E-Matrix: NCSU Library Eresources Management System

Andrew Pace and Stephen Meyer, NCSU Libraries
Sunday, October 1, 2005

A great session with the bigger picture of eResource management in mind. Useful for any librarian looking to manage a dispersed and disparate set of library data. Andrew and Stephen have got their mind around what it means to administer records of database subscriptions, ejournals and print journals while at the same time managing access and display issues for librarians and the users we work for. It’s an all encompassing system that reworks how we can manage our growing eResources and it will involve ALL departments in the library.

Andrew began with a review of Electronic Resource Management (ERM). ERM has been talked about for a while with little progress. The DLF as well as library vendors have started to put some thought into it. Companies and parties have also been looking to develop these systems. (Innovative Interfaces was first to market.) At its core, ERM is about re-envisioning collection management. For some heavy reading on the subject, check the DLF ERMI site (includes a link to DLF ERMI report). Andrew stressed that this was not something that happened overnight. There were rumblings of it around 1999… When it did get scoped out by an NCSU working committee, the E-Matrix had three objectives: managing acquisitions, providing access via discovery/display and collection management.

Stephen presented on scoping the data – deciding on what type of data needed to be included in the E-Matrix. It’s a large moving target, but it was limited to acquisitions data, licensing data, bibliographic data and subject (display) data. Both Andrew and Stephen emphasized that deciding what data they needed was the easy part. The contentious part was deciding what department would be the “authoritative data store” for the E-Matrix. (A role traditionally held by tech services and the Library OPAC…)

After a brief talk about licensing and acquisitions data (stuff that might stay behind the scenes a bit), Stephen continued with a quick rundown the data for the public interface of E-Matrix. And this is where it got pretty interesting if you’re thinking about how to display multiple facets of resources for your users. The ERM committee asked a group of public service librarians to come up with a vocabulary to use based on the following facets:

  1. Container – type of resource (e.g., article database, online data set…)
  2. Content – what is inside resource (e.g., images, citations…)
  3. Aboutness – what is the resource about (e.g., general subjects – biology, education…)

Just seeing these facets was really helpful. We can get a rich set of access points for our resources if we used each of these options. And that was Stephen’s next point as he showed a mock-up of the public interface of the E-Matrix. It was pretty text-heavy, but it offered lots of access points via tabs, and multiple displays. (A user might need to spend some time there before really getting comfortable with it.) Stephen did a walk-through of the display of the two major components of the E-Matrix – Databases and Journals. Before handing it back over to Andrew, he mentioned some future directions like the ability for librarians to create custom pages with a simple html select and drop-down form. Very cool stuff.

Andrew did talk a bit about the back-end specs, Oracle, JAVA (JSP, Struts), PL/SQL database. The database scheme was flashed on the screen and it was complex. Over thirty tables, at least. “It’s a complicated problem” – Stephen. Andrew and Stephen aren’t sure how to share the code, but would like to. Boston College Libraries has been working on an ERM and they have a data dictionary and other documentation available at http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/ulib/staff/erm/erm-db/. BC Library is not supporting – just offering documentation for those interested.

A great macro view of where libraries can go with managing eResources. And even if you can only use bits and pieces of the E-Matrix idea, you’re still going to be improving things. All kinds of information (including presentations) is available at http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/e-matrix/. For another take on the session, check Karen Coomb’s earlier post from her blog.