Report on the Electronic Resources and Libraries 2017 Conference in Austin, Texas

By Sue Espe

I received a scholarship from the State of Arizona Library’s Continuing Education Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to attend the Electronic Resources and Libraries (ER&L) 12th annual conference. The conference was held April 2–5 at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. The meeting incorporated sessions that addressed electronic resources and technologies as related to licensing, collection development, organizational strategies, user experience, external relationships and emerging trends.

Several of the sessions that I attended emphasized communication, user experience, and external relationships. These themes were important, central themes in two particular sessions, titled, “Marketing your library’s digital resources,” and “Hitting the sweet spot with library communications.” Better satisfying patron questions, forming partnerships and improving budgeting decisions were mentioned as reasons to market and communicate about the electronic resources that a library has to offer. It was also mentioned that students tend to use databases they know best. Responsibilities for the promotional efforts is most often led by the library director, dean or outreach librarian and faculty or students were sometimes recruited to implement as collaborative projects. First steps in the marketing process include determining the target audience, developing a strategy, creating the message and monitoring the progress to evaluate its effectiveness. Practical tips were to recruit vendors to promote or demo their product, as well as utilize their promotional products and observe locations where students gather to discover novel ways to reach them in their native environment, such as hosting pop-up activities. Messages that not only inform, but that are also personalized and include a statement of benefits with just in time information best capture audience attention. Also, placing mobile signage where students wait and stand for a short duration provide prime spots to transmit messages. Lastly, monitoring statistics changes, asking for feedback, and tying in the promotion to courses or assignments through multiple years help to evaluating the effort.

In the related session, “Communicating with faculty: faculty members provide tips for success,” several similar main points were emphasized. At this session, two University of Texas faculty members answered several questions about how to best reaching faculty. The first question was about challenges as a library user and faculty answered that in their own work, being made aware of digital resources is important as well as being able to physically browse print materials. In teaching, faculty found generational differences in conveying the importance of the library to students, who are sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer volume of resources, so faculty used storytelling of their experience to stimulate student use. Faculty find that their presence on a library tour with students to physically point out and browse relevant material helped students better learn about relevant resources. One question was about how to prevent miscommunications and faculty advised for continual, personal communication through personal visits, by phone or email to prevent it. Another question was how to communicate new services and resources. The faculty suggested that generic, mass emails tend to be overlooked or lost in the flow. They also suggested sending personal emails with specifics about relevant resources to their area, providing invitations to meet in person, instructing students in class as related to an assignment, establishing close relationships with department chairs or deans and participating in faculty meetings. Successful promotional activities included those messages that were clear, meaningful to recipient, pointed to in-depth information and that used storytelling videos.

Other sessions that I attended were related to data management and data reporting, and included, “Doing more with your data: How to use statistics to improve services, enhance collections, and impress your boss,” “Documentation: processing the process in our commitment to quality,” and “Student data secrets that could change your library, number 5 will shock you,” which was the mixed feedback of data. These sessions suggested pulling together data at start, rather than after the fact, using visualization to present data, and predicting conversions of page views to further user interaction. Other data related sessions that I attended were, “To CKB or not to CKB? Evaluating ebook catalog records versus knowledge base records” and “DDA/EBA assessment in the mega-sized and the medium-sized library: going beyond “they clicked it → we bought it → done.”

The data session, “Looking for trouble (tickets): developing a standard vocabulary to support data-driven communication about e-resource access problems,” highlighted the results of a study of 2,600 connectivity trouble tickets sent to a library within a three year period. The study was conducted to improve the troubleshooting practice and resulted in the establishment of a common vocabulary to classify the trouble tickets by type of problem, such as user error, link resolver, network down, incorrect URL, authentication errors, and subscription problems, to better improve customer service. As a result of the study, trouble tickets were better mapped and routed to correct functional areas, recurring problems were more quickly identified, and more informed conversations with vendors about issues with subscriptions and connectivity.

New features were highlight in the session, “Achieving success in research, the EBSCO discovery service way.” In another, novel uses of electronic resources were topics of other interesting sessions, and included Moving away from IP authentication,” “Ex Libris: weeding e-resources,” and “Round ‘em up, and cut ‘em out: using EZproxy to define group access to resources.” The session, Starting from where we are: adapting Microsoft SharePoint as an ERMS,” was particularly interesting as the speakers shared a novel way of using SharePoint. SharePoint and EMS electronic management solutions was demonstrated as a case study that highlighted the usage of the system to improve interdepartmental document and information sharing. It involved the collaborative effort of several library departments working together to define parameters, structure processes and build the SharePoint site to include relevant material necessary for each department in its operations that were found elsewhere. For instance, license agreements held by administration was necessary for those in document delivery or lists of purchased titles held by acquisitions was necessary for those working in collections development or the helpdesk troubleshooting connectivity issues. SharePoint was utilized as a document repository for these shared materials.

In attendance at the ER&L were librarians representing large, small, academic, public and special libraries. Overall, the ER&L conference provided a forum for librarians from differing institutions to share innovative projects and intriguing resources, where speakers talked in-depth about areas regarding connectivity strategies, management techniques, user relationships and usage assessments. Vendors showcased new electronic products and demonstrated new feature enhancements of established products.

Sue Espe is Health Science Librarian, Banner University Medical Center, Phoenix.

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