April 16, 2009

Usage & Processes...

It's been a long time since I posted. A good portion of that time has been spent gathering usage statistics. As most libraries are probably doing, we are trying to reduce our journal and database subscriptions. Naturally one of the factors we looked at/are looking at is usage statistics not only for databases, but for individual journal subscriptions. Gathering usage statistics for individual journal titles has proven to be easier said than done.

At past places of work, focus has been on database usage statistics. For some reason, electronic journal subscriptions were left out of the usage statistics gathering equation. However, these statistics are available and should be considered. Tracking usage statistics for print journals (if done) is time consuming. Getting these usage statistics online, however, at least at my place of work, has also proven time consuming and at times it has been about as easy as herding cats.

Without something like Scholarly Stats or 360 Counter, one has to go to each individual journal publisher's site or to the vendor hosting the publication (such as Ingenta) to get the usage statistics. In many cases, gathering statistics for electronic subscriptions involves two steps - activating the IP range for access and activating the Admin account for access to things like maintaining the IP range, branding, and running usage reports. The jobber we use sets up the IP access, however, here the Admin accounts at the publisher sites were not being activated. This isn't a big surprise since until this year there had been no great interest in the usage stats for our electronic subscriptions. It did hinder the usage stat gathering process, though, as it takes time to activate. Another hindrance was when the online access was activated one of two people from our Acquisitions department, the former Electronic Access Librarian, or the Collection Development Librarian were listed as the account Administrator. There was no consistency in how this was set-up meaning there was also no consistency in who received notifications regarding the subscriptions or changes to the Administrative account. In most cases, the admin account had never been accessed. I couldn't begin to count the number of places I've gone or the e-mails I've sent trying to set up access to usage stats for particular journals. Regardless of whether or not it's one title or twenty, the same amount of work is involved to set up the Administrative access. I'd never before realized how many electronic journal subscriptions were single titles from a publisher. It's given a whole new aspect to tracking login information as in many cases it needs to be tracked by journal title as well as publisher.

For some reason, I naively expected when I began this process, that someone already had all of this information on a spreadsheet and I could just use that. This is how it worked at previous jobs. Most of the databases were on a spreadsheet; none of the publishers were. This is where processes come in. As electronic subscriptions increase, there needs to be an understanding between all departments as to who does what and what that requires. The Acquisitions department never gathered usage stats or branded a database, so while they forwarded outage e-mails or upgrade e-mails, sadly, in many cases e-mails advising of platform switches or other admin account changes were simply left in someone's inbox. Creating the process that in essence changes, and in some ways questions, old processes can be daunting. Not only does there need to be a primary person for this process, who does what and the account access information should be documented. People move on to other jobs; whoever follows behind them should be able to pick up where they left off.