|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.