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Last week I attended the 2011 Electronic Resources & Libraries conference in Austin, TX. I can’t say I learned anything really earth-shaking; one Twitter comment said the presentations were long on “descript-o’-problem” but short on solutions. But there was lots going on; Monday & Tuesday each had 4 sets of concurrent sessions in the afternoon alone, and there were several times I wanted to divide myself into two or three to attend multiple sessions.

This was also the first conference I’ve followed on Twitter, which was quite fun. Not only did it give me a window into some of those sessions I couldn’t attend, I also enjoyed how it allowed me to participate in some side conversations.


I went to the conference a day early to attend a pre-conference on the CORAL Electronic Resource Management System. It includes modules for managing acquisition workflow, storing vendor info and licenses (and making some license terms/permissions visible to the public), and compiling usage stats. This was a very practical workshop, and I got some hands-on experience. I’ve blogged about CORAL before; it is now fully developed, and I would love to get it implemented, but I’m afraid it will require a significant investment of time to get it populated.


Keynote 1 was by Amy Sample Ward, who spoke about innovation, and the need to actively work with (not for) our community. My impression during her presentation was that ZSR does very well in this area.

For Keynote 2, Dr. Amanda French spoke about the Digital Public Library of America initiative, and explained some of the challenges and obstacles they are facing. She said that the biggest obstacle to creating a national digital library in the U.S. is copyright. One of my favorite statements she made was, “imagine an American national library consortium, and imagine the bargaining power such a consortium would have with STEM journal publishers.” The full text of her talk, including pictures of the National Digital Library of Korea, is available at

Streaming Video

I attended two sessions on streaming video. One, by a librarian at UNLV, was primarily an overview and not particularly enlightening, though he did say the UNLV library uses a subject heading “Streaming video,” which I thought sounded like a clever idea. The other presentation was by Christine Ross from U. of Illinois-Springfield. Ross, who also has a Law degree, had some interesting ideas about Fair Use and public performance rights. She told about a lawsuit between the Association for Information Media and Equipment (AIME) and UCLA, in which AIME sued UCLA for streaming content contrary to licensed permissions. The case has several potential implications, including whether federal copyright law can trump state contract law. Ross also talked about alternatives to licensing streaming content, including requiring students to pursue individual subscription options, such as subscribing to Netflix for a semester (hey, it’s cheaper than textbooks).

Demand-driven Acquisition (DDA)

I went to two sessions on DDA that actually presented data, not just “here’s how we’re doing it.” The presenters, from Sam Houston State University, had asked several librarians to go through the 100,000 potential DDA titles and make hypothetical selections for the library. The researchers compared the 8,500 librarian selections to the 637 actual patron-triggered purchases over the first 4 months of the program. Only 116 of the 637 patron purchases were also selected by librarians, but the vast majority of both patron (69%) and librarian (79%) selections were in the Gen-Academic and Adv-Academic categories. The researchers were also surprised to see that patron selections didn’t necessarily match the institution’s curricular emphasis; for example, SHSU has a strong program in Education, but only 4% of patron purchases were in that subject area.

The other DDA session I attended featured reps from ebrary, EBL, YBP, and the University of Denver. According to a Jan 2010 ebrary survey, 80% of librarians view DDA as fitting into their collection development strategy, but only 30% see it as a means to save selectors’ time. EBL said that, based on 100 customers and about 1 year of data, access via Short-term Loans (where the library pays a small percentage of list price for temporary access to an e-book) resulted in libraries paying 14% of list price to facilitate access, whereas access via up-front purchases resulted in paying 247% of list price (because approx. 50% of the purchased books were not used in that year). The YBP rep noted the rapid uptake of DDA, and said they are working on developing management tools. The Denver librarian said he sees DDA as analogous to approval (he didn’t say “replacement”); for example, their university has no architecture program, so they now use DDA for purchasing books in that area.

Mobile services

Another session with research results presented findings from a survey done at Utah State University. 54% of student respondents said they currently use their mobile device for academic purposes (Blackboard, electronic course reserves, etc.). 71.5% said they were “likely” or “very likely” to use their smartphone for assignments or research if library resources were easily accessible that way. When asked what mobile services they would like the library to offer, the highest responses were catalog, articles, and study rooms. The presenters noted that mobile websites are device-agnostic, so a small amount of work has potential to benefit many users. Some examples they gave were Ball State’s databases list (selected databases with mobile interfaces), BYU’s study room reservations, and NCSU’s library mobile site (including a live webcam shot of the coffee line).

Web-scale Discovery

There were several sessions on Web-scale Discovery at ER&L (click here for an overview of them). I went to one by librarians from Montana State Univ. They participated in a WorldCat Local pilot and discovered that getting it to work for them would require large-scale data cleanup. So instead, they implemented Summon. They discussed a number of problems they had experienced-poor communication (diffusion of responsibility problems), misuse/misunderstanding of the search box (top searches included “” and “”), difficulty tracking broken links, unclear how to tweak settings for results ranking, no overall limiter for peer-reviewed results. The presenters were not entirely negative about Summon, but cautioned not to expect it to be an out-of-the-box discovery solution.

In other sessions…

A librarian from Indiana State Univ. presented a schema he developed to systematically evaluate free online resources to help decide how much staff time it’s worth investing to track and manage the resources. A librarian from Illinois Wesleyan U. discussed a method she developed using Excel and Access to conduct overlap analyses of databases; in one case, she found that a particular A&I database had only 3 unique titles. And librarians from Virginia Tech demonstrated the upcoming release of LibX 2.0. LibX is a Firefox plugin that allows users to search library holdings without having to go first to the library’s website (so for example, from the user can check whether the library has a book they looked up). They also demo’ed LibApps, which will allow libraries to place content onto third party pages; the example they demo’ed was to place an icon next to the JSTOR search box, so that all the library’s users with a LibX plugin would be able to click it and see a video tutorial (they did this live, in the session, in about 5 minutes).

Finally, I want to make sure you all know that Harper Collins has put a limit on the number of times their e-books can be lent by a library (26 times, then the library has to pay for more). Even though this primarily affects public libraries for now, I was surprised at how many at ER&L hadn’t heard about it.

And that was the ER&L conference… well, that’s the short version anyway. 😉