ALCTS Holds Midwinter Symposium "Managing Electronic Resources: Meeting the Challenge"

Pamela Bluh, University of Maryland Law Library

The first ALCTS Midwinter Symposium "Managing Electronic Resources: Meeting the Challenge" was a sell out! On Friday, January 24, 2003, a bitterly cold Philadelphia morning, an attentive audience of approximately 150 librarians, vendors, publishers and other industry professionals assembled to hear presentations from eight speakers on managing electronic resources. Sponsored by the ALCTS Serials Section and supported by contributions from SwetsBlackwell and Springer Verlag, New York, the symposium provided both a broad overview of the topic as well as a variety of specific options for organizing the universe of electronic resources.

Dan Greenstein (University Librarian for Systemwide Planning and Scholarly Information, and Director of the California Digital Library) opened the symposium with a presentation entitled "Managing Electronic Resources: Cooperative Strategies for Meeting the Challenge" in which he described the challenges of managing an electronic collection. The fiscal crisis facing libraries, the explosion in electronic resources, and the simultaneous desire for these resources by users is causing organizations to rethink their collection policies and explore alternatives for controlling costs and meeting users' demands. One such model exists at the University of California, where a cooperative model to support the delivery of electronic information is being developed.

There are a number of viable means by which electronic resources can be managed. Beth Warner (Director of Digital Library Initiatives at the University of Kansas) explored "Managing Electronic Resources in Today's IMLS Environment," posing the question of whether the integrated library management system (ILMS) is the appropriate vehicle for managing e-resources. For many years, libraries have favored the ILMS to track and control access to their collections. As the scales begin to tip away from providing access to traditional print collections towards providing access to electronic resources, the suitability of the ILMS to meet this challenge must be considered.

October Ivins took as her topic "There Has To Be An Easier Way: Stand-Alone Ejournal Management Services," describing several third-party services and providing criteria that libraries can use to evaluate the pros and cons of using such products to manage their electronic collections.

Some libraries are developing local systems to manage their electronic resources. Tim Jewell (Head of Collection Management Services at the University of Washington) described several such projects in his presentation "If There's a Fork in the Road, Take It! (Can We Develop Standards for E-resource Management Systems While We're Busy Building Them?)" He also provided information about a new initiative spearheaded by the Digital Library Federation to identify and promote model e-resource systems that can be acquired for local use.

Dan Tonkery (Vice President and Director of Business Development for Ebsco Subscription Services) entitled his remarks "Aggravation, Agitation, and Aggregation - the Three A's of E-Resources Management: Using the Subscription Agent's Solution for Improved Control and Management." He indicated that with some re-engineering of its business practices, an agent could provide all the necessary functionality libraries need to manage their electronic collections.

Having made the investment in electronic resources, libraries face additional challenges in terms of maintaining access and evaluating the resources. Jim Mouw (Acquisitions Librarian and Electronic Resources Officer at the University of Chicago) considered the complicated task of maintaining up-to-date links to the resources, as well as the importance of standards-based linking mechanisms in a presentation entitled "Resource Linking."

Equally important are concerns about how electronic resources are evaluated and how their use is measured. Joseph Zucca (Assessment, Planning and Publications Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania) provided an overview of these issues in his presentation "Traces in the Click Stream: Coping with the Imperfections of Measuring Electronic Use." Traditional indicators of library use, such as circulation statistics, are declining while the use of digital resources is rising. In this environment, it is extremely important for libraries to assess and measure the use of these resources, to correctly allocate both funds and services.

Trisha Davis (Head of Serials and Electronic Resources at the Ohio State University) spoke about "An Uneasy Balance: Walking the Tightrope of Change while Managing the E-Resource Chaos Below?" New concerns, new conflicts, and new challenges confront libraries on a daily basis. Librarians must be selective in how they adapt to these circumstances and adopt those which best meet their needs and serve the interests of their users.

A second Midwinter Symposium is being planned for 2004 in San Diego. It too will address issues revolving around the management of electronic resources. Stay tuned for details!

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