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TL v56n2 ERMS: To Buy or not to Buy?
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Tennessee Libraries

Volume 56 Number 2



ERMS: To Buy or Not to Buy?


Michael Hooper
Electronic Resources Librarian
Austin Peay State University


Presented as part of the program "Managing Electronic Resources-Vendor & In-House Electronic Resource Management Systems (ERMS)"

Conference Program Abstract: Managing electronic resources is complex and challenging. This program will assist librarians in meeting this challenge. Michael Hooper will discuss his experience in implementing and using an ERMS from Serials Solutions at Austin Peay State University. Melvin Davis will talk about the in-house ERMS used at Middle Tennessee State University.

As you can see, the title of my presentation includes a question. By the end of this presentation, I hope you will be able to answer this question as it relates to your library or institution.

During this presentation, I will briefly discuss the management of electronic resources at Felix G. Woodward Library before the purchase of an electronic resource management system (ERMS) and provide the reasons library faculty members at APSU decided to purchase an ERMS system. The bulk of my presentation will focus on the current features of the ERMS product from Serials Solutions. Screen shots will be provided for a number of existing features. Finally, I will mention some negative observations I have discovered concerning this system. Since I am very pleased with this product overall, I add these observations for balance so my presentation does not appear to be an advertisement for Serials Solutions. My intention is to provide my experience with using an ERMS product, not recommend one system as the best management solution for all institutions.

Electronic resources at Felix G. Woodward before the purchase of an ERMS consisted of about 120 databases, several types of electronic journals including open access titles, several types of electronic books including NetLibrary titles, and a federated search system called Central Search. At the time of purchase, Austin Peay State University had a full-time equivalent enrollment of 7,335.

Before the ERMS purchase, the above mentioned resources were managed by a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet containing cost and renewal information; a separate Excel worksheet containing technical information; and a Microsoft Word document containing information such as administrative notes, the number of simultaneous users, and various changes that have occurred throughout the life of the subscription. These resources were accessed by the Library Director, the Electronic Resources Librarian, and various library employees from other departments.

Some of the general reasons faculty and staff at Woodward Library desired an electronic resource management system were to consolidate all types of ERM information into a single retrieval point and provide the ability for multiple employees to edit data simultaneously. Library faculty also wanted the ability to display messages and database terms of use to the public, a better method for gathering usage statistics, a cost management feature with cost per use analysis, and the ability to set up renewal alerts before the expiration date of a license agreement.

The more specific reasons faculty members at Woodward Library decided to purchase Serials Solutions ERMS were because it was designed using the guidelines of the Digital Library Federation’s electronic resource management initiative and created based on feedback from more than two dozen libraries. Since APSU subscribes to the Serials Solutions products Article Linker, Full MARC Records, Central Search, and E-Journal Portal, one of the leading justifications for purchase was the fact that Serials Solutions ERMS seamlessly coordinated with our existing products. In addition, ERMS from Serials Solutions provided the ability to compare APSU usage statistics gathered from Article Linker with those from peer institutions also subscribing to Serials Solutions products. Finally, a twenty percent discount was available for this product through SOLINET and a multi-product discount was available from Serials Solutions.

Many libraries may already subscribe to the Serials Solutions Open URL resolver Article Linker or the electronic journal management solution E-Journal Portal. If so, your institution has already been provided access to Serials Solutions A.M.S. (Access and Management Suite).

In comparison, the ERMS product contains all the capabilities of the AMS product in addition to many other features shown in this graph provided by Serials Solutions (Figure 1). The additional features provided by ERMS will now be discussed in detail with screenshots taken from the actual ERMS product purchased by Austin Peay State University.

Figure 1.

The Contact Manager feature (Figure 2) allows one to add contact information such as phone, e-mail, and mailing address for various vendor or consortium contacts. Roles can be assigned to each vendor such as billing or technical support and then sorted according to type of contact. The contacts can also be restricted to retrieve all contacts listed for a certain vendor or database.

Figure 2.

The Note or Resource Report manager (Figure 3) allows one to attach a note to a specific vendor, database or journal title. A note type can then be assigned to each note so all notes of a certain type can be retrieved together. The list of note types can be customized according to the needs of your institution. A status such as “open” or “closed” can also be given to each note and then sorted accordingly. For example, a note concerning a technical issue with a database could be moved to a status of closed when the problem has been resolved.

Figure 3.

The Vendor Statistics Manager (Figure 4) provides a place to list log-in information such as URL addresses and passwords for gathering statistics from various vendors. Individual databases can easily be added to an existing provider if the procedure for gathering statistics is the same for all databases provided by that vendor. A link to a local archive location can be provided if recorded statistics are housed on a server at your institution.

Figure 4.


The License Manager allows one to record details concerning individual license agreements for each database (Figure 5). Databases from the same vendor can easily be added to an existing license if the terms of use are identical. If a license agreement is similar to an existing agreement, a copy can be made and edited without having to re-enter the identical information.

Figure 5.


The License Manager feature allows you to display the physical location of a license agreement and specify the date a license agreement expires (Figure 6). This date can then be used to set up a renewal alert in the Alert Manager.

Figure 6.


Details within the license agreement, such as the number of simultaneous users, can be noted and one can choose whether or not to display these terms of use to users of the specified database. The options available to select as permitted for each license agreement are numerous and go beyond what is shown on this slide (Figure 7). Many of these details require further research by investigating the physical copy of the license agreement or contacting the vendor for more information.

Figure 7.


Menu manager (Figure 8) provides one with the ability to modify the existing menu from all the previously mentioned managers to meet the specific needs of your library or institution. For example, within the License Status category of License Manager new status types can be added or deleted as desired.

Figure 8.


The terms of use indicated with License Manager can be displayed to the public through the Serials Solutions products E-Journal Portal and Article Linker. These products are usually available to students through the website of an institution. The terms of use are displayed when a user searches for a periodical title within the E-Journal Portal and from within individual databases when a user “Searches for Full Text” using Article Linker as the open URL resolver.

When a user searches for a journal within the E-Journal Portal he or she has the option to click on a link titled “Terms of Use” next to the journal title (Figure 9). Clicking on the link opens a new page with the local terms of use displayed from the corresponding vendor license agreement, along with an optional link to the provider’s general terms of use which may be available on their website.


Figure 9.


Alert manager (Figure 10) can be used to set up e-mail notifications for various events such as the expiration of a license agreement. This feature ensures database access does not lapse due to a vendor sending renewal information to the wrong address. Alerts can also be set up to notify those with administrative privileges when a change has been made to the status of a database.


Figure 10.

Statistics Benchmarking (Figure 11) allows one to compare usage statistics gathered from Article Linker and the E-Journal Portal to peer institutions also subscribing to these Serials Solutions products. Statistics for total clicks and clicks per one thousand patrons are available. Click-through stats are available through the AMS product, but the benchmarking feature is only available through ERMS.


Figure 11.

The AMS product only provides you with the General tab when viewing information at the database level (Figure 12). With the addition of ERMS, tabs are provided for Administration, Licensing, and Statistics. Modifications can be made at this level in addition to the various manager features I have already mentioned. Under the Administration tab, administrative log-in information such as URL address and password can be stored.


Figure 12.


Possible future enhancements for the ERMS product may include the ability to track electronic books, tools for managing shared resources, and enhanced integration with Central Search (the Serials Solutions federated search system) which will allow users to add and remove databases. Future enhancements already being planned for release in 2006 include a Cost Manager feature and a new product called COUNTER which will gather statistics and create reports from vendors that are both COUNTER and SUSHI compliant. With the cost management feature and COUNTER, institutions will be able to generate cost per click analysis.

Of course, one negative feature of any purchased ERMS product is the fact that there is a greater cost involved compared to a system created in-house. Also, there is a significant amount of time involved for data entry. The employee responsible for data entry will need to have a basic understanding of license agreement terms and database administration.

A negative feature of Serials Solutions ERMS is that a new or obscure database not included in the Serials Solutions knowledge base can take 48 to 72 hours to add to your system. The fact that this system is not housed on a local server may also be a negative feature for some institutions with an unreliable internet connection. In addition, if there is a problem with Serials Solutions servers you may not be able to access your ERMS product until it has been resolved.

If you have questions about the Serials Solutions ERMS product, please contact the appropriate member of the Serials Solutions team. The cost of the ERMS system is based upon the number of full-text resources to which your institution subscribes.


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