Library Automation

Open Source Electronic Resource Management Systems (ERMs)

The management of acquisition, licensing, and access to subscription based electronic resources is a great challenge for those libraries with the resources for proprietary electronic resource management systems (ERMs). Some resources are less complicated. The relationship between one title and one publisher or vendor can be managed easily enough without an ERM. Many hundreds or even thousands of title are not a terrible burden to manage in a spreadsheet and a vertical file full of invoices and contracts, nicely organized by title or perhaps publisher. But the library has a package of aggregated titles. Does that title come with the database? Did that package just change? How many duplicated titles does the library have now? But we get that full text with a society membership. To which version of this should the patron be directed? Does that subscription come with a perpetual license? Yes? So why can our patrons not access it now? Who do I call? The library has received an ILL request for that article. Can we send it, and in what form? Umm, did we pay that invoice?

Even for those that want to have meaningful input into how their ERM works, these proprietary black boxes are a source of great frustration and can take the multiple full-time employees to manage. For those who cannot afford these tools or that level of staff, management (in any meaningful sense of the word) of electronic resources can be nearly impossible; however, there are a couple of open source tools out there that can help.

CORAL is an open source ERM was developed at the University of Notre Dame licensed under a GPLv3 license. It is web-based and runs in an Apache, MySQL, PHP environment. It delivers modules to manage resources, licensing, organizations (publishers, vendors, societies, etc.), and statistics. These modules link resources to licenses and providers, but they can be implemented independently. This is a fairly sophisticated application. Some development to allow integration with different link resolvers (currently only SFX) would be a great next step.

If you are not prepared to implement an application running on web server, perhaps ERMes is right for your organization. ERMes is a lighter weight desktop application that runs on MS Access. It was developed at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and is licensed under an Attribution Assurance License (Open Source Initiative). Currently, there are over 70 libraries using ERMes.

Though, populating such a database is quite a feat, I have known some librarians that have accomplished this. One piece that is missing that would minimize this monumental task is a knowledgebase of electronic resource publication patterns, packages, and licenses. The vendors that license theses knowledge bases guard their data closely. There may be a solution on the horizon. GOKb, a collaboration between Kuali OLE and JISC, will be freely available knowledgebase “that will contain publication information about electronic resources as it is represented within the supply chain from content publishers to suppliers to libraries.” It is being developed with Kuali OLE and its partner libraries in mind (research I institutions), but as the data will be open, perhaps it can be used with other tools with a bit of community work. In return, the cumulative input of smaller libraries could be of benefit to the GOKb community.

I plan to present on these topics at KohaCon 2013. In the meantime, I hope to implement tests of CORAL and ERMes to see if and how workflows and/or data might be integrated with Koha. If you already have implemented one of these (and I know one partner library out there that has), please let me know about your experience.

[Originally posted by David Noe]

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