And we have another ‘toy’

sketchnote project management
After months of research, communication, and discussion, our ERM (Electronic Resources Management) team finally got what we wanted …. a new ERM System (ERMS) to replace the obsolete one. Thank God.

We decided to go for Proquest 360 Resource Manager.  One of the advantages is that we are currently using 360 Core, 360 Marc Updates and Summon; all on the same platform and vendor.  Thus seamless integration.

Now that I have finished the recommendation report, I am planning the Implementation Phase of this ERMS. Exciting times.

The road ahead will be challenging and hopefully rewarding.  Given that we only have a small team with varied expertise level, there will be some learning curve (hopefully NOT a steep one).  Thinking back, it was interesting to note the technologies that we had used before in relation to ERM:

  • Innovative Millennium ERM > Replaced by Proquest 360 Resource Manager
  • CASE > Replaced by Proquest 360 Core
  • Encore > Replaced by Proquest Summon
  • MS Outlook > Complimenting the future ERMS
  • MS Sharepoint > Storage point

as well as the challenges that we faced.

I’m thankful and glad to have the opportunity of leading those projects listed above.

Stay tuned.


Frozen in DC

I attended the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) conference in Washington DC 2016. Stayed at Capital Hilton which was quite near the White House. Weather wise: Freezing cold but no snow.  Flight in was good with no delays.

Before the conference started, I had the chance to discover DC.  But due to time constraint, I only managed to walk to the White House and the nearby streets.  It was not like in 2010 ALA conference where I had the chance to visit the mall and the nearby Library of Congress.  One incident which I won’t forget is the hotel evacuation due to a fire incident sometime during 4 am.  It was freezing cold.  Had to stand with the others in the streets, watching the Fire Brigade or Battalion in action.  However, the hotel informed us that we could wait in the nearby hotel lobbies or chill@Starbucks.

Back to the conference stuff.  There was a bunch of interesting project briefings given by various universities.  The ones that I attended were:

  • Research Software Preservation/Sharing
  • Cost of Open Access: Pay it Forward
  • Scholars@Cornell: Visualizing Scholarly Record
  • Expanding Research Data Services
  • The Future of Finding at Oxford
  • Institutional Learning Analytics

Below are some of the CNI conference videos:

The Cost of Open Access to Journals: Pay It Forward Project Findings from CNI Video Channel on Vimeo.

Makerspaces, Virtual Reality, The Internet of Things at alia Stories from CNI Video Channel on Vimeo.

In the nutshell: It was my maiden conference for CNI.  I found it useful as there was a lot of takeaways as well as insights topics new to me.  Given my interests in Web Discovery and Virtual Reference, there were several briefings that caught my attention.  One of which was “The Future of Finding at Oxford”.  They have published their report online.  It’s very comprehensive, outlining their aims, objectives, project methodology and related matters.  (I am still reading this).

I also googled for previous CNI briefings in Youtube and discovered an interesting talk on Virtual Reference:

One more thing: I should have listened to my wife on bringing just a few clothes for the conference (I was there for about 4.5 days). The custom officers were looking at my ‘huge’ luggage and decided to take at look at it.  Out came the Nescafe coffee bottle, sugar sticks, 4 sweaters, biscuits and so forth.  Before clearing me, the officer commented that I should be well insulated during my stay there 🙂


Dealing with unmanageable stuff


How do you deal with something that is not easy to manage? By this, I mean issues related to the excessive or systematic download of the library’s subscribed electronic resources materials.

A little background to this:  Libraries sign license agreements with electronic resources publishers to ensure that users do not violate or infringe any copyright regulations.    In addition, we also have to ensure that there are no ‘crawling’ activities – our users do not deploy some form of software to download multiple documents within a very short period of time.  So, when any of these happen (excessive / systematic downloading), it will trigger an automated access block on the suspected campus IPs from the publishers.  Thus, users are not able to access that particular electronic resources.

The last few weeks have been pretty busy with a spike of such incidents.  I had to liaise with the publishers to ensure that our access is reinstated as well as assuring that we will investigate the matter thoroughly on our end.  In addition, I have to contact our counterparts – campus IT Security Team.  Once we have identified the ‘perpetrators’, my next task will involve contacting them and ensuring that they are NOT to repeat the ‘act’ again. (if they are guilty of it)

We have been very proactive in ensuring that our users are well-informed about these issues.  Some of our initiatives include:

  • Announcement on our library website
  • Email blast
  • Posters at strategic places on campus such as campus diner, congregation areas in the library
  • Library trainings
  • Electronic Billboards
  • Informal meetings / chats with our users on this issue
  • Re-visiting our license agreements and renegotiating with the electronic publishers

Hopefully, we can reduce the number of such incidents; though eradicating them would be rather tough.  Like I said before, sometimes when it rains, it pours …


User Experience: “You are NOT your user”

I’ve started on our user experience interviews on the use of our new discovery service namely Summon and AZ portal.  One of the objectives is find out our users’ behavior when they search/browse our electronic resources.  Participants include:

  • Faculty members
  • Post-docs
  • Students

Being a digitally born library, our e-resources far outnumber the print collection. Therefore it is imperative for us to know how best we can align our discovery services and other added value services to meet our users’ needs.

Some Questions posed:

  • Have you used Summon / 360? If Not, why?
  • How often do you conduct your research?
  • What obstacles do you face during your research process?
  • How can we, the library, help you to make your user experience (Summon/360) better?

And taking a leaf from this book that I am currently reading: “You are NOT your user” – Admit it.


Of Search Boxes and library websites Pt 1

Recently, I conducted an exploratory study on library websites search boxes (5 Oct 2016).  I wanted to know the types of search boxes deployed by libraries that are using Summon as their web scale discovery layer. I googled and discovered around 83 Summon-ed libraries from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, UAE, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Here are the various types of search boxes:

There are several distinctive types:

  • Simple search boxes
  • Multi-Tabbed search boxes
  • Search boxes with radio buttons
  • Search boxes with drop down features
  • Combination of multi-tabbed / radio buttons / drop down

I noted that the libraries tend to go with simple search boxes or the multi-tabbed search boxes.  Out of the 83 chosen sites, 35 (42%) deployed simple search boxes while 39 (47%) deployed multi-tabbed search boxes.


I was curious whether simple or multi-tabbed would be a better choice to deploy on a library website.  In this Google-era, most searchers would just enter their search phrases or keywords into the search boxes.  They expect to get relevant results at the top of the list.  (Bear in mind that we have a multitude of users out there: the experts, the intermediates and the novices).

Results are often determined by some of these factors (not exhaustive):

  • search terms / phrases used
  • metadata used to describe the library’s resources
  • storage medium of these resources
  • level of IT knowledge of the users
  • exposure to any form of training

Coming back to the library websites, I did some sample known item searches (for example: exact title of an electronic journal) on random library websites and noted that:

  • Most of them cataloged their electronic resources (e-books, e-journals etc) into their OPAC (classic catalog) even though there is evidence that they have an AZ Portal for electronic resources

Our library is ‘moving’ all our electronic resources from the classic catalog and tap into the AZ portal as the resource base.  We are hoping that Summon and AZ are capable to ‘talk’ to each other.  And we are implementing a feature in AZ so that these e-resources can be easily searched and located in Summon.  I’m hoping that this work. Otherwise, I may have to re-think on other alternatives.  Stay tune.




IP Registry

Got to know this from one of my colleagues. Looks promising. For my Electronic Resources peers who are interested to find out more about this, check their website:

One of the benefits:  “make it easier for libraries to communicate any changes in their authentication details to all publishers who sign up to use the service, saving them significant time and reducing errors. The registry already contains 1.5 billion validated IP addresses for over 60,000 content licensing organisations worldwide.” Taken from their news release .

Hope this helps.

Make up / Break up Letters



No, I’m not referring to the mushy and lovey dovey letters.  It’s one of those tools deployed to obtain feedback from our library users.  The feedback that can make you cringe or jump for joy.  Yeap.   It struck me that this could be a useful tool in gathering inputs from our users. Fast and cheap.  I googled and got a few interesting sites :

I also stumbled upon several library websites that utilize online survey forms (like SurveyMonkey) or developed their own in-house forms to elicit feedback from their users.  Another popular method includes writing it down on a piece of paper.  But whatever form they come in, there are several important questions that we need to address: what do we do with the feedback.  Do we act upon them? Do we just throw it into the rubbish bin? Do we thank the user? Do we reward them? (esp for writing an honest  break-up letter) Do we tabulate all the data and create a table and chart showing the most important area of concern?

At the end of the day, libraries are here to serve the community.  We need to know what attracts them to our library (physically and virtually) – niche areas?  Take a step back and look from their perspectives.  We may be doing something that doesn’t add any value to them (users) but ignoring things right under our noses that they are clamoring for.   After all, what are libraries without our users.


IGeLU Conference 2016 – Trondheim, Norway

I just got back from Norway. I attended an informative (and my maiden one for IGeLU – International Group for Ex Libris Users) conference organized by Ex Libris.  It took place at the Clarion Hotel and Congress in Trondheim.


By the way, it was my first trip to Norway.  Word of caution: If you are catching a connecting internal flight from an international flight, give yourself at least 2.5 to 3 hours or so.  When I arrived at Oslo, there was a very long line at the Immigration.  I pleaded with the immigration officers and they allowed me to go to another line (which was way much shorter).  However, I noted that I had less than 40 mins to –  1). get my luggage at the baggage belt 2). get onto to the departure hall 3).  check-in my luggage 4). go through security check and make a mad dash (do a Usain Bolt dash) to the gate.  Thank God, somehow i made it “thru the rain”.

Back to the main story:  IGeLU provides a platform for Ex Libris and also Proquest users to network.  There are many interesting sessions and meetings during this event.  Participants had the opportunity to bring up issues, get product updates and related matters.  I was a newbie to this conference and meetings.  But I learnt quite a lot when I was there.  Lot of focus on Alma, Rosetta and Primo (being Ex Libris products).

Some of the conference highlights (for me) were:

  • meeting up with the Summon Product Working Group (Summon PWG which I am a member) esp Daniel Forsman, Library Director, Chalmers University of Technology
  • plenary session given by Matt J Borg, Senior Librarian & Solution Expert, Ex Libris and Deputy Chair, UXLibs Committee – “A matter of perspective. User Experience in Libraries and You”.
  • Presentation of the Azriel Morag Award for Innovation
  • Summon Product Update by Brent Cook who is the Director of Product Management, Discovery and Delivery, Ex Libris Summon PWG
  • 360 Product Updates
  • break-out session – “Standing on the shoulders of giants” – Establishing Innovation at Lancaster University Library given by Masud Khokar, Head of Digital Innovation, Lancaster University

One of the things that stood out was the topic of usability, which is close to my heart.  Matt used various examples such as the switch of left-hand driving to right-hand driving in Sweden (1967) – with regards to user experience.  He elaborated on the impacts of such initiative when user perspectives are not taken into full account.  Just as it is with usability studies in libraries, it’s always important to note:

  • behavioral patterns of our users when using the library; and this is not limited to just websites
  • techniques deployed when eliciting information on users’ behavior

among others.  Usability testing can be a simple information gathering process involving some library users and asking them simple and straight-forward questions to complex testings involving “follow the user” behavior method from the moment they step inside the library.  It boils down to how much resources that the library has and how the library can maximize those resources.

Another session that I found particularly noteworthy was Lancaster University Library’s approach and practices to innovation.  According to Masud, the library has taken 4 ways of developing internal innovation. They are:

  • Forced innovation
  • Exploratory innovation
  • Randomized innovation
  • Empowered innovation

(source: Conference notes)

Participants were showed the various stuff that the library did such as:

  • Jolt the Library
  • Smart Cushions
  • Adjustable Desks
  • Noise Canceling Headphones
  • Visual Maps in Primo
  • Charger cables

among others. (Source: Conference Notes).

Apart from that, I attended several meetings on Summon and 360 products.  I had the chance to meet up with the Support Team Lead and the Director of Support for EMEA region.  During that meetings, I aired our library’s issues concerning Summon and 360 products.

During the downtime, I had the chance to visit some of Trondheim’s places of interest namely: Nidaros, Old Town Bridge, Historic Wharves, Bakklandet.  Noted that most of the people in Trondheim cycled a lot, jog and walk around town.  Taxi rides are expensive. I took a 3 min ride and it costs around 20 SGD.

One of the things that impressed me was an incident at Trondheim airport.  An elderly lady apparently placed her passport in her check-in luggage by mistake.  The desk airport staff managed to resolve the issue in less than an hour; contacting the baggage airport staff to  isolate the bag and allowed the passenger to retrieve her passport.  Talk about efficiency 🙂

Here are some photos of my  trip:



Electronic Resources Management: Identifying issues and improving them

A few weeks ago, we decided to do away with one of our ERM system (with management blessings). Let’s call this system “X”.  After all these years, “X” has served its purpose but not effectively as we have hoped for.  We are now looking for alternatives.  Whether this would be an open source or commercial system would be another issue.

Being curious, I decided to trawl the scholarly articles for information on ERM systems and implementation.  Here’s some that I got so far:

  • Enoch, T. (2014). Preparation is Key: Lessons Learned from an ERM System Implementation. The Serials Librarian, 66(1-4), 182-188. doi:10.1080/0361526x.2014.877276
  • Mi, J., & Wang, Y. (2013). Implementation and Application of CORAL: An Open Source ERM System. Collection Management, 38(1), 75-79. doi:10.1080/01462679.2012.730493
  • Hartnett, E., Beh, E., Resnick, T., Ugaz, A., & Tabacaru, S. (2013). Charting a Course through CORAL: Texas A&M University Libraries’ Experience Implementing an Open-Source Electronic Resources Management System. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 25(1), 16-38. doi:10.1080/1941126x.2013.760402
  • England, D. (2013). We Have Our ERM System, It’s Implemented: Why am I Still Going Here and There to Get the Information I Need? The Serials Librarian, 64(1-4), 111-117. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2013.760148
  • Silton, K., & LeMaistre, T. (2011). Innovative Interfaces’ Electronic Resources Management System: A Survey on the State of Implementation and Usage. Serials Review, 37(2), 80-86. doi:10.1080/00987913.2011.10765355
  • Taylor, D., Dodd, F., & Murphy, J. (2010). Open-Source Electronic Resource Management System: A Collaborative Implementation. The Serials Librarian, 58(1-4), 61-72. doi:10.1080/03615261003623039

Before I proceed further, I felt it is also more beneficial for the team to focus on the existing systems, workflows, procedures and policies pertaining to electronic resources management.  Why? When we understand how things currently work, we may see ‘hidden’ issues.  Issues that are not visible to the naked eye.  Things that have slipped through the cracks.

These issues could be lurking somewhere within the main phases of ERM such as:

  • Trial and Feedback mechanisms
  • License Agreements negotiations
  • Technical Feasibility
  • Access implementation
  • Troubleshooting / Triage

One of things that I intend to do is to go back to the drawing board.  Working with stakeholders and staff in charge of the various ERM stages.  That’s where delegating leadership comes in 🙂

One of my main areas that I need to have a close look would be access implementation.  This would involve working with the Metadata team.  Since we have migrated to our new AZ management system and Summon Discovery layer, we need to identify that obsolete processes / procedures and implement new ones wherever possible.  Workflows and procedures have to be updated and staff brought up to speed.

At the same time, we started implementing RDA.  Thus the team needs to be aware of the changes and keep tabs of issues during this transition period.  They need to be aware of the differences between AACR2, RDA as well as the MARC21 .  Not only are we cataloging print items, but being a digitally-born library, more and more of our resources are in electronic format.  The team needs to be ready when initiatives to digitally store home-grown items into our system get mandated.

On another note, one of my ‘pet’ areas is troubleshooting electronic resources issues.  I’m glad to say that we have moved from using email system to a more dynamic platform – LibAnswers. Previously, issues tend to get lost in the email Inbox jungle.  With introduction of LibAnswers, things have become more streamlined.  I’m not going in depth right now to touch on the benefits of LibAnswers but perhaps at a later time.

Identifying the main issues / patterns of electronic resources would be crucial in my work.  When we can identify them earlier, things can be nipped in the bud.  Furthermore, being proactive is much better than reactive.  How we can push information to our users so that they are empowered to solve the issues themselves 🙂

Having good relations with publishers / vendors are also important.  Those tech guys are usually helpful and responsive to our inquiries.  Always there to provide assistance.

This is the just the beginning of the journey. Stay tune.
Highway 6

Joys of being a Librarian in a newly established Graduate Research University (KAUST)


  • Multinational, multicultural environment
  • Involved in various library initiatives / projects
  • Learning new resources and technology
  • Having a say in library policies
  • Opportunity to implement new methods / procedures
  • Imparting knowledge to newbies
  • Mentorship
  • Getting to know other cultures
  • Generous and kind hospitality of locals
  • Putting your skills to the test; stretching them at times
  • Satisfaction of helping people in obtaining the information that they need;
    seeing the smile on their faces
  • Demonstrating research methods to students and researchers
  • Attending overseas conferences / workshops, presenting papers and sharing of knowledge and ideas with fellow professionals
  • Publishing papers
  • Participate in community events such as “Parade of Nations”: Opportunity to see people dressed in their national costumes, taste ‘national food’
  • Perks