As networked information services continue to expand, libraries need to reinforce their key intermediary role between information providers and end users to achieve a double objective: facilitate user access to electronic services distributed through the Internet and guarantee payment to providers.
TOLIMAC (Total Library Management Concept) is designed as a management tool that allows libraries to manage and control user access to electronic information. It enables electronic information providers to agree institutional contracts based on actual use of their services, as it provides guarantees on request authentication and on payment for information delivery. Authentication and payment is managed by use of a smartcard.
The TOLIMAC system is being developed by a European consortium of five partners: Université Libre de Bruxelles Département Informatique Service Cryptographie et Securité Informatique (Belgium); Xafax SA (Belgium); INIST (Institut de l’Information Scientifique at Technique) (France); Absec Ltd (UK); the University of Surrey (UK). The project has been partially funded by Commission of the European Communities.
Evaluation of the pilot system was performed at the George Edwards Library, University of Surrey during March and April 1999. The evaluation comprised the testing of the system on users, both library staff who would manage the system and end users.
The system has two discrete parts; a client interface which allows searching for, ordering, payment and retrieval of documents plus an administrator interface which allows library staff to control finances, supplier information, categories of users and their access to the system.
The client is issued with a smart card that allows them to access the system. Their details are held on a database on the administrator system. By inserting the smart card into a reader connected to the PC and entering a PIN, the client may search for documents. During the pilot tests documents were supplied by INIST in France, but it is planned that it would be possible for users to search information supplied by other information providers such as publishers, library catalogues and other document delivery centres. Searches can be performed by input of information such as author, title, keyword(s) etc. If the search is successful, the user is presented with a screen listing the titles, authors, language and the journal where the article(s) appear. They may view the abstract of articles at this stage if they wish. It is at this point that the user has the option to order and pay for one or more articles.
Payment is possible because of the use of the smart card. Each user has access to two electronic purses on their smart card; a professional purse that would probably be credited by the institution and a personal purse that would probably be credited by the users themselves. It may be possible for purses to be credited by use of credit cards or cash machines as well as by the administrator. This method of payment means that the supplier is guaranteed payment.
Once payment has been made either:
- i) the document is available to be opened, saved and/or printed immediately or
- ii) the document will be available the following day when the user may return to retrieve it ie it will be ‘scanned on demand.’
Documents are displayed in PDF format by use of Adobe Acrobat.
Personal privacy is protected and use of the card as a tracking device is minimised because the library acts as an intermediary between user and document supplier. All transactions on the Internet are secured by means of the smart card through authentication and encryption techniques.
Use of a smart card not only allows for payment of documents, but also other applications. By connecting a smart card reader to the photocopier it is currently possible to use the card to pay for photocopies, but it could be used for services such as access control to buildings etc.
Libraries can customise use of the system to their own criteria. Each library is able to apply its own electronic information access, charging policy and categories of users. All these aspects are managed using the administrator system.
During the evaluation, testers found both the client and administrator systems straightforward to use. They liked using the smart card and having two electronic purses. Users also liked the idea of being able to pay for other applications such as photocopies with the smart card. Many of the test users thought that they would make use of a ‘scanned on demand’ system such as TOLIMAC if it were available. Some issues were raised as needing further attention. These included page formatting, some aspects of searching and the inclusion of a history of transactions for the client. Testers were unanimous that such a system would be advantageous and all liked the speed of delivery of the documents.
Such a system would have an impact on the Inter-library Loans service in a library, but all testers, including library staff thought that use of the TOLIMAC system could only benefit the library and its readers.
Although there were suggestions for alterations/additions to the system by testers, reaction was very positive. The consortium is now taking decisions concerning the way forward for TOLIMAC.