During the latter half of the fall 2010 semester, I learned that our electronic resources manager and ILS administrator, a librarian with over 20 years of experience in the area, would be stepping down in July, and I would be stepping up into the role. I pondered the Sisyphean task of managing a myriad of databases, the ILS, and the library web site while the months quickly passed towards my own personal day of reckoning. Then, a beacon of light/life preserver/answer to my unspoken prayers appeared – an announcement for a pre-conference workshop on the best practices of managing electronic resources was to be held during the same month I was to accept my new responsibilities! Thanks to a little help from the New Orleans Association of Law Libraries (NOALL) and Thomson West’s annual scholarship, I made plans to attend.
The workshop was divided into 8 sections that dealt with a range of issues in electronic resources management (ERM) ranging from drafting job descriptions to vendor relations. The keynote address and overview of the workshop was given by Gordon Russell, Dean of the Lincoln Memorial School of Law Library. Russell asked the workshop audience to imagine they had a clean slate, a chance to build a law library collection from scratch. This would require some tough decisions about what to actually buy in print, when the core materials that make up a legal collection such as reporters, statutes, government documents, US treaties, law reviews, legal encyclopedias, and indexes are widely available electronically. The duplicative print and electronic collection development debate for law libraries is nothing new, but Russell’s couching the discussion in a hypothetical of building a legal collection from the ground up was stimulating. If given the opportunity to decide between a print or electronic only collection for a new law library, I know which one I would choose.
Another great section of the workshop was Director of St. Louis University Law Library Joseph Custer’s presentation on selection and assessment. Despite a Beatles reference that fell a little flat, Custer outlined some best practices of assessing electronic resources that went beyond just statistics. Other assessment considerations should include whether the interface is difficult to use; a criterion that LSU Law Library used to decide the fate of a CCH Intelliconnect subscription during the last budget cycle and does the database have a substantial place in the research and teaching needs of the institution. Just because a database gets high use, does it “fit” into your school’s curriculum needs? For example, I am a heavy user of the Literature Resource Center, an EBSCO database we receive as part of our statewide consortium membership, but my ability to read free full-text literary journals has no bearing on the research and scholarship of the law center. It might make me a happier employee, but I digress.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Smita Parkhe of Georgtown and Alan Keely of Wake Forest and their two part presentation on ERM platforms. Parkhe broke down the ins and outs of an ERM platform, primarily Millennium ERM. Keely outlined a brilliant way to manage your electronic records via your PAC, a “Non-ERM ERM”, by adding unique data to the bib records.
All in all, it was a fantastic way to spend grant money from NOALL and Thomson West and I feel like I have some valuable tools to help start this new phase of my career.