COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources) is an organization and a set of standards to report usage of library electronic resources by vendors and publishers.
Why understand COUNTER reports?
When database vendors and publishers use different methods of counting and reporting usage of their platforms and items, it is difficult for librarians to determine accurate use counts (and rejections). Thus, it is hard to calculate the cost-per-use. Different figures often make database comparison difficult when deciding between the value of two similar products.
COUNTER provides a way to standardize and compare database usage statistics across vendors and time.
COUNTER reports can also show demand for titles not owned by reporting access denied to books (BR3) and journals (JR2). These reports can be helpful for library resource acquisition decisions.
There are four types of item-type usage reports each with their unique statistics:
Books – Electronic or print monographs, including reference works.
Journals – Serials including conference proceedings and newspapers.
Media – Non-text items such as images and video.
Databases – Collections of online data.
The Title report is a combination of book and journal counts.
The Consortium report counts all usage across a group of institutions.
COUNTER statistics are reported on a monthly basis and reports can typically cover any custom time period in addition to calendar year.
Reports are distributed electronically. Sometimes they are available from vendors as immediate downloads, but other times they must be requested and emailed. “COUNTER reports are available in two formats: delimited files, which are readable using Excel and similar spreadsheet tools, and XML, which is delivered using SUSHI.” The two types of delimited files are comma-separated value (CSV) and tab-separated value (TSV) files.
If the vendor allows, you can avoid the manual running and downloading of COUNTER reports. COUNTER offers an automated way to accomplish this using the SUSHI protocol. “The Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative (SUSHI) protocol is designed to simplify the gathering of usage statistics by librarians, and it uses a series of XML schemas to do this.”
The current version in widespread use is COUNTER 4, however some vendors still offer archived usage statistics using version 3. COUNTER 5 is available and we will see vendors moving to it gradually. EBSCO just announced that it is making its usage reports available in COUNTER 5 format.
While version 5 is the future, COUNTER 4 is still by far the most common version offered by vendors today. Below is a list of all COUNTER 4 reports with a brief description of each. Vendors, depending on their size and content, usually offer a subset of these reports.
A proxy server is a service that provides authentication and mediation between database or publisher websites and the end user by routing Internet traffic through its system.
Why learn about proxy servers?
A proxy server is a service that libraries use to authenticate their users to provide access to many online databases and publisher websites. Using a proxy service allows library resource vendors to authenticate users from a single point-of-access regardless of where they are located, on-campus or from their home computer.
For our examples, we’ll use the popular EZproxy product from OCLC.
To avoid having to provide users with an individual or institutional login and password, most database and publisher websites authenticate users by IP address. Sometimes vendors will limit access to a range of IP addresses—on a single campus, for example. But for users outside of the physical campus, you must provide a known IP address (or set of IP addresses). This is accomplished by routing users through a proxy server so that the access requests come from its IP address(es) which are recognized by the vendor. The content is then returned to the proxy server and routed back to the original user.
Because libraries can’t let everyone access their resources via EZproxy, they must authenticate their users before access. EZproxy allows user login itself, but EZproxy also provides a method of authentication using your institution’s single sign-on (SSO) server.
EZproxy is accessed using an HTTP request. To access a website via EZproxy, you must prepend the EZproxy server URL to the database or publisher’s website address. A typical EZproxy URL looks like this:
To this proxy URL, we add the URL for the website we wish to access through EZproxy. For example:
As you perform a search or click on links on a database or publisher site, you are submitting your requests to your EZproxy server which passes them on to the original website. Data is returned to the EZproxy server which sends it back to your browser. That is why the post-proxy URL ends with .ezproxy.yourlib.org (ignoring the path).
You might notice some post-proxy URLs use hyphens instead of dots between parts of the original website’s address.
The short explanation is that the EZproxy server uses a wildcard security (SSL) certificate for *.ezproxy.yourlib.org which allows one subdomain before the EZproxy server domain (ezproxy.yourlib.org). The hyphens “trick” the server into seeing the original website as a single subdomain. This is done only for original websites that use HTTPS.
EZproxy has many settings that are configured during initial installation (using hyphens with HTTPS, for example). You also set the maximum number of virtual hosts (typically from 5,000 to 20,000).
Title SPIE Digital Library
Here is a more advanced database stanza:
Title Engineering Village
OCLC publishes a list of recommended database stanzas for many of the most popular databases. Of course, websites are frequently updated and these changes often require revised or completely new stanzas. These stanzas are found in the config.txt file.
Here are some resources to learn more about EZproxy.
Learn EZproxy – OCLC’s official site with documents and links to the EZproxy community.
A discovery service is an online library searching tool that provides an all-in-one interface for finding both local library items and online subscription and open access resources.
Why learn about discovery services?
Most libraries use discovery services in addition to, or as a replacement for, their OPAC. Whether you are a technical services librarian whose job it is to administer them or a reference librarian who uses them as a major research tool, it is helpful to know how discovery services work. You need to know their features and their limitations.
For this article, we will use Summon (with Serials Solutions) as an example. But all discovery services share the same basic functions and features. They consist of three major parts: the index, the link resolver, and the search interface.
Summon is a discovery service developed by ProQuest and now managed and supported by Ex Libris (since their merger). Summon allows users to search for print and electronic resources owned or subscribed to by their library.
In my library, Summon works in conjunction with Serials Solutions 360 Link using a Summon Unified Index to provide links to ebooks (and chapters), journal articles, audio, videos, library catalog records, institutional repositories, LibGuides, and more.
The Summon index contains citation metadata, subject terms, abstracts, full text, and direct links (when available). It also includes Ulrichsweb information, DOIs, altmetrics, and citation counts.
The combination of Summon and Serials Solutions employs two methods of indexing applied in this order:
Summon – Index Enhanced Direct Linking (IEDL)
Serials Solutions 360 Link – OpenURL Link Resolver
When you perform a search and Summon returns results, Summon first looks to see if it has a direct link to the item using its proprietary Index Enhanced Direct Linking (IEDL). These are reliable links that point specifically to the title and are successful more than 99% of the time, according to Ex Libris.
If Summon doesn’t have an IEDL record, the metadata is passed to Serials Solutions 360 Link. This is a link resolver that relies on OpenURL technology. What this means is that 360 Link must build a URL containing item search metadata in a format that the database website can use. Most broken search results links occur when either the URL is badly formed or the metadata on the database’s side is incorrect. Fortunately, Summon gives you ways to work around the problem by providing DOIs, other database choices, or links to the ebook or journal level so that you can browse to the chapter or article.
One great feature is Summon’s ability to do a full-text search for library print book holdings by indexing electronic versions of the same title, even if they aren’t owned by your library.
Relevancy Ranking and Filters
Summon then performs relevancy ranking on the results using a proprietary method that is a combination of dynamic and static ranking. Dynamic ranking includes search term frequency, field (title, author, abstract) weighting, term manipulation (synonyms, stemming, etc.), and other functions. Static ranking includes item attributes such as content type, date published, peer-review status, and citation counts. Library collection items are given a higher ranking than subscription database items.
After relevancy ranking, Summon filters search results for those items that your library has access to by default. Of course, users can see all of the relevant results by checking the “Add results beyond your library’s collection” box.
Finally, Summon offers several filters to limit results to full text, peer-review, library catalog, content type, discipline, publication date, and language.
Library Resources Management
Now that we know how Summon indexes and creates search results links, we need to know how Summon selects results that are only contained in your library’s collection. In this sense, your “collection” means both your print holdings as well as all of the online resources you own or subscribe to.
eBook and e-Journal Holdings
In order for Summon to link to your online ebook and e-journal holdings, you must tell Summon what you own or subscribe to. You do this by activating or “tracking” your holdings in Serials Solutions 360 Core, the back-end of 360 Link and interface for the ProQuest Knowledgebase. You can track entire databases, publisher collections, journal titles (with specific date ranges), and individual ebooks.
For each database you subscribe to, you might subscribe to all of the titles (if offered as a complete package) or you might subscribe to only some of the titles (if purchased individually).
If titles within a database are purchased individually, you must track those individual titles. In addition, you also might need to set custom dates if you don’t subscribe to the entire run of the journal title. If you subscribe to an entire database, new titles get added automatically when they become available. Ebook Central can also be set up to add your newly purchased ebook titles (perpetual and DDA) automatically. Otherwise, library staff must add new ebook and e-journal titles manually.
Because libraries often have unique access requirements, Serials Solutions gives you a way to customize your access URL and other details. For databases which do not have article- or ebook-level linking, you can choose to link at the database level instead. You can choose to include your proxy URL for subscribed titles or omit it for open access resources. You can include custom journal subscription date ranges. Finally, you can add custom public notes (such as login information).
Library Catalogs and Institutional Repositories
Discovery services can include records from your library catalog and institutional repository. There are several different methods for getting the local records into the Summon index.
At my library, to get our library catalog indexed, we export bibliographic and holdings records from our ILS on a periodic basis and upload them via FTP to Ex Libris. Staff at Ex Libris then add them to the Summon index (a process that can take several weeks).
The Future of Library Resource Discovery by Marshall Breeding
“A white paper commissioned by the NISO Discovery to Delivery (D2D) Topic Committee” gives an overview of the current state of library discovery services and looks into how they might adapt to the future. Published in 2015.
E-Discovery Tools and Applications in Modern Libraries edited by Egbert de Smet and Sangeeta Dhamdhere
Part of the “Advances in Library and Information Science” (ALIS) series. This book is a collection of papers covering discovery UX, e-metrics, open source, digital libraries, and library usage studies. Published in 2016.
View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.
Implementing Web-Scale Discovery Services: A Practical Guide for Librarians by JoLinda Thompson
No. 9 in the “Practical Guides for Librarians” series. From the publisher: this book is a “one-stop source for librarians seeking to evaluate, purchase, and implement a web-scale discovery service.” Published in 2014.
View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.
Web Scale Discovery Services by Jason Vaughan
This title is actually an issue of Library Technology Reports from ALA Tech Source. The report covers the content, interface, and functionality of discovery services from the major vendors to help with evaluation. Possibly a bit dated now. Published in 2011.
View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.
Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is a set of specifications for making structured open repository metadata accessible to other service providers issuing requests.
Why learn about OAI-PMH?
Taking advantage of repositories (data providers) and services (service providers) that offer metadata using OAI-PMH will allow your resources better visibility and access. For example, many discovery services (the “harvester”) use OAI-PMH metadata for indexing open access institutional repository articles.
Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) specifies how metadata is structured and presented for ingestion by external services, usually on the Internet. OAI-PMH metadata is encoded in extensible markup language (XML) format. OAI-PMH records are harvested using HTTP requests.
Last year we created a Basics and Resources series to introduce some common library technology topics. As you can guess from the name, in each article we introduced the basic concepts and listed resources where you could learn more. Based on feedback, these articles proved very popular and we will be posting more in the coming year.
The Basics and Resources articles from 2016 were:
Linked Data is a set of practices which involves the publishing, sharing, and connecting of related data across the Web in a structured format, preferably using an open access license.
Altmetrics are “alternative metrics” to measure the influence and reach of scholarly output on the Web through peer-review counts, influential news sites and blog posts, citation manager bookmarks such as Mendeley, Wikipedia citations, and social media mentions on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
API stands for Application Programming Interface which allows external applications to access software or Web services data, in the latter case by using HTTP request messages, for recombination (mashup) or custom presentation by the external application.