Summary of Current Trends in The Serials Librarian — Holly Wheeler
As the name suggests, The Serials Librarian is a journal that covers aspects of serials; and in its recent volumes is especially focused on how technology impacts librarians who work with serials. The journal frequently covers conference proceedings, especially from the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG). In reading the most recent two years of the journal I picked up on several ongoing conversations in the field including journal usage statistics, copyright in the digital age, access to electronic materials, RDA (Resource Description & Access) – a new cataloging standard, and ERM (electronic resource management). All of these topics were fascinating to read about, but for the sake of brevity I have decided to focus this review on the latter three topics: access to electronic materials, RDA, and ERM.
Access to electronic materials is a major discussion happening in the field that is frequently featured in The Serials Librarian. In fact, in the past two years, electronic materials in general have been a broad topic which most of the articles and reports touch on either directly or indirectly. Within this discussion there are several sub-discussions including “big deal” vs. pay-per-view models of e-journal access, and to what degree e-books should be incorporated into collections. Of course, as above, there are many other things being discussed, but these stood out as the most active and lively points of discussion.
The discussion of whether “big deal” model of access to electronic journals is still viable and worthwhile for libraries, or if they would be better off using a pay-per-view model seems to be a major one currently going on in the field. Authors writing about this explore the benefits and problems with both the “big deal” and “pay-per-view” models. Several articles including Weicher and Zhang’s “Unbundling the “Big Deal” with Pay-Per-View of E-journal Articles” and “Exploring Patron-Driven Access Models for E-journals and E-books” by Fisher et al. extensively lay out how pay-per-view models work in general and examine how libraries could integrate them. It seems that – for the moment at least – the proposed solution is a mixture of both the big deal and pay-per-view; that is, retain some large packages of e-journals and supplement them with pay-per-view access to other e-journals.
Gail Herrera’s article, “Deliver the eBooks Your Patrons and Selectors Both Want! PDA Program at the University of Mississippi”, addressed another discussion happening under the umbrella of electronic materials – that is, to what extent should e-books be included in library collections. She brings up several important points to consider; first of all, who uses e-books and for what purposes? Is it practical for a research library to switch over to purchasing materials in electronic formats; will scholars use them? There is also a discussion of the sustainability of e-books. Although there are concerns about device compatibility and how that will affect future users, Herrera makes the point that not only do e-books not require physical space (which is at a premium in libraries), but they “cannot be stolen, lost, damaged, or mis-shelved” (180).
Another of the most prominent discussions happening in the field the past two years has been about RDA or Resource Description & Access – there were five articles directly related to it in the volumes I covered. Put simply, RDA is a cataloging standard which succeeds the previous cataloging standard set by the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, Second Edition (AACR2). The material regarding RDA in The Serials Librarian covers several aspects of it, including its some basic background on RDA, how it relates to AACR2 (Kuhagen and Mering), the U.S. RDA test which was conducted in 2010 (Boehr, Reynolds, and Shrader), RDA’s impacts on cataloging workflow (Bross, Hawkins, and Nguyen), and its relationship to serials (Kuhagen and Mering).
Finally, there is also an ongoing conversation about ERM systems; how to use them, what systems to use, and their impacts on workflow. ERM systems are used by institutions to track information about their e-resources, including license terms and provider contact information. The main idea floating around this discussion is to simplify where librarians need to go to access this and other information about their e-resources. In my initial look at the journal it appeared there was a lot of buzz about Drupal in the past two years, but after digging deeper it turned out that one person, Amanda Yesilbas had presented on Drupal at multiple conferences that had their proceedings covered by The Serials Librarian. Yesilbas presents Drupal as an alternative to institutions creating their own ERM system; one of the major advantages cited is the fact that Drupal is a free open source platform so it is easy on the shrinking library budget (157). Another ERM system reported on is CORAL which is also an open source platform that is geared towards libraries, as evidenced by its acronym which stands for “Centralized Online Resource Acquisitions & Licensing” (Imre, Hartnett, and Hiatt 224).
Although The Serials Librarian is a journal aimed at those who work with serials, it covers topics and furthers conversations which are more broad-reaching that just those in the serials department. The aforementioned conversations of access to electronic materials, RDA cataloging standards, and ERM systems are important in helping shape the future of libraries in general and will likely be carrying on for a while.
Boehr, Diane, Regina Romano Reynolds, and Tina Shrader. “The U.S. RDA Test Process.” The Serials Librarian 62, no. 1–4 (January 2012): 125–139. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2012.652485.
Bross, Valerie, Les Hawkins, and Hien Nguyen. “CONSER Serial RDA Workflow.” The Serials Librarian 64, no. 1–4 (January 2013): 211–215. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2013.760412.
Fisher, Erin S., Lisa Kurt, and Sarah Gardner. “Exploring Patron-Driven Access Models for E-journals and E-books.” The Serials Librarian 62, no. 1–4 (January 2012): 164–168. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2012.652913.
Herrera, Gail. “Deliver the eBooks Your Patrons and Selectors Both Want! PDA Program at the University of Mississippi.” The Serials Librarian 63, no. 2 (August 2012): 178–186. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2012.700780.
Hodge, Valeria, Maribeth Manoff, and Gail Watson. “Providing Access to E-Books and E-Book Collections: Struggles and Solutions.” The Serials Librarian 64, no. 1–4 (January 2013): 200–205. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2013.760411.
Imre, Andrea, Eric Hartnett, and C. Derrik Hiatt. “CORAL: Implementing an Open-Source ERM System.” The Serials Librarian 64, no. 1–4 (January 2013): 224–234. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2013.760414.
Kuhagen, Judith A., and Margaret Mering. “RDA and Serials: Theoretical and Practical Applications.” The Serials Librarian 64, no. 1–4 (January 2013): 5–14. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2013.761051.
———. “Serials and RDA: An Ongoing Relationship.” The Serials Librarian 62, no. 1–4 (January 2012): 5–16. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2012.652470.
Weicher, Maureen, and Tian Xiao Zhang. “Unbundling the ‘Big Deal’ with Pay-Per-View of E-journal Articles.” The Serials Librarian 63, no. 1 (July 2012): 28–37. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2012.688167.
Yesilbas, Amanda, and Susan Davis. “Using Drupal to Track Licenses and Organize Database Information.” The Serials Librarian 62, no. 1–4 (January 2012): 155–158. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2012.652911.