New & Noteworthy

Library Hi Tech News

ISSN: 0741-9058

Article publication date: 1 May 2000



(2000), "New & Noteworthy", Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 17 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

New & Noteworthy

Association of Research LibrariesReleases New SPEC Kit

A new SPEC Kit from Association of Research Libraries (ARL) examines how ARL libraries have structured themselves to identify networked information resources in the market, evaluate them for purchase, make purchasing decisions, publicize them, and assess their continued utility. "Networked Information Resources" was released in December 1999.

For the purpose of the survey, a networked information resource was defined as a commercially available, electronic information resource (library database, full-text service, e-journal), funded or enabled by the library, which is made available to authorized users through a network (LAN, WAN, dial-in).

In the summer of 1999, the survey was distributed to the 122 ARL member libraries. Of the 59 responses (48 percent), 98 percent offered networked information resources to their users.

According to survey respondents, collection development bibliographers and reference librarians are the groups most often responsible for all aspects of electronic resource acquisition. They are followed closely by branch, regional, and departmental librarians, who apparently have a large degree of autonomous responsibility in the areas of identifying new resources, making prepurchase evaluations, organizing publicity, and carrying out postpurchase assessments, but not in purchasing.

In almost all of the responding libraries, both collection development bibliographers and reference librarians share the primary responsibility for identifying new networked information resources. Thirty-four libraries assign this responsibility to a cross-departmental team. Ten libraries give responsibility to a team or group of staff from within a department or area. In more than half, administrators are also involved, followed by special collections librarians and staff from library consortia.

At most libraries, the prepurchase evaluations are conducted by the collection development bibliographers, the reference librarians, or the branch, regional, or departmental librarians. Teams are highly involved, as are outreach or liaison librarians and special collections librarians. Information technology librarians play an important role also.

The decision to purchase a networked resource is typically shared equally between administrative services and collection development bibliographers, possibly because of dual fiscal responsibility inside the library. In 60 percent of the responding libraries, the decision is made by a cross-departmental team and by a same-department team in 12 percent.

The publicity for newly acquired networked resources is handled largely by reference librarians, collection development bibliographers, and branch, regional, or departmental librarians. In more than half of the responding libraries, outreach or liaison librarians and cross-departmental teams also play a major role in publicizing new resources. Administrators play a reduced role, while participation among information technology librarians and departmental teams doubles.

Reference librarians, collection development bibliographers, and branch, regional, or departmental librarians maintain a high level of responsibility during the postpurchase evaluation stage, as do cross-departmental teams. Participation drops by outreach or liaison librarians and departmental teams drops, and rises by special collections librarians, information technology librarians, and catalogers. For the first time, circulation librarians become involved in the process.

Most effective methods for identifying new resources, evaluating them, making a purchase decision, publicizing new resources, and deciding to retain or cancel a resource were as follows:

  • Methods for identifying new resources. Top four methods were consortial memberships and decisions (58 percent); vendor demonstrations at national or local library conferences (55 percent); requests from faculty (47 percent); and vendor demonstrations in the library (43 percent).

  • Methods for prepurchase evaluation of new resources. Top four methods were trial of the prospective networked resource (97 percent); vendor demonstration or presentation (66 percent); input from other library staff (40 percent); and input from user groups through individual contact, meetings, consultations, and other forms of contact (38 percent).

  • Methods for making purchase decisions. Decisions to purchase new networked resources are made through consensus at 66 percent of the libraries, by the individual responsible for the relevant funds at 55 percent, and by virtue of function or job description at 24 percent. Decisions to purchase are made throughout the year at 78 percent of responding libraries, at regularly scheduled meetings at 26 percent, and at certain times during the year at 9 percent.

  • Criteria for the purchasing decision. Top criterion for purchasing is acceptable licensing language (76 percent). In addition, 45 percent state that the resource must support the library's strategic goals, 40 percent state that it must support faculty and graduate research, 35 percent state that it must support undergraduate research, and 29 percent state that it must support the university's strategic goals. For 36 percent, the networked resource must be available on the Web. Only 24 percent state that it must fall within a certain price range.

  • Methods for publicizing resources. The most effective method listed by libraries is to publicize and offer access to the networked resource through the library's Web site (71 percent). Other top methods include liaison meetings, consultations, or individual contact with faculty and/or graduate students (40 percent), sending information via broadcast email or electronic bulletin boards (40 percent); cataloging networked resources in the library catalog (38 percent); giving presentations to relevant faculty and graduate students (38 percent); and giving give group training sessions to undergraduate students (22 percent).

  • Methods for deciding to retain or cancel a resource. In determining whether to retain or cancel a resource, 45 percent of responding libraries evaluate statistics from patron searches, and 41 percent evaluate the price of the networked resource, and 28 percent say that usage statistics for patron display, retrieval of articles or citations, and patron sessions are important.

Other issues discussed in the survey include opinions of other librarians and users of the service, the role of teams and the distribution of team responsibility, the role of the budget, and membership in consortia.

SPEC Kit 253 concludes that networked resources have changed the way libraries operate, and the growth in importance and number of these resources should push libraries even more into a cross-departmental, multi-channeled, team environment.

SPEC Kit 23 was prepared by Richard Bleiler and Terry Plum, University of Connecticut, as part of the OLMS Collaborative Research and Writing Program.

Association of Research Libraries: c/o Distribution Center, PO Box 531, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0531; Tel: (301) 362-8196; Fax (301) 206-9789;,

Ex LibrisSpearheads Contribution to Cambodia

Ex Libris, Ltd, along with Sun Microsystems, Oracle Corporation, and SilverPlatter Information, will be donating a completely implemented ALEPH 500 library automation system to the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Azriel Morag, Chair of Ex Libris, said after a recent trip to Southeast Asia, "I was greatly impressed by the country and its people but saddened to find that the educational infrastructure needs to be completely rebuilt."

After discussions with the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Morag began to work out the logistics and develop partnerships for the implementation of the ALEPH library system. Joining the project, Sun Microsystems is donating an Enterprise 250 server, SilverPlatter is contributing the Medline and ERIC databases, and Oracle is providing a run-time license for all users of the system. The ALEPH system will be tightly integrated with SilverPlatter's ERL Intranet Solution, which also runs on Sun's Enterprise 250 server.

In addition to the license to use the ALEPH software, Ex Libris will install the system and provide training, maintenance, and support without charge.

To donate books, periodicals, PCs, or other useful items, please contact Pou Vanny, at phnompenhlib@bigpond.

Ex Libris: c/o Robert J. Baum, Group Vice-President,

National Writers UnionAsks Feds to Probe New York Times

The National Writers Union (NWU, UAW Local 1981) has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to probe statements by The New York Times, at a time when the nation's 11th largest pension fund has also acted to determine what liabilities media companies face in the wake of last fall's landmark legal victory for freelance writers, Tasini et al. vs. New York Times et al.

The union released a March 13 letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in which the union formally asked SEC Chair Arthur Levitt to investigate whether The New York Times, in official SEC filings, "failed to report significant liabilities facing the company as a result of a decision in a landmark lawsuit."

The union's letter points out what it sees as an obvious contradiction between The Times' representation before a federal court, on the one hand, versus its SEC S-3 IPO filing for Times Company Digital (TCD), on the other hand. While claiming to a federal court that the decision exposed The New York Times and other publishers to "enormous potential liability," The Times represented before the SEC that "There are no legal proceedings to which The Times is a party pertaining to the business and operations of TCD, other than ordinary routine litigation that is incidental to the business of TCD and is not material to the business or financial condition of The Times or TCD."

"We think the federal appeals court judges and the SEC have a right to know which of The New York Times' statements were true," said Jonathan Tasini, president of the NWU and the lead plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit.

The union also released a copy of a February 28 letter written by New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi to 36 media companies, expressing concern about the "potential liability of media companies" because of the landmark decision. The lawsuit refers to the September 24, 1999 landmark decision in the US Court of Appeals, in which the court unanimously ruled that it is copyright infringement for a publisher to put a freelancer's work online or otherwise reuse or resell it without explicit written permission. Hevesi was writing in his role as investment adviser and a trustee for the five New York City pension funds totaling $90 billion.

According to a release from NWU, Hevesi cited the NWU's proposed solution, "the Publication Rights Clearinghouse," as a step that might "avoid legal actions and advance cooperations and collaboration between NWU and media companies."

A number of pension funds nationwide are studying the liability issue. In addition to the New York City pension funds letter, the Longview Collective Investment Fund has asked five companies ­ Dow Jones Interactive, American Express Publishing, Times Mirror Magazines, Time Inc. and The New York Times ­ to explain what action they are taking in view of the decision which determined that publishing companies "were liable to freelance writers for violating the individual writer's copyrights."

The National Writers Union has 5,700 members nationwide, representing journalists, book authors, academic writers, technical writers, poets, and other freelance writers.

National Writers Union: c/o Jonathan Tasini, Tel: (212) 254-0279;

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