Thursday, August 13, 2015

Urquhart's Law: really?

Sorry, this is just fluff, but this morning's Campus Morning Mail another bit of fluff that I felt drawn to comment on:

Urquhart’s (really old) other law
CMM is a great believer in Urquhart’s Law of Political Communication, (as per the original House of Cards) that the correct response to scandalous statements is “you may say that but I could not possibly comment.” But it turns out another Urquhart had a different law. A reader found it and wanted to know what it means; “the inter-library loan demand for a periodical is as a rule a measure of its total use.” Readers under 50 ask an old librarian why anybody would need to get a library to loan a printed journal
And mystupidbrain wondered about the common sense assumption of using inter library loan to measure a journal's use.  Even in a print world that makes no sense.  ILL is for items you don't have in your library. Arguably what you do have in your library is the most used stuff, or the stuff your clients most want (because it's easier than sending ILL requests).

Assuming other libraries do the same, and that there are a core collection of journals everyone has (say, for example, New Scientist) - so you will never get a request for it from another library. So to say the journal is low-use because no-one ILLs it is patently flawed logic.

What ILL requests might tell you is how unique a particular subscription is - you may be the only library subscribing in the country.  I think your outgoing ILL requests tell you a lot more about your collection, and its relationship to your clients' needs, than incoming requests ever could.

Of course all that runs through my head without knowing anything about the context of Urquhart's Law - I'd never heard of it.  So I looked it up.

Donald J. Urquhart (1909-1994) (BSc, PhD) was a revered figure in British library circles. He founded the  National Lending Library for Science and Technology in the early 1960s, against the opposition of the then current thinking of much of the library profession. It was a response to the post-war explosion in scientific information. Eventually the NLLST was absorbed by the British Library in 1973 to become the revered British Library Document Supply Service. 

Urquhart's Law was an application of scientific methods (specifically probability) to collection management and document delivery for an entire (huge) sector  of research - not a particular library's clientele. He published it in 1977, it was still being referenced in library science lit in the last decade.

I feel like a first year library student again. I know nothing John Snow.
Urquhart's autobiographical history of his creation - available via Amazon (who are the source of the image)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Readings & Past Exams/Reserver Online/Masterfile access issues

Not of interest to anyone outside of JCU, just using my blog to list the workarounds for a local issue:

Have logged this in ServiceNow:

Connection to Masterfile is causing warning errors in all 5 major browsers

Apparent cause is using certificate

Affects staff embedding Digital Library items in LearnJCU and the Masterfile web UI

Student access to Readings & Past Exams appears to be unaffected


Allows login but blocks display of PDFs

Workaround: Grey shield can be used to enable content view


Your connection is not private

Attackers might be trying to steal your information from (for example, passwords, messages or credit cards).

This server could not prove that it is; its security certificate is from This may be caused by a misconfiguration or an attacker intercepting your connection.

Proceed to (unsafe)

Workaround: click on “Proceed to (unsafe)”


There is a problem with this website's security certificate.
The security certificate presented by this website was issued for a different website's address.
Security certificate problems may indicate an attempt to fool you or intercept any data you send to the server. 
We recommend that you close this webpage and do not continue to this website. 
Recommended iconClick here to close this webpage.
Not recommended icon Continue to this website (not recommended).
More information  More information 

Workaround: click on “Continue to this website (not recommended).”


Cannot Verify Server Identity

Workaround: click on “Continue”

Cheers, Alan

Friday, February 6, 2015

Link Resolution Quirk in ATSM Journals (Resolved)

ATSM have fixed this issue (see postscript)
No great drama here, just thought this might interest people who get frustrated with Link Resolvers but don't know who to blame.

This issue reported by a staff member who, using Summon, got a 360 Link to:

Zhang, F., Guo, S., & Wang, B. (2014). Experimental research on cohesive sediment deposition and consolidation based on settlement column system. Geotechnical Testing Journal, 37(3), 20130054. doi:10.1520/GTJ20130054
Which demanded payment (add to Cart and pay $25.) for an article we have subscription access to:
Our sub was active in 360 and you can browse to the article from the eJournal portal and get access. What the heck is going on?

What's Going On?

360 Link resolves to:
so it's clearly going through EZproxy.
Browsing from the ejournal portal you get this URL:
i.e. SUBSCRIPTION in the exact same path inserted after the domain name.

So why the different URLs for the same article?  I'm assuming the ATSM platform has been set up so that objects in the SUBSCRIPTION directory get an IP range check to see if you have access.  But for public access to abstract and sales they have cloned everything but the PDF into a DIGITAL_LIBRARY folder in root and have set up the DOI to point at that rather than have the DOI point at IP restricted pages.
From previous experience 360 Link DOI via CrossRef overide any OpenURL 2 publisher conversion scripts that 360 Link might have.

So ASTM's solution is pragmatic and unsophisticated - and hamstrings our users coming from any source other than the journal TOC.

I've submitted a request to Proquest for any workaround they can implement. I thought maybe parsing the DOI and inserting the SUBSCRIPTION folder in the path - but that assumes that 360 Link plays any role in handing the DOI link back to the client. I guess another option is for Proquest to add ATSM to their list of IEDL publishers.

If only there was only one publisher platform for ejournals.


I noticed in my endless rechecking of red flagged jobs for follow up that ASTM have fixed this issue by coding a check of the requester's IP address and if it matches a subscriber prompting the user whether they wish to access the full text under that subscription:
The subscriber name in our case looks like it's come from a very old registration with OCLC/NLA but that's a job for another day.

It works the same via the link resolver as it does just doing a straight resolution (so the 360 Link helper frame isn't causing an iframe conflicts).

I don't know if logging a request through Proquest had any impact as neither Proquest or ASTM have contacted me. But happy to close the job.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Random notes from "Data for ROI and Benchmarking Ebook Collections"

I registered for Library Journals webcast "Data for ROI and Benchmarking Ebook Collections". This webcast can now be viewed On-demand." but as usual couldn't make it but they did record it so - I'm just writing down the points that stuck out for me.

Ying Zhang (Acquistions Librarian from University of Central Florida) did some analysis of her institutions use of ebooks acquired using one of three possible purchase methods. She measured ROI by calculating how many uses ebooks got for each $10 invested in each of the three methods.

Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) 

Titles acquired based on user demand
2.7 uses/$10


Titles selected and acquired individually
0.5 uses/$10


Large pre-defind static collections acquired as one time purchases
4.4 uses/$10

Although this ROI measure makes it look like 'Package' is the best for ROI Ying makes the point that each method has it's place:
  1. Package has the highest ROI but is stagnant and use will drop over time. The library and it's users can't weed out unwanted titles or add wanted ones.
  2. Firm is how you shape and customise your collection, but has the highest admin costs.
  3. PDA provides a low input mechansim by which the collection updates itself to the user's needs.
Michael Levine-Clark Associate Dean for Scholarly Communication and Collections Services University of Denver examined a some global usage data on 340k+ books from EBL from one provider that covered a bunch of libraries.

He found that titles were roughly evenly spread between Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities, and STEM.With Social Sciences having 15% more titles then STEM, which in turn had about 1.5% more titles than Arts & Humanities.

Reverse engineering from his bar chart I get a 'use ratio' for Social Science titles that is 32% higher than STEM titles (in spite of the higher number of titles) which in turn has a 'use ratio' of 15% higher than Arts & Humanities

This is sort of counter intuitive given A&H perceived reliance on monographs, but as Michael continues to look at the stats interesting things pop up:

  • STEM titles average far more pages per session (scanning?)
  • Arts & Humanities spend the most time per session and per book (immersive reading?)
  • His graph by LC number of number of titles available compared to usage shows that L(Education) titles get he most usage followed by N J T H M R D E, Z gradually tailing off with the last 5 classifications being Q P K U and F
He concludes that just using cost per access does not tell the true story of how your resources are being used.