MLA E-Books Webinar Update

As I mentioned Marian and I only had about 5 minutes max to describe what we are doing at our library and why.  There was a lot of stuff we just had to leave out for the sake of time.  So here are some of the things we could have talked about if we had more time.

Why did we have an HTML page with titles and subjects of ebooks?

Many patrons don’t use the catalog to find things.  They preferred looking on a web page that listed the books and browsing through that list either by subject (very general subject) or title.   We actually have usage statistics supporting this.   When we looked at our annual usage statistics for the library website the ebooks title and subject web pages had some of highest usage statistics for our site.  Therefore we felt it important to have the ebooks listed on a web page in addition to the catalog.

You mentioned that having a website list them all by title and subject became difficult and time consuming, how does the ERM help?

The ERM allows us to display resources by subject or by title. We created the very general subjects such as database, ebook, alternative medicine, EBM, etc. and assigned those subjects to each resource in the ERM.  People can browse for resources (ebooks, databases, internet sites) according to subject and title.  Please note the linked page in the previous sentence is still under development, so what you see is not the final product.  Instead of people typing in the title they will be able to browse titles by A-Z and we will actually have two subject search boxes, one for resources and one for just ebooks. That way people can just browse the ebooks not all of our resources (databases, internet sites, etc.).

Ideally we will be able to link to the page featuring the alphabetic title list option and use that as our “browsable web page of ebooks by title.”  Same idea for subjects.  We are in the process of setting everything up and we have been making several changes since we recorded our webcast video and I predict several more changes to come.  So this is by no means final, but it offers you a glimpse of how we are trying to still meet our users’ needs by having a browsable “webpage” but also make it more manageable for everyone as we acquire more ebooks.

How can I get an ERM, do I have to have an Innovative Interfaces ILS?

Innovative can be a pretty big and expensive system so some smaller to medium hospital libraries may not have it.  However there are several ILS companies that offer ERMs for their systems, one company specializing in small hospitals that offers an ERM as a part of their system is Cybertools for Libraries. 

One thing to note: We have found that cost is just one of the factors involved in an ERM.  The other MAJOR factor that few fully understand is time.  It takes A LOT of time to import the data of your resources into your ERM.  We were able to get a lot of it imported in during our initial set up and training, and that did save some time.  But that doesn’t mean that everything was able to be imported and the stuff that was imported was correct.  If possible you will want to have your information imported during set up and prior to training (that will help a lot), but don’t think that this will solve all of your time issues.  An ERM is only as good as the information you supply it, so not only do you have to make sure the imported information is correct but you have to MAINTAIN and UPDATE the information within the system. 

Personally, I liken ERM system to when a library first begins the process of getting their electronic journals into a Open URL system and maintaining that system.  Once you have the guts of the data in, you will find you need to go into it to update subscription information, invoice and payment information, usage statistics, changes in contacts, etc.  Are you in it everyday doing something?  No but you may be in it several times for several days depending on what time of the year it is and what needs to be done (renewal time, budget time, your sales/support rep emails you saying they are leaving and somebody else is your new contact).

I was following the Twitter discussion #mlaebooks while I was watching the webcast and one person mentioned “An HTML list or an Electronic Resource Mgt system does not seem scaleable to me. Seems self limiting.” 

The HTML list is indeed limiting and not scaleable.  It really only works well with a small list of ebooks (about 100 or so I would say) after that it becomes a pain to deal with (from the librarian side of things) and a pain to browse (from the patron side of things).  The HTML list was really one of our first method of organizing ebooks for discovery (besides the catalog).  While we are technically moving away from it, I think it is still a good option for small libraries with small ebook collections.  As I mentioned many users just don’t search the catalog, but they will browse a web page. 

The ERM is scaleable.  You can add almost as much information as you want in the system and you can remove or hide resource records (ebooks or whatever else) as you want.  However as I mentioned the ERM has a lot of up front work and does require maintenance to keep it running, but once you start having a lot of ebooks and other online resources that you need to display and make available to patrons, it offers a lot more options than a simple HTML list and it is scalable.

I really enjoyed watching the webcast and found a lot of stuff to be interesting.  Following the discussion on Twitter was also interesting and I am sure a lot of discussions on and offline will follow.  If you have questions with what we are doing please feel free to comment and I will do my best to answer them.

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