ALCTS eForum Summary: “Serials, Staffing, and Workflow”

For those who were not able to participate in the recent ALCTS eforum, Jennifer Sippel just sent out an amazing summary that I have replicated here.

The comprehensive final summary for ACLTS e-forum “Serials, Staffing, and Workflow” is organized in chronological order according to topics discussed.

Resources specific to each topic are available at the very end of the summary as end notes.

This summary is being presented as an email, as well as an attached DOC & PDF document.

My apologies in advance for any errors, or if I misinterpreted any part of the discussion.

Respectfully submitted by Jennifer Sippel on 22 June 2011.


Staffing: Training & Hiring

  • Libraries are reorganizing staffing to accommodate demands of acquiring, processing and maintaining access to electronic resources. They do this in a variety of ways, including: re-training existing staff, using retirements as opportunities to write new job descriptions or create new positions, re-organizing, or a combination of all. Christine Stachowicz of UNC-Chapel Hill (and others) offered detailed explanations of how departments were reorganized.
  • Staff members formerly working on print are now being trained to help support e-resources, and several mentions of the importance of cross-training so that more than 1 person knows how to do certain tasks. This may be even more critical for e-resources management as user expectations for immediate access are on the rise.
  • Jenifer Holman, who carries the title Electronic Resources/Periodicals Librarian, says: “We have just merged our periodicals and e-resources departments, due to our e-resources librarian leaving. I’m a little nervous about the additional workload, but it made sense as  in the periodicals department we were already doing the purchasing, licensing, and cataloging for our e-journals (both individually and packages). What’s a few hundred more databases??”
  • There is still some confusion around who is doing what.Lori Snyder summed it up quite well when she said, “E-Resource management is definitely a web between several departments and we have found it difficult to draw clear cut lines about who should do which activity.”
  • The silos are, for the most part, coming down with respect to managing serials in a mostly electronic frontier. More collaboration and communication are required.
  • Tina Kussey mentioned the “e-resources team” she assembled. This group of individuals is responsible for communicating with each other via an internal listserv and collectively problem solving access issues together. Lauren Corbett mentioned being part of a similar group/team, and Mark Hemhauser outlined the membership of his library’s “Contiuing Resources Coordinating Team.”
  • Julie Moore had this to say about spreading the Serials-related work out amongst many: “all staff members have had to be very flexible. The bits and pieces of dealing with Electronic Resources are scattered among many people. We ALL wear many hats, and the electronic resources portion is one part of each of our jobs.”

Format: electronic vs. print

  • Some libraries have created “electronic format preferred” policies; others are selecting electronic over print but have no formal policy; the main exception to this preference is popular reading magazines and/or periodicals with heavy graphics/images that do not translate well (or at all) online. Christine Manzer shared Simon Fraser University Library’s format policy (see Resources[i] for policy statement).
    • The transition to electronic format has resulted in less print to process and maintain (catalog, check-in, claim, track usage, bind, etc.)
  • While libraries may be purchasing more electronic resources, some are still devoting more staff time to print resources. But that is changing by the minute. Buddy Pennington notes, “we have far more staff devoted to print subscriptions than electronic. But that is changing even as I email this. This very morning, two staff persons in Technical Services were being trained on electronic resources support.”
  • Jason C. Simon mentioned that weeding print is the current trend when access is available electronically, but there are issues with doing so associated with access vs. ownership (publishers changing access policies, pulling content from aggregated databases, perpetual access as afforded by license agreements, etc.) and suggested supporting and actively promoting Open Access initiatives.
  • Mark Hemhauser mentioned a preference for electronic, but going exclusively electronic only “with publisher’s whose licensing terms are acceptable–most importantly is post-cancellation access to subscribed content.”

Checking in & claiming (print & electronic)

  • Many mentioned they are still checking in print; a few are not; and some are checking in selected print but not all, or are checking in on a limited basis.
  • Christine Stachowicz said that routine audits are a driving force for continuing checking in print at UNC Chapel Hill, though she wasn’t sure if e-resources were accounted for in the same manner.
  • Jennifer Sippel mentioned her library is still checking in print, but is no longer using the ILS and have significantly reduced other steps in the process. She shared a poster and video related to MCTC Library’s print check-in/processing changes. (see Resources[ii])
  • Many mentions of systematically claiming print, but on a much more selective basis than in the past.
    • One claiming criteria mentioned was binding. Julie Moore said that Fresno State “has stopped binding most titles, and generally speaking, if we do not bind it, we’re not claiming it.”
  • With the exception of 1 or 2, most mentioned they are still trying to figure out how to check-in and/or claim e-journals.
  • Mark Hemhauser’s summary of how he is claiming e-journals: “We get a report of all of our subscriptions that include an electronic component from our ILS. Then manually check each title (over a period of a few months) to see if the title has been cut off, and to find and resolve discrepancies between our holdings and our actual access. Similar to the SEESAU approach, but with less sophisticated programming and back-end configuration.”  [For more specifics, look for Mark’s original email within discussion.]

Checking access to E-journals

  • Some mentions of having individuals systematically checking to determine if access to electronic resources is working (yes, student workers were frequently assigned this task!).
  • Several mentions of providing easy ways for the user to report problems. Instead of a general error message, offer them a form or tab or button or link to submit reporting the problem. These reports often go to an internal spreadsheet that is reviewed by one or more members of the e-resources team. Sometimes, the team divides this workload up via a schedule.
  • Mention of products that can be purchased for checking broken links, but that doesn’t actually ensure access to content.
  • SEESAU (Serial Experimental Electronic Subscription Access Utilities) was mentioned, though nobody in the discussion said they were actually using it. Mark Hemhauser pointed us to a comprehensive article in Serials Review (see Resources[iii]) and also mentioned the tool is specific to Voyager and SFX.
  • Jenny’s editorial summary: In a perfect world, all electronic access issues would be proactively resolved. That being said, several participants mentioned they are doing what they can to address the problems as best they can with the resources they have available to them—even if it means they are reacting to problem as reported by the user (more on that later). And let’s face it, who wants the job of checking links all the way to the article level? Even then, there can still be hidden problems that will only be discovered when the user finds them. J

ERMs, etc.

  • Sounds like some of serials workflow is dependent upon the technologies employed (ILS, Link Resolvers, ERMs, etc.), so there was some brief discussion about who is using what.[iv]
  • Some mentions of specific issues related to certain products and how some libraries are moving from one product to another in an attempt to correct workflow problems related to specific product shortcomings.
    • Beverly Dowdy mentioned switching from SFX (Ex-Libris) to 360 Core and Link (SerialsSolutions) because staff couldn’t keep up with creating the local portfolios and targets required with SFX product.

Randomly selected tip from Day 1


  • from Jan Cox: “We have replaced our web page alphabetic journal title list with EBSCO’s A-to-Z product and added the A-to-Z link to our ILS bib record. These actions have minimized/eliminated the need to update URL information when there is a platform change, etc.(time saver)“

Knowledge bases + OPAC

  • This topic generated more questions than answers
    • How can we more fully utilize the OPAC? Or should we even bother?
    • How can we get vendors to make product that meet our needs?
      • Day 1 included some discussion about the flexibility of Open Source products: but even those products have their own “issues” and require someone on staff who has the technical skills required to develop the tool. For these reasons, Open Source is just not an option at this time.
    • How can we reduce duplication of efforts and get all systems to jive with one another?
  • Several mentioned how nice it would be if the ILS and the ERM were more in sync.
  • Some libraries take care of their OPAC by getting MARC records for journals & e-books from the vendors.
  • Georgie Donovan suggested, “Consolidating with one vendor seems to be one of the best ways y’all have mentioned to reduce the number of knowledge bases.”  In a later post, she proclaimed, “In my fantasy world, an ERM would be hooked up in real-time to the ILS so that when you posted a payment or changed a field in the order record, it would update the ERM automatically. It would have space to upload a file (like a title list and a .pdf license). And it would connect one Vendor Information Record (contact info, etc.) to multiple Product Records. If this fantasy product exists, tell me!”
    • Susan Davis also mentioned consolidation but warned this may result in sacrificing performance. Also, putting all your eggs in one vendor basket may not be the approach you wish you take.
  • Kristin Martin asks, “One of the things that I’ve thought about since we started experimenting with WorldCat Local and from examining other discovery tools, is what exactly should be in the OPAC?  Should we be placing all of these records into our OPAC, with every library separately maintaining records for electronic objects that are in fact stored in a central place (after all, we all point to our Elsevier journals on the same platform), or should we be working on ways to search our physical holdings in our catalog with other content, as the discovery tools are doing?… We are sort stuck in an in between place right now, where we are still trying to figure out how best to leverage our resources. “
  • This topic led to a side discussion regarding helping the user with access as well as user confusion around what is going on when linking between OPAC & A-Z list managed by ERM systems. Screen shots and accompanying advice was shared. (See Resources[v])

Print journal usage stats

  • One of the most popular topics of the day!
  • Scanning barcodes during re-shelving (barcode binder method) was mentioned a few times.
    • Krstine Sekely mentioned, “The larger campus I mentioned before is taking things one step further and asked me to shrink the barcode to fit next to the periodical title that slides into the magnetic shelf label. That way, the Student Worker doesn’t have to carry the Barcode Binder around, but can scan each barcode as the periodical is shelved.”
  • Making tick marks in a 3-ring binder when re-shelving.
  • Setting up an Access database to keep track of ticks.
  • Trend was to track title usages, not individual volume/issue usage.
  • One mention of including routed titles in total usage stats.
  • Roger Davis mentioned his open source tracking system, which he’s happy to share. (see Resources[vi])

Tracking communications related to e-resource access issues

  • Not a lot was said about this one; seems as if there is still some uncertainty about how to do this…OR maybe part of this has been addressed in earlier discussion related to forming teams (Serials Work Group, e-resources team, Continuing Resources Coordinating Team, etc.)?
  • Repeat mention of forming an e-resources team and coordinating communication between that team.
  • Several mentions of having a “report problem link” button on various interfaces that send messages to spreadsheets or documents, which are then reviewed by the team (or individual) responsible for troubleshooting access issues. (See Resources[vii])
  • One mention of using SysAid to report/route problems.
  • One mention of using Dropbox to share documents.
  • Recommendation to use generic emails (rather than individual personal emails) for all vendor/publisher communications.

Documenting & assessing workflows

  • Use of Word documents & other types of manuals outlining tasks, including screen shots!
  • Have the individuals doing the work actually write the manuals.
  • Have a back-up person trained in case main person is out (or leaves).
  • Create Captivate (or another screen capture software) tutorials for training.
  • Be pro-active in order to anticipate potential problems.
  • Georgie Donovan shared an e-resource workflow document (attached) and is coordinating an interest group around sharing of such documents/resources in some type of informal repository. (see Resources[viii])

ONE word of advice

  • “Not claiming and then tracking the claim status!!!” –Saundra L.  Ross
  • “A modified (significantly reduced) print check-in processes, including ceased claiming.”–Jennifer Sippel
  • “Print serials have gotten easier because we have so few of them now, and we stopped claiming.”–Julie Moore
  • “About the only positive impact on staff is that if your staff were overqualified for print serials workflows, you now have something challenging to throw at them….I think the job prospects in this field are far better than for subject selectors and reference and instruction librarians. “–Mark Hemhauser
  • “You have to be willing to embrace an ever-changing environment and accept chaos (at least in the digital world)!”–Becky Torrey
  • “I think the e-resources work has led to more interesting, more techy jobs in the “tech services” area of the library and gives a better impression of tech services work….”  –Georgie Donovan
  • “Because we don’t have a large staff, we’ve been forced to do more cross-training. There have been challenges of course, but overall, we now have more flexibility in what folks can do.” –Tina Kussey


Impact of e-Books on serials workflow

  • Christine Stachowicz offered this summary: “We split the handling of e-books pretty much the same way – what acts like a monograph or is purchased like one goes through our Monographic Services Dept, while what acts like a serial (essentially, resources that involve ongoing payments) are handled by E-Resources & Serials Management.”
  • Julie Moore said “e-books workflow is handled by the same Serials Work Group that now handles all of the rest of the electronic resources.”
  • Susan Davis said, “I think the folks handling e-books have a greater appreciation for the struggles the e-serials folks have had all these years. In other words, “welcome to my nightmare” :-)”

How to hand “archival” access sent on a hard drive

  • Put an internal note in the item record saying something like “Archival Backup Copy on hard drive available in Special Collections.” 
  • Save hard drives in special collections area or E-Resources Access Librarian’s office J
  • Christine Stachowicz predicts a server-based home for all of archival copies
  • Duke creates (and suppresses from public view) a brief catalog record and sends the hard drives to Library Services Center for storage

Random funny moment of Day 2:

The YBP e-books come “shelf-ready.” 🙂 –Mark Hemhauser

That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day! 🙂 –Julie Moore


[i] Simon Fraser University Library’s Format Policy: “The Library recognizes that the scholarly community uses, and in some cases relies solely on, academic journals in a digital format.  The Library is committed to delivering digital content to readers’ desktops both on- and off-campus. The Library recognizes the benefits of electronic journals with respect to allowing access outside the library and beyond the campus, and permitting simultaneous use by multiple readers. For these reasons, and to most effectively allocate its resources, the Library has undertaken a process in consultation with faculty, to review dual subscriptions and migrate to electronic-only journals when possible.”

[ii] Jennifer Sippel’s Print Periodicals Processing video:

full screen version:

mobile version:

to see poster: contact


[iii] Collins, Maria and William T. Murray. “SEESAU: University of Georgia’s Electronic Journal Verification System” Serials Review, 35.2 (June 2009) 80-87. DOI: 0.1016/j.serrev.2009.02.003.

[iv] Proprietary Vendor products mentioned (I hope I caught them all):

  • TDNet
  • Serials Solution
  • Ex-Libris


Open Source ERM & Link Resolver:

[v] Helping the user find e-journals (or, helping the user NOT use the A-Z e-journal list to look for articles)

ONE PROBLEM [Georgie Donovan]


We use the MARC record service (through Ebsco AtoZ) to upload bib records with links for all our e-journals (whether single subs, titles in databases or titles in journal packages).  Patrons search the catalog for a title, click on a link in the bib record which takes them to the AtoZ page, choose a link to the journal from the AtoZ page (there are usually multiple choices for journal access in multiple databases – with different coverage years, etc.).  Then finally go to the journal itself…  *then* try to find an article.


Our interface is complicated by several things that are non-customizable in the interface:  the name of the database comes first (before the coverage dates).  There’s a search box at the top of the screen.  And everything’s complicated by the fact that we share a catalog with two other university libraries – so there are more choices than even we would have.


I’ll paste a screenshot below, but in case it comes out in html, the following link should be open to the public:  This is the screen you get after you click on VIEW ONLINE from the bib record.



ONE SOLUTION [Christine Stachowicz]


UNC-Chapel Hill uses SerialsSolutions’ MARC record service…and SerSol’s A-to-Z, to which our catalog records link. So if I search Journal of academic librarianship in our OPAC and click on the “Full text available via the UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries” link for the e-version, I get to this:



So other than the small “Search This Site” option at the bottom which I suppose could be misinterpreted, our users have no option to search for content from this results page.  I know lots of usability testing has been done here but I don’t personally know of results they’ve gotten re: the type of task you described.


For anyone who was unable to view the screen shot of the SerSol results page, see Or just search our OPAC ( and click the “Full text available via the UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries” link. Everyone should be able to get that far – just not into the databases themselves.


We [UNC-Chapel Hill] have an E-Journal Finder too. On our library homepage, the different search options appear as tabs:




The EJ finder:



Since we have a Quick Article Search tab in addition to the E-Journals tab, hopefully our users don’t use the latter to find articles!

[vi] Roger Davis’ print periodicals usage tracking system:


[vii] University of Vermont’s "Report an E-journal Problem" interface:


[viii] Georgie Donovan’s invitation to join her ad hoc e-resources documentation depository: “For those like Millie & Kristine who wanted to create some kind of shared repository for e-resources documentation, email me off-list ( and I’ll pull us together as an informal group to share documentation resources… at least until some future wonderful system or infrastructure arises!”


jennifer a. sippel, librarian/instructor

Mpls Comm & Tech College

1501 Hennepin Ave S

Mpls, MN 55403






One thought on “ALCTS eForum Summary: “Serials, Staffing, and Workflow”

  1. Should we be placing all of these records into our OPAC with every library separately maintaining records for electronic objects that are in fact stored in a central place after all we all point to our Elsevier journals on the same platform or should we be working on ways to search our physical holdings in our catalog with other content as the discovery tools are doing?… Screen shots and accompanying advice was shared.Print journal usage stats One of the most popular topics of the day! Scanning barcodes during re-shelving barcode binder method was mentioned a few times Making tick marks when re-shelving Access database to keep track of ticks trend was to track titles not individual volume issue One mention of including routed titles in total usage stats Roger Davis mentioned his open source tracking system http which hes happy to share.Tracking communications e-resource access issues Not a lot was said about this one seems as if there is still some uncertainty about how to do this? Repeat mention of forming an e-resources team and coordinating communication between that team Several mentions of having a report problem link buttons on various interfaces that send messages to spreadsheets or documents One mention of SysAid to report route problemsDocumenting assessing workflows Word documents other types of manuals outlining tasks including screen shots! have a back-up person trained in case main person is out or leaves? captivate videos for training be pro-active in order to anticipate potential problems Georgie Donovan shared e-resource workflow document and is coordinating an interest group around sharing of such documents resources in some type of informal repositoryONE word of advice Not claiming and then tracking the claim status!!! –Saundra L. In other words welcome to my nightmare – And because I couldnt summarize it for him Mark offered his own summary for Day 1 Mark Hemhausers response to claiming e-journals We get a report of all of our subscriptions that include an electronic component from our ILS.

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