Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 2: Standards, Tools, and Other Products

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 2: Standards, Tools, and Other Products

Article excerpt


Standards, tools, and other products have emerged to assist librarians and researchers in their efforts to measure electronic resource use. This section briefly outlines vendor products available on the market as well as standards and projects that seek to improve protocols for the transfer and management of usage statistics.


With the explosion of digital resources over the past two decades, standards, tools, and other products have emerged to normalize statistics and improve protocols for transfer and management of such data. Some of these initiatives and products emerged as librarians and content providers alike worked together to paint a more accurate picture of use and usage, even if only at the most basic level. It was not so long ago that reasonably common definitions for actions such as a "session" or a "download" did not exist. Inconsistencies such as these made comparing the usage statistics available from one vendor against the statistics available from another akin to comparing apples and oranges--meaningful cross-comparison was not possible. Item elements, such as session, search, and download, were inconsistent from vendor to vendor and delivered to the librarian in any number of ways in any number of formats.

In addition to the inconsistencies in definition, delivery method, and format, at issue is the amount of time it takes for librarians to collect, collate, and archive usage statistics, particularly for libraries with large digital collections. Initially, some libraries chose to create homegrown solutions to address this issue, and later, commercial vendors emerged with products such as Scholarly Stats, Serials Solutions' 360 Counter, and modules within integrated library systems (ILS). The addition of a module to an ILS a third-party product that is interoperable with an ILS with an ILS is particularly appealing because the librarian can then merge the ILS cost data with the use data to produce another valuable metric: cost-per-use.

This chapter will be a broad introduction to the types of available standards, tools, and products. It is impossible to delve too deeply into the specifics of the standards and protocols as well as compare and contrast the effectiveness of each commercial or homegrown product. For greater analysis and technical information, visit the sites and articles in the end of chapter notes.


In 2002, in response to the messy situation usage statistics had created, there arose an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating "consistent, credible, and comparable" usage data: (1) Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources, or Project COUNTER (figure 4). COUNTER released the first code of practice in 2003. It counts among its members many major consortia, libraries, and most major publishers and content providers. This first code of practice focused on journals and databases and included definitions for variables such as full-text article, turnaways, searches, and sessions. It also specified the acceptable formats and delivery methods for usage statistics. The code blazed the trail for the inclusion of language to insist on COUNTER-compliant data in electronic resource licenses and codified what it meant to be "COUNTER-compliant."

By no means has COUNTER rested on its laurels since the first code of practice, however. Release 2 of the COUNTER code of Practice for Journals and Databases was published April 2005. These first two releases have been superseded by the Release 3 of the COUNTER Code of Practice for Journals and Databases published in August 2008. COUNTER is not exclusive to journals and databases. The board of directors, executive committee, project director, and international advisory board continually explore ways to facilitate the collection of "consistent, credible, and comparable" usage statistics. Moving beyond journal and database content, COUNTER responded with the Release 1 of the COUNTER Code of Practice for Books and Reference Works, published in March 2006. …

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