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On Feb. 1-3, Carol and I went to Austin, TX, to attend the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference (ER&L). Our original Sunday flight was cancelled due to the weather, so while everyone else was sleeping in due to campus opening late, Carol & I met at 4:00 a.m. Monday morning to head to Greensboro to catch our 6:00 a.m. flight. Our flight went to Austin by way of Detroit (somebody at Delta needs geography lessons) and featured a hearty breakfast of Biscoff cookies and soda. We ended up missing more than half of Monday’s sessions; even so, there were a lot of sessions and lots of good information.

I attended three different sessions on e-books, hoping, I suppose, for some brilliant idea or approach we could implement here. There was plenty to learn from others’ experiences, but alas no great epiphany. In one presentation, representatives from Connecticut College, Univ. of Texas at Dallas, and Duke Univ. spoke about their pilot projects with patron-driven selection of e-books. In at least 2 of the cases, there was no indication to patrons that their use was triggering a purchase, and purchase was automatic within certain parameters (e.g. price). The programs were very popular at all 3 schools; Duke had budgeted $25,000 for the pilot, and spent that out in less than 2 weeks. I asked where the funds had come from-Duke had received a grant; Connecticut College also received a grant, plus diverted some money from the book budget (he didn’t know more specific than that); U. Texas-Dallas had diverted money from their approval plans (she said they had only been spending about half of their approval budget anyway). I also attended a presentation by librarians from the Univ. of Alabama. They are moving heavily into e-books, although not (yet?) using patron-driven selection. They budgeted for e-books by cancelling all print approval plans (yipe!). To date they have focused on buying large pre-defined packages of e-books, but are now trying to come up with a procedure for ordering single titles. They also mentioned the question of dealing with edition updates (and whether they need to retain edition history).

I went to two sessions about implementing an Electronic Resource Management System (ERMS); for those who don’t know, that’s kind of like an ILS for databases and e-journal packages, managing acquisitions, license terms, etc. (only without the public catalog component). The Systems Librarian from Harvard described their migration from a home-grown system to Verde. I suppose we don’t have much in common with their 70-library system, but takeaways include her recommendation that you shouldn’t expect perfection, so identify your priorities and delineate a scope for the project. She also pointed out that a new system will mean a major shift in workflow; don’t expect to keep doing things the same way.

The other ERMS presentation I went to featured the ERMS that librarians at Notre Dame are building. They had decided that vendor systems tend to be too complex, and they wanted something simpler (“Just show me the information I need to do my job”). They decided to build the system using a modular approach, building one module at a time. The modules are designed to be inter-connected but not inter-dependent (so, for example, a library could use the licensing module without using the purchasing module). They are now about 2/3 of the way through. I thought the product looked good, and would be very interested in a closer look. Notre Dame intends to share the finished product and may consider a development partnership (didn’t know if we were interested…).

I attended a very interesting discussion about the changing nature of article access. Users tend to want an article, and no longer need to access or even identify the journal that published the article. There was discussion about tools needed (and being developed) to facilitate article access, e.g. article-level usage data, article-level purchasing options & acquisition workflows. The speaker pointed out that OpenURLs are based on ISSN, which is not article-level, so if we move toward article purchasing, how would we provide access? Audience discussion got into other aspects of the feasibility of article-level acquisition, including the observation that such a shift involves not only libraries and publishers, but also researchers/authors, deans, and university administrators.

Several of the themes from that presentation came up again the next day in a presentation about recommendation services and libraries. The presenter was the product manager for bX, ExLibris’ new recommendation service, although her presentation looked at various recommendation systems (online shopping-“you might also like…”), and only talked about bX a little bit at the end. She discussed possible applications to library searches-e.g. Harvard Bus. Review: “People who read this also read…”; Univ. of Huddersfield library (Engl.): “People who borrowed this also borrowed …”; and PubMed’s “Related articles, which uses a usage algorithm in addition to subject headings. She described bX, which uses aggregate usage and clickstream data across many libraries (collected from SFX usage) to recommend related articles. They are also looking for a way for users to rate the recommendations. The presentation reminded me of one I went to 8 years ago where another presenter from ExLibris described a new standard called OpenURL; I expect to see lots of development in this area of usage-based recommendations.

Other miscellaneous presentations: One of my BYU colleagues described their project to identify overlapping access to e-journals and to weed based on usage, including a fairly thought-provoking discussion about access vs. ownership. A librarian from Montana State Univ. described their internal tool for tracking e-resource problem reports, which I thought was a good idea, but she didn’t discuss implementation or describe the costs/labor involved. I also attended a session describing Western Michigan Univ.’s implementation of Summon. The presentation was fairly even-handed, not full of hype nor gloom & doom; for example, he reported that Summon integrates well with VuFind, but also said it is hard to tell exactly what’s included in searches (e.g. searched for Kellogg’s Annual Report, which is in the catalog, but couldn’t find it in Summon).

Whew! Long post, but a very good conference overall. I’m happy to talk more in depth if anyone wants.