Posted by: Steven Harris | February 15, 2009

ER&L Summary

City of Angels
Electronic Resources & Libraries Conference, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, February 9-12.
Conference Schedule
Presentation Abstracts

This was a really great conference. It was like a continuous feast of thoughtful presentations about eresources. For me, the main point of the conference was that electronic resources have become the most significant part of our work and our collections, but that we have yet to fully mainstream and normalize processes and procedures for these materials. This is a summary of the sessions I attended. Some of this is rather brief and shorthand. You had to be there!

ER&L/UCLA Library’s ER&L Attendee Welcome Reception, Fowler Museum, UCLA:
Mu shu chicken, interesting photos in the museum of the “marsh Arabs” of Iraq. Met with a couple of Twitter friends.

Welcome and Opening Session with Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Goodman, PhD candidate, UC Berkeley’s Information School:
Goodman’s remarks dealt primarily with doing interesting social things with library user data: creating a display with a dynamic, real-time cloud of searches done in the library catalog, or helping users of the same book meet up (with permission of course). Digital collections allow libraries to be more flexible.

In Perpetuity: Institutional and Implementation Challenges with Electronic Resources Librarianship: a survey of library staffing and treatment of electronic resources.
UC Irvine librarians conducted a survey to get a picture of how eresources are managed in libraries. A typical library has 3-5 staff working on eresource management. Library staff impressions of the most significant problems were discussed.

Shelflessness as a Virtue: Preserving serendipity in an electronic reference collection:
Librarians at U. Manitoba worked to develop a system for displaying and discovering reference ebooks that looks more like Amazon. Seems like making the OPAC do this work would be more effective, rather than keeping reference ebooks as a separate population.

Migrating Digital Collections:
Iowa librarians talked about moving digital objects from one platform to another within a digital archives environment. A lot of this migration involves moving metadata. They presented some interesting ways of manipulating data within a spreadsheet.

Holistic Budgeting to Improve Electronic Resources and Services:
Speakers talked about basing budgets exclusively on faculty size within academic departments. Formats are not part of the allocation formula. Subject librarians can spend their money however they like on journals, databases, books. This approach is good initially, but it seems to me that each year more and more money is committed to continuing resources and therefore not subject to flexibility.

Ubiquitous computing
Creating and maximizing the use of usage stats:
Presenters from ASU talked about creating usage reports and displaying them on webpages for subject librarians to use.  Some sophisticated methods of generating web pages from Excel files that I didn’t quite follow.

Ebooks: From Collection Development to Collection Evaluation:
An interesting general discussion of the issues involved in ebook collection development. Many book vendors can now mainstream ebooks into the same processes as print books. Libraries are also trying to mainstream ebooks. It is difficult, however, to evaluate ebooks in the same manner as print books: a click and a circulation are different. Some libraries see that an ebook increases the circulation of a print copy. (If you can afford both!) A publisher in the audience suggested that downloadable/checkout model for ebooks that would be compatible with mobile readers might mean single copy/single user for libraries, instead of unlimited simultaneous users.

Open Source ILS Panel:
Representatives of open source products talked about the promise of this kind of development. Karen Schneider (Evergreen) said 1980s-1990s was a dark age of librarians taking part in systems development. We left the field to commercial developers. Tim McGeary says the Ole project looks to determine the needs for open source technical processing modules (not the OPAC). Developing an actually system will come later. Karen Schneider wondered why this development project could not have worked with available open source systems. Make THOSE better. Rather than start an entirely new project. Andrew Nagy talked about Vufind as a discovery layer for various collections. Nagy is now working for Serials Solutions on the Summon product.

Implementing Enduser-based Acquisition of Streaming Video: The Arizona Model for FMG On Demand.
A user-driven acquisitions model for media materials was discussed. Media publishers are especially leary of this kind of access. What number of uses constitutes a purchase? Is simply clicking on an item the same as USING it? After items were purchased, the libraries then owned a copy that resided on their own server. This model makes a lot of materials available to users, but only requires the library to purchase what gets used.

Me & Bruin2009’s eBook Think Tank:
Interesting and well-attended discussion of ebooks. Everybody wants them but nobody likes them. They were described as on the runway but not taking off yet.

Lightning Talks:
I presented a (5 minute) lightening talk about how the digital library world is divided into different realms for librarians in eresource management, social media, software and standards development, and digital archives. These realms don’t seem to talk with one another very much. What can we do to move people out of the comfort zones and into communicating with other areas more? No good solutions.

Confronting eShock: Electronic Resource Management and Organizational Change:
Presentation by me, Rebecca Lubas, and Laura Calderone about how implementing change in electronic resource management presents problems that are largely organizational. People need to be given ownership of the process in order to make them more comfortable with the change. It is rarely about techno stress or information overload. More about empowerment.

Getting to Know You: A Model for Re-integrating Print and Electronic Workflow:
Richard Jasper gave a very funny presentation about the strife that can develop when merging separate units together. He also suggested that communication and ownership were important for success. His presentation was much like ours, but he had more questions from the audience. Touched a chord more than we did.

Rebecca, Laura, and I lead a discussion that started from our presentation about eshock but went on to some interesting areas of eresource management.

Zotero mobileElectronic Resources To Go:
This was my favorite session of the whole conference. (I wonder why?)  The speakers talked about various tools designed to enable users on mobile devices to access library content. They pointed out the irony of the desk-top computer screen becoming larger as more and more people access the Internet on cellphone-sized screens. Irvine libraries are actually creating catalog records for some of the products they offer or that are available freely to mobile phone users. I learned about a mobile-friendly version of the Zotero bibliographic software.

Managing freely available e-resource collections with today’s vendor provided OpenURL knowledgebases: A challenge in quality control.
The speakers pointed out that free, open access, & creative commons license are completely different concepts. They spoke primarily about managing open access journals through ERM products like Serials Solutions and SFX. They surveyed other libraries about the use of free resources. The quality of linking is a major issue. DOAJ and Highwire were the most frequently activated free collections.

Closing Session with Keynote Speaker Ivy Anderson, Director of Collections, California Digital Library:
Ivy Anderson brings a vast amount of knowledge to bear in discussing the role of electronic resources in libraries. Eresources are actually a small number of the titles available in libraries, but account for a large portion of uses. She pointed out that library budgets as a percentage of campus expenditures (for ARL libraries) has declined significantly since the 1980s. Universities are spending less (relatively) on libraries. We are still in a stage of experimentation with eresources. “Throw something against the wall and see if it sticks.” Eresources problems we haven’t solved yet: systems, workflows, redundancies, scalability (especially for licensing).

Other observations:

UCLA Powell LibraryI made a brief visit to the UCLA Powell Library. Very nice public spaces and architecture.

The micro-blogging service Twitter was in full force at the conference. Many people I only knew on Twitter were there. It was fun to meet them in person. Twitter is becoming an interesting tool employed at conferences. Attendees can post running commentary about the sessions they experience. They often use #hashtags to flag posts about a particular topic, or, in this case, a particular conference. This makes them easier to find and group together. At this conference the main tags were #ERL and #ERL09. The Twitter commentary becomes a conference or unconference in itself.

One session I didn’t attend, but saw interesting Tweets about was by Vicky Reich (of LOCKSS fame). She seemed to suggest that the “just in time” model of collecting that libraries have been moving toward for the past 20 years is perhaps a mistake in bad economic times. If we are relying on someone else to preserve and maintain our collections, we might be caught with nothing, should those other bodies have a catastrophic failure. Having control of our electronic collections (as with LOCKSS) is the best approach. I’m not sure I buy this argument. Perhaps more blogging about it later.

Single snarky comment: better transportation!


  1. Just dropping by.Btw, you website have great content!

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