This post is aimed mostly at librarians and information providers in academic, research and special (corporate, law, medical, etc) libraries and information services. It introduces an exciting new opportunity for creating effective, low-effort, low-cost, customisable current awareness services of scholarly journal articles for researchers and academics.
Have you ever found yourself in the following situation? Your library/information centre has subscribed to a new service, and now you need to get the message out to your users/clients. You publicise the service, circulate some emails, mention it on your blog or newsletter, and so on. There’s only a small response, from those users who often take an interest in such things. The next step is probably to arrange a seminar for those few who always turn up to such things.
It’s hard going, and you well know that your users are bombarded with such things, not just from you but from outside your organisation as well. What is their motivation for going to the trouble of learning how yet another service works, creating a user-ID for yet another system, and essentially putting quite a bit of effort into something that, as far as they are concerned, has not yet proven its value?
You know that the service in question will undoubtedly help their information needs, but they don’t.
Does any of that ring a bell?
And does the following ring another bell? You are not convinced that your users are adequately keeping up-to-date with all the new articles being published in their fields. They are definitely missing relevant scholarly papers. Who can blame them for that – after all, it can be quite complicated to keep up-to-date, as I showed in my post of November 2011: Where to find new scholarly research papers: 30 key, free websites – and that post only deals with freely available websites, and not paid-for services or subscription databases with alert options. Incidentally, that post has now had over 8,000 views, which for a relatively obscure blog like this one only goes to show that there is immense and unsatisfied interest in keeping up-to-date with the latest research. People (perhaps including some of your own users) search the Internet for “latest articles” “where to find new articles” “new scholarly research” and a myriad of other similar search terms, and some of them end up at that post. Others probably give up.
The third bell I’ll actually ring for you myself, because it’s so obvious. That’s the one that says you would like to increase usage of all the scholarly journals your institution subscribes to, and at the same time raise awareness and use of quality Open Access journals.
So – this is where it gets interesting, and here’s a current awareness service solution that you can implement on behalf of your busy users.
Armed only with a list of some of your users’ email addresses and a list of the particular scholarly journals they are interested in (ones your organisation subscribes to, ones you don’t subscribe to, Open Access journals, hybrid journals to which you do, or don’t subscribe – it doesn’t matter which – it’s up to them, and they can choose to limit as they wish), you can act as a super-admin-user and set up a personalised web and email based scholarly journal Tables of Contents alerting service for them, with ease!
Not only that, but this would only be the start. If they so wish (but they don’t have to if they don’t want to) your users could also, with ease and without going via you, add or subtract from their list of journal Tables of Contents (TOCs) that they follow, and do other things as well, such as set up keyword search alerts, and view new TOCs in a Web interface rather than by, or in addition to, email alerts, etc. You also will be able to monitor what they are doing and add to the original journal list for them, if they so want.
When selecting journals, because the service I am describing knows your subscribed journals, it will always be obvious which journals are subscribed to, and which ones are not.
And the whole thing can be linked to your institutional ezProxy or OpenURL resolver, so that the full text links will work for your users (as long as the articles are in journals you subscribe to or are OA) when they click on an article title in an email alert for a new journal TOC that will automatically be sent to them (and note that the email will also mention your library/information service – so they know who to credit).
The service I’m describing is one of the best new things I’ve seen in a long time, and it really is as simple to do as I’ve explained. In fact, some of it can even be semi-automated (importing and exporting your users’ accounts and journal lists).
The actual content behind all of this is comes from the freely available JournalTOCs database, which contains TOCs for 19,500 journals, including over 4,000 Open Access journals. Journals from over 1,100 different publishers are featured. 19,500 is a fair whack of the total number of e-journals currently available (I estimate that it’s 82% of the total number of online scholarly journals that are published currently (source Ulrichs)), so this will be a pretty complete current awareness service that you can offer. I’ve mentioned JournalTOCs before in this blog, and it’s something I contribute to in my spare time. The new super-admin-user customisation capability that is the subject of this post is the latest offering from JournalTOCs.
I reckon that with less than a couple of days effort, you can have the basics of a very efficient journal/article current awareness service set up for more than 20 of your users, and you can add more users as you go on.
Here’s what your super-admin-user page would look like, after you’d entered brief details of 7 users from your institution and listed some journals that each of them wanted to receive alerts for:
And below is what you’d see when you clicked on ‘email@example.com’
You can see that, so far, you have selected 8 journals that user2 is interested in and for which they will receive email alerts, each time any of those 8 journals has a new Table of Contents. You can easily Find and add new journals for this account (i.e. for user2), from any of the 19,500 journals included in JournalTOCs, by searching the box towards the top right. You can also easily turn the alerts off, if you or they so wish.
I hope that you can see from the above screen dumps how easy the whole thing is to administer.
There’s a lot more to the JournalTOCs customisable service than what I’ve written about above, such as additional advance search and browse options for all users (for you the super-admin-user, and your other users if/when they log in to the service), customisable API calls, detailed usage stats, branding with your library/institutional logo, and so on.
It strikes me that all of this is quite clever, and as I said, it is easy to set up. It’s an excellent way for a library/information centre to provide a current awareness service for its busy users.
Are you interested? Yes! Of course you are, because this is the sort of service that will help your users, improve your own library/information centre profile, help exploit your paid content, and it’s the sort of thing that library and information professionals want to do for their users. It’s almost a no-brainer. If you currently provide a scholarly journal current awareness service using cut-and-paste techniques, or printouts, or leave the whole thing to your users to discover and work out for for themselves with all the hassle that involves, or pay for a much more expensive current awareness service, then this is a must.
The bottom line. There is no cost for setting up a trial JournalTOCs customisation for your library/information for the service I’ve described above. It doesn’t take long to set up a free trial, you can play with the set-up and try out its various features using real or created users, there’s no commitment on your part and you won’t feel harassed with follow-up calls. For an ongoing service, there is a cost. Fortunately, because JournalTOCs is a non-profit, that cost is small. The price of an annual licence starts at £300.00 GBP and is in proportion to the number of journals, the estimated number of user accounts and the amount of tailored unique features requested for the customisation.
You can register for a free trial here, where there’s also more details.
JournalTOCs – the home of current awareness.