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ERM

ERM Systems: The Promise and Disappointment

Some conference sessions are just irresistible because of their titles.  For example, “Ultimate Debate: Has Library 2.0 fulfilled its promise?” Right?  I know that “Electronic Resource Management Systems: The Promise and Disappointment” would have been just as irresistible to some librarians.  If you deal with e-resources at work, whether you are cataloging them, acquiring them, setting up access for them, troubleshooting constant issues with them, you will know what I mean.  I can only imagine how many E-resources librarians have been dreaming about the one ultimate ERM system that would do the magic of cleaning up the messy Hydra-like workflow around e-resources and make ERM less of Sisiphus’ labor.

I didn’t have much information in advance about this session and guessed it would be more of a panel discussion.  But actually it consisted of four presentations by librarians who have implemented a ERM system recently.  The ERMS(E-Resources Management System)es covered in the presentations were SerialsSolutions’ 360 Resource Manager, Verde, and Gold Rush.

The presenters were (not by the order of presentation):

  • Apryl Price, Electronic Resources Librarian, Texas A&M University  (Gold Rush)
  • Jeanne Langendorfer, Coordinator of Serials, Bowling Green State University  (SerSol?)
  • Jeannie Downey, Electronic Resources Coordinator, University of Houston Libraries  (Verde?)
  • Betsy Friesen, Technical Services Analyst, University of Minnesota Libraries  (Verde?)

I missed the first presentation about SerialsSolutions’ ERM product.  This was a shame because that is the one I have access to where I work.  But I know even from my limited experience that this product is not only clunky as an ERMS  but also lacks many functionalities that any desirable ERMS should probably have.  I am not going to say I cannot search e-resources in this system by the system’s own identifier nor search any notes that I can attach to e-resources.  There, I said it… whoops.

The two presenters expressed much disappointments about Verde, an ExLibris product, particularly about its complexity and rigidity.  One pointed out that the Verde implementation forced them to fit their workflow around the system rather than fit the system around the workflow.  It was also mentioned that a lot of vocabularies in Verde which come from the ERMI data dictionary were not familiar to the librarians who worked for Verde implementation and that this delayed the implementation process.  One presenter said that her library started Verde implementation two years ago but it was still in testing and not in production.

So, it was a surprise to me that ExLibris is discontinuing Verde development and going for thier new product, URM (University Resource Management) system, instead. I would have liked some discussion about what librarians would like to see ERMS do, but that was not covered much.  My personal opinion is that ERM workflows are very fluid and iterative (also vary from organization to organization) and the tools offered have been failing to capture this aspect.  And probably that is why sometimes a homegrown ERM system works better than a complicated but rigid system offered by various vendors.

The last presentation about Gold Rush was of particular interest to me as it seemed to be the only product whose implementation was relatively easy and smooth.  The cost was also said to be on a less expensive side.  Texas A&M University library implemented it pretty quickly.  Overall, it seemed to be a neat small and simple product.  The presenter pointed out that it doesn’t handle e-books well.  Gold Rush also doesn’t have many features like Verde and is a stand-alone product/a hosted solution, which doesn’t talk to an ILS nor to an Open URL link resolver.  Still, it looked pretty good to me as my library is small and there is no tech-support staff available other than me who will be able to work on the implementation and maintenance of the system.  So, fast implementation and ease of use would be a big plus to me.

I would have liked to hear from libraries that do not currently have a commercial ERMS product about how they manage their e-resources and what kind of system they use.  Also, some discussion and experience about open-source ERMes would have been great such as  CUFTS and Univeristy of Wisconsin-La Crosse ERM.  But it was great to be in the room discussing ERMes with other e-resources librarians.

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