Electronic Resources Communications Management: A Strategy for Success
Feather, Celeste, Library Resources & Technical Services
Communications in the workflow of electronic resources (e-resources) acquisitions and management are complex and numerous. The work of acquiring and managing e-resources is hampered by the lack of best practices, standards, and adequate personal information management software. The related communications reflect these inadequacies. An e-resource management communications analysis at The Ohio State University Libraries revealed the underlying structure of the communication network and areas that could be improved in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. E-resources management must be responsive to the high expectations of users and other library staff. Efficient management of the related communications network increases the likelihood of a productive and successful operation.
As more resources become available in digital format and their acquisition and maintenance increase in complexity, the management of these resources in academic libraries demands greater attention. In a 2005 article, Cole described the complexities that those who manage electronic resources (e-resources) face on a daily basis. (1) The communication network related to e-resources management also is complex. As libraries face the question of how to provide more services with fewer resources, administrators often expect e-resources acquisition units to manage more resources with fewer staff than their peer print acquisition units. Communications about e-resources management therefore are key to efficient and effective processing. An informal audit of the communication network in the e-resources unit at The Ohio State University (OSU) Libraries indicated that communications can be structured to create a more efficient operation.
The "any time any place" characteristics of e-resources create high expectations for acquisitions and access. E-resources are expensive and complex to acquire and maintain. When access or availability problems arise, users clamor for information and expect timely responses. The staff of most large libraries are not certain who performs which role in an e-resources unit. Users and staff sometimes believe that an e-resource problem will be addressed more quickly if more people know about the issue and so deluge those who manage these resources with communications, mostly via e-mail. Coping with this e-mail overload and performing complex electronic multitasking reduces staff productivity. E-resources management systems are being developed to improve productivity, but effective software that relates e-resource records, e-mail, text files, and project management work is not yet available. Creating software with such functionality and establishing best practices could dramatically improve the efficiency and productivity of those who manage e-resources.
At OSU Libraries, one librarian and two library staff members are directly responsible for acquiring and managing e-resources. The e-resources unit in which these individuals work is a section within the Serials and Electronic Resources Department. The e-resources unit works closely with a librarian in the Information Technology Department, who serves as a liaison to the public services staff. This information technology position manages product trials, compiles usage statistics, manages the proxy server, contributes local information to the consortial link resolver product, and provides direct end-user support and troubleshooting in the use of e-resources. The e-resources unit staff in the Serials and Electronic Resources Department process all requests for e-resource purchases and renewals. They negotiate licenses, set up access to the resources, perform copy cataloging, manage the e-resources management module of the Millennium integrated library system from Innovative Interfaces, manage the A-Z e-journal list and MARC records profile with a third party vendor system, and troubleshoot access problems. More than half the e-resources at OSU are obtained through consortial licenses. …