One of the more interesting discussions I had at ALA was with Martha Whittaker of Serials Solutions. She was talking about their use of the expression ERAMS (Electronic Resource Access and Management Services). Here is some blurb from Serials Solutions leaflet describing ERAMS:

Now that the nature of library collections has changed and the majority of new acquisitions are electronic, E-Resource Access and Management Services (ERAMS) have emerged as a rapidly evolving category of library services for making electronic collections accessible and useful. By helping optimize the usage of e-resources, ERAMS help libraries achieve their goals of connecting people to nformation and being the best partner for research in the digital age.

They go on to enumerate four processes as central to ERAMS (I don’t entirely follow the Serials Solutions text here):

  1. Collect: a comprehensive knowledgebase. You have to characterize the resources which are available in various ways.
  2. Correct. The knowledgebase has to be accurate, current, normalized. My colleague Eric Hellman, of OCLC Openly, talks about ‘rivers’ and ‘lakes’ of bibliographic data. In the cataloging world we are used to lakes: accumulating data about resources, where neither the resource nor the data change very much over time (although this is changing). In the ERAMS world, we are getting used to rivers, multiple flows of data which change as terms, packages, publishers, and so on, change. (You can never step in the same knowledgebase twice, as Heraclitus might have said.)
  3. Connect. Connect readers to resources effectively.
  4. Control. “Optimize staff and budget resources with management tools that streamline worlflows and enable librarians to acquire the best content for their library”.

ERAMS is an attempt to name a category. What is the category? It is about managing published e-resources with a particular focus on the supporting knowledgebase. In the way it is presented here, ERAMS seems to include metasearch, knowledgebase, ERM, resolution, A-Z lists, and related reporting and management tools. Putting to one side whether this is a category that illuminates, why would one want a new category? Well, Serials Solutions needs people to understand the value of their offer, and in the absence of a category like this, that may be more difficult. It would certainly also be useful for libraries. Libraries currently work with a set of categories heavily influenced by, and encapsulated in, ILS modules and this may distort planning.
Of course, the ILS vendors are offering ERAMS solutions also, which integrate in various ways with existing ILS products and emerging discovery tools. And that integration has value. The Serials Solutions brochure notes that “clarity and focus on e-resources is essential to participating in this product category. Investments in other directions distract from the core mission.” One could imagine some argument with that statement and a counter statement to the effect that libraries should not silo access and management support capacity.
This all relates to more general discussion about service frameworks, the attempt to work towards a shared understanding of which service categories are important and how to name them. As we move forward we have several areas where one has to define terms in order to have a conversation: there is not a readymade handle which carries around a well-understood set of things. Think about repository, archive, storage, and preservation. And I have spoken about how I think disclosure is an interesting new category in these pages before.
Serials Solutions have done us a favor by prompting a discussion. And this is whether or not ERAMS sticks as a name, and whether or not one wants to circumscribe this particular set of activities in this way. Thoughts?

4 thoughts on “ERAMS”

  1. It seems beneficial for libraries to think about what to call the types of systems and services they and their patrons employ with regard to electronic resources, and that’s really what Serials Solutions seems to be doing with the ERAMS concept.

    My first thought is that this seems like a public attempt to codify a concept that (I would hope) most of us are aware of: libraries use a lot of tools to manage electronic resources and make them available to our users.

    The research I’ve undertaken recently to evaluate ERM systems has made me aware of the vast predilection among vendors to offer bundles or “suites” of products and services—because an ILS just isn’t enough anymore. For that matter, neither does an ILS + an OpenURL resolver…these days, it’s about an ILS + an OpenURL resolver + an A-Z list + a metasearch tool + an ERM + (for some libraries) an OPAC with faceting capabilities, decoupled from the ILS.

    I agree that, in a time when information containers are arguably less important and the more important focus for users is content—no matter what or where it is–it makes sense for library work to be driven by a knowledgebase. At least upon first look, the Serials Solutions’ ERAMS concept does seem capable of encapsulating most of the types of work currently done in libraries:

    –Determining what goes into the knowledgebase (kb) = collection development (essential processes #1–Collect and #4–Control).

    –Making sure things are added to the kb accurately in a timely way = acquisitions + cataloging (essential process #2–Correct)

    –Presenting kb contents in a meaningful way to users = system/web/user interface design and development; information literacy and reference services that help the user interpret and use what s/he finds; as well as document delivery services that provide users with specific units of content (essential process #3–Connect)

    –Ensuring that kb contents represent a good use of library budgets and are acquired smoothly = administration + collection development + acquisitions (essential process #4—Control)

    [Apologies if I’ve left anyone out]

    It seems potentially useful to attempt to codify these kb-centered concepts, products, services, and workflows. Whether or not this effort turns out to be “ERAMS” remains to be seen (I won’t mention here another well-known attempt to publicly name a collection of new types of library services, over which there is much debate).

  2. I also thought this was one of the most interesting ideas I encountered at ALA. I still have not decided whether the idea is on track, even whether the concept is helpful or harmful. But I think “ERAMS” is a terrible name.

    I worked on acronyms a bit. The one I tried out on people, to varying reactions, was “Getting Library Users Electronic Information” or G.L.U.E.I.

    What worries me about the ERAMS concept is that perhaps it is not optimal to segregate the handling of electronic and paper resources. It’s true that a new set of processes is needed to manage electronic resources in libraries, but I’m not convinced that the old processes used to manage print are all that optimal either. Looking ahead 10 years, do we really think that the best way to keep track of books on shelves will the record-oriented circ systems of today?? I mean, if the books all have rfid tags, shouldn’t the library system be able to just talk to the book tags and ask them where they are?


  3. I went to the Serial’s Solutions breakfast and I listened to all three presentations – which were excellent.

    I was impressed by Jane Burke and her team – in the sense that they have a vision to make their business succeed and also add real value to libraries, by enabling their digital services more efficient and effective.

    Regarding ERAMs – the change from just ERM seems to me to about making us think beyond just managing our resources, it is “a new way of thinking about serrvices in the digital environment”. Beside enabling planning – by delivering business intelligence solutions, the ERAM is viewed as a set of “integrated” tools to optimize access, usage and workflows.

    I was struck that some of the existing ERMs (won’t name any – are still focused only on enabling our tech services units to manage the digital resources.

    ERAMs add the services to our users – discovery, retrieval, delivery – the supply chain part that has to work seemlessley and simply.

    Serial Solutions also discussed their focus on Integration, Interoperability (standards) and that they are Web centric – or web native – the tools are designed for the web environment from the start.

    ERAMs at this stage is an attempt to give coherence to the ability of create complete solutions to digital services – and to all types of digital things – and in this case Serials Solutions may need to rethink the name of the company (the brand).

  4. Further to my comment above, I’ve been involved in some enlightening conversations about ERAMS recently, and I have high hopes for the concept.

    I think what we really may be talking about here is a paradigm shift away from trying to fit everything into our ILSs and using their limited capabilities to manage content and serve it up to our users, towards asking for and developing new kinds of tools, processes, and workflows for (and ways of thinking about) managing electronic resources. ERMs will likely play a large role in this, but the ERAMS concept is larger just than ERMs.

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