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Usage insight guides subscription decisions

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Swets has recently bought the Scholarly Stats service from MPS Technologies. John Murphy finds out why

It goes without saying that, when a library spends a lot of money on information services, it wants to be sure the resources are being used. Scholarly Stats was developed by the Indiabased software company MPS Technologies, part of the MacMillan Group, to try and collect information about how e-journals and other resources are used. It then presents it in a way that is useful to librarians in planning future subscription strategies.

This summer, the service was acquired by the Netherlands-based subscription agent Swets as part of its strategy of looking for more valueadded services that it can offer to librarians.

At present, Scholarly Stats can collect data on usage covering 70,000 journals and almost 450 databases from 46 platforms. New sources are being added and Swets has plans to use the service to give librarians more insight into what their customers do with the resources they are given.

Arie Jongejan, CEO of Swets, said: ‘Our subscription management service is very reactive and we thought we could have more of a role in helping our customers make decisions. Traditionally, libraries were very backward-looking; they decide what they are going to subscribe to based on what they subscribed to last year. But libraries want to be more reactive to the needs of their customers. They may see that some journals are only used by a few people so they should move to a pay-per-view model, or they may find there is so much usage that they should get a full subscription.’

Many libraries have some statistics on the usage of the journals they host, but the vast majority of useful information s held by the publishers. This needs to be combined with the libraries’ own data to get a full picture of usage. And there is the additional problem that the publishers may not record usage in the same way that a library does with its own hosted content. Scholarly Stats has links to the major publishers and platforms and aggregates data from many sources into a uniform report.

Standards compliance

In response to this issue, the industry is moving towards a standard for usage data called COUNTER. There is also a transport protocol, called SUSHI, for pushing that data into other systems for analysis. Despite these efforts, however, many platforms do not yet comply with these standards. Part of the value that Scholarly Stats adds is in taking data in its present form and making it compliant with COUNTER.

Part of the strategy

Swets has been a reseller of the Scholarly Stats service for some time but Jongejan said that the time was right to acquire the service and develop it as part of an overall strategy of increasing value-added services from Swets.

He said: ‘For us it has a strategic value. If we are with the customer and giving them information to help them make their decisions then they will want to place an order. It is just a few steps before our normal service of ordertaking. In 2008 we will integrate it into the existing platform that customers use to manage their subscriptions [SwetsWise] as an additional module. Customers will be able to do certain simulations so they can ask questions like ‘how much usage per dollar?’ We have data like prices already in our system and customers can bring the data together and do some calculations.’


Swets CEO Arie Jongejan

Scholarly Stats will also be available from other resellers. Those resellers could theoretically provide other tools using the data from the service but Jongejan said that the integration of the service may attract new customers to the core business of Swets.

Also on the horizon is the possibility of collecting and sharing summary data. At the moment, libraries have no idea of their usage benchmarks. Librarians could start to advise their users about other publications they might consider using, or using more of, because other institutions are using them. There could be other factors behind the lack of use of a resource which could be investigated.

Publishers might also be interested in seeing anonymous summary data about their usage, which could help them improve access or visibility of their products and channels. ‘We believe there is a lot of potential for new services from this product,’ concluded Jongejan.