mindful of concentrating on the value summon can provide rather than highlighting some of its limitations. It is clear from the experience of others that summon did not require much marketing as the product speaks for itself & we hope we have a similar experience too.

EZProxy testing : first impressions, ‘less is more’

We are currently are trialling EZProxy and here is an update of where we are with it. At the moment, our CICT colleagues have set it up locally on the network for us, and have got it working through our firewall. I am hoping that it might give us a complementary route to access off-campus resources alongside Athens, IP and username and password. For starters, I have put this list up to see what routing some of them through our EZProxy server might mean. 

After you log on to the server it returns a list – which we can configure by amending a text file. On this initial list are about 16 of our e-resources that we either currently not access off-campus (because the publisher doesn’t support Athens or Shib), or are currently hard to access because the student has to plough through either Athens cookie-setting screens or publisher screens (often a publisher will have many routes to off-access because they have many different types of clients, so these are to be expected) or a heady mixture of both.

Using Jing I recorded two videos from off-campus 1) accessing British Journal of Music Education  from Swetswise via Cambridge University Press as we currently do and 2) accessing British Journal of Music Education via Swetswise going directly through EZProxy. (Apologies – these are very rough cuts but you get the idea – one route asks for money even after the student logs in via Athens, the other doesn’t. The same publisher, the same journal, sometimes the same article). The point is not why this happens, but as Dave Pattern’s series of slides at #uksglive pointed up, why barriers like these still happen in academic publishing and continue drive students away to Google.

To be fair, subscription agents’ websites are not always the best places to start – but that’s matter for another blogpost. And at the moment  we are only trying to show ‘proof of concept’ for EZProxy, so yes first impressions are bound to be good. The next stage is see whether it is feasible to get this new route working in Summon and also through our institutional portal iCity ( with the help of our CICT colleagues) – which is where we factor in more control over who can access this stuff.

But anything that can cut down the number of login screens, over which we don’t have much control, is good. Anything that can mean the student only has to log in once is good. Anything that mean the student doesn’t have to click via a special route to install a cookie is good. Anything that means the student doesn’t have to work out which password to use is good.

Nothing is more annoying than a series of screens one after the other. As Miles said about music (he was really talking about login screens) – ‘less is more’. Play less, design less. Which sounds like an perfect excuse to play some jazz : So What ?

Barriers to accessing e-resources

At another UKSG breakout session Dave Pattern from the University of Huddersfield presented a humorous, stat-filled presentation (proving the two can go hand in hand), about the difficulties faced by users when accessing online library content.

To prepare for the presentation he’d posted a question on twitter:

and received a plethora of responses, including ones from our very own @mcbjazz,  which broadly fell in issues around:

 

With the number of responses he had he said he had enough content for about 32 presentations, not one but essentially the crux of his argument was about how difficult we, libraries, publishers, aggregators make it for users to access e-content. This is at odds with the expectation of the user who is looking for the easiest and most convenient way, hence their propensity to use Google and Wikipedia. This is demonstrated by a quote from a college freshman as part of Carol Tenopir’s research:

“Why is google so easy and the library so hard?”

and other researchers have found that users will sacrifice the quality of information for accessibility (Morville, 2005).

Dave illustrated how difficult it was to access online library content with an access query he’d recently had from a student. The user was faced with 3 potential log-ins; publisher, Shibboleth and Athens all of which Dave tried and failed. With the number of clicks and pages the user would have to go through to find out the article was not available via that route it is easy to see why users get frustrated and give up using library e-resources. Dave did a search on Google, found the article and emailed the user.

So the challenge is for libraries to make access like Google and resource discovery is addressing this but the publishers need to make more content available via resource discovery – this is non-negotiable. At Summon camp it was mentioned that an institution in the US asks whether the provider is on Summon and if they are not they will not purchase the item. As we’re currently implementing Summon is this a policy we would want to endorse? Should we not renew any products not available on Summon?

Since implementing Summon at Huddersfield Dave estimates there has been 70-80% decrease in the number of access queries, previously spending 5 hours a week and now it’s probably an hour a week. So it’s having impact and resource discovery is removing some the barriers to accessing e-resources.

What’s interesting at Huddersfield is how they are using usage stats from Summon and linking it to educational attainment via the JISC Library Impact Data Project. Through deeper analysis they’re attempting to find indicators of academic success and failure: does using e-resources at unsociable hours indicate low achievement? What are the information seeking behaviours of high achievers? Gathering data around this is really useful because if you are able to state “Students who use the library’s e-resources get better grades” it has much more clout in terms of library marketing rather than focussing on all the stuff we have and reminds me of the message Terry Kendrick gave at his marketing training to BCU staff.

Another interesting thing they do at Huddersfield is make recommendations to the borrower on the OPAC, similar to amazon which has meant an increase in borrowing of unique titles, for more details look at COPAC data activity project.

For a copy of Dave Pattern’s slides click here.

Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) at Royal Holloway

Anna Grigson presented a case study of PDA or demand driven acquisition at Royal Holloway as a breakout session at the UKSG 2012 conference.  They decided to pilot PDA because of the mismatch between what the library has and what users want. It is estimated that up to 40% of budgets are wasted buying stock that users do not want. The benefits of PDA are:

-          users get just in time access

-          the library gets better value and staff time is saved

-          the collection is a better fit to user need

Anna described the various different PDA models available: Purchase, Rental, capped pay per view and evidence based selection.

Implementation process

They opted for the Rental Model and they set the following criteria:

-          £10,000 of the acquisitions budget would be set aside for the pilot

-          Review after one term

-          Offered access to 120,000 ebooks; all subjects were included but exclusions applied to ebooks over £250, some languages & some academic publishers

-          Threshold to purchase was set at 4th view of item

-          Each user was limited to 3 loans per day & the length of loan was limited to 1 day

-          There was no mediation, so when the user clicked on the link it went straight to the ebook rather than waiting for librarian approval

-          There was no publicity

 

Problems with implementation

-          finalising exclusion criteria was difficult

-          deduplicating existing ebooks was difficult because of issues around ISBNs which meant some ebooks were purchased again

-          loading the records on to the library catalogue needed to be done in batches of 10,000 and there was a few weeks delay in loading them on to their resource discovery, Summon

Findings:

-          the first use was within 30 minutes of adding records to the catalogue

-          the first purchase was triggered within a couple of days

-          the pilot was ended after 6 weeks as all the allocated money had been spent – it seems a term was optimistic! – with 70% of the budget spent on renting ebooks and 30% spent on purchasing ebooks

 

Recommendations:

Royal Holloway still want to go ahead with PDA but would like to explore capped pay per view, the model used by JISC. They would reduce the number of ebooks made available, introduce mediation and also make it clear to the user on the library catalogue which texts are part of the library’s collection and which are not.

 

Other institutions were invited to share their experience of PDA:

At Kings College they have amended their ILL workflow and will check to see if an item is available via PDA and if it is will direct the user that.

At Newcastle University they currently spend 1/3 of their acquisitions budget on PDA. They piloted with £75,000, which like Royal Holloway, found was spent up very quickly. The service was mainly used by final year students and users from faculties who were scoring low on the NSS. When the library spoke with academics about the use of PDA academics were very concerned about what students would purchase. However they were pleasantly surprised by the breadth of reading and in some instances lecturers updated their reading lists to reflect these new purchases.

There was also an interesting debate around whether it should be PD Acquisition or PD Access. Rather than collection building and owning material there was a suggestion we should be moving towards providing access to content at article and chapter level as this is what users want.

A copy of Anna’s slides can be viewed here