"I certainly never write a review about a book I don't think worth reviewing, a flat-out bad book, unless it's an enormously fashionable bad book." --
says, John Gardner in Conversations with John Gardner
Quoted from 'Dictionary of Library and Information Science Quotations'     Edited by Mohamed Taher & L S Ramaiah. ISBN: 8185689423 (New Delhi , Aditya, 1994) p.150. Available @ Amazon.com

Monday, November 02, 2009

Reading now: Usage Statistics of E-Serials

Managing tight budgets, finding right service providers, selecting compatible-and-standardized tools to handle e-serials (data, access, licensing, technical support and usage statistics), motivating staff to adapt to the changing dynamics of e-librarianship, and finally meeting maximum user needs are all the crucial issues of today’s libraries. And for such a scenario here is a book--by David Fowler, presently Head Acquisitions Department, University of Oregon Libraries--as a resource, that helps in moving ahead in some of the significant areas of handling e-serials.

Incidentally, in the context of e-serials, cost (be it as single subscription or consortial bundles), purchasing decisions, library budgets, staff experience and exposure, and most importantly tools (especially,Issues with standardization of usage statistics) are all directly related to available and standardized tools for a ROI both for libraries, and information suppliers (aka information service providers). A few relevant questions, this reviewer can think, that are faced in dealing with e-serials’ usage data include:
a. What type and level of data do libraries want or expect in selecting / de-selecting e-serials (as discussed on p. 261)?

b. Is the supplier collecting legitimate numbers and facts and revealing this as-is to libraries (as discussed on p. 233)?

c. If data indicates a low use of a particular title (as discussed on p. 154, 220), does it mean first that the user is not in-need or otherwise unaware of ways and means to find it, or second, the library lacks a mechanism to create user-friendly gateway (especially the e-resources that may need a different path than what is required for a traditional print), or third there is a communication gap, in other words: lack of semantic synchronization (information seeking behavior matching with information provision)?

d. Is there a relationship between libraries using e-serials (be it on a stand-alone or consortial arrangement) in dealing with—transactions for instance, such as, a) Interlibrary loans, and b) document delivery-- and its impact on collection development / collection management?

e. Advantages and disadvantages of deriving usage statistics from local library management software (as discussed on p. 111), vis-à-vis supplier delivered metrics?

f. Shared-purchase and shared responsibility (as discussed on p. 43) is one size fits-for-all or requires customization by subjects / geography (e.g, Cancer library on p. 183; National Laboratory on p. 151; and Connecticut Academic Libraries, p. 79)? and

g. Electronic Resource Management (ERM) (as discussed on pp. 8, 130, and 252) is one part of the information management solution, but how about integrating a stand-alone resource and looking for an interface with enterprise content management (ECM) system?
While the above hypotheses are a good fit for a new book, and comparative librarianship always looks for such Web analytics, however, Usage Statistics of E-Serials addresses only a few of these concerns, issues and matrixes.

Usage Statistics of E-Serials, lacks a glossary of terms, such as, e-metircs (specifically in relation to web-metrics, librametrics, infometrics, etc.), usage (online, offline, and other modes of distribution permitted / adopted by libraries or end-users), access (in-house, campus wide, remote), tools (local, global, library vendor-supplied, publisher / service-provider supplied), techniques (standard, local), etc.

Further, the book lacks a conclusion. Any reader of a book on statistics is keen on finding an authoritative summary of all that is discussed in the book. For instance, a reader is left with no last word or opinion or ways to know if the editor agrees (fully, partially or not-at-all) with one of the author’s in this collection: ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Usage Statistics: What's a Librarian to Do?’

Thematically speaking, the utility of the book would have been far more if it was focused on fewer themes or about any specific libraries. In this day of constantly changing dynamics, this book planned in 2004, data collected in 2006 (most cited references are pre-2006), published in 2007, today presents a little dated stories.

Hopefully the editor may consider a (qualitative and quantitative) sequel that is also inclusive of both vertical (within a library system: systematically analyzing budget, user needs, subject specialization, staff—generalists and specialists--storage, retention and deletion) and horizontal (across libraries on the above lines) usage statistics of e-serials .

Nevertheless, I recommend Usage Statistics of E-Serials as a useful resource for serials librarians and those involved in serials management in libraries.

On the same shelf:

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