Monday, August 11, 2014

Electronic Resource Management

As a reference librarian, my focus is on instruction, reference, collection development, and faculty research. I have honed my skills in these areas, and I am excited to start learning about other aspects of law librarianship. As a law librarian, it is important to be well-rounded and understand how the various facets work together to provide the best end-user experience.

One of those facets is the management of electronic resources. It's safe to say that most law-library patrons prefer electronic access to resources. And most libraries are transitioning from print to digital. With the continued push toward digital, it is a challenge to keep track of access rights, licensing information, statistics, renewal date, proxy information, and the vendor contact information for the multitude of databases.

Electronic resource management (ERM) is complex because "unlike their print counterparts, e-resources may be accessed via a diverse array of data formats, delivery systems and interfaces. They may be acquired individually or as part of packages, and can be sourced direct from providers or indirectly through aggregator services. Pricing models and licensing terms for e-resources are legally intricate and largely non-standard. E-resources also entail administrative activities not applicable to print resources, including the management of user authentications, trial subscriptions, contractual restrictions, archival and preservation issues, and technical troubleshooting." 

This information is all pertinent for a library to run seamlessly and provide an efficient end-user experience. My library uses an in-house Excel spreadsheet to manage electronic resources. And I consult this spreadsheet often to evaluate sources for collection development and to enforce licensing agreements when I am working with students, faculty, and public patrons.

Smaller libraries may be able to use an in-house solution, but third-party providers have created software to help manage electronic resources. One particular module is Innovative Interfaces, Inc.'s ERM module. This module provides a template to enter all of the pertinent e-resource information. It works with the integrated library system to provide a seamless end-user experience and allows a library to easily track its e-resources.

Understanding ERM ensures that a law librarian is better able to provide instruction and reference services. It is very important that when working with particular e-resources, a reference librarian understands the access and licensing restrictions - for example, can this resource be used for document delivery or interlibrary loan?

ERM also makes it easier to perform proactive collection development. ERM allows a librarian to run usage stats and cost per search information for the various e-resources. The collection development librarian can then evaluate the e-resource and determine if it is valuable to the library's collection. If the librarian determines that the e-resource is valuable for curriculum purposes but the e-resource is not seeing a lot of use, the librarian can work to promote the e-resource to the patrons. 

This is an exciting new area to learn, and it is making me a better librarian. 

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