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Colgate University Builds a More Dynamic and Cost-Effective Electronic Collection

By Serials Solutions

One of the oldest colleges in the United States, Colgate University also has been named one of the best liberal arts colleges for 2009 by US News and World Report1. Located in the scenic center of New York State, the university was founded in 1819 as the Hamilton School. In 1823 it was consolidated with the New York Baptist seminary to
become the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution. In 1890, the name was changed to Colgate to honor the many years of service by the Colgate family. Today Colgate University is an independent, liberal arts college with 51 degree programs, an enrollment of over 2,800 undergraduates, 277 full-time faculty, and 30,000 active alumni.

Dominating the edge of campus is the recently renovated Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology. At over 150,000 square feet, the building houses the library specialists and the information technology staff combining 70 education experts under one roof. The facility now features a 24-hour study area and cafe, audio and video recording studios, a multimedia production suite, classrooms and meeting spaces plus the high-tech library automated storage and retrieval (LASR) system and Colgate’s complete library collections and services. Students and faculty have access to information in both print and digital formats.

Michael Poulin, Digital Resources Librarian & Coordinator of Digital Initiatives, joined the library staff four and one-half years ago. Before Mike began managing the electronic journal collection, there were a number of people doing pieces of the work but there was no consistency in the process.

Since Mike started at Colgate, the electronic collection has grown fourfold. Mike manages over 30,000 unique electronic journal resources and the digital components of the over 1700 out of 2900 individual subscriptions. The 2,800 students of Colgate University have been using Serials Solutions 360 Core and 360 Link services for years
and now access well over 300,000 full text views per year. To ensure that Colgate has the right resources in its collection, it is crucial to Mike that he have accurate statistics to assess cost and usage.

Electronic Resources Present New Challenges

Close to 70% of the library’s budget is spent on serials (49% on electronic resources) so it was imperative to have a good grasp of which publications were being used. The high cost of some of the publications made knowing the use patterns especially important. Therefore, Mike needed to compile accurate journal usage data.

The first challenge was gathering information. This data comes from multiple sources, and is received in inconsistent formats. For example, a subscription to the Journal of Politics has usage data from six different sources. Because it is difficult to predict which version of the publication students use (e.g.: some students use the publisher copy), Mike wanted to look at cumulative usage. Because he wasn’t able to get a comprehensive look at the usage data for individual journals in any one place, he would spend hundreds of hours of his own time pulling the information together. It would take more time to compile a usage report then, after collecting and cleaning the data, all analysis
and reporting had to be done manually. This was another difficult and time-consuming chore, and only provided half the usage answer. Associating and analyzing cost with usage would be even more complex.

Finding a Solution

It was clear to Mike that he needed a tool to help him organize and analyze accurate usage data for his collection. He conducted an analysis of two potential solutions, and made the decision to use Serials Solutions 360 Counter. While the other solution had much to offer, there were two gating factors for Mike: first, the other solution was three to five times more expensive; and second, it was hard to arrive at the same quality of analysis that is offered by 360 Counter.

Since he began using 360 Counter in January 2008, Mike says he has clearly seen many benefits from using this service:

  • The ability to sort journal titles by use enables him to see low use titles and the filters in the product eliminate those journals that are not part of the library’s subscription base.

  • The ability to easily manipulate cost and usage data helps the library assess which journals make the most effective use of the budget.

Realizing a Significant Return on Investment

Before using 360 Counter, Mike never had an easy way to combine the data from multiple vendors. Now he has a number of ways to manipulate and sort data to obtain accurate use statistics in much less time and in a much more efficient manner. With the correct formatting, the data went in fast and, as Mike started to look at it, he realized the library could make individual journal decisions based on incremental data.

“Soon after purchasing 360 Counter we were able to make a major purchase decision based entirely on  interpretation and analysis of the information revealed by the product”, said Mike. “For years, we only had the Science magazine archive available online. Current issues were available in print only. This was because it costs six times more to subscribe to the online format than the print. We were not willing to incur that kind of cost – that is until we were able to track the usage of Science using 360 Counter.”

What Mike discovered is that Science is used twice as much as any other title in the entire collection; and that was just the archived edition. Knowing this gave them the knowledge they needed to make an informed decision and upgrade the digital subscription to include current issues as well. The Science data gave the library a better return
on investment and enabled it to offer better service to the students.

In the months since Mike has been using 360 Counter, he has been impressed with the results. He has added a weighting factor to the data for those titles that the library subscribes to individually as well as those that are listed as part of packages. For these titles, by clustering (summing) the Authority title, Mike gets usage data that has been
aggregated by title from a variety of sources. He no longer has to figure out if the students are selecting some content from JSTOR, EBSCOhost, and the actual subscription because he can get a picture of the total use of a title quickly and easily. He has also added the cost data for individual subscriptions and databases which all add to the
benefits of using 360 Counter.

Prior to using 360 Counter, the individual journal (JR1 etc.) use statistics were hard to look for. Now, it is possible to a sort by journal and cost per use. Mike claims, “We could never do this before as combining it manually was beyond our staffing resources. This will help us make much more informed decisions about where to spend our resources to best effect.”

As an example, Mike points to the journal Africa: “Now we can see the journals we pay for individually. I can see the sum of uses of Africa from all the different places: EBSCO, JSTOR and Project Muse. From this information, I get a good feeling for the total impact of the journal.

Because it is weighted by the title of the journal, all the information appears together. So if it is something we paid for as a one-off, all the usage shows regardless of the vendor. While we could always see the use from JSTOR, MetaPress, or Sage individually, we could never combine it with the EBSCOhost use, nor could we determine which
service the users would select.” With 360 Counter, Mike gets a better picture of the true impact of use – he can get subtotals for each journal based on its total use, discover expensive titles that are poor performers and review them for possible cancellation.

Several years ago, the library did a study that resulted in a big cancellation of journals. It was a huge project that  required Mike to take spreadsheets from a number of sources, combine the information from the spreadsheets into a database, and produce clustering and summations; all of this taking many months to complete. Now, using
360 Counter, a similar project will take much less time. Mike can look at and sort data in a number of ways and create custom reports. He can then do an analysis of the data and present good business arguments that faculty can understand. The library has the facts in hand to make informed decisions regarding restructuring the collection
in order to make it more dynamic, more cost effective, and better utilized. In addition, Mike spends far fewer hours collating requests from supervisors. This frees up his time for his other job responsibilities.

“There are always more requests for journals than there is budget to fulfill so real use statistics play a pivotal role,” he says. “By using 360 Counter we are able to get management data for individual journal titles that we could never get before and make much more intelligent decisions as to where we want to put our resources.”

1 http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/college/liberal-arts

Founded by a librarian for librarians in 2000, Serials Solutions is a global leader in E-Resource Access and Management Services (ERAMS) and serves more than 3,000 libraries of all sizes and types. As the nature of library collections has changed, Serials Solutions has changed the way people use and manage electronic resources for research. www.serialssolutions.com

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