Main conclusions from this session:

  • ERM to save the world (part 2)?
  • e.g. reducing burden of holdings database maintenance, and improving efficacy of processes drawing on that data
  • libraries need to act like a business (part 2)
    • marketing of library's value/services is necessary to protect budget/jobs
    • refocus available resources to use them more effectively
    • e.g. consider the article as the unit, not the journal, within a collection
  • agents to take on wider role (part 2)
    • e.g. informing libraries of title/publisher changes; activating and troubleshooting online access
    Mieko Yamaguchi is now back in the front-line of e-journal administration following Bangor University's famous (infamous?) decision to lose 8 of its 12 librarians last year. In her presentation (view slides – .pps), Mieko traced the recent history of Bangor's periodicals collection, from e-access for £10 per publisher per year in 1996 (under the terms of NESLi's predecessor, the Periodicals Site Licence Initiative), through a move to e-only and back again (2001–2004; reverting to e+print for VAT reasons), configuration of a link resolver in 2003 (and hopes that a forthcoming ERM implementation will help with holdings database maintenance), and finally to 2005, when Bangor began licensing individual titles for the first time (all previous access being purchased via NESLi, other big deals, or backfile deals).

    Mieko provided some food for thought re. marketing of libraries and their services, when she mentioned that Bangor had not publicised the implementation of their link resolver (believing it should be transparent to users) but that, in retrospect, this may have undermined their perceived value to users/funding bodies – and perhaps informed the funding body's decision to axe those 8 librarian jobs.

    Mieko suggested that, since e-subscriptions are generally not purchased at list price (and instead reflect several parameters e.g. JISC banding, FTE, off-site access requirements, past value of print subscriptions etc.), libraries should in future negotiate the terms of their licence directly with publishers, but order and pay through agents. She supported Rick Anderson's premise that agents could take on more troubleshooting, and suggested also that they should be responsible for activating library access [Ingenta plug: I think we are unique in enabling agents to do this via our agent activation program].

    Following a question about Bangor's users' opinions of the shift from print to e-only, Mieko made an interesting (to me – probably obvious to most serials librarians!) distinction between students, "who think print doesn't exist", and academics, who favour specific journals and are not particularly bothered about format.

    Indiana University's Julie Bobay is a captivating speaker whose treatment of the theme (view slides – .pps) incorporated a perspicacious overview of US collection trends over the last 50 years. Collection development in the noughties, Julie suggested, is like "gopher-bashing" (I don't think I was the only member of the audience grateful for Julie's explanation/illustration of this term!), with potential problems continually popping up all over the place which require fast, focussed attention to resolve.

    Today's libraries are hybrid libraries
    , part of the global digital library and no longer defined by their local collections. Whilst users have increasingly varied needs and expectations, the market place and associated procedures are less certain – and budgets are tight. Julie came up with some great quotations to indicate how libraries feel about their current role; my favourite was from Mark Sandler (Collection Development Officer at the University of Michigan): "Hopelessly lost, but making good time".

    Julie further cited Sandler's description of librarianship as a team sport, where decisions are not binary/straightforward but include many variables e.g. what to get free, what to license, what to build, and what to do cooperatively. Collections should be redefined for an e-world where the unit is increasingly the *article* not the *journal*; libraries need to operate at a more granular level, and projects like the JISC-sponsored TOCRoSS are a step in the right direction. TOCRoSS is a collaboration between a publisher, a library software supplier and a university library; as a community, we need to collaborate more – for example, to track OA articles and decide how libraries could best incorporate these in their collections.

    Right now, however, the journal is the main guarantor of quality and there is no reliable alternative to ascertain the credibility of "free-floating" articles – plus, libraries will need to re-focus resource in order to start cataloguing/controlling access at article level. (I think it was Gordon Burridge of Southampton University who made an interesting point at this juncture, suggesting that pricing could move to a phone-company model, with a flat fee (line-rental) topped up by fees per article used (call charges).)