Collaborative roles in managing electronic publications

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


  • Collaborative roles in managing electronic publicationsRichard P. Jasper*

    Assistant Director for Collections, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library, 1133 JohnFreeman Avenue, Houston, TX 77030-2809, USA

    1. Introduction

    Managing electronic publications at the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas MedicalCenter (HAM-TMC) Library is a collaborative process, involving, among others, the assis-tant directors of Collections and of Systems and Informatics, the serials librarian, the weblibrarian, and a systems/database specialist. This report focuses on the specific roles andresponsibilities of individual team members and discusses the pros and cons of collaboration.

    In 1998, just as electronic publications were about to begin their massive proliferation,Karen S. Gerhard pointed out:

    The fact that ER [electronic resources] management crosses not only department but divi-sional lines complicates the situation [of fitting electronic titles into a traditional libraryworkflow], as adding an ER title necessitates more back and forth communication, rather thana linear pathway through technical services to public services [1].

    Unlike Iowa State, where Gerhard and her colleagues dealt with this situation by creatingan electronic resources coordinator position with the technical services division, [2] theHAM-TMC Library has adopted a team approach to managing electronic resources, one thathas evolved and grown just as the online resources themselves have grown. In 1997 weoffered just a handful of electronic titles. In 1999 the Library provided access to 1000 onlinejournals. Over the past three years, the number of e-journals to which we provide access hasmore than quadrupled to more than 4000.

    Anyone who deals on a regular basis with electronic publications knows that providingaccess to a significant number of them is a labor-intensive proposition. Access problems cropup on a daily basis. Some of these can be handled the same day they appear, others can takedays or weeks or months to resolve. Likewise, providing access to electronic publications

    * Tel.: 1-713-799-7126.E-mail address: (R.P. Jasper).

    PergamonLibrary Collections, Acquisitions,

    & Technical Services 26 (2002) 355361

    1464-9055/02/$ see front matter 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.PII: S1464-9055(02)00271-3

  • raises a host of questions (among others: who gets access to what titles in what way?) thatmay not have been asked previously.

    Staying ahead of the problems and providing good service requires the Library toroutinely address the following issues pertaining to electronic publications: Licensing agreements Consortial relationships Payment information Relationships with subscription agents Relationships with publishers Registering for access Keeping track of IP ranges authorized to access electronic publications Keeping track of IP addresses employed by publishers and aggregators Managing remote access Establishing user categories Managing the local user interface Creating/managing an e-publications database

    The skills, knowledge and expertise needed to address these issues may reside in a singleindividual but in most libraries of any size they are likely to be vested in more than oneperson. A collaborative, team-approach to managing electronic publications helps ensure thatthe necessary skills are brought to bear on the tasks at hand.

    2. Roles and responsibilities

    How are roles and responsibilities apportioned? To what extent do they overlap? Whatparticular knowledge and expertise is needed in each position? These questions are addressedin the following sections. Keep in mind that while this is the way responsibilities have beenassigned in a particular library, the responsibilities themselvesregardless of how they areapportionedare ones that need to be fulfilled in any library with an active electronicresources program.

    3. The Assistant Director for Collections

    As the person directly responsible for determining what electronic publications are madeavailable and how, the Assistant Director for Collections acts as the traffic cop in the processof managing electronic publications. Like most libraries with a sizeable offering of onlineresources, the HAM-TMC Library employs several different mechanisms for providingaccess to electronic publications, including: Licensing individual titles with individual publishers Licensing suites of titles, often representing more than one publisher, with individual


    356 R.P. Jasper / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 26 (2002) 355361

  • Purchasing print electronic access via a subscription agent Participating in local, state and regional library consortiaEach of these mechanisms is slightly different, usually entailing a different set of players

    and oftentimes involving a different set of users and user restrictions. When problems withaccessing an individual online publication occur, two questions nearly always presentthemselves:

    What should we be getting What was our means of access?

    The answers to these two questions inform not only where we go to solve the problem butoftentimes what we must do once we get there. In order to answer them, the Collectionslibrarian needs: In-depth knowledge of the Librarys licensing agreements and its consortial relation-

    ship Ready access to payment and subscription period information A good sense of what role (if any) the Librarys subscription agent can play in restoring

    access to the title An understanding of the publishers approach to dealing with online publicationsIn addition, the Collections librarian needs to be well versed in information technology to

    know, for example, what IP ranges are employed by the Library and its clientele; whether thepublisher allows IP authentication or requires usernames and passwords; how the Librarysremote access system, if any, functions, as well as who is (and who is not) authorized toemploy it; and how to help a user determine his or her own IP address. The downside tohaving anyone play traffic cop is that there are days when the traffic cop is not on duty. Allof us need access to this information in order for each of us to fulfill our specific roles butmaking that happen is not as easy to do as it sounds.

    4. The Assistant Director for Systems and Informatics

    Supporting the technology to make online resources available to clients falls within thepurview of the Assistant Director for Systems and Informatics. If the Assistant Director ofCollections is the traffic cop, the Assistant Director of Systems and Informatics is theenforcer, ensuring that Library staff members stay on top of reported problems until theyare resolved. More often than not, however, technical questions are informed by policyquestions and vice versa. In dealing with a typical electronic resource access problem (andsuch problems are a daily occurrence), the Systems/Informatics librarian is likely to ask: Has the titles URL changed? If so, who do we contact: the information provider

    directly, the aggregator, our subscription vendor, or our consortial partners? Is the clients IP address authorized for direct access? If not, should it be? Was it once

    authorized but now it isnt? (At the Texas Medical Center any number of our institu-tional members have swapped IP ranges back and forth over the past 20 years, with

    357R.P. Jasper / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 26 (2002) 355361

  • more than one institution parceling out IP ranges to a colleague institution only to havethem returned years later.)

    Is the client trying to access the title using the proxy server? If so, are other clientshaving a problem accessing the title through the proxy server? If some clients can usethe proxy server to get at a title and others cannot, what is going on?

    Do we have a current subscription for the title? If our records say that we have paid fora title but the information providers page says, Your subscription has expired, whereis the disconnect occurring? In our accounting office? With our consortial partner? Withour subscription agent? With the information providers billing office?

    Getting answers to these questions necessarily involves close cooperation among systems,collections, and public services staff members, any one of whom may hold the answers toone or more of these questions.

    Resolving access problems is just part of the Assistant Director for Systems/Informaticsjob, of course. Other areas of responsibility include: Working with publishers and vendors to make sure that the Librarys IP addresses and

    those of the Librarys member institutions are registered to access licensed electroniccontent.

    Keeping track of changes in IP addresses and URLs. Developing and maintaining a system for clients to remotely access the Librarys

    electronic resources from their homes, offices or other distant locations. Determining user categories that support a tiered-system of remote access based on

    clients institutional affiliations (unfortunately, we cannot give all of our users accessto the same titles).

    Again, it is sometimes hard to tell whether technology is driving policy or policy is drivingtechnology. For example, the Library originally employed a remote access proxy server thatdid not allow us to distinguish among categories of users. At first that seemed appropriatesince the HAM-TMC Library licenses electronic resources for ALL its users, regardless oftheir institutional affiliations. That configuration, unfortunately, did not take into account thatmany of our consortial agreements ONLY cover our users at educational institutions. In June2001 we were wrestling with how to modify the proxy server (or scrap it and start over again)when Tropical Storm Allison dumped more than two feet of rain on Houston and the TexasMedical Center in a period of about 24 h. Our proxy server (as well as our pay-to-print andaccounting servers) drowned in the flood. The decision to base the new remote access systemon the EZProxy software was based largely on the need to have a tiered system capable ofdifferentiating users according to their institutional affiliations. EZProxy has proven to be reliable,inexpensive to acquire, easy for systems staff to administer, and easy for clients to use.

    5. The Serials Librarian

    The Serials Librarian is the go to person for payment information and for problemswhose resolution requires the intervention of our subscription agents. It might sound simpleand straightforward but in reality nearly every access problem involving electronic resources

    358 R.P. Jasper / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 26 (2002) 355361

  • is forwarded to the Serials Librarian to determine whether we have a subscription and, if so,whether it is up to date and what kind of access it covers.

    The Serials Librarian also: Fields queries regarding loss of access from patrons, public services staff and Systems/

    Informatics staff Tries to ascertain the likely cause of interruption using whatever information is

    available in-house and/or the information providers website Follows up with e-mail or web inquiries to the information provider If the problem title is part of a suite, spot checks other titles in the package to see if the

    problem is with the aggregator or the publisherIn doing this work, the Serials Librarian has two important tools at her disposal: Our subscription agents customer service representatives, who serve as intermediaries

    when our online access is predicated upon having a print subscription for the title. The UT System Digital Librarys website, which provides detailed information to

    member libraries regarding packages, available titles, terms of service, etc.In addition to keeping the information flowing, the Serials Librarian also: Adds e-records and print bib links to the online catalog Notifies the Assistant Director for Collections about the availability of online versions

    of print titles

    6. The Web Librarian

    Maintaining the user interface is chiefly the responsibility of the Web Librarian. Thisresponsibility entails: Creating and maintaining a coherent user interface for online resources (in this case, the

    Librarys webpage listings of electronic journals and databases.) This is currently asemi-automated process involving a Microsoft Access database and Dreamweaverweb-site development software. We are in the process of converting to a full database-driven system that will run off PHP and mySQL.

    In addition, the Web Librarian supports the Assistant Director for Systems and Informaticsby registering the Library for online access to subscribed titles and by keeping track ofchanges in IP ranges and URLs.

    7. The Systems Specialist

    The newest member of our team, the Systems Specialist, is an expert in buildingdatabases. She is tackling what has proven to be our thorniest task, namely, that of providingeffective access to electronic resources. This means mastering a myriad of information regarding

    359R.P. Jasper / Libr. Coll. Acq. & Tech. Serv. 26 (2002) 355361

  • individual electronic titles, suites of electronic titles, publishers, aggregators, subscription agents,consortial partners, payments, licensing agreements, IP addresses, and classes of users.

    At present we do not have a single, coherent system for keeping track of all the variousinformation regarding our electronic resourcesmuch of it resides in the Librarys ILS, anequal amount resides in a Microsoft Access database developed by the Systems/Informat-ics staff, other parts reside in paper files and even in the heads of individual staff members.Working with the Web Librarian, the Systems Specialist is in the process of building a singledatabase that encompasses (or at least points to and keeps track of) ALL the various typesof information about our electronic resources.

    Our struggle to keep abreast of all the information necessary to manage electronicresources is not out of the ordinary for a research medical library. Although some libraries(notably Penn State) have made great strides in building back end systems to manageinformation regarding electronic resources, it appears that more of us are just beginning toundertake such projects on our own. Likewise, many of us are still waiting for our librarysystems vendors to lead the way. Although some vendors (including Endeavor and Ex Libris)have made great strides in recent years building public interfaces that allow us to pulltogether disparate resources (print, electronic, audiovisual, etc.) for our users, none of themcurrently offers an integrated solution for managing back end information.

    8. Conclusion

    As Gerhard noted in 1998, the growth of ERs, in volume and in prominence, requires thatlibrary organizations develop a proactive approach to handling these titles [3]. Now thatlibraries are providing access to literally thousands of electronic resources, the likelihood ofa single librarian or a single library department being able to manage the entire process ofmaking online resources available seems very small. The key to successfully managingelectronic resources is...


View more >