ERIC Users Forum ALA Midwinter 2007

Sunday, January 21, 2007 - 10:30am - 12:30pm

Approximately 50 people attended the open ERIC Forum at Midwinter in Seattle. Five members of the ERIC/CSC Project team (Nancy Cawley, Communications Lead; Larry Henry, Project Director; Pete Dagutis, Deputy Project Director/Business Manager; Judy Beck, Acquisitions and Processing Team Lead and Sue Weiss, Lexicography Team Lead) and representatives from EBSCO (Bethany Wright), CSA (Jill Blaemers) and APA (Carl Cabading) were present to provide an update on ERIC initiatives (old and new) and discuss issues of concern raised by the audience.

Larry Henry began the session with a technical update on ERIC’s new interface that was launched in the Fall of 2006. Enhancements include:

  • Restructured home page streamlining the design for faster loading
  • Spotlight gallery for news, facts, & features
  • Counter indicating number of new materials added
  • More information about the collections and information about how publishers can get involved
  • Eliminated stemming, searches now matches actual word but you can still use * for truncation
  • Sorting is by relevance with the newest materials first
  • Journal list now includes years of coverage and number of records in the collection

ERIC’s goal is to provide as much full text access as possible. They are working with publishers/vendors to implement more open URLS & IP addresses. The My Library is still in beta testing. They are also working with WorldCat enhance locating journals.

Another project they are still working on is structured abstracting. Authors who submit their materials online are being asked to create structured abstracts. This is more difficult to apply to journals since they are receiving feeds from the publishers.

Pete Dagutis then presented information about the new digitizing project. They are in the process of digitizing all Level 1 & Level 2 microfiche (90% of the collection, 400,000 items). ERIC is working on obtaining copyright permissions, contracting with the National Archive Publishing Company to make the contacts and request permissions. About 250,000 copyrights are involved (permission is not necessary for government documents). Content will be released monthly as copyright permissions are secured.

They started with 1992 materials and are working backwards. Materials from 1992-88 should be done by March 2007. The entire collection should be done by March 2009.

The NLE will receive a backup copy of the materials. Some concerns were expressed about the survivability of the files. According to ERIC, they are using rigorous standards established by the National Archives for long-term storage of digital material (using .TIF files).

Questions discussed related to this topic included:

What happens to those you can’t find the copyright holder? – The materials won’t be released.

What about government materials?
Those materials should be release as soon as they are scanned and ready for the database.

What % yield copyright do they think they will get?
– They really didn’t know.

How will librarians know what is available online so they can withdraw the fiche?
- Not sure yet how they will communicate that information.

What will be the quality of these materials?
Documents will be scanned from the microfiche; if the fiche copy is poor quality the digitization will be poor. There are no plans to try to obtain better copies.

How will this impact the vendors?
– There should be no problem since they will receive the links with the monthly updates.

How will materials from school districts be handled since they are considered government agencies?
- Not sure but if FDLP, yes the will be released. Otherwise they will need copyright permission. The same will be true for federal research reports).

Nancy Cawley discussed some of the outreach activities for this project. The web site has page for folks to give permission. They are planning to use newsletters, web sites, listservs, personal representatives, and links from databases to spread the word. Vendors are also going to help publicize as well. DOE will be sending out information to schools of educations and will do the same with State Boards of Education. It was suggested they contact organizations who have contributed gray literature to the database. And of course librarians can also spread the word. We will see about putting information on the EBSS/ERIC committee web page.

Judy Beck then discussed what was going on with the content in the database. Highlights included:

  • 48,000+ records added since 2004 (25,000 records in 2006)
  • Added 180 discrete journal provides have signed contracts, now up to 600+ journals
  • 470 non-journal providers
  • Goal - Processing time 30 days or less; current mean 24 days (~1,000 records/week)
  • Developing an approach to manage the ‘02-‘03 gap. (There are ~160 journals with missing issues.) [Kate Corby indicated they should be looking at 2001 as well.]
  • Improving serials management system
  • Trying to get as much info from providers electronically
  • Vendor Data feeds are now in xml and ERIC began providing updates to published content in Oct. 2006

An audience member asked what was going to be done about the pre-1966 microfiche such as the Manpower fiche and its index and other early odd collections. Pete indicated they were not part of the scope of the digitations project and then asked if we were interested in making them available. The consensus was yes, we would like to have them available.

Sue Weiss then talked about the thesaurus and indexing of the materials. She indicated the thesaurus was alive and well. Purpose of the thesaurus is to standardize the indexing and facilitate search and retrieval. ERIC users (including folks from EBSS) and ERIC staff are collaborating and contributing to the recent changes to the thesaurus. The staff is in the process of correcting, adding and expanding scope notes and adding more related terms. They are also making accommodations for terms with multiple spelling options. Circular references are being tracked down and corrected. And they are very selectively reinstating deleted descriptors such as blacks in addition to African Americans. They hope to release an update to the thesaurus in March 2007.

The indexing software they are using is helping them identify new terms that can be added as new descriptors and/or be included in scope notes. There is a vocabulary review group which includes many former clearinghouse folks and librarians; will also include specialists when needed. Individuals can also make suggestions for new terms via the web site or directly to Sue.

Additional discussion of thesaurus/indexing issues included:

The audience indicated the need for more cross references.

An audience member suggested that a more robust search capability of the thesaurus would be helpful.

A suggestion was also made that they try to use more terminology that practitioners use such as inclusion not inclusive schools.

The issue of some journals appearing as EDs and not EJS was also brought up again. - Some journal articles are coming directly from authors through individual submission. When they do they get an ED not and EJ. Less than 1% of database fall into this category. Can’t they be flagged and fixed? Not as easy as it seems. Not coming in as a journal submission but they are getting the publication type designation – journal. So it the PT field designation is now a more reliable source of journals than the EJ designation.

Is the explanatory information from print edition available anywhere? – Some of it is now available online. Is it available to vendors? Not at the moment. If the information is provided to vendors they will include it? Vendors indicated they would make it available if they received it.

Issue of research methodology/design was also brought up. They are looking at expanding their terminology and are looking at where to include this information – descriptors or pub type field. The ERIC User’s Committee will be supplying them with some suggestions.

Peer reviewed designator in legacy file is not on CSC’s docket. However, ERIC User group committee members are charged with making a proposal to CSC; if a method can be devised that’s cost effective (and effective) CSC will take it to the DOE for approval. Larry Henry noted that this is a harder problem to solve than one might think as among other things there are big issues with authority control of journal title names in the legacy file. Also many records do not have ISSNs.

The issue of education level and/or grade levels was also brought up again. Sue indicated this is part of the record but not necessarily searchable. It is only assigned when material content clearly indicates a grade level. They will not make assumptions about grade level. They are still doing both specific grade levels and broader term. The audience indicated the more they can include the better. There seemed to be a question on what field the vendors are searching. If the information is in the descriptor field, it is being searched as if it’s a main subject. But the Education Level field is not searchable at the moment. Can the Ed. Level field be made available for searching? CSC will work on this. There is drop-down menu for Ed. Level in EBSCO. There has been a change as to where this information is being put which seems to be causing a retrieval issue. ERIC will look into this.

Summary compiled from notes by Sarah Beasley, Nancy Dupree and Judy Walker.