Partnership brings library customers to Mendeley

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Swets and Mendeley have struck a partnership that will integrate the details of institutional library holdings with the Mendeley tool for organising research resources. Siân Harris finds out more

Since Mendeley was launched just four years ago, the company has been regularly mentioned at conferences and in the press as a potential disruptor to traditional scholarly publishing.

The company was started by three PhD students who were frustrated by what they saw as the lack of good tools for organising their references and sharing relevant papers with others in their research group. Their concerns clearly struck a chord in the research community; their service for uploading, sharing and discussing resources now has 1.4 million users.

What’s more, the service itself now holds 150 million unique items (uploaded files are deduped so that the same items are only on the system once rather than multiple times). This makes it, according to Victor Henning, the company’s CEO and co-founder, the world’s largest research database.

Until now, Mendeley’s business has operated in a rather different space from the traditional businesses of publishers and secondary publishers. In particular, its main customers are individual researchers, rather than institutions.

This looks set to change however, thanks to a newly-announced agreement between Mendeley and Swets. The partnership with Swets will enable the Mendeley tool to be purchased by institutional libraries, by combining Mendeley’s technology with Swets’ sales connections around the world. It will also use data from the two companies to provide additional insight for libraries.

‘We felt that Swets was the perfect partner for us as we are so complementary. We didn’t have the expertise or sales force to build library tools,’ said Henning. ‘This is a really good opportunity to reach thousands of libraries at the same time.’

According to Henning, with the new institutional tool, known as Mendeley Institutional Edition, libraries simply need to add two csv files to the system: ‘A library can upload its A-Z holdings list and then another csv file of who they want to be part of the group. End users don’t even need to know where their library catalogue is. This will make it much easier for them to find the resources that their institution subscribes to and upload them to their Mendeley research folders,’ he explained.

The advantages are not just about easing the process for researchers, however, according to the partners: ‘Libraries can also add some library or institutional branding to their group. It will give the librarian a way to be more in touch with what’s going on in institution and a sense of current research,’ said Henning.

David Main, CEO of Swets agreed: ‘Once you publish an article in Mendeley you can see to what extent it’s being used. Libraries now have visibility on what content is being used, how, for example, it is being cited and in what subject areas.’

‘For libraries with tight budgets, insight into how the content they subscribe to is being used is very valuable. In addition, the insight provided by the tool can help libraries track how the resources they subscribe to is used in producing research results in their institution,’ Main continued. ‘Accountability is increasingly important and there is real pressure on improving the value of services. It essentially gives real-time insight.’

Of course, there are already usage statistics available to libraries but Henning argued that these do not always provide the same insight. ‘Tracking downloads does not show how the materials are used. With Mendeley we can track a whole load of anonymised information, such as which parts of papers are being read and being highlighted. Only a tiny fraction of this data is currently available but we plan to make it available in the future,’ said Henning.

In addition, he continued, ‘because Mendeley is crowd sourced, we have lots of social information such as who uses a resource and how they use it.’

For this reason, he believes that the tool can compete with traditional citation analysis methods too. A recent paper in the journal Scientometrics showed a strong correlation between usage patterns in Mendeley and CiteULike (another social tool for searching, organising and sharing scholarly resources) and the traditional citation tracking produced by Web of Science.

Mendeley also now sometimes competes with such tools in their roles as databases and search tools too. ‘It is already happening that people are using Mendeley instead of Google Scholar,’ observed Henning. ‘There are different ways of discovering content in Mendeley. We have groups within Mendeley and also have algorithmic discovery, to suggest, for example, “researchers like you have read this paper too”.’

Mendeley has often been mentioned as a potential industry disruptor. With its presence as a resource manager, database, search tool, social network and now, thanks to the partnership with Swets, its integration with library holdings and provision of usage analysis to libraries, it’s not hard to see why.

And it certainly doesn’t seem to be the end of the story. As Henning concluded, ‘Both Swets and we feel we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible by combining our data.’