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Librarians say access management essential but needs improvement

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OpenAthens, provider of software that helps libraries connect their users to online subscription content, has shared key findings from its recent research into librarians’ experience and perceptions of identity and access management.

The research, which had more than 550 participants, found that although access management is seen as critical to meeting users’ needs and gaining maximum value from investment in resources, many librarians feel their organisation is behind the curve in terms of the current access management services they are able to offer to their users.

However, librarians are responding positively to the challenges in access management, particularly those driven by the growing demand for off-site access, and recognising opportunities to re-evaluate the library’s role and the broader user experience of information services.

Jon Bentley, head of product marketing for OpenAthens, said: 'Change in electronic publishing is now constant. This continual change is reflected in the way libraries deliver whenever they are needed. We want to understand the challenges and opportunities this creates for libraries and librarians. These changes require new skills and increased collaboration with colleagues and external partners. But the overall goal remains the same: to provide users with the intelligence they need to make the best decisions.'

Headlines from the research include:

  • Although access management is critical to meeting users’ needs and maximising investment in resources (98.3 per cent agreed), a high proportion of respondents feel they are behind the curve in terms of the access management they currently offer users (42.5 per cent agreed or strongly agreed);
  • Demand for off-site access is growing (97.6 per cent agreed), and presenting opportunities to increase usage (86.0 per cent agreed) and to redefine the role of the library; however, demand for off-site access also adds complexities that increase staff workloads and require librarians to have more technical skills and knowledge (80.3 per cent agreed);
  • Access management is a source of friction for 61.8 per cent of respondents, primarily because of the limitations of current systems (66.5 per cent), and the tension between the library’s desire to provide access and the IT department’s desire to secure systems (57.4 per cent);
  • A solution that doesn’t require IT knowledge was preferred by most respondents (64.4 per cent); typically, they do not wish to resolve such frictions by increasing their own IT skills, or those of their users, with only 33.5 per cent and 28.5 per cent respectively opting for these proposed solutions;
  • There is a lack of confidence around the technical language often used in relation to identity and access management; for example, only 5.9 per cent of respondents felt confidently able to define the term 'SAML'; and
  • Respondents’ clear priority is a seamless user journey, with 66.5 per cent choosing this as their top priority. Easy off-network access and more granular usage statistics were also popular choices.

The OpenAthens team will be presenting the results of the survey at Jisc Digifest (Birmingham, UK, 9 and 10 March 9-10), CILIP Conference (Liverpool, UK, 2 and 3 July), and at the Special Libraries Association Annual Meeting (Boston, MA, USA, 14 to 16 June).

Copies will also be available from the OpenAthens booth at the Medical Libraries Association Annual Meeting (Austin, TX, USA, 16 to 19 May) and can be downloaded from  the link below.