Putting It Together Just Right: CSUN Library Links Its Electronic Holdings through EBSCO

Article excerpt

In many ways this column connects and continues two earlier columns -- "The Trend in Academia: One-Stop Shopping for Students" [November/December 1997] [1] and "Making Digital Collection Development a Reality: The CSU JACC Project" [May 1999] [2]. Both columns discussed two California State University (CSU) Consortium projects, which were still in the early stages of development at the time I wrote about them. Each article discussed a project within the CSU system that pushed the boundaries in academic libraries. Due to these and several other initiatives, the right support, and the efforts of good people inside and outside the CSU system, my library at CSU Northridge has joined leading libraries around the country in directly linking our cataloged journal records to online electronic journal articles.

To catch you up, the UIAS (Unified Information Access Systems) project discussed in the 1997 column has been renamed Pharos. Pharos was envisioned as a Web-based service that provides integrated access to a full range of library resources, including a system-wide union catalog, other library catalogs, and indexing/abstracting and full-text databases. When complete the Z39.50 compliant Pharos gateway should perform "broadcasts" that integrate electronic journal content with multiple database searches. (Ameritech Library Systems won the bidding for the project. Ameritech itself was recently sold to investors who changed its name to epixtech.)

As with most large and complex systems, bringing Pharos up and making it as robust and fully functional as envisioned has taken considerably longer than planned. Currently it is projected that the system will be fully functional in June 2000. Scattered campuses in the CSU system use it now, but most plan to wait for more reliable functionality before on-campus implementation. A number of issues concerning the consistency of the information have slowed down systems implementation on the campus level.

JACC Electronic Journals

The second column on CSU activities discussed the California State University Journal Access Core Collection (JACC), which specified the journal titles CSU wanted to access electronically. The 2-year project culminated in a list of nearly 1,300 titles. Journals on the JACC list were selected from titles for which 15 or more of CSU's 21 campus libraries subscribed to in print.

EBSCO Subscription Services won the bid on the RFP. The number of subscriptions from the list has dwindled to a mere 388. The decline in numbers resulted from a combination of factors, including lack of electronic availability or high costs for electronic formats. It became obvious that the half-million dollars allocated to the project would not nearly fund all the electronic subscriptions desired. To meet the budget, it was decided that subscriptions costing over $500 would be cut. This eliminated many of the more expensive science journals from the core collection.

JACC electronic subscriptions purchased by CSU system members should become part of the electronic databases available through Pharos when it comes to the campuses. The integration of the two projects will extend the Pharos interface to available electronic journals. Ultimately, end users will benefit from this project by having titles with easy-to-access full text readily available. Users will be able to access the full text either by browsing the OPAC for journals and linking through tables of contents or by searching indexing and abstracting databases and linking from citations found.

In the meantime, several developments occurring outside the CSU system also helped to enable the CSU Northridge campus to link directly from its catalog to electronic journals. EBSCO Subscription Services developed two new products: EBSCOhost and EBSCO Online. In addition, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) Policy Committee, an international cataloging initiative led by the Library of Congress, charged its Standing Committee on Automation's Task Group on Journals in Aggregator Databases to investigate providing records to identify full-text electronic journals acquired in aggregator databases. EBSCO participated in this endeavor as well.

EBSCOhost and EBSCO Online

EBSCO announced EBSCOhost and EBSCO Online early in 1999. Visitors to EBSCO's Web site [http://www.ebsco.com] can view a list of publishers and titles available through EBSCO Online, the electronic journals service from EBSCO Subscription Services. [Click on "Electronic Journals" and then "Complete List of EBSCO Online Journals."] According to the EBSCO Web site, "EBSCOhost is an online reference system accessible via the World Wide Web or Internet connection. The system offers access to more than 60 proprietary and licensed [third-party] databases. These databases provide a variety of full text articles from a diverse group of publishers, as well as indexing and abstracting information from thousands of publications."

A key feature on EBSCO Online is the ability to search across journal content regardless of publisher. Administrative features enable librarians to manage a dynamic electronic journal collection, order new electronic journals, and track usage. EBSCO Online handles authentication, so customers do not have to deal with the problems of keeping up with multiple URLs, usernames, and passwords. Administrators can choose from a variety of authentication methods to accommodate access depending on user community needs. Currently more than 2,800 journals are available via EBSCO Online, with new titles added regularly.

Citations in proprietary databases available through EBSCO now link to full-text articles available via EBSCOhost and EBSCO Online. Customers can use EBSCOhost to search against their favorite indexing and abstracting databases. Database results will appear as usual. However, if a citation references a publication to which a customer has access through EBSCO Online, an icon indicating the link to the full text will appear as part of the search results. The new link creates a seamless interface for electronic journals, from indexing and abstracting services through to full text.

"We chose to focus on links from databases to full-text articles first," said John Fitts, vice president and general manager of EBSCO's Information Systems and Services department. "Our customers are driving our priorities, and links from indexing and abstracting databases to full text are in high demand." According to Oliver Pesch, chief technical officer for EBSCO Publishing, "This link signifies a major advancement for customers of our licensed databases that traditionally do not provide full text. The link, coupled with the previously existing 'Local Holdings' feature, allows EBSCOhost to go beyond mere identification of resources by facilitating access--the next logical step in the research process.

EBSCO Online customers who also subscribe to aggregated full-text databases on EBSCOhost can use the EBSCO Online interface to browse tables of contents for these journals and retrieve the full text. "This feature will further expand EBSCO Online's value as a central access point for all of the library's electronic journal holdings," Fitts added. Eventually the services will be tightly integrated with seamless access to all information to which a customer subscribes, regardless of the service in which research begins. Such enhancements will allow EBSCO to offer customers a true "one-stop" location for electronic information.

With the release of EBSCO Online in January 1999, the first step of the integration process began. EBSCO Online can now display the status of forthcoming and missing issues on the "Journal Homepage," along with descriptive comments. This helps users know why they can't find something they seek.

EBSCO Online now displays the "Linking URL" for journals offered on the site, allowing the user to link directly to a specific journal's home page on the service without having to search or browse to find the journal. The user can copy and paste the URLs into their own Web pages or OPAC to set up direct linking. URLs display almost everywhere a journal's name is located, e.g., on all the TOCs and article pages. Alternate content formats allow users to retrieve content in whatever formats the publisher may offer. For example, Catchword now offers content in both PDF and RealPage formats.

EBSCO has to work closely with publishers to make the links happen. Some publishers are more willing than others. Publishers have to feel that there would be continuing revenue for them to want to work with EBSCO on this matter.

When EBSCO won the JACC award, the company offered all CSU libraries access to a number of additional electronic journals through EBSCOhost's Academic Search Elite for the course of the JACC project and at a price too good for the library at CSU Northridge to pass up. About 16 of the 21 CSU campus libraries added the EBSCOhost subscriptions.

EBSCO Publishing Supports PCC Policy Committee's Task Group

The Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) Policy Committee charged the Standing Committee on Automation's Task Group on Journals in Aggregator Databases to investigate and make recommendations for a useful, cost-effective, and timely way to provide records that identified full-text electronic journals acquired in aggregator databases. EBSCO Publishing (EBSCO) participates in this endeavor to provide "proof of concept" by implementing the recommendations into a record set that members of the group can load and test. In the course of this project, EBSCO Publishing works in conjunction with the Task Group by culling sets of MARC records that represent the journals in their databases. The CONSER records for the corresponding print journals are available for download from EBSCO at no charge.

This project is in response to the needs of today's libraries identified by the Task Group. A recent survey of librarians in PCC libraries revealed that a large majority wanted records in their catalogs matched with the full-text journals available electronically EBSCO Publishing has also lent the Task Group developmental expertise. [For the final report of the Task Group, go to http://lcweb.loc.gov/catdir/pcc/aggfinal.html.]

CSU Northridge's Implementation

CSU Northridge's librarians did not feel that Pharos was ready for implementation on our campus in the Fall of 1999. CSUN's Cataloging Coordinator, Jina Wakimoto, did not want to wait to implement Academic Search Elite records until Pharos was ready. Since CSUN had already started paying for the online subscriptions, making them accessible quickly became a high priority. In addition, we already spent a lot of staff time maintaining a separate electronic journal list [http://library.csun.edu/techserv/eltrnjls.html], which we considered -- at best -- an interim solution. Staff time would be better spent integrating URL information into catalog records.

The JACCRFP had requested the provision of MARC records for all the journals we received. CSUN chose not to use the original print record version of the catalog. We contacted EBSCO in early October 1999 and expressed interest in the MARC record sets. EBSCO provided us with access to the FTP site containing the US MARC/CONSER records for print versions of the journals. CSUN Library Systems Administrator, Eric Willis, retrieved the file using FTP and loaded the records onto the Geac Advance system. The Geac system provides for the creation of a load profile to define the treatment of incoming bibliographic records.

We stripped out the EBSCO title number and matched the entries in the file against our current catalog using ISSNs. Records that did not match were new titles and written directly into the main database. Matching records went into a cataloging work file with a notation that the records came from EBSCO. Our systems administrator suggested creating a subset of our catalog comprising only the electronic journals. These records appear in the main catalog as well. The subset included not only EBSCO records, but also other electronic journal subscriptions we hold, including those from the American Chemical Society Web edition and JSTOR.

Several very important decisions were made. First, the library's central catalog had to be the source of access to titles, just as for everything else in our library. We would take the single composite record approach, when we had a title in various formats, but a separate record approach when we only have the title available electronically.

The immediate goal was to load these records into our database and make them available to our users. We would solve any problems after we had the records loaded. We also needed to add the library's holdings to these records. Initial procedures were written and tested by Jina Wakimoto, Mary Woodley, and Gina Hsiung. Once we had tested and adjusted the procedures, we notified Eric Willis, our indispensable systems administrator, to load the complete set of EBSCO records. At a meeting of the technical services staff, we notified everyone of the project and looked for volunteers to work on the project. Volunteer staff helped make sure the URLs taken from the EBSCO records were attached to each of the existing records. Once we had integrated all the URLs into our existing records, the systems administrator created a subset catalog that listed only electronic journals. [To take a look at what we offer, check out our library Web page at http://library.csun.edu/cgi/web/geac.html.]

Future Steps

The last missing component, scheduled for completion by the time you read this article, is the direct link into the Web site. EBSCO has to work these direct links out with the publishers.

This whole complex process demonstrated to me, again, the need for librarians to work with their vendors and systems administrators in order to succeed. California State University Northridge, is fortunate to have a talented and dedicated staff committed to finding a better way to access electronic journals and fortunate also that the CSU system and, in particular, the Council of Library Directors, has had the insight and courage to forge new ground with Pharos and JACC. I should also say that EBSCO Subscription Services has shown incredible dedication to working with their librarian customers and with publishers. Only by all of us working together can we all succeed.

Special Thanks: At Northridge we've had the privilege to work with Kittie Henderson of EBSCO, who has labored long and hard on the JACC project throughout the CSU system. She also provided me with help in producing this column, for which a special thanks goes out.


(1.) Helfer, Doris Small. "Making Digital Collection Development a Reality: The CSU JACC Project," Searcher: The Magazine for Database Professionals, May 1999, vol. 7, no. 5, pp. 57-59.

(2.) Helfer, Doris Small. "The Trend in Academia: One-Stop Shopping for Students," Searcher: The Magazine for Database Professionals, November/December 1997. vol. 5, no. 10, pp. 12-15.