Book Review: E-metrics for Library and Information Professionals
e-Metrics for Library and Information Professionals: How to Use Data for Managing and Evaluating Electronic Resource Collections. By Andrew White and Eric Djiva Kamal, Facet Publishing, 2005, ISBN 978-1856045551, 268 pages.
The sub-title of this book provides a broader explanation for those who may be puzzled by the use of the term "e-metrics". The book suggests that to reach a real understanding of how digital and virtual library collections are used and who is using them, generating data on a local level as well as employing vendor-generated data which conforms, or otherwise, to emerging standards, is important for libraries.
The book starts with a preface which summarises its contents, allowing the reader to choose between 3 sections - What e-metrics are; Why they are required by libraries; How libraries can build local collections of e-metrics data. This may encourage the more experienced collections manager to skip over the first section, which is largely historical in content. However, for the inexperienced collections manager the first section is a useful reminder of how and why data is collected and the sorts of information that can be gleaned from it.
In its examples, the book is talking about resources in the sense of paid-for, subscription-based electronic resources - but primarily journals and databases. Its tone is slanted towards academic libraries, but the examples given throughout the book could be equally applied to public or business libraries - where they subscribe to the same types of content.
The first 3 chapters of the book provide an explanation and background for the user in the emergence and development of e-metrics and why they are important for libraries, with the first chapter making comparisons with the use of e-metrics in business. The following two chapters look at the emerging standards for data generation and illustrate how companies provide data complying with those standards, alongside data generated by the companies themselves. This section also sets the scene for the following two, as it emphasises the viewpoint that vendor data, in whatever form it is received, while useful, should be augmented by locally produced data. It sets up three imaginary scenarios of small, medium and large general library configurations to demonstrate later on in the book how libraries of these types can implement local e-metrics solutions with the probable resources they have available to them.
Chapters 4-6 are the chapters of justification - why libraries should collect detailed e-metrics information, and the purposes to which the results could be put to justify the role they play in their institution. The age of seemingly freely available information, via the Internet, can make managers question the relevancy of purchasing electronic resources. These chapters pose a series of generic hypothetical frequently asked questions to provide libraries with ideas on what sort of information could be gathered with locally produced e-metrics to assist them in justifying their role in the institution. Questions are posed to give examples, using e-metrics, to show how the resources are being used, who is using them and when they are being used. The role of e-metrics in collection management and development, library administration, costs and infrastructure is also highlighted.
A number of the questions posed, and the answers provided, may seem obvious to persons who have been dealing with e-collections for some time. However, for the newcomer to this area, they act as a guide to the sorts of e-metrics which could be produced, even at a basic level, and the uses to which they could be put in justifying collection development and management as well as staffing in the library.
The final section of the book looks at the technology and work processes involved in getting e-metrics implemented on a local level, rather than relying on vendor-produced data. It looks at local e-metrics projects from both the technical and administrative implementation perspectives. This is not a step- by-step in-depth explanation of how libraries should go about these projects. Rather, the chapters seek to provide guidelines on what would be required to make local projects work - the sorts of technology and personnel that would be required, the types of data to be included, along with an indication of potential problems that might be encountered during the process of extracting the local e-metrics information. It provides examples of basic, middle and advanced level projects. There is an assumption of some technical knowledge, and in general the explanations are clear. The chapters point out that often the basic technical infrastructure exists in the libraries' computer network, and that working in partnership with other areas of the organisation can make a project feasible, although it does not rule out the possibility of outsourcing the project if necessary.
The final chapter attempts to look into the future and see what issues could affect the production of local and vendor-produced e-metrics. One chapter cannot hope to go into great depth on issues such as Open Access, consolidation in the publishing sector, federated searching, etc, but as these issues and others develop in the sector, the need to revisit these areas to see how e-metrics are being implemented is highlighted.
The book is useful for people new to the field of e-resource management. It is not a complete step-by-step "how-to-do-it" manual, which may be a slight concern for the novice. However, it encourages e-resource managers to think why locally produced data is relevant for their libraries (rather than just relying on vendor data), what data could be extracted, and also provides scenarios on how this could be achieved from a technology and personnel standpoint. While this may seem 'old hat' for experienced e-resource managers, this book could nonetheless serve as a useful aide-mémoire.