Problems with text in MARC records?

Last month I wrote about a problem with the Harvard Business Review MARC record (from EBSCO) not including my Custom Coverage end date, “May 2005”. The explanation from EBSCO resulted in a larger puzzle than seemed fitting to describe in a simple update to the original post:

The reason the custom coverage is not being displayed is because the MARC Records product does not recognize the text such as “March 1997” and so does not know how to represent it on the MARC record.

I would suggest changing the format that you input your coverage to a number based system such as mm/dd/yyyy to have that information transferred over to the MARC record from A-to-Z.

I responded:

since the Collection Editor “Help” file lists (I’m taking this from the site):

Oct 2005 (considers this to be 1 October 2005)

as an option for Custom Coverage dates, but the MARC Records product doesn’t recognize text, why is it given as an option in the Collection Editor? Clearly, these two products work together for many of your customers, so it might be helpful to note the incompatibility.

Later, in my rush to a) notify my colleagues that we can’t use text in Collection Editor, b) download a list of all other instances of text that won’t appear in the catalog so I can fix them, and c) update my original blog entry, I realized that I’ve used quite a bit of text in the Custom Coverage fields within Collection Editor. I’ve used it to indicate rolling coverage on non-EJS titles, split coverage, and embargo dates (before EBSCO introducted the Custom Embargo field). And text hasn’t been a problem. So I sent a follow-up reply:

I found a few examples of instances where text is used in the Custom Coverage field and it has appeared in the MARC record. So now I’m not so sure why I can’t use “May 2005”. Would you please share these with the Development staff?

1. I used an end date of “Oct. 2005” for Milan Journal of Mathematics, and it has appeared in our MARC record ever since… [856 40 |3 Full text available: Sept. 2002 – Oct. 2005. |z Available in…]

2. I played with the fields for Environment and Behavior so I could better represent our coverage. See the MARC record here… [856 40 |3 Full text available: all of 1997, March – Nov. 1998. |z Available in…]

3. The Custom Coverage begin date for Echocardiography is entered as “2000 Aug.”, which is how it appears in our MARC record: [856 40 |3 Full text available: 2000 Aug. -. |z Available in…]

4. A colleague used volume numbers in the Custom Coverage for APS Journal, which appear in our MARC record: [856 40 |3 Full text available: v.3 no.4 (1994) – v.3 no.4 (1994). |z Available in…]

5. Another colleague used a season format (“Winter 2004”) instead of calendar date for East European Jewish Affairs: [856 40 |3 Full text available: Winter 2004 -. |z Available in…]

However, here’s something weird: I used text in the record for Studies in Applied Mathematics that reads “Rolling coverage – Previous two years” for the Blackwell link, but that source doesn’t show up in the MARC record.

So it doesn’t seem to be a difference between using text in the Begin date or End date, nor does it seem to matter whether the information was input using the Collection Editor or Upload. I appreciate the Development staff’s thoughts on these examples, and I look forward to their reply.

Something’s going on lately. Things keep coming up that turn my understanding of EBSCO’s rules upside-down. First the whole no-EJS-access-for-unsharable-passwords, now this. It’s a little disorienting, but at least I’ll come out with a better understanding of how this all works.

Posted in Cataloging, EBSCO, MARC, Updates. Comments Off on Problems with text in MARC records?

Problems with publisher changes

When we return a subscription to print format, it’s because the online access was inappropriate for an institution of our size. It may be for a smaller audience, or not allow IP authentication. Generally, we discover these when we confirm access to titles that have switched from print to online access.

Today’s problem is a little different. Africa Confidential went online last year. It was a Blackwell title that’s been working fine. A troubleshooting report this afternoon led me to discover that the publisher had changed to Asempa. And the Asempa access we were switched to at the beginning of 2007 is not appropriate for our institution. In fact, none of the Asempa access models fit our authentication and price requirements.

So we went from IP authentication to a no IP/single-concurrent user/no password sharing subscription. My recommendation is to return it to print, due to what would be a significant increase in price to change it to the most appropriate access for our institution.

The most important lesson from this is that we are reminded to confirm our subscription’s access model (e.g. IP authentication) when the journal changes publishers or platforms as well as when the subscription first switches from print to online.

Posted in Access, IP authentication. Comments Off on Problems with publisher changes

Tracking access problems

How are you tracking troubleshooting issues? What program do you use and what data do you keep?

Currently, I use an Excel spreadsheet with a worksheet per month. I track

    the date of the report
    who I received the report from (ILL, Reference, etc.)
    the problem reported
    title and source
    actual problem (if different from what was reported)
    date resolved and number of days until resolution

I’m working on creating a graph of the number of reports per month and who sends the reports, as well as a chart of the number of days it takes to resolve problems. Look for that soon on my new Statistics page.

Posted in Statistics, Workflow. Comments Off on Tracking access problems

The end of eresourcejournal

At the end of the month, I will begin my new job at Norwich University as their Distance Learning Librarian. I am very excited about this position because I’ve wanted to work with distance learning students since the not-so-long-ago days of my own online graduate program. This is my dream job.

And so, eresourcejournal reaches its end. This blog has been more helpful to me than I expected. The process of writing about things that puzzle and frustrate me has been beneficial. First, it makes me think things through. My brain works faster than my fingers, and as I type my mind wanders to another (more appropriate) idea. Had I not taken the time to write about these topics, I may not have come to those more useful conclusions.

In addition, writing is a great memory tool. Writing online with blog software allowed me to easily retrace my steps and remind myself of past discoveries. In some cases, I was able to solve a new problem by looking back at similar situations.

Lastly, blogging connects: the advantage of writing publicly and online is that other people found me. I am grateful for the comments and emails I’ve received from everyone who visits the site or reads the RSS feed. Librarians have been a source of (wonderful) ideas, commiseration, and camaraderie. EBSCO folks have been very generous with their time, emailing me directly about the concerns and ideas I’ve covered in my posts.

Perhaps others will continue to discover these posts and find them useful. Clearly, they’ll be curious about troubleshooting electronic serials problems, as illustrated in this nifty word cloud of all the text at eresourcejournal (made at I don’t know yet whether I will blog about my new job. As I re-read that sentence, I realize I likely will. I want to remain connected to my community of colleagues. I have been and will continue to follow blogs related to distance learning and distance learning librarianship. I’m sure I’ll have a few things to talk about, too.

Thank you for your visits and keeping me in your feed readers. Most of all, thank you for your comments.

(P.S. It’s a time of transition: Kelly retired one of her blogs this week. Great minds think alike!)

(P.P.S. It seems like a good idea to close the comments on all my old posts. So I’m gonna. I’ll keep this post open, so feel free to leave a message.)

Job Announcement – Serials/Electronic Resources Professional

Join the University of Vermont community! -Toni

Serials/Electronic Resources Professional – Dana Medical Library, Univ. of Vermont (Burlington, VT)

Library Faculty or Classified Staff: Classified Staff
Posting date: 6/9/2008

Job Overview: Oversee print serials and electronic resource acquisition and records management, to include create and place orders with vendors for print and electronic subscriptions; identify, create, and edit records database and website; maintain records and monitor expenditures; facilitate access to electronic collections; communicate with vendors to resolve problems and gather and report acquisitions and usage statistics for the Library’s electronic resources.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in News. Comments Off on Job Announcement – Serials/Electronic Resources Professional

Statistics updated

May’s statistics are now included in my three charts.

It should be a slow couple of months on the troubleshooting front. May-September were quiet months last year. Perhaps I’ll take advantage of that relative quiet to enhance the statistics-gathering process. To do so, I’ll probably collaborate with my serials colleagues to clarify what we should count in our statistics: shouldn’t our own discoveries of problems be included alongside problems uncovered by or on behalf of patrons?

Also, we should decide what information to include in our statistics-tracking, and what kind of information we should derive from the statistics. To start, we should quantify our unresolved troubleshooting problems; the fact that the majority of May’s problems were resolved within one business day becomes less impressive when you can see that the four unresolved problems from that month are three weeks old.

Posted in Statistics. Comments Off on Statistics updated

When an email starts a snowball

We (or maybe just I) receive messages from publishers telling us when we have new content available online. I received one last month from Atypon about three Thomas Telford titles. Generally, the announcement is just a heads-up that there are more issues online because more issues have been published.

But I noticed a few problems with this most recent message. I checked each title (and its alternate title formats, such as Proceedings of the…) at the publisher’s site (Atypon), the A-to-Z administrator, and our order records (EBSCONET).

Two titles aren’t listed on the Atypon site so I can’t check for access. I have to ask Atypon why. The third title is, but EBSCO doesn’t have a Publisher’s Site link; I asked them to add a link. Once I find out whether there will be access on Atypon, I’ll ask EBSCO to add records in the Title Wizard.

None of this is a big deal. None of this is challenging. None of this is hard to remember. It’s worth illustrating because it’s typical of how a seemingly simple notification can become a very involved process and result in a lot of work. I think that’s what most of my efforts go towards: a whole bunch of work that comes from an itty bitty notification.

That’s why the troubleshooting statistics aren’t truly indicative of the amount of work involved with problem solving and management. A troubleshooting problem that can be quickly resolved for the patron still may result in a lot more work. Snowball effect.

Getting to the bottom of it

My colleagues at the medical library graciously offered to help me with this list of 278 MARC records marked for deletion. We went over a few examples, talked out a few problems, and came up with a plan: we’re splitting up the list and going through title-by-title.

It helps that we’re sitting in the same room. We often collaborate over the phone or on Meebo, but it’s helpful to be able to just talk. Together, we figured out a reasonable plan of attack, and we’ve been able to compare findings as we plug through the list.

The majority of the problems are with ScienceDirect links that were removed from EBSCO’s Title Wizard. We still have access to everything at the ScienceDirect site, but there’s no ScienceDirect Freedom Collection link. I called EBSCO this morning and spoke with one of their representatives. I told him I was planning to send a large list of titles that needed plain old Freedom Collection links added to their Title Wizard options, and he thought that was a fine idea.

Still not sure why this is happening, but we noticed that the titles are mostly old: there aren’t current issues. It might be a publication with access from 1996-1999, rather than “to present”. It might be a previous title. Regardless, there should still be a ScienceDirect link for our patrons: in fact, there are several options but the one we need (which is part of our package) is missing.

Posted in EBSCO, MARC, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Getting to the bottom of it


I received another troubleshooting report that wouldn’t have come up if the custom coverage showed up in the MARC record. In this case, instead of bringing it to EBSCO’s attention, I’m going to resolve it while tackling a larger problem.

This particular 856 (the one lacking coverage dates) is for SpringerLINK. We also have an 856 in this record for SpringerLINK (NERL), which is our consortial subscription. Because the list of titles in the SpringerLINK (NERL) package isn’t up-to-date, we added the SpringerLINK records to compensate for the missing titles.

I’m going to go through and look at all of the SpringerLINK records. If there is a second, SpringerLINK (NERL) record, I’ll remove the SpringerLINK link. The remaining SpringerLINK records will either be

  • part of our non-NERL Springer subscription, or
  • should be part of the NERL subscription.

It’s a somewhat daunting project, given the number of titles, but it will save me so much time in the end. I’ll have a clear picture of particular titles missing from the NERL list and I’ll avoid a few troubleshooting problems.

Posted in Access, EBSCO, Single-record approach, Workflow. Comments Off on SpringerLINK

Statistics updated

March’s statistics were added to the statistics page. There were 19 reports in March, eight of which remain unresolved. A couple of those ongoing issues are familiar titles with new problems. Several problems are similar:

  • managed coverage dates don’t appear in the MARC record (Review of Income and Wealth, Journal of Financial Research, Harvard Business Review)
  • content doesn’t match what’s available through other resources (Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology, Hydrocarbon Processing)
Posted in Statistics. Comments Off on Statistics updated