Thursday, June 01, 2006

Reports from UKSG still coming in:

Customer service excellence

Workshop report by Bev Acreman, Taylor & Francis and Graham Stone, The University of Bolton

There were three main aims to this workshop:

· To discuss the problems in the communication chain between publishers and librarians and what we could do to eliminate them (the problems, rather than the publishers and librarians)

· To introduce the idea of Charter Mark as a way to improve quality

· To report back in a future issue of Serials

Prior to the workshop, two anonymous surveys were mailed to librarians and publishers via lis-e-journals, serialst and ALPSP-discuss. Over 120 libraries and over 30 publishers responded.

The results of these surveys formed the basis of the discussion, which was broken down in to three separate areas.

From a library perspective the top ten complaints were as follows:

1. Unannounced changes to online access
2. Journals moving publisher without announcement
3. E-Journals holdings changing suddenly mid-term
4. No gracing policy for online editions
5. Journals dropping out of big deals mid-term
6. Online access for new subscriptions
7. Still needing thousands of subscriber numbers to get things done
8. Lack of transparency on titles retained after big deal is done
9. Publisher website ‘improvements’ without notice
10. Lack of information on merges and acquisitions

The issues can be grouped as follows:

Communication of changes
-According to our survey, while librarians want to be contacted personally by publishers (84%) over any changes, they do not want visits, phone calls, direct mail or e-mails. 61% of librarians like direct mail, but from the qualitative responses, most threw it away!
Clarity in negotiations on big deal
– What titles will be retained; what happens when titles drop out mid-term
Publisher systems not adapting to the new online environment
– No gracing policy, setting up new subscriptions, having to know thousands of subscriber numbers.

One of the questions asked in the survey was: “What is your primary method of contact with your customers?”. It was interesting to note that the views of publishers and librarians differed significantly in some areas such as the utility of listservs, which were the publishers’ least favourite method of communication, but 37% of librarians get their information from the listservs. Only 19% of publishers used it ‘very often’ to send out changes to their publishing programme.

A further discrepancy was that 64% of publishers ranked listservs as either ‘useful, knowledgeable or constructive’ for discussion on their products. It is clear that while the publishers are reticent about posting or responding to postings on the listservs, and that librarians (as revealed in the workshop discussions) in some cases contacted the publisher directly before going to the listserv, services like lis-e-journals are still a popular communication tool which could be utilized more widely and to greater effect with more publisher participation.

Finally, the workshop covered the relevance and applicability of Charter Mark (the UK Government’s national standard for excellence in customer service to the discussions. The criteria are as follows:

1. Set standards and perform well.
2. Actively engage with your customers, partners and staff.
3. Be fair and accessible to everyone and promote choice.
4. Continuously develop and improve.
5. Use your resources effectively and imaginatively.
6. Contribute to improving opportunities and quality of life in the communities you serve.

Although the workshop did not suggest publishers seek Charter Mark accreditation, is was agreed that many of the principles applied following the results of the two surveys.

Libraries are learning from the private sector (publishers) about marketing to their customers
• Is it time for publishers to learn from the public sector (libraries) about customer service?

The presenters of the workshop will be undertaking further analysis and research and will hope to make this available in due course.


SUNCAT – moving from project to service

Briefing session report by Natasha Aburrow-Jones and Zena Mulligan, EDINA

These sessions concentrated on how SUNCAT (Serials Union CATalogue for the UK) has developed since the launch of the pilot service in 2005. The first section consisted of a brief recap of the history of SUNCAT, setting its development in context and outlining the scope and structure of the catalogue. It was emphasized that SUNCAT is very much a collaborative effort with representatives from the JISC, higher education and National Libraries all working closely together on the development of SUNCAT.

The two main aims of SUNCAT were highlighted:

• For researchers: to be a source of information about the location of serials in the UK, including information about access

• For librarians: to be a source of high quality bibliographic records for downloading, so enabling libraries to upgrade records on their local catalogues and also to act as a location tool for inter-library loans

    Phase One of SUNCAT ran until the end of 2004 when the first 22 libraries including the three National Libraries had been loaded onto the catalogue. With the inclusion of the CONSER database and the ISSN register, the database held over four million records.

    The presentation then moved on to look at the progress SUNCAT has made during Phase Two which commenced in January 2005 with the launch of the pilot service, available at . One of the main aims of Phase Two is to increase the geographic coverage of SUNCAT and also the number of unique titles held in the catalogue. Therefore, while Phase Two libraries include additional large higher education establishments, smaller, more specialist collections are also included, as are a small number of civic libraries.

    SUNCAT currently holds data from a total of 40 libraries, with plans to have around another 40 added by the end of 2006. (The full list of contributing libraries is available at

    An important issue which is being addressed in Phase Two is how SUNCAT will be kept up to date and accurate, with the aim of receiving automated updates from most contributing libraries (CLs) on a monthly basis. Following some problems experienced in this area, the SUNCAT Team will be shortly loading these update files and contacting libraries to ask for regular updates.

    Phase Two developments include investigating how SUNCAT can link to the websites of contributing libraries and also through to equivalent records on local catalogues so that users can seamlessly check on both the most up-to-date holdings information and local access arrangements. Further, SUNCAT is working with Serials Solutions on Project AIMSS looking into using the ONIX for Serials format for transmitting serials information.

    Another Phase Two development involves the creation of a Librarian’s interface, which should be available later in 2006. This facility will provide:

    • authenticated access to SUNCAT for CLs allowing them to download SUNCAT records to their local catalogues

    • customizable notification reports to CLs about any changes to records on SUNCAT

    • a facility to verify which records supplied by each CL are unique.

    In the case where a CL has supplied unique records, they will be asked to review and upgrade any low quality records so that eventually SUNCAT should contain one good quality bibliographic record for every title on the catalogue. These records will then be available for downloading by the contributing libraries so improving the quality of serials information on a local and national level.

    The session rounded up with information about plans for the future of SUNCAT. SUNCAT is due to launch as a full EDINA-supported service in August 2006. Beyond 2006, the SUNCAT Team will continue to investigate how SUNCAT can serve individual or more specialist communities by providing different views onto the data from both a geographic and subject perspective and also how it can best integrate with the wider information environment. This is likely to include links with electronic table of contents services such as Zetoc and also A&I databases, but also forward linkage to document supply services. Ideally, SUNCAT will be interoperable with OpenURL resolvers in order to address the appropriate copy issue. Finally, libraries will continue to be added to the catalogue to improve both the geographic coverage and the number of unique titles so that it becomes a truly comprehensive national serials union catalogue.


    Anonymous carlo41 said...

    As the surveys showed, the biggest complaint publishers and librarians consider are the unannounced changes towards online access. This just goes to show that there is a problem in communications. A breakdown in communication affects a large percent of subscribers and customers. This is an issue that must be given special attention.

    5:44 am  

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