Top 10 Trends at the 2019 Electronic Resources and Libraries (ER&L) Conference

March 25, 2019 Claire O'Neill

“This isn’t just about the money; it’s about what we are getting back from it, and how it moves us forward in some way.”

At this year’s Electronic Resources and Libraries (ER&L) Conference, librarians voiced ongoing concerns over ubiquitous issues like budget cuts, technology impediments, the difficulty of student and faculty outreach, collection development challenges and user experience roadblocks.

However, discussions also highlighted librarians’ agency and desire to meet challenges head-on.

“If we’re disheartened by what we’re seeing, we actually have the ability to change it.”

Check out the top ten trends from ER&L 2019:

1. Libraries Are Eager to Support Open Access Initiatives 

“If you’re a research institution, you’re looking at trying to make the scholarship on your campus available to the rest of the world.”

Open Access (OA) research is a growing part of the overall scholarly literature, with potential benefits including expanding collections, unlimited access, dissemination of knowledge and greater visibility for libraries.

“It’s not a matter of if, but when,” Peter McCracken of Cornell University reminded session listeners. Depending on their size, research output and faculty collaboration, libraries are able to help to support this idea of making research open and accessible.

How? McCracken, along with Portland State’s Jill Emery, shared tips on how to incorporate open access management into the framework most electronic resources librarians are familiar with: investigation, procurement and licensing, implementation, troubleshooting, assessment, and preservation.

“Right now, it’s kind of an open field and an open market to explore and think about different deals with publishers with respect to Open Access,” McCracken observed.

Now that the inevitability of OA within our academic community has been fully realized, librarians are experimenting with different practices and preferences to discover how best to incorporate OA into their institutions and collections.

2. How Do We Deal with Sci-Hub?

“It’s a disruption to the entire scholarly publishing research cycle.”

Sci-Hub continued to be a topic of concern at this year’s ER&L Conference, with wide recognition that it’s not just a publisher problem, but rather a disruption to the scholarly publishing research cycle.

“No matter how you feel about it personally, it’s still an illegal site,” Linda Farrell from Monash University pointed out. “People need to be careful with their information.”

PSI Ltd. founder Andrew Pitts weighed in, as well. “They’re not just taking PDFs; the same credentials are being used to hack into different parts of library systems – personal research, patents, credit cards, social security numbers, etc. They want it all.”

When attacks do come, it’s important to have a firm process in place with specific individuals to contact to ensure that the appropriate accounts are quickly protected or blocked. Working with publishers to create narrow IP intrusion or using methods like dual authentication, are also recommended.

3. Librarians Are Helping Publishers and Vendors Understand Their Needs

“Getting to know the institution you are marketing electronic resources to - the culture, strengths and programs - is essential to success on both ends of the spectrum,” Laurel Sammonds Crawford (University of North Texas) and Allyson Wind (East Stroudsburg University) remarked during their session about resource trial management.

What better way to understand the needs of librarians than to learn directly from them?

Crawford and Wind shared, “Differences in librarian and vendor/publisher expectations result in a disconnect. Communication and curricular match are critical.” They then offered insight into the trial process on the librarian end, with advice for publishers on how to optimize the experience.

On a lighter note, one of the most popular sessions of the event, “Family Feud: Publishers vs. Vendors…Who Knows Librarians Better?” was a hit, as publishers and vendors were playfully pitted against each other to demonstrate their knowledge of librarians’ needs, preferences, and greatest pet-peeves.

4. Libraries Need to Adapt as Publishers Comply with Industry Standards

In a constant effort to be industry-compliant and offer more efficient processes, publishers and vendors are delivering updated program releases to the library’s doorstep.

One notable development concerns usage statistics, the metric most consistently used by libraries to understand and communicate the value of their journal subscriptions.

Project COUNTER announced a new release known as COUNTER 5 or R5 to make usage statistics easier for publishers to provide in a standardized fashion. As with any new rollout and development, some confusion still exists as librarians prepare to adopt the update and the changes (such as the lack of OA content in reports) that will be included.

5. Publishers Are Increasingly Striving to Adopt a More Customer-Centric Approach.

Publishers and vendors rely on essential customer insights to understand librarians’ needs, challenges and priorities. As we continue to move through a time of unprecedented change for academia, supporting the dialogue of feedback is more important than ever.

Publishers and vendors alike are working to develop clearer understandings of library customers’ needs, challenges and priorities to inform strategic decision-making and directly improve customer satisfaction. From researcher and library, advisory boards to direct interviews and surveys, publishers and vendors are constantly looking for more ways to infuse customer insights into the development and improvement of products and services.

6. Getting a Hold on Your Holdings

Almost all academic libraries use vendor knowledgebases to perform general electronic resource management tasks such as determining entitlement access or augmenting content discovery. These global knowledgebases (KBs) require content providers to provide title lists to library solutions vendors, who create specific collections for librarians to evaluate, which can often be a confusing and frustrating process. Holdings management is hard work, and workflows vary by user needs and library resources.

In the face of this frustration, publishers and vendors are collaborating to make a more seamless knowledgebase experience for librarians. In one session, Matthew Ragucci (Wiley), Joanna Voss (OhioLINK) and Stephanie Doellinger (OCLC) teamed up to offer perspectives on knowledgebase collaboration processes.

While publishers are focusing on improving communication with stakeholders to streamline the process and collaborating with libraries to help optimize the KB experience, vendors and libraries also have their own practices for maximizing workflow efficiency. The key objective is to optimize the discovery to delivery experience for library users.

While there is still work to be done, vendors, publishers and librarians are making significant headway towards simplifying and regulating the KB process.

7. Ongoing Training is Essential to Meeting Researchers’ Needs

“We use and teach discovery all the time, but we are less knowledgeable than we should be.”

Discovery services are everywhere, but few users, both internal and external, have ever been fully trained on what they are or how to use them effectively. Rachael Cohen, Meg Galasso and Angie Pusnik of Indiana University tackled this issue and explained how they implemented an instructional plan for discovery services.

“We need to move toward a model that routinely connects research with practice and vice versa to build reciprocal value with our users and meet them where they are,” Pusnik explained. In response, IU librarians implemented a portal with information on product updates, bugs and workarounds, tutorials, content, links and content training.

While librarians and student employees successfully undergo training, faculty are next on deck. Through hands-on workshops, quizzes, challenges and demos, internal and external users at IU are demonstrating that being knowledgeable about discovery services positively influences the research environment at the institutional level.

8. Authentication Remains a Pain Point for Librarians and End Users

Even though solutions have been developed to assist with authentication roadblocks, remote access has continued to plague researchers.

Resource Access for the 21st Century (RA21) is a joint STM and NISO initiative working to improve streamlined access while protecting user privacy by improving responses to abuse scenarios. For example, publishers could disable a single user account instead of blocking an entire campus’s IP address.

Despite a mutual acknowledgment of remote access challenges, many librarians remain skeptical of a solution that could allow user data to fall into the wrong hands or be exploited for commercial gain.

Despite ongoing debate as to the best options for improving authentication, RA21 has significant buy-in from key stakeholders and are moving closer to implementation.

9. Librarians Need Help Too, And That’s OK.

“Knowing who to ask for the answer is just as effective as knowing the answer.”

Despite changing roles and new technologies, librarians are expected to be the “gatekeepers of knowledge” and experts on a variety of complex systems. But what if it’s not that simple? In a profession revolving around knowledge and information, it’s important sometimes to take a step back and acknowledge shortcomings to promote growth.

In the session “Being an Effective Liaison as a Technical Services Librarian,” Elizabeth Lightfoot (Florida International University) and Alice Eng (Wake Forest University) discussed the recent shift in focus away from engagement and outreach to scholarly research, technology and emerging formats and markets in their roles as liaisons. The spoke on the challenges of balancing their time, achieving outreach when deskbound and finding the confidence to handle new demands and stressors.

“Set boundaries early and often, look for mentors everywhere, ask questions and put yourself out there,” Lightfoot advised, “because it’s okay to need help and be unsure if you’re willing to learn.”

10. Information Is Power.

Above all else, the discussions at ER&L 2019 highlighted the importance of information and the need to leverage data to make the most-informed decisions possible for each institution. Simultaneously, librarians continue to push the envelope when it comes to pursuing new opportunities to increase their value.

Transparency between librarians, publishers and vendors continues to grow with the sharing of challenges and success stories, demonstrating just how much representatives from all aspects of our industry want to work together to follow through on their commitments to their patrons and each other.

About the Author

Claire O'Neill

Library Services, Wiley //

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