Don’t Leave Me in the Dark : Shining a Light on Electronic Resources Communications

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Rupp, Nathan
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The introduction of electronic resources into the library has resulted in a number of changes in the way librarians communicate with one another about newly acquired resources. Cornell University Library has taken a number of steps to confront these changes and ensure that there are clear communications among all stakeholders about all electronic resources it acquires. These steps include embedding technical services librarians in collection development committees, teaching liaisons about the e-resources process so they in turn can talk to their faculty members, and developing information technology solutions to help in this area. Electronic resources differ from non-electronic resources in that a lengthy, multi-step process is often required to acquire electronic resources and make them accessible to the public. For example, in many instances, license negotiations need to take place, electronic resources need to be "turned on" at the publisher's site, and IP addresses need to be sent to the publisher before they can be made available to the public. In addition, library staff now help patrons with electronic resource accessibility issues that are not just the result of problems with their own machines; they may also be the result of problems with the library's or even the publisher's systems. To attempt to solve these communication problems, Cornell University Library Technical Services has taken a number of steps. First, it has "embedded" technical services representatives in groups responsible for ordering electronic resources—technical services librarians are now members of the social sciences and sciences selection teams as well as the executive committee on collection development. It has also begun to see itself as an educator, teaching librarians who work directly with faculty members about the electronic resource acquisitions process, with the hope that they will in turn educate faculty members. In addition, CU LTS has implemented or is considering a number of IT solutions to help improve communication about electronic resources. The unit makes extensive use of listservs in dealing with electronic resources. An excellent example of this is the library’s "libit" listserv (Library Information Technology), to which both patrons and library staff can write and which is monitored by several library staff who have built up distinct areas of expertise; other listservs have begun to be used to facilitate communication between other groups such as the library and publishers. The electronic resources unit at Cornell has also begun to explore the use of a Wiki as a way of distributing information to interested parties; this has been used to provide selectors with information about our e-only review process. Third, the unit has recently developed a tracking system, created using the Mantis software package, that enables selectors to submit electronic resource requests, keep track of them through the negotiations and licensing process, and be notified when they are finally ready to be used by library patrons.
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