“The legacy book publishing industry is fond of telling itself comforting myths. For example, one myth that just crossed my desk was the idea that younger readers preferred print books”
The scholarly publisher has announced several new licensing agreements in both Europe and the US–but some major academic groups are still without contracts and access to journals.
I missed this year’s ER&L 2018 conference. It has always been one of my favourite conferences and it never fails to amaze me with an interesting line-up of insightful presentations and workshops. While checking out the tweets for this year’s conference, I came across this wonderful article by Claire O’Neill, Library Services, Wiley, on the top 10 trends@the conference.
I love the following points brought up by the author:
4. Thinking outside of the box to identify student pain points
5. Getting creative with outreach
6. Librarians work hard – and deserve acknowledgement
9. Librarians share tips for improving user experience
10. Information is power
Point 4 stood out for me. Why? Working in the electronic resources management field, I have always received a number of fan-mails from our users on electronic resources issues. Their questions range from simple ones such as creating a personalized account in a particular electronic resources publisher website to more complex access issues such as accessing our subscribed e-resources off-campus. As I received more and more of such questions, several thoughts flashed across my mind:
- How can we alleviate the “sufferings” faced by our users proactively?
- Can we better manage these issues by providing information up-front to them so that they are able to resolve these issues by themselves?
- How can we heigthen the awareness of our users that such information are available?
- How can we cull such questions and study the trends/patterns?
- Are there any system that can manage these inquiries and provide meaningful data for us to analyze?
- What can the library do to upkeep and update the staff knowledge on ERM matters?
- … (the list goes on)
So many things, so little time on top of the limited resources. What are the ones that should take priority over others? It reminded me of my first day in the office when I set out to become an E-Resources Librarian/Specialist (most of use are called Specialists over here). It dawned upon me that among my main focus would be the troubleshooting of electronic resources and managing our users’ expectations. Users always wanted information fast and within a few clicks. They can get pretty irate and frustrated whenever their search hits a brick wall. (paywall seems much appropriate 🙂 ) How can our ERM team ensure that this does not happen? How can we manage our users’ expectations with regards to the workings of our subscribed electronic resources.
One of the earliest method used by our team was implementing an access monitoring system via Excel Spreadsheet (we’ve now moved on to a more sophisticated ERMS system). Information regarding the access status were entered daily into this file. I remembered highlighting those that have issues in RED color. The other 2 colors were Green and Yellow. I guess you probably would know what Green stands for. (We had a file which uses the traffic lights color to alert us of any outstanding access issues).
Whevener a RED cell appears on the spreadsheet, the ERM team will alert our KAUST community as well as our internal library staff via email and other communication vehicle such as the library website. At the same time, the ERM team will liaise with the publishers to investigate the root case and remedy the issue. When the issue has been resolved, another alert will be sent to all stakeholders to inform them.
As much as possible the ERM team tried to be as proactive as possible. However, due to the dynamics of electronic resources, things can change within a split second. One moment things can be working, the next, it can go down.
The ERM team would conduct daily checks on all our electronic resources, manually. The main access points to these electronic resources were also checked and verified such as:
- Discovery layers
- AZ portal
- Online Guides
- Google Scholar
In addition to that, we’ve placed online forms/email addresses on strategic access points for our users to report any e-resources issues. This is an alternative form of obtaining feedback from our users. Information entered via this online form/email is chanelled into our online Reference Inquiry Tracking system (Sprinshare’s LibAnswers). These questions are then acted upon by the respective ERM staff.
It is also important to note the scheduled maintenance of the electronic resources. Publishers would inform their customers on any impending scheduled maintenance. In turn, we would publish this information on our library homepage as well as online guides. (not to mention emailing as well).
Some other methods that we deployed to assist our library users was the creation of guides and FAQs that covered the electronic resources topic. For example, I’ve created:
- Electronic Resources – Databases, EJournals, Ebooks
- Off-Campus Access to Licensed Electronic Resources
There are also other communication medium that can used to disemminate the information. These include the social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter.
Looking back, I felt that despite all these tools, the human touch is always important. How we communicate with our users, how we manage their expectations can create a positive user experience. How we handle and how we listen to their rantings while at the same time, keeping our sanity intact 🙂 3 words that always resonate with me:
In the pipeline: Our team is working on building a knowledge base to store the main e-resources issues and how we can overcome them. The target audience for this initiative is our internal library staff. We believe that by sharing valuable knowledge with internal library staff, we can increase our productivity and effienciency towards better service excellence.
From my comparative study on benchmarked library websites (2015) which was conducted together with my colleague, the Senior Subject Specialist, we noted that the top 5 services deployed the library websites were:
- User Services: Checking how items that have been borrowed, reserved status and so forth.
- Reference/Research Services: Asking a librarian question, live chat services.
- ILL/Document Delivery Request.
- New materials recommendations
- Library alerts, News, and Events.
Top 3 Social Media tools deployed:
Digressing a bit: Social media is another avenue apart from the library websites where our users can also do stuff that is available on library websites. We have already had library alerts and news announced on Facebook and Twitter. We have seen library videos on how to borrow books in the library and so forth. LibAnswers (online reference services) can be activated in Facebook and Twitter as well. Users do not need to visit library websites anymore to get information. On top of that, I had listened to a talk by one of the library directors that mentioned the low rates of library website visitations.
- Should we worry that library websites are no longer the main source to get information?
- How much of an impact have those services had on our users?
- How do we measure the success rate of each visitation? How do we define success?
These are just some of the questions swirling in my head …
Below is the list of benchmarked library web sites that we had used:
In my line of work, there are just too many things to keep track. Among them are meetings, project datelines, notes, troubleshooting issues, expiration dates of e-resources, renewal dates, license agreements, metadata issues, access questions, ebook/e-journal requests, … the list keeps going on.
How do I keep track of all these? One of the first methods that I used was noting down in a little notebook followed by pasting 3M post-its on my table, computer screens, coffee mugs … and anything else that I can use to stick those post-its. I would not say that writing down and post-its are not productive/efficient. They do. But as the list keeps growing at an alarming rate, I realized that I needed something more dynamic and robust to keep track the various projects, tasks routines as well as other miscellaneous stuff.
I tried to use different notebooks for various projects, daily routines and the like but it would be too troublesome and I could build a big library keeping all those notebooks. (I’d rather keep one journal to note down the daily happenings in my life). I needed something that could allow me to see everything on one page at a single glance. That’s when I discovered the following 3 cloud services while trawling the internet for answers.
How this tool has helped me:
- Keep all my critical notes by different category. I can easily organize all my notes under different headers. For example, I could slot several notes on electronic resources such as important IP ranges, Proxy information, useful tips and so forth under Electronic Resources.
- Organize all my ideas, thoughts and suggestions in a single place. These items could be stuff to write about any potential conference(s), training topics, improving workflows/procedures or even paper for submission to journal(s).
- Import any significant Outlook emails into Evernote for future references. So instead of searching/browsing those emails in Outlook, I can extract them into Evernote and save them under different headings.
- Keep interesting presentation slides and make side notes on them.
- Clip interesting articles on the Internet and convert them into Evernote notes. I can then read these articles at a later time.
- More info can be found here.
(I got to know this while on a study visit to Duke University. I met the Head of the Acquisitions team who showed me how easy it was to track their purchases using Trello). How this tool has helped me:
- Organize different tasks for separate projects under one roof. I can create multiple ‘boards’ to store various functions. I can then monitor the progress of each of these tasks.
- Control tasks that I have delegated to other team members. I can track and check if there is a backlog.
- Attaching file from DropBox or other places to the task(s) that I have created. In this way, I do not have to toggle the different apps while looking for some information.
- Create checklists and due dates for various tasks.
- Import Outlook emails and embed them into a task.
- Check this site for a tour of Trello.
- Save my documents (pdf, ppt, doc, Xls and much more) in the cloud. I can retrieve them later wherever I am (need Internet connection).
- Save the space on my laptop/desktop
- Access on different mobile devices.
- Info on Dropbox.
What about you? What tool(s) work for you and what doesn’t?
I’ve just completed the slides for the Electronic Resources Management Systems ERMS project. Highlighted the library’s journey to the new ERMS – Proquest 360 Resource Manager. I recalled the 3 phases that the project went thru. Each of them posed challenges and issues that the project team had to face head on. Endured late but not sleepless nights. Discussions, disagreements, and compromise. Yes, it was hard work; at times it can be nerve-wracking but all in all, it was an enriching experience.
- Awareness of the available ERMS in the open market. Products are constantly changing and companies merge. Staying on top of things are advantageous as the library can re-position itself in the case of any advancements/product / company mergers
- Match the ERMS features against the team’s ERMS wish list. Before embarking on the ERMS project, conduct a study of the strengths and weaknesses of the present system. Identify what can be improved and what are the missing ‘pieces’ that should be evident in the new ERMS
- Contact peers on their experience on using the ERMS products. Most if not all of
E-Resources Librarians are willing to share information and knowledge. Compare notes. Sometimes, what works for them may NOT work for us.
- Keep communication open. Ensure that library management and project team are updated on the project progress.
- There may be hiccups/challenges along the way. Stay focus and keep calm.
Looking for more adventures on this road …..