Delivering “building blocks” for digital libraries: First experiences with elsevier electronic subscriptions and digital libraries in europe

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  • Pergamon

    Library Acquisitions: Practice & Theory, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 273-279, 1997 Copyright 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd Printed in the USA. All rights reserved

    0364-6408/97 $17.(X) + .00

    PlI S0364-6408(97)00041-0






    Manager, Market and Sales Development Elsevier Science BV

    Amsterdam The Netherlands

    Internet: c.kluiters @

    Abstract--The first conference on Elsevier Electronic Subscriptions (EES) held on October 17 and 18, 1996 at Chateau Marquette in Heemskerk, The Netherlands', contains the contributions of the first "live" experiences on organizational, opera- tional, and technological levels in building digital journal collections at participating libraries in a commercial environment. EES was launched in ]995. This first meeting in Europe, with some 45 European and Japanese librao, representatives implementing EES, has resulted in a memorable meeting, since it represents a true state-of-the art in operational experiences with respect to electronic primary journal information avail- able to end users via their own digital library. 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd

    Keywords- -D ig i ta l libraries, Electronic journals, Elsevier Electronic Subscriptions, User training and promotion


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    Since the beginning of the 1990s, Elsevier Science has been exploring the route toward the digital libraries of the future. With projects such as TULIP, The University Licensing Program, and CAPCAS, Computer Aided Production for Current Awareness Services, collaboration was sought with its traditional partners: the academic, governmental, and corporate R&D libraries. The TULIP project, which was aimed at some major university libraries in the U.S., is described in the literature quite substantially by the participating libraries [1] as well as the responsible project people of Elsevier Science, K. Hunter, J. Zijlstra, and P. Mostert [2-5]. This short review paper goes beyond TULIP and CAPCAS and discusses the history and objectives behind the EES program and provides an overview of the presented conference papers. It also touches upon the main topics discussed and overall conclusions. In putting together the conference program the organizers went back to the earlier topics of building a digital library, which are described in earlier papers on CAPCAS and EES. These topics may be basically categorized under three subject headings: pricing, technology, and user education and promotion. Added to these topics are case studies or specific applications of EES in various library settings such as corporate R&D/special libraries, national and (semi-) governmental libraries, and academic libraries.


    Sometimes history repeats itself. At a recent conference on full text retrieval [6], E. Brenner remembers the early days of online searching and how many librarians (especially those from a corporate environment) started training their staff to become "information managers" to cut down on online access time, increase the efficiency of search and retrieval sessions, and avoid the almost uncontrollable budgets for online search charges through the various host organizations. This led, among others, to a further specialization of this type of staff and the emerging availability of databases on locally networked CD-ROMs (!).

    In many discussions with librarians on the pricing and licensing of EES, however, it is somewhat surprising to see that the issue of pay per use continuously (re-)appears. Perhaps not surprising given the rising serials costs but surprising in relation to the above experiences. It is probably fair to say that there is, at yet, very little recently published literature on the economic model behind electronic primary information of STM journals. Despite some interesting papers from Friend [7] and Singleton [8,9], a great deal of research still needs to be done. Especially in the area of the access vs. ownership model. The pricing models used so far for the EES concept are based on surcharge percentages on the print subscription rates of the journal collection(s) for unlimited usage (downloading, browsing, printing) of an end-user population with no restrictions on concurrent usage or "physical" size of this community, thereby avoiding the above mentioned "historic" discussions.

    Future pricing models was the topic of two presentations. A. Jankovich touched upon the Elsevier transition and future pricing principles in the long term, based on a recent (internal) study that was executed in collaboration with the Boston Consultancy group. J. MacKie-Mason of the University of Michigan presented the outline of a new field experiment/study at his university and the associated problems and opportunities of new ways of pricing for electronic information, such as price differentiation, nonlinear pricing, and bundling. He compares these new possibilities with comparable and more common pricing in other industry sectors, such as the airline and telecom- munications industry. These two presentations were merged into one paper.

  • EES and Digital Libraries in Europe 275

    Figure 1. Participants of the First Elsevier Electronic Subscriptions Conference.


    Two criticisms that are associated with the TULIP project are the relatively small number of titles (43) in relation to a library's complete collection of title holdings (comprehensiveness) and the fact that only a small number of libraries from the U.S. could participate. This is the reason that EES includes all the 1,100-1,200 journal titles and is offered to a worldwide audience. For all journal issues and articles (estimated at the moment to be 150,000-180,000 articles per year) of these journal titles, the electronic production process results in datasets containing four components (or electronic files). The whole process of electronic production and delivery of EES datasets is described in another paper published in a recent special issue of the IFLA Journal [ 10] and in the Essen Symposium proceedings of 1995 [11]. I would like to summarize these here:

    1. Page Image files. Every scanned page results in a one-page image file. These page images are standard black and white, single-page TIFF 5.0 files with a scan resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi). The maximum size is European A4 (210 x 297 mm). The compression method is the international CCITT Fax Group IV encoding scheme.

    2. Text files. These are the result of optical character recognition procedures. These text files are referred to as "raw," since no keyboarding, editing, and spell-checking are performed. The files contain only ASCII characters in the range from 32 to 126. Lines are variable and are in "stream mode." The text files contain the full text of the complete article with the

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    exception of complex structures such as displayed equations, matrices, tables, chemical formulae, etc. There is one "raw" ASCII text file per page issue. SGML-coded bibliographic file. Basically, every article has the bibliographic data and the abstract in SGML (Standardized General Mark-up Language) format tagged and edited. There are some 30--40 possible field tags per article "head," such as article, author, dates, keywords, etc. DATASET.TOC. file. This is the main entry file in which all cross-indexing reference data are provided. The directory structure follows a hierarchy that directly reflects the subdivision into journals, issues, and pages. Journals are identified by their International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). This DATASET.TOC file is necessary to reconstruct journal issues and editorial items contained in it.

    A fifth additional possibility also available is a so-called PDF "wrapper," which makes it possible to use Adobe's Acrobat reader software for the client.

    In the beginning of 1997 more standards ("true" PDF, SGML) will be added to complete the spectrum of open architecture-based formats. In other words, EES will not be limited in terms of formats, but it will be continuously upgraded. P. Mostert's paper goes into more detail on the technical as well as the functional aspects of EES and on future developments (upgrading and upscaling). He also touches upon the various systems (hardware and software) implemented at the various libraries.

    Datasets are profiled for each and every individual library and distributed via CD-ROM on a regular basis to every customer for local storage on their (image) server(s). There are basically three software options available to libraries. First is the option to integrate the information into existing (or newly developed) systems. Many libraries are interested in this because of the seamless way the information is accessed using already acquired, implemented, and familiar information systems. Nevertheless, this may be somewhat complicated when human resources (especially in the field of information technology) are scarce or belong organizationally to other departments than the library itself. A second option is the SiteSearch architecture of OCLC, which is supported by Elsevier. A third option, also supported by Elsevier, is the ScienceServer software of Orion, which was launched at the recent London Online Meeting in 1996.

    The possibility of storing the EES datasets (and thus the journal information) on a local storage system has led to many discussions with new EES participants on the topic of remote vs. local storage. The discussion focuses on the necessity to build local digital collections. In many discussions the topic is remote storage and access as an opposite strategy to local storage and access. At a recent conference on issues of the introduction of new media and technologies to the consumer market [12], J. Dinklo of the Bureau for Information Technology and Electronic Media in The Netherlands made some interesting observations that could easily be translated to issues on the introduction of the EES program to the library and its end-user market. Dinklo identifies three organizational layers within an elementary multimedia value chain: the information/content, the distribution/communication, and the usage/context. His basic model makes it clear that the developments around the introduction of digital concepts in libraries with their respective end-user populations have far more angles than one may anticipate. In his opinion, a networked PC will be an apparatus that operates with a user interface tailored to the end-user population independent of the information (service) it provides and with information available in a network mode as well as via more local available solutions.

    So far the EES implementations and solutions show a similar trend. Libraries are interested in having digital collections available, in locally installed databases as well as in more remote ones. Their arguments for developing their own information systems using EES have to do with the

  • EES and Digital Libraries in Europe 277

    flexibility and useability of the datasets. In a recent article in The Scientist [13], the Chief Librarian of the Naval Research Library in Washington D.C., L. E. Stackpole comments: "EES very much parallels what publishers have done in the past with print subscriptions. Once you subscribe to the EES then you have permanent rights to retain the material you receive. So if you were to cancel a journal, you would be allowed to continue providing your users with previously received information. That's not always true when you start to get into the electronic area with some publishers and vendors." The other reasons for having these collections locally are based on the performance, i.e., speed of access and speed of delivery (LAN), printing, efficiency of the search and retrieve functions including profiling/SDI, and integration motives, such as the ability to customize and/or modify local library systems (linking with other local databases such as table- of-content services, secondary services, gray literature). In the short term, one may also envision a more sophisticated storage/access and integration strategy whereby archival material and/or frequently used material are stored at different locations to get the best of two worlds. The introduction of ScienceDirect in August 1996 by Elsevier Science (launch in mid 1997) may be seen in this context. "ScienceDirect will provide additional options for EES customers and new customers, either giving them access to titles not held on their local networks or the ability to access everything remotely" [14]. Thus, "in the future users will be able to host EES locally, access ScienceDirect remotely, or opt for a combination of the two" [15].

    The papers from D. Alsmeyer (British Telecom), P. Seth and N. Walton (ICI), J. Brennan (European Patent Office [EPO]), H. Gelijnse (Tilburg University), and J. Dijkstra (DECOMATE) are clear examples of the above issues. British Telecom has integrated their journal collection with the INSPEC database, which is also locally installed, thus making it possible for their researchers and engineers to use the INSPEC thesaurus to access the journal material. In the case of ICI, the user base of the Notes system (Lotus) resulted in an integration of EES files, which enables their researchers to remain using the Notes system to access the journals. J. Brennan explains in his contribution the application of the EES in their Epoque system, which is used by the EPO examiners for patent application literature searches. H. Geleijnse describes in detail the implemen- tation of EES 2 years ago and the integration with their online contents service, whereas J. Dijkstra presents the Web-based solution of the DECOMATE project (Tilburg University together with the London School of Economics and the Universita Autrnoma de Barcelona). The EASE project of Tilburg University together with Elsevier Science, which form the basis of the DECOMATE project and may be considered as the first implementation of the EES program in Europe, has already been described in the literature quite extensively [ 16-18]. W. van Drimmelen and M. Feijen of the Royal Library of The Netherlands describe the unique features of the National Depository for Electronic Publications (DNEP) in The Netherlands, using a variety of software solutions.


    "User support is essentially about making sure that users know how to make the most effective and efficient use of the system. Training is a central plank of support. Some training will have been conducted during implementation, but systems change, and personnel change, people forget, and people become more experienced and are ready to learn more. Training can be achieved through courses and one-to-one on-the-job training. User documentation and help-desk facilities are also important user support tools" [19]. This quote from J. Rowley clearly explains the need for proper user support when introducing a new computerized information system.

    In a recent case study of end-user training in academic libraries [20] in the U.K., A. Wade of Sheffield Hallam University concludes: "An enlightened attitude at funding council level, com-

  • 278 C.C.P. Kluiters

    bined with technological advances, has led to the "age of information access" revolution which began in the early 1990's. The revolution in end-user access needs to be accompanied by an end-user training revolution. Users must be equipped with the necessary skills to take advantage of the services offered." She continues further with: "The challenge for information professionals now is to ensure that they equip themselves first with the necessary skills in a constantly changing environment, in order to be able to train their users. If we wish to continue to play an important role in the exploitation of electronic information services, we must influence the direction taken and create our own future."

    In another recent publication on the new media consumer [21 ], an interesting model is presented on the different hurdles that have to be overcome to introduce the new media to consumers and have them accept it (and use it!).

    Although one could argue that academic staff, students, and other researchers perhaps should not be compared to "ordinary" consumers, there is still a striking resemblance between the aspects mentioned in this model and the early experiences on user acceptance and support within the TULIP and CAPCAS projects as well as the first EES implementations. The actual usage (or intentional nonusage or rejection) of new media (and consequently the information contained therein) depends on aspects such as: communication and information about the medium (informa- tion also from their "peers"), capabilities (learning the system), possibilities (thinking about the availability of the necessary hardware and software), and willingness (general lack of interest or fear of new systems), as well as the attitude (emotion, knowledge, behavior) and personal characteristics, such as age, gender, profession, and income. As an example, one may mention here the surprising result of user studies in the TULIP project that the early adopters of the system were undergraduate students instead of the postgraduate population generally looked upon as the core readership of Elsevier journal titles.

    Realizing the importance of training for new electronic services and the innovative character (early adoption) of EES, it is essential that when introducing new electronic services incorporating EES to end-user populations, great attention is given to these aspects. It is in this light that usage feedback (via logfiles) becomes the backbone of future developments. The economic rationale being from the publisher's point of view that specific nonusage of electronic available journal titles is not a result of lack of proper training and promotion or end-user dissatisfaction/frustration originating from bad performance of the system itself. The papers of C. Jenkins, M. Borghuis, and M. Hietink deal with these aspects. C. Jenkins discusses the methodology and preliminary findings of a user study within the DECOMATE project. The data collection should result in an improved decision-making process in acquisition, budgeting, and being able to assess the cost-benefit analysis on investments for new electronic services. Although the study is still in its early and initial stages, the in-depth interviews preceding the study again indicate some parallels with earlier findings from the TULIP project, such as the importance of the printing functionality of a system, indicating that end users remain "traditional" in their reading and usage behavior of wanting hardcopy material for reading.

    M. Hietink outlines possible target groups for communicating new electronic services as well as some new external and internal information tools that the library organization may use in the introduction (pre-launch) and adoption phases of a project. He also emphasizes the importance of project management skills when introducing a new system to be able to continue a structured developmental approach for system improvement. The third contribution within this section is from M. Borghuis, who has studied the various user behavior patterns emerging from the TULIP and EASE (Tilburg University) projects as well as the first results of logfile analysis from the availability on the Web of the Elsevier Science Table-of-Contents service (ESTOC) and catalog

  • EES and Digital Libraries in Europe 279

    (INCA). And last but not least, W. van Groenendaal has some interesting remarks from the end-user's perspective.


    The evaluation of the conference showed that the participants regarded the content as highly useful in establishing their own strategy in building a digital library. Based on these experiences a second round of conferences will be organized in 1997.


    1. Various authors from participating organizations. "Special Issue/Report on TULIP," Library Hi Tech, 13 (1995). 2. Zijlstra, J. "The University Licensing Program (TULIP): Electronic Journals in Materials Science," Microcomputers Jbr

    lnJbrmation Management, 12 (1995), 99-111. 3. Zijlstra, J. "The University Licensing Program (TULIP): A Large Scale Experiment in Bringing Electronic Journals to the

    Desktop," Serials 7 (July 1994), 169-172. 4. Hunter, K. and J. Zijlstra. "TULIP--The University Licensing Project," Journal oflnterlibrar)' b~an. Document Delivery

    and lnfi)rmation Supply, 4 (1994), 19-22. 5. Borghuis, M.G.M. TULIP Final Report. 1996, pp. 1-368. 6. "Effective Full Text Retrieval in a Scientific Library Environment," Ophemert, Netherlands, November 8, 1996. 7. Friend, F. "Economic Models for Electronic Libraries," Electronic Documents and Information: From Preservation to

    Access, ed. A. Helal and J. Weiss. Essen, Germany: Universitatsbibliothek Essen, 1995, pp. 30-38. 8. Singleton, A. "Electronic Journals for Everyone?" Physics World 6 (November 1993), 27-31. 9. Singleton, A. "Charging for Information-pricing Policies and Practice," Learned Publishing 7 (October 1994), 223-232.

    10. Kluiters, C. "Towards Electronic Journal Articles: The Publisher's Technical Point of View," IFLA Journal, 22 (1996), 206-208.

    11. Kluiters, C. "CAPCAS as a Route to the Digital Library," Information Superhighway: The Role ~?fLibrarians, lnJbrrra:ltion Specialists and Intermediaries, ed. A. Helal and J. Weiss. Essen, Germany: Essen Universitatsbibliothek, 1995, pp. 226-231.

    12. "The New Media Consumer," Zeist, Netherlands, October 10, 1996. 13. Finn, R. "Scientific Publishers Increasing Electronic Information Offerings," The Scientist, (August 19, 1996), 19-20. 14. "Elsevier Science Announces ScienceDirect," Elsevier Science Press Release, August 1, 1996. 15. Hunter, K. "Elsevier Moves Full Text onto the Web," Information World Review, (November 1996), p. 5. 16. Dijkstra, J. "A Digital Library in the Mid-Nineties, Ahead or on Schedule?" ln&rmation Services & Use 14 (t994),

    267-277. 17. Veling, S. and C. Kluiters, "Workstation Access to Scientific Information," Elektronisches Publizieren und Bibliotheken. ed.

    K. Neubauer. Vittorio Klostermann, 1996, pp. 38-45. 18. Geleijnse, H. and C. Kluiters, "Journal Articles via the Network: A Joint Project Between Elsevier Science and Tilburg

    University," OPEN, 27 (1995), 342-344. 19. Rowley, J. The Basics of Information Systems, 2nd Edition. Library Association Publishing, 1996, p. 220. 20. Wade, A. "Training the End-user; Case Study 1: Academic Libraries," The End-user Revolution, ed. R. Biddiscombe.

    Library Association Publishing, 1996, pp. 96-109. 21. Brosens, M., K. v. Kaam, and T. Schotgerrits. "De nieuwe Media Consument: Ontwikkelingen op bet gebied van nieuwe

    media en de betekenis daarvan voor organisaties," KPMG/SAMSOM, 1996.


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