Defining troubleshooting

I expect to receive the 300th troubleshooting report in a month or two. Hooray. (Insert slow, sarcastic clap.) Hooray for problems.

Truthfully, I think I’ve been doing myself a disservice by counting only the problems that are reported by colleagues in ILL and Reference. My serials colleagues find lots of problems that are just as (or more) difficult and involving. I should have corrected my definition of “troubleshooting” a long time ago: then I’d probably be nearing the 600 mark.

Working definition:

Troubleshooting: any problem about electronic access that results in a data or subscription correction involving the library, publisher, vendor, or a combination thereof.

Troubleshooting: responding to questions from colleagues and patrons regarding access to electronic journals; includes any problem about electronic access that results in data or subscription correction involving the library, publisher, vendor, or a combination thereof.

[revised 2/20/08]
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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.)

Statistics updated

June’s statistics are now included in the graphs on the statistics page.

I’m reminded again that the troubleshooting tracking sheet doesn’t lend itself to very useful statistics. In tomorrow’s meeting of our serials group (charged with facilitating the merge of our main and medical libraries’ serials departments), we’ll discuss the kinds of data we need to start tracking in order to keep better statistics.

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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.

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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.


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

Ten reasons for a single-record approach

I would very much like to have a single catalog record for each journal, rather than a separate one for print and electronic access. Here are ten reasons why:

1. It would better serve our patrons to go back to maintaining our own serials records rather than having EBSCO control (and sometimes refuse) the changes.

2. By linking from the catalog to the A-to-Z list, we would avoid the trouble of maintaining links and coverage dates in the catalog record.

(According to EBSCO, they “would likely strip down the 856 to the bare minimum and exclude coverage and embargo information – that would be discovered on the A-to-Z list.” That would be a single 856 field directing patrons to online access.)

3. Coverage dates (managed or custom) sometimes do not appear in the MARC record even though they appear in the A-to-Z. We could direct people to this information by having a single 856 field to all online access.

4. Every patron would see the notes and instructions in the A-to-Z list. Notes aren’t included in the MARC records, so people using the catalog might miss important information.

5. It cleans up the catalog. Less records. Clear results. Straightforward for patrons.

6. If we eliminate duplicate information, we will reduce (or eliminate) patrons’ confusion about coverage and access.

7. If we eliminate duplicate information, we will reduce amount of work for serials staff to answer troubleshooting questions related to missing or incorrect coverage dates and MARC records that have not been updated.

What if we didn’t get MARC updates from EBSCO?

8. If we maintain our own records, we can fix problems ourselves that take EBSCO a long time to address (e.g. the diacritic problems and extra characters in 245 fields).

9. If we maintain our own records, we can fix problems that EBSCO is unwilling to address (e.g. adjusting CONSER information, duplicate bib records, and unadjustable subject headings).

10. We wouldn’t have to confirm our changes in the monthly MARC updates. The A-to-Z list is updated immediately, but the MARC files are updated only monthly. Also, depending on when a correction is made, library staff may need check two consecutive MARC updates to ensure that outdated information doesn’t overlay corrected records.

LinkSource: learning

I have been spending a lot of time lately with LinkSource. It was the topic of several meetings of our library’s Discovery and Delivery Council, and happened to coincide with my first few troubleshooting reports that related directly to the service.

I’m learning a lot, but in the wrong way: instead of taking EBSCO’s training webinars, I had to jump right in. The tech support staff have been great, and I hope I’ve provided enough interesting questions that they’re not too tired of hearing from me. I would like to have time to approach this in the proper way and learn more about LinkSource before I mess around too much or ask more questions with obvious answers. It’s frustrating to work in this manner, and I’d like to be able to make time to attend a training session.

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Re: Sharing eResource duties

There have been two responses to the message on ERIL about sharing e-resource management responsibilities. I was especially pleased to learn about the e-resources team at the University of Mississippi because:

a) they have a Head of Serials position

b) their primary troubleshooter is an e-resources librarian

c) they use Sharepoint to communicate among the six-member team

I think it would be great to have at least a serials librarian position. I like the idea of an e-resources librarian reporting to a broader serials librarian.

And speaking of an e-resources librarian, I wholeheartedly agree that the first line of defense for troubleshooting can be a librarian-level position. That kind of work can be very intricate and involved, requiring professional skills. It makes sense for the librarian to be the first line of defense and coordinate the distribution of troubleshooting reports.

I was excited to see that they communicate in Sharepoint. UVM has Sharepoint, but I don’t know if any Libraries folks are making use of it. It’s an intriguing possibility, and perhaps a band-aid until we acquire a commercial ERM.

Statistics updated

December’s statistics are added to the statistics page. Comparing six months of 2006 statistics to a full year of 2007 statistics, it’s easy to see how faster I’m able to resolve problems. It wasn’t until December 2006 that I could close a troubleshooting report in under two days; last year the average (of my average) was two days.

This is primarily an indication that I’m able to recognize how to resolve most queries right off the bat; it is not an indication that things are getting easier. My inbox is still full of unread messages relating to resolutions, and messages I’ve read by may not have acted on. I have not comprehensively or systematically followed up on previously unresolved problems (a mix of loose ends and continuing problems).

I was in a meeting last month with colleagues from our medical library who work with e-resource, and we talked a little about the statistics that we keep. I realize I should reevaluate the types of data I gather because it doesn’t give an accurate picture of the work that is involved in e-resource management. Seeing how long it takes (on average) to resolve a problem doesn’t show how many emails were sent, how many hours were spent, or how many times I wanted to pull my hair out (that would be an interesting chart).

(At some point I would like to at least streamline my classification of problems and resolutions to better identify how many problems are due to inappropriate subscriptions, inaccurate holdings, etc. I’ve been working on it slowly, but there’s more to be done.)

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