Electronic Resource Management has evolved alongside Integrated Library Systems over the last decade, reaching a point today where many would agree it is a bit of a mess. A rhetorical question I posed to Gang Members Marshall Breeding and Oren Beit-Arie in this month’s show, which neither had difficult in agreeing with.
From his perspective of his market analysis on Library Technology Guides, Marshall observed how surprisingly low is the number of libraries that are purchasing ERM systems. Especially now we have reached the point that many academic libraries are spending over half of their budget on eContent, you would think that libraries would feel the need to buy systems to manage them. His view being that these tools need to be made better at managing the resources before the take up will increase
Oren, who has a long background with eContent systems, from the early days of SFX and OpenURL though his current position with Ex Libris a major supplier in this area, was an ideal Gang member to have on this show. His view was that the mess actually has two sides to it: the world of electronic publishing with it’s very messy business models, terms, delivery platforms and standards compliance; and on the other side the organisational structures within libraries and the tools that have been built to help them manage the mess. We [the industry] may need to look closely at the design of some of those systems as they may be helping to cause some of that mess.
The real question, as we have spent so long evolving in to a mess, is can we fix it or do we have to start again? It was clear from the discussion that from the library side, the approach has been at the wrong level of granularity – approaching [initially] eJournal content at the level of the Journal itself as against the article which more often than not the target of a user’s discovery exercise. This being aggravated by the approach of trying to catalogue the electronic in the same way as the physical – an article in an issue, of a volume, of a journal, on a virtual shelf. Add to this a publishing industry going through massive change, doggedly trying to preserve and protect its old business model, whilst a few forward looking publishers try to work out what will replace it – no wonder we are in a mess.
The Gang go in to some depth discussing possible ways forward, with an emerging theme that if libraries are going to be able to manage their resources efficiently, they will have to move towards treating everything in the same way. Be they books, physical journals, articles from eJournals, eBooks, papers in local repositories, data from research projects, or even associated software, libraries will need a constant way to manage all their current ‘stuff’ and the stuff we haven’t thought of yet. There will also have to be a similar change in the publishing industry to accommodate the needs of the libraries if such a move is going to be successful.
Not such a gloomy outlook as you would at first think. Some of the analysis from the OLE Project [which we discussed in last month’s show] and from the URM project from Oren’s organisation are starting to address these issues. The problem will be the few bumpy years to get us from the current unsatisfactory situation to where we want to be.
Note: Due to technical difficulties the recording quality is not as high as normal for which I apologise.