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Earlier this month at the 2013 ACRL Annual Conference in Indianapolis, more than 150 guests joined us at a Serials Solutions sponsored breakfast event that focused on challenges facing modern libraries and the need for continuous innovation to address these challenges and meet ever changing user expectations.
The morning started off with an introduction to Summon 2.0—the latest advancements for the Summon service—and a sneak peak at Intota™ Assessment, which provides innovative views and metrics of a library’s collection, including a number of reporting and analysis tools designed to improve collection management, helping libraries easily make the most data-informed collection development decisions possible. The highlight of the event was a conversation with librarians Jeff Daniels, Head of Knowledge Access and Resource Management Services at Grand Valley State University Library (GVSU) and Bradley Faust, Assistant Dean for Library Information Technology Services at Ball State University Libraries.
At one point the conversation turned to the need for libraries to partner with vendors and other libraries to tackle the challenges that libraries are facing. Daniels remarked that Serials Solutions services are essential for their relatively small library staff to handle the volume of work required to stay on top of managing growing electronic collections. Serials Solutions’ Software as a Service (SaaS) model coupled with the continuous enhancements and innovations made to the services are a huge benefit to the library. Daniels went on to say that Serials Solutions services such as Summon really do work in ways that meet users’ expectations which allows their front line staff to excel in providing the services they do.
Faust agreed that partnering with vendors is important simply because, for most libraries, a vendor can build tools better and cheaper than any library ever will. He went on to provide a concrete example of the power of working with Serials Solutions and the value it brings to his library and users. When the library first went live with the Summon service in Fall 2012, a search across the full breadth of Ball State University’s collections surfaced 255 million results. Repeating the search just a few days before ACRL produced results for over 282 million records. Faust commented, “There’s just no way we could have made 27 million more items discoverable at our library on our own.”
Throughout the discussion, Daniels and Faust shared numerous thoughts on why libraries (and vendors) must continue to innovate to keep pace with changing technologies, changing user expectations and the changing nature of library collections. Both commented on the fact that users simply expect a single search box experience that works like Google—they expect immediate access to full text, 100% of the time. Daniels stated that it used to be acceptable for a user to wait for 24 hours for delivery an item, but now users don’t even want to wait five minutes. Daniels also added, “Librarians need to face the fact that there are thousands of users who simply never interact with librarians or ask for help.”
Daniels and Faust summarized the positive impact that Summon and other Serials Solutions services are having on their libraries. Faust explained, “Summon has allowed Ball State to move toward the single search box in a meaningful way, it simplifies and streamlines access to more of the scholarly material in our collections. We have seen significant increases in ‘click-throughs’ via a link resolver since introducing Summon. And, we are beginning to see metrics like cost per use of electronic journals improve (i.e. lower cost per access).” Daniels added that at GVSU the Summon service is not only increasing usage of resources but it is improving service levels as well.
Changes in users’ expectations and collections have inspired and helped each of these libraries to rethink and adjust service models. Both libraries are expanding opportunities for self-service and empowering students with new ways to access robust digital collections. Also, they both are fostering news ways for librarians to engage with users and they see the continued development of the library as place—in fact, GVSU will be opening a new library later this year.
Both GVSU and Ball State University use multiple services form Serials Solutions to aid in discovery and management of their collections—including the Summon service, 360 Link, 360 Resource Manager, and 360 Counter—and both have contributed to the continuous development of these services. As the first customer to purchase the Summon service in North America, as well as the recipient of a 2012 ACRL Excellence in Libraries award, GVSU is widely recognized as having an innovative library that’s delivering top-notch services. GVSU is currently serving as a Summon 2.0 development advisor which provides them an opportunity to engage with their users to solicit feedback and provide comments on upcoming enhancements to the Summon service. Meanwhile, Ball State University is an Intota™ development partner which provides them an opportunity to help shape the development of a new solution that will transform library management and assessment services.
For both of these libraries, the conclusion is: library resources must be easy to use. Faust expanded on this notion by explaining that competition from Internet search will continue to be a challenge for libraries and that the Summon service helps close that gap by simplifying library search for students and faculty. “Libraries do need to guard against students’ willingness to settle on something for their research that’s ‘good enough,’” said Faust. The Summon service provides easy access to scholarly resources and is continuously enhanced to match user expectations. At the same time Serials Solutions’ management tools ensure that libraries can optimize, assess and manage collections.