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Standardizing Terms for Electronic Resource Management

Date: Thu 06 Feb 2019

A few years ago now, I conducted some basic historical research on a librarian named Ralph Parker. Inspired by technological advances in automation, specifically the punched card, Parker began to work out how to apply this technology to library circulation starting in the 1930s, and ended up becoming the first person to automate part of the library's work flow. By the mid-1960s, Parker's continued pursuit of library automation led to some major advances, including the founding of OCLC, and the punched card system he developed over many years led to massive increases in circulation and better service to patrons. After making these advances, he wrote in the mid-60s the following about the installation and launch of a new punched card system to help automate circulation:

"To the delight of the patrons it requires only four seconds to check out materials" (as cited in Burns, 2013).

Think about that comment for a second and recognize how delighted not only the patrons must have been but also the librarians, such that the time was reduced to four seconds. Imagine how long it took before this reduction was accomplished.

Technology does, in some or many cases, lead to progress, but progress and influence are more involved than that. Change comes not just from nifty new technological developments or from the application of technologies, but also from the standardization of technology. Standards enable multiple groups of competing interests to form consensus about how technology should work, and when this happens, multiple parties receive payoffs at the expense of any one party acquiring a monopoly. This is true for things as simple as the design of screwdrivers, the width of railroad tracks, the temperature scale, and certainly also to how information is managed and exchanged. The internet and the web wouldn't exist, or definitely not exist as we know it, if not for the standardization of the Internet Protocol (IP), the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), and other internet and web related technologies that make the internet and the web work for so many users regardless of the operating system and the hardware they use.

Our first article this week is written by Pat Harris and covers the basic reasons for the existence of NISO (the National Information Standards Organization) and the kinds of standards NISO is responsible for maintaining and creating. If you haven't before paid attention to NISO, you might now start seeing more references to the organization and the standards it publishes, especially because the international library community has worked closely with NISO to develop standards for various aspects of library work.

Historical note: As Harris points out in the article, NISO came into existence in the mid-1930s. This was about the same time that Ralph Parker, mentioned above, began working on his punched card system. Not long before this, in the late 1920s, the first library science graduate program launched at the University of Chicago, and in the early 1930s, the first research based journal started, The Library Quarterly. We often talk about how long libraries have existed, and it's true that there were quite a few accomplishments before the 1930s, but it's this time period (for these and a number of other reasons) that really marks the modern era of libraries.

Our additional readings are about TERMS, or Techniques for Electronic Resource Management. TERMS is not a true standard, but more of a de facto one that helps outline the electronic resource management work flow. It was developed in order for librarians or others dealing with electronic resources to come to a consensus about the processes and parts of electronic resource management. The first version of TERMS is described by the TERMS authors in the Library Technology Reports readings of chapters 1-8. Although it has been replaced by a newer version, it still functions as a thorough introduction to the ERM work flow and provides guidance and suggestions about all aspects of electronic resource management. For example, in chapter 7 of the LTS report on TERMS version 1, the authors provide very helpful information on the importance of working with providers or vendors in case of cancellation of a resource. They write:

Do not burn any bridges! Many resources have postcancellation access, which means you need to keep up a working relationship with suppliers; this might also incur a platform access fee going forward, so this needs to be budgeted for in future years. Review the license to fully understand what your postcancellation rights to access may be. In addition, you may resubscribe to the resources in future years. Content is bought and sold by publishers and vendors. Therefore, you may end up back with your original vendor a year or two down the line!

Some of this material is repeated in version 2 of TERMS, but version 2 was created in order to address some changes in the world and to include more input from the community. Version 2 also includes a slightly modified outline, and includes the following parts:

  1. Investigating new content for purchase or addition
  2. Acquiring new content
  3. Implementation
  4. Ongoing evaluation and access, and annual review
  5. Cancellation and replacement review
  6. Preservation

At the same link just provided, they also write about this new version:

In addition to the works mentioned or cited in the original TERMS report, much has been written in the past few years that can help the overwhelmed or incoming electronic resources librarian manage their daily workflow. In the end, however, most of the challenges facing the management of electronic resources is directly related to workflow management. How we manage these challenging or complex resources is more important than what we do, because how we do it informs how successful and how meaningful the work is, and how well it completes our goal of getting access to patrons who want to use these resources.

As such, the outline and the content described in these two versions of TERMS is very much about centered on the ERM work flow. Thus, TERMS is essentially a guide and framework for thinking about the different parts of the electronic resource life cycle within the library, and helps provide librarians with a set of questions and points of investigation. For example, let's consider the first TERM, which is to investigate new content for purchase or addition. In a presentation by the Emery and Stone (2014), they suggest that this involves the following steps, partly paraphrased:

  • outline what you want to achieve
  • create a specification document
  • assemble the right team
  • review the market and literature and set up trial
  • speak with suppliers and vendors
  • make a decision (Emery and Stone, slide 12, 2014)

Emery and Stone provide other examples, and the TERMS listed in this slide are from the first version. TERM 6, PRESERVATION, was added in version 2, and TERMS 4 and 5 were joined together. There's a link to these slides, with further examples, in the transcript of this lecture, as well as the citation.

This week you have two part exercise: first, you'll visit the NISO website and search for documentation on a standard, technical report, or recommended best practice and post about it. Second, after reading about TERMS and perusing through the slides, try to place these TERMS in additional electronic resource management context. Please draw from experience or use your imagination.

I'm requiring a lot of reading this week because these readings really capture the specifics of the ERM work flow, and understanding them will help you get started and attain success in this position. The Rinck article is a nice interview with the authors of TERMS. Consider this optional reading, but its still worthy of your time.

Emery, J., & Stone, G. (2014). Techniques for Electronic Resource Management (TERMS): From coping to best practices. In 2014 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference, 12-15 July 2014, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, TX.

Sources for NISO tasks:

teaching/standardizing-electronic-resource-management.txt · Last modified: 2019/02/01 10:48 by seanburns