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The news, reported in an article by Marshall Breeding in American Libraries, that EBSCO has decided to support a new open source library services platform is a fascinating development. To join with Kuali OLE but to develop what will essentially be a different open source product is a big development for the library technology sector. It’s particularly interesting that EBSCO has gone the route of providing financial support to an open source system, rather than buying a library systems company. The scope and timescales are ambitious, to have something ready for 2018.
Open source library management systems haven’t have the impact that systems like Moodle have had in the virtual learning environment sector and in some ways it is odd that academic libraries haven’t been willing to adopt such a system, given that universities do seem to have an appetite for open source software. Maybe open source library systems products haven’t been developed sufficiently to compete with commercial providers. Software as a Service (SaaS) is coming to be accepted now by corporate IT departments as a standard method of service provision, something that I think a couple of the commercial providers realised at quite an early stage, so it is good to see this initiative recognising that reality. It will be interesting to see how this develops
I picked up over the weekend via the No Shelf Required blog that EBSCO Discovery usage data is now being added into Plum Analytics. EBSCO’s press release talks about providing “researchers with a much more comprehensive view of the overall impact of a particular article”. Plum Analytics have fairly recently been taken over by EBSCO (and here) so it’s not so surprising that they’d be looking at how EBSCO’s data could enhance the metrics available through Plum Analytics.
It’s interesting to see the different uses that activity data in this sphere can be put to. There are examples of it being used to drive recommendations, such as hot articles, or Automated Contextual Research Assistance. LAMP is talking of using activity data for benchmarking purposes. So you’re starting to see a clutch of services-being driven by activity data just as the like’s of Amazon drive so much of what appears on their sales site by data driven by customer activity.
I was interested to hear that Elsevier have agreed to provide their content to Discovery solution providers (Summon here and EBSCO here) as the gaps in content with these type of solutions is one of the big issues for users and librarians. We’ve even had people comparing the new EBSCO Discovery solution we’ve implemented unfavourably with the previous federated search tool simply because of the less-comprehensive content coverage. I’ve been surprised how much resistence there seems to be from publishers to adding their metadata into discovery systems.
I think it’s odd that publishers would want to keep their content out of these systems. They clearly see it as somehow compromising their commercial advantage and no doubt there’s some competitive element where publishers see the systems that are being pushed by content aggregators/publishers as not being in their interests. But I do find it strange that publishers seem to consider metadata about their journals to be part of the content rather than just being the signpost to the content. It seems to me that metadata is a piece of advertising. You want to push your metadata and links to as many places as possible don’t you? Wouldn’t you want your content to be visible?
It strikes me that from a library perspective content that isn’t accessible through our Discovery interface isn’t visible to the majority of our users. They tell us constantly that access to electronic library resources is confusing. While higher level students and researchers are comfortable with using publisher interfaces the majority of undergraduates seem to be searching for a ‘google-like’ experience that is simple to use and connects them to everything that is relevant to them. If you are a publisher, you sell content to a library and your content isn’t in the Discovery solution that your library uses… then your content isn’t discoverable alongside other publishers content. If it isn’t discoverable it isn’t going to be used as much as it could be. And with budgets now being stretched in libraries then decisions are going to be based on how content is being used. Put baldly, if your content isn’t in the discovery service then your content has less value to the library, so we’d be expecting to pay less and we’d be more likely to think that actually, we might have to do without those journals.