The library mission to provide access to resources meets great challenges with a high volume of licensed and free material accessible on nearly any networked device from desktops to Web-enabled phones — ejournals, eBooks, databases, theses, audio, video, and data. New technology helps to process and provide access to the content, and a key component in the supply chain is the OpenURL link resolver coupled with its knowledge base. The OpenURL standard and its functionality means that users are no longer dependent on knowledge of any one library system, but can find out at the point of need whether or not the library has online access to a resource.
Within libraries the increased amount of content is acquired and managed by fewer staff, a model which is only sustainable if technology and smart tools can provide services and data that are accurate and timely. The journals acquisitions supply chain is dependent on regular exchange of information based on the publishers’ record of an institution’s entitlement, not just of individual titles themselves, but also the content’s coverage dates according to the license agreement. The Big Deal ejournal packages, full-text databases, and the still high numbers of individual subscriptions and purchases bring a heavy load of data and record management for all parties involved in the supply chain. The publisher captures the information regarding entitlement and supplies the data not just to the library, but in many cases also to the subscription agent. In addition, the publisher supplies details of their content output and journal packages to key services such as link resolver vendors, aggregators, and related services which support content delivery. Unfortunately, this supply chain often breaks down for a variety of reasons; date format inconsistencies (e.g., MM/DD/YYYY vs. DD/MM/YYYY), incorrect holdings statements, irregular updates, and a lack of standardized data fields all contribute to a seemingly endless cycle of confusion. This can indeed be an annual frustration for any acquisitions, electronic resources, or technical services librarians spending time checking and re-checking data to ensure that coverage and holdings details are correct.
For the library, KBART hopes to reduce these problems by ensuring that publishers and other content providers are aware of the data and service requirements. A vendor or publisher title list that conforms to the KBART Phase 1 recommendations provides a standardized package of information that not only includes the recommended data fields, but also data expressed in an agreed-upon format that is not open to interpretation. Another important detail is that KBART recommends that the data be updated regularly. Currently KBART has released Phase 1 recommendations which include 16 data fields. Once the information exchange is in place, and knowledge bases are being updated on a regular basis, libraries should only need to update a knowledge base for individual subscriptions, and not for the bulk of the highvolume big deals or packages, other than the occasional updating of holdings information. This in turn means that the public interface — the library catalogue, the ejournals list, the discovery system — are updated from the single data source. These workflow improvements will allow any library personnel from “back of the house” staff to public services librarians more time to focus on other priorities, whatever they may be.
How does KBART benefit the library user? Users simply want systems that work. When one system does not work, they look elsewhere. A user should not have to figure out why the link resolver believes an article should be accessible when it is not or vice versa. In this day and age, when so much content is available online outside of library collections, libraries can ill afford the alternative, which is simply a user who no longer finds the library reliable. KBART not only looks to help libraries and librarians, but ultimately an improved user experience is the goal. Users should have confidence in library services, and accurate data means they can find what they need, when they need it. If material is not available online, users can be directed to the library catalogue to find out if print is available or to the document delivery service to obtain the article, again to any device of their choice. If title and holdings details are accurate, then over time there will be a reduction in the number of queries and errors reported to library staff, and this should, in turn, mean an increase in user satisfaction and less time wasted trying to find resources which are not available. As an integral part of the resource discovery process, the link resolver should be a trusted signpost whether a user actually knows how it works or not.
The challenges are the same as they have ever been for journals management, and there will always be the need for some intervention by the librarian, where titles change, titles move to new publishers, and titles split. Libraries are dependent not just on regular notifications of changes, but should be confident that the services comprising their toolkit accurately reflect all of the changes. KBART is not the magic silver bullet that will solve every electronic linking error. However, if the publishing industry adopts KBART recommendations, the workload on libraries will be reduced, user satisfaction will increase, and the time currently spent on resolving holdings errors will be available for other purposes.
The KBART working group hopes that librarians and users everywhere will be directly impacted by our work through improved communication between libraries, vendors, and publishers. A standardized electronic holdings format will be of benefit to us all. If you are interested in the ongoing work of the KBART working group, we strongly encourage you to visit us online at the KBART Information Hub. There you may find details about the Phase 1 Recommendations, a Summary of the Phase 1 Recommendations, and, if you’re interested in hearing anyone from the group speak, upcoming presentations at many library conferences, as well as online Webinars, are announced there. Additionally, if you have any suggestions or concerns for the group, contact information is listed as well.
KBART is not an entire solution to the discoverability issue in itself — it needs to be applied with high quality OpenURL linking provision and implementation of linking with resource discovery tools provided by link resolver vendors, to name just a few. However, it presents a commonsense approach for providing standardized holdings metadata and is a big step forward in providing the consistency and accuracy of access provision to the end user.
Leah was appointed Executive Director of the Charleston Conference in 2017, and has served in various roles with the Charleston Information Group, LLC, since 2004. Prior to working for the conference, she was Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions for the College of Charleston for four years. She lives in a small town near Columbia, SC, with her husband and two kids where they raise a menagerie of farm animals.