See how easy it is to keep track of things

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.

  • Evernote

    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.
  • Trello

    (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.
  • DropBox

    • 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?


From Millennium ERM to Proquest 360 Resource Manager: Our library’s Journey


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.

Do you have a Flowchart?

Lessons learned:

  • 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 …..

Get a ticket, wait in line and we’ll resolve your E-Resources Issue

Just completed my first draft of my paper entitled: An Exploratory study on the use of LibAnswers to Resolve, Track and Monitor Electronic Resources Issues: The KAUST Library experience.  Researched on the most common questions related to E-Resources as well as making recommendations for service improvement in this area.


What I found:

  • 32% of the submitted questions are related to electronic resources issue
    • Access issues (17%)
    • Link issues (4%)
    • New e-resource title recommendations (3%)
  • Peak Months:  August – Oct as well as Jan – March
  • Most questions were asked on Sundays and Wednesdays
  • Daily Peak timings:  10am – 12pm and 2pm – 4pm.

Drill Down on Access Issues:

  • Denied access to e-resource
  • Setting up / Registration issues
  • Downloading e-journal articles / ebook chapters
  • Excessive Downloading
  • Broken Links

Turnaround time to resolve the e-resource questions:  Approx 12 hours

For further discussion(s)/suggestions:

  • To have a consistent / controlled vocabulary in tagging the questions
  • User Empowerment to resolve straightforward issues themselves.  We are creating a libguide to address this.
  • Social media integration
  • Implementing Libanswers’ Ref Analytics feature
  • Regular sharing sessions with library staff
  • Knowledge audit of library staff understanding of electronic resources

The article can be found here.

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.

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

What does it take to work as E.R.S. over here …

My office desk - May 2010This doesn’t look like my desk but I’m hoping to get 4 screens if possible 🙂

ERS? It’s Electronic Resources Specialist. In some places, it’s also known as Electronic Resources Librarian etc.  My work deals mostly with electronic resources: electronic books, electronic journals, images and so forth.  I manage the life cycle from start to end; ensuring that trial, acquisition, access, troubleshooting and maintenance and renewal stages are completed.  I have a team of 4 (including myself).  It’s a thankless job at times; no thank you-s until someone cannot get access / download an article or chapter.

I’m not going to ramble on the competencies listed by several organizations such as NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group), UKSG (United Kingdom Serials Group) and the like.  Those are the intrinsic criterion needed.  I’ll list them down later in this blog post.  What I’m touching on are more on the ‘soft’ side of it.  For me, there are a few. They are:

  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience

Quick check in Oxford Dictionary:

  • Patience:  “the ability to accept delay, trouble or suffering without becoming angry or upset”
  • Perseverance: “continue doing something in spite of difficulty or lack of success”
  • Resilience:  “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions”

In our work life, we have, in one way or another, face with testing situations.  In my case, it revolves around people or technology.  The technology part: that’s not that too difficult. Find the relevant manual, read it and you can get the answers.  Otherwise , you can contact the vendor techies and they are willing to check it out on your behalf.  Googling for answers would also be an alternative.

However, when dealing with humans, that can be tricky.  For example, not many would admit that they are wrong even when presented with facts.  The worst part is the “blame game”.  I believe that we can learn a lot when we readily admit our mistakes. Learn from it and move on.  Humans are never perfect.


Coming back to the 3 traits, let me touch on the first one: Patience:  Leading requires patience. Mistakes happen; sometimes accidental; sometimes due to lack of knowledge.  Addressing those mistakes are important.  That’s where learning comes in: for both parties.  It provides a chance to address our shortcomings.  An opportunity for someone to learn new skills; an opportunity for someone to understand personality differences and how to navigate around it.  Win win scenario; hopefully.

The way we address these issues are also important.  Whether its one on one sessions or during team meetings, it will affect whether our message will get across.  Sometimes one to one meetings would work better than others.  In the context that I am in, I believe that having one to one ‘chats’ usually works.  Nobody likes to be mocked in public.

I do tolerate mistakes but if the same mistakes keep happening more than 2 times; that will set off alarm bells in my head 🙂  Either its a case of being incompetent or just insubordination.  Dealing with such cases require more tactfulness.

Perseverance. When the going gets tough, keep on moving, keep on striving.  For example, I encounter issues such as electronic resources sudden access disruption.  Now, the business work week in Saudi Arabia starts on Sunday till Thursday.  Imagine on a late Thursday afternoon, electronic publisher X (located in the States with business week starting from Mon – Fri) decided to pull the access plug for a particular product title ABC.  Reason: Detected excessive downloading activity.

I’ll be scrambling to get publisher X attention to inform them that we are on top of things and identifying the potential root cause.  Next, I have to make sure that our access is re-activated.  If I’m lucky, access is restored by Friday evening. Otherwise I would have to work during Friday (which is a weekend) by the way, to get it up.  If I miss it, then access would be affected till Monday afternoon when the publisher office starts work. (due to geographic time differences). Note that our work week starts on Sunday over here.

To complicate things, we may have researchers who are in need of access and who aren’t able to do so.  They may not know and do not want to know the reason why access is denied. What they want to know, when can they get access to the desired information.  In these instances, people management skills come in handy 😉

Resilience. Before taking my present job, I was previously a Reference/Subject Librarian and a Library webmaster.  Though electronic resources was not something new for me, I was faced with a steep learning curve.  I had to learn most of my stuff fast.  Sometimes you learn on the job.  On other occasion, you will rely on your intuitive and experience to get the task completed.  I had my ‘wins’ and my ‘losses’.  I faced setbacks.  Those setbacks provided a platform for me to learn and a reminder that my learning journey is never ending.

I had no mentor over here.  They expect me to hit the ground running.  Hence the expat terms 🙂  However, the support I got back then (and now) is enormous.  I’m grateful for that.  My superiors were ever willing to allow me to go for overseas conferences and trainings to complement my knowledge.

The adventure continues ….

Oh by the way, here’s the core competencies for Electronic Resources Librarian from NASIG.


ER&L Conference 2016: In the Nutshell

I am grateful to my director and manager for giving me the opportunity to attend ER&L (Electronic Resources and Libraries)  2016 in Austin, Texas from April 3 – 6 2016.  The conference was held at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center, University of Texas at Austin.


This conference has been going on since 2006. And it has a strong following ever since.  More information about ER&L can be found here.  Quick stats:

Conference Tracks:

“Common job titles of the 3,500+ in person and virtual attendees over the past 5 years are” ( :



I enjoyed the 2016 conference tremendously.  Having attended the 10th year anniversary in 2015, I was looking forward to the 2016 event.  One of my concern though was the weather.  It was freezing cold in 2015, but it turned out that the weather (2016) was much, way much, better. Thank God.

I wanted to gain as much knowledge as I possible could.  On top of that, I looked forward to network with my other counterparts in the same field: Electronic Resources Management among others.  Took the opportunity to attend 2 workshops:

  • Understanding and using altmetrics for impact assessment: an interactive overview by Robin Champieux (Oregon Health & Science Uni) and Stacy Konkiel (Altmetric).
  • EZProxy: Assessment and Administration Techniques and Tips by Shannon Fox-Teichmann (Austin College Abell Library Center) and Glenn Bunton (Uni of South Carolina Libraries)

Below are some of the interesting sessions that I attended during the conference:

  • Keynote Session
  • Case Studies from the Cloud: Technical Perspectives on Hosting Discovery Systems
  • Size does(n’t) matter: Growing your career in a wildly different organization
  • Separate, but equal: The role of choice in the future of discovery evaluations
  • Assessing Major organizational change: The effects on the use of Library resources and services
  • Maximizing management:  Getting more out of your e-resource management strategy
  • Integrating discovery and database A-Z lists with libguides
  • How I implemented a data-driven approach to electronic resource management on a shoestring budget with very limited staff
  • Access Denied!

There were lots of other valuable sessions too.  However, I wasn’t able to attend them as they were held concurrently with the ones that I attended.  Sacrifices had to be made.  Fortunately,  the conference organizers recorded all the sessions and uploaded them online (You need to pay to watch them online).  This allowed me to view them at a later time.

** A little background:  prior to this conference, I was involved in some major projects in my library.  They were, among others:

  • Implementing our new Discovery Services Layer – Summon (now in the final phases of the project)
  • Completed the EJournal Management System: We moved from Innovative CASE to Proquest 360 Core
  • Migrated LibGuides v1 to Libuides v2
  • Deployed LibAnswers as our new online reference platform.  We now have our FAQ website as well as a back-end ticketing system that stores, tracks and manage all questions received via email or widget.

At the end of the conference,  some of the following questions lingered in my mind:

  • How can Summon best integrate with LibGuides AZ database listings.  Presently I set the database titles in the best bets options in Summon so that the relevant databases are retrieved in the search results.  It would be better if these results can be culled directly from libguides.
  • Think through the possible starting points of entry/access to the library resources; for example: Would our users start searching using:
    • Google
    • Google Scholar
    • Direct access to these electronic databases
    • Our E-Resources Portal aka Proquest 360 Core public interface
    • Library website
    • LibGuides
    • FAQ site
    • and the list goes on
  • Can library be proactive so that wherever the user starts with, they will always end up with the information that they need (and they want to get there within a few clicks, 3 clicks max 🙂 )
  • How can we make it easy for our users to search on any device: PC, Tablet, Mobile devices, etc

On another note, I met some wonderful people over there.  Enjoyed the open discussions with them.  I would definitely recommend those who are into electronic resources management to attend this conference at least once.  I’m pretty sure that they won’t be disappointed.




ERL16: Session Takeaway: Case Studies

Case Studies:  Technical Perspectives on Hosting Discovery Systems


Ron Burns, VP Global Software Services, EBSCO
Michael Kucsak, Director of Library Systems and Technology, University of North Florida
Jon Ritterbush, E-Resources & Serials Librarian, Univ. of Nebraska – Kearney

Michael started off the session.  His topic:  Cloud Customization: Uni of North Florida’s Implementation

  • Gave an overview of the university as well as the library’s systems and technology department org chart
  • Showed UNF online catalog: their branding schema: OneSearch.  Briefly touched on their logos, color schemes, style and subtlety
  • Explained the custom content providers in OneSearch
  • Widget:  ILS_Based Interlibrary Loan
  • Ulrichsweb: customized integration
  • OneSearch and BlackBoard – Collaboration between Library and ITS.
  • Opportunities:  Vendor collaborations, multi-tenancy, patron portal
    Boopsie, Springshare, Shibboleth, Canvas, BePress

Jon briefed the audience about:

  • Uni of Nebraska-Kearney
  • Showed via screen capture: EDS
  • Widget sidebar
  • Content from Credo, Worldcat etc (API Code)
  • Insert instructional of promotional images
  • “Ask a Librarian” Chat Widget
  • Text a Call ## – Link added to catalog records
  • Database Recommender placard
  • Shorten Link option

Ron (Ebsco) touched on Cloud concepts and definitions.  He showed the audience EbscoAdmin features and explained the advantages that cloud technologies and discovery have for libraries.  Areas:

  • User experience and expectations
  • APPS
  • API Interoperability
  • Open Source

Ron also showed the audience Ebsco Apps and Cloud services that could be added to enhance discovery layer.  Eg:  Ask a Librarian, Book Carousel, Citation Resolver, Credo Reference Search, ILL Form, Plum Group Widget, OCLC Nearby and Affiliated Libraries, MeSH suggestions, Save pdf to my cloud, Wikipedia, Twitter etc

Notes taken from presentation slides.

I had an interest in this as our library will soon be launching the new discovery interface.  Wanted to compare and contrast the features that other discovery services are offering.  Incorporate them (especially the relevant ones) into the new discovery interface wherever possible.  There are several potential features that we could implement while there are some that have already been ‘installed’.

ER&L 2016 Take away: Keynote session

Time Management

Keynote session:  Finding Time: From Industrial Mythology to Chronemic Literacy
Presenter: Prof Dawna Ballard.
Keyword: Chronemics:  “study of the role of time in communication”

Prof Ballard touched on the myths and realities of time management:

  • Myth 1: Better time management skills + tools will make you more productive
    Reality:  Time management not related to productivity. Pick the tool that fits your personality.
  • Myth 2:  If you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work 🙂 (BS)
    Reality:  Be wary of any language that tries to mask work as something else.
  • Myth 3:  Focusing on work-life balance will lead to greater well-being.
    Reality:  Focusing on balance can create unending frustration.
  • Consider Alignment:  Be mindful of our alignment

(notes from slides)

There have been lots of discussion on work-life balance.  Personally, I felt that it’s difficult to maintain the exact same balance.  Most likely, when you focus too much on one area, the other tends to get neglected.  We need constant check and balance in our life.  (My wife tends to check on me often 🙂 esp if I’m spending too much time in the office).  Esp during peak season, the workload can get pretty heavy and that’s when you tent to get sucked into work.  All of us will have to figure out how best we can manage our time between work and life.

Kevin Cruse, in his book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, mentioned about focusing on the minutes in a day.  (Wanna make a guess how minutes there are in a day?).  He suggested to do away with post-it pads and concentrate on putting important tasks on a calendar (such as Outlook calendar).  I’m guilty, at one stage, of using too many post-it pads. There were yellow ones, green ones etc all over my computer screen.  And when that’s not enough, I started pasting them on my desk as well 🙂  I have to admit that weekly calendar blocking does help me focus on my important tasks for the week as well as to reduce any unwanted disturbances.

Here are some tools that I use to manage my activities:

  • MS Outlook Calendar
  • Evernote
  • Trello
  • Slack
  • Post-It pads (yeap, old habits die hard 🙂 )
  • MS Sharepoint

All the best in managing your time and achieving work-life balance 🙂

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

When it rains, it pours …

Working in the field of Electronic Resources in a Graduate Research Library can be very challenging at times.  One of my responsibilities is troubleshooting access issues. Electronic resources cover the whole works: electronic books, electronic journals, full-text, A&I and image  databases and many more.  Most often these access issues touch on:

  • Open URL
  • Authentication settings
  • Off or On Campus Access
  • IP Addresses
  • Browser Compatibility
  • Site Down (Broken Links)
  • Knowledgebase
  • Vendor Admin modules
  • Patron Confusion
  • Internal communications
  • Staff Training
  • Partial Open Access
  • Metadata
  • and the list goes one ….

The last few weeks have been pretty busy. I was inundated with a number of inquiries/issues via emails, phone calls and our online reference system, Libanswers.  At one point, one of our electronic resources were disrupted due to excessive downloads.

Ahh .. excessive downloads … there are lots of reasons for this to happen. Sometimes, users deploy smart technologies to trawl (search and download) for articles.  In some instances, I discovered that the cause of this was the Find Full-text Feature in Endnote.  This actions would trigger an alert that warns the electronic publishers of this violation.  When this happens, the publishers either forewarn us to follow up and investigate the matter; or they just ‘pull the plug’.  The latter are the ones that irk me. Perhaps, there could be some form of standardization to address this matter.

On our part, we try to be pro-active as possible.  Informing our users not to download excessively during our training sessions.  Telling them the electronic resources usage policy.  Putting put signs and posters.  Sending email alerts to the community and the list goes on …..