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veritas Harvard University Library Notes, For Harvard Library Staff, Number 1325 May 2005


Ivy Anderson


Interview: Ivy Anderson

Ivy Anderson is the program manager in E-Resource Management and Licensing in the Harvard University Library's Office for Information Systems. Anderson graduated with a BA in music from New York University. After pursuing graduate studies in music at Brandeis University, she gravitated to music librarianship, receiving her MSLIS from Simmons. Prior to coming to Harvard in July 1998, Anderson was head of Access and Information Systems at the Brandeis Libraries, where she led that organization's Electronic Library Initiative. She currently serves on the steering committee of the Digital Library Federation's Electronic Resource Management Initiative.

What's the genesis of the Digital Acquisitions Program? Are its roots in the Library Digital Initiative or elsewhere?

Digital Acquisitions was one of the project areas identified in the original LDI proposal in 1997. Licensing of electronic resources was a very new practice in libraries at that time, and there was a recognition that developing our expertise in this area would require nurturing and coordination. The program got its formal start when the position of digital acquisitions coordinator was created in 1998 as one of several new advisory positions funded by LDI.

What's the charge of the program?

The original LDI goals were essentially threefold: to build a significant collection of shared licensed content, to provide consulting and advisory services to Harvard libraries in the areas of licensing and other aspects of e-resource acquisition and management, and to facilitate the coordination and mainstreaming of these activities across the libraries. The fundamental charge has remained unchanged, although as the number of resources that Harvard licenses has grown, there is greater emphasis now on ongoing management needs.

How does the program relate to larger issues of scholarly communication?

One of the key challenges in the realm of licensing is how to use our role as a consumer of digital information to shape developments in the marketplace. Licensing electronic content is new for publishers as well as libraries—it's a marketplace that's still in its infancy, with many new business models being tried and sometimes discarded. License negotiation gives us leverage that we don't always have in the print world, where pricing and business models are more mature and therefore less flexible. In the area of electronic journals, for example, licensing has become the current frontier in what used to be called the serials crisis: the explosion of journal publishing and unrestrained journal costs, driven largely by the commercialization of scholarly publishing, that have been eroding library buying power for decades. In the negotiation process, we can challenge existing pricing policies and related practices, such as bundling, that are not in our long-term interest. Our contract negotiations with Elsevier in 2004 were a good example. We decided that we had to change the terms under which we licensed Elsevier journals, and this has resulted in changes on Elsevier's part. At the same time, digital technology is making it easier and, in theory, less costly to produce and distribute information, opening up new possibilities for information dissemination that have the potential to transform the economics of scholarly publishing. The purchasing decisions that we make are opportunities to support promising new ventures and help them succeed.

How has the program evolved?

Organizationally, we're still part of LDI and still a unit of OIS. There are now two full-time staff positions—mine, and the digital acquisitions librarian's position, held by Lauren Moffa. But the program, which we've renamed E-Resource Management and Licensing to better reflect that it's not just about acquisitions, now involves many more librarians throughout the University Library system. In addition to the Digital Acquisitions and Collections Committee (DACC), which is the program's primary oversight committee, the Committee on Electronic Resources and Services (COERS) plays an important role in managing the more than 6,000 resources that we license through its oversight of the resource stewardship program. Individual libraries are also taking a more active role in resource evaluation and license negotiation, either assigning staff to those roles or incorporating e-resources into their general selection and management practices. Strategically, we're attempting to involve more staff throughout the libraries across a range of activities. For example, an electronic journals task force composed of serials librarians from a number of faculty and departmental libraries is working on procedures for managing our increasing number of e-journals.

To date, what are the key accomplishments of the overall program?

Probably the major accomplishment is in the enormous growth in the number of resources that are now available to Harvard students and faculty. We've grown more than tenfold, from 615 resources in 1998 to over 6,500 today. (If you count all of the titles in aggregated databases, the number of titles is closer to 18,000.) In 2000, we developed a set of licensing guidelines that have continued to serve us well in securing desirable terms in the license agreements that we sign. On the scholarly communications front, the public stance we took in renegotiating our license with Elsevier, along with comparable actions by a number of peer institutions, has begun to alter the e-journal licensing landscape, albeit slowly. In the fall of 2004, OIS completed development of a local system for managing our e-resources, Harvard ERM, that now makes a great deal of management information about our shared e-resources accessible to the library community. Harvard has been a leader in the development of e-resource management standards through our participation in the Digital Library Federation's Electronic Resource Management Initiative (ERMI). And of course, the stewardship function was conceived and incubated in the digital acquisitions program.

What's the biggest challenge that the program faces?

Scaling our licensing and e-resource management activities across all of the libraries is a challenge that we're particularly focused on right now.

Unlike local collections (including local digital collections) for which curatorial responsibility is clearly aligned with a particular library, many of our licensed digital resources are truly a shared asset, with costs spread across multiple libraries. For example, resource proposals that originate with NERL (Northeast Research Libraries Consortium) frequently begin as shared acquisitions from the outset, with no one library acting as chief sponsor. This presents unique challenges for distributing workflow. We're still figuring out what can be distributed and what needs to be handled or coordinated centrally.

How did the stewardship program (see "DigAcq Announces Revamped E-Resource Stewardship Program") come about? Does this signify a change in the way we do business?

One of the first charges to the digital acquisitions program was to address the ongoing management of e-resources in a structural way. E-resources are volatile in ways that physical collections aren't: they're constantly evolving to include new features and interfaces, new or changed or withdrawn content. Service and support can be satisfactory or unsatisfactory. And, they're expensive. In short, many of these resources require active management and evaluation. As one practical example, resource descriptions in the portal were falling out of date because no one was assigned to maintain them as resources changed. So in the fall of 1998 we worked with COERS to study the management needs of our e-resources and recommend a collaborative approach to managing them. COERS devised a pilot program, which it dubbed "resource stewardship," in which a fairly small number of high-use resources would be assigned to individual librarians for oversight purposes. Over the course of a few years, the small number of resources continued to grow, and the pilot program grew with it, becoming unwieldy in the process.

By 2002, we recognized that we needed a more robust model. So COERS went "on the road" to talk with Harvard librarians about the stewardship program and elicit feedback. We ended up with a model in which stewardship responsibilities are now assigned to specific libraries, based on a variety of criteria such as subject affinity, financial sponsorship, and usage. Each library designates a stewardship coordinator to facilitate the internal distribution of responsibilities in whatever way works best for that library. Some very broad-based, high-impact databases are stewarded directly by COERS. We were very gratified at how readily the libraries embraced a strengthening of the stewardship function. It's a sign that e-resources are finding their way into the mainstream of library activities.


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