The teaching style at LSE uses a variety of sources to inform and broaden student knowledge and development. This means that reading lists at LSE tend to have a large amount of shorter weekly readings, such as extracts and articles, rather than a single textbook as the focus of taught content. Scanned readings are popular with students as a method of providing these extracts, as they can be accessed easily, with no DRM restrictions such as a limit on concurrent users.
As of December 2017, 82 institutions are using the DCS, with 160,000 scans across the platform. LSE's 11,300 scans account for 7% of the total. The total number of downloads between August and November 2017 was 880,000, of which LSE's 90,500 downloads accounts for just over 10% of the total. In the last six months of 2017, the Library Acquisitions team at LSE produced nearly 1800 scans.
In this blog I want to show how the high demand for scanned readings at LSE is managed through using the DCS in conjunction with Talis Aspire Reading Lists, in the absence of an integration between the two systems.
Workflows with the DCS and Talis Aspire Reading Lists
The official Talis guidance for using the DCS with Aspire recommends use of the free entry "Library Note" field to request a digitisation. This is then actioned by Library staff when the list has been sent into the "Reviews" module of Aspire.
However, the process of Reviewing lists results in a considerable loss of lead time, particularly at peak points of the year. A reading list could be created over the course of a week by an academic (usually the week before the term starts!) A review is then requested at the end of the list creation process, where it sits in a queue along with other list reviews submitted around the same time.
Depending on your workflow, your team might use a "digitisation stage" when the list is being reviewed. The list might have been checked first for any book acquisitions to be completed, before any digitisations. Several weeks may go by, from when an item for digitisation is first added to the list, to when it is actioned for scanning.
In addition to the loss of lead time, unless you have properly disambiguated your book purchases from your digitisation requests, the use of a "Library Note" results in staff having to manually check if a note is present, and then interpret each note attached to a "Book" on a reading list.
If an item has been newly added to a reading list, but the academic neglects to send the list for Review upon completion, then Library staff will not discover any items for scanning. This has the potential to result in dissatisfaction with the Library from academic staff.
Reducing lead times for items that require scanning
Our workflow has been streamlined and simplified for academic staff when creating items for their reading lists that need to be scanned. Our best practice is for an item to be bookmarked with the Material Type as a "Chapter" to disambiguate it from a required book purchase (Fig. 1). Bookmarking a Chapter initiates a back-of-house process for the Library Acquisitions team to go and source the material. Editing of the free entry Library Note field is not required. The Acquisitions team edit the reading list to include the DCS link when the scan is complete.
There is no ratio-based, multiple-copy purchasing to be considered by Acquisitions staff when sourcing a scanned reading. A Chapter simply requires a single PDF to be provided and linked to the list. So we do not use the Talis Aspire Reviews module for our scanning workflow, as it is not necessary.
Instead of using Reviews, we run an "All List Items" report three times a week, filtering to items that have been newly added as "Chapters" (Fig. 2). By doing this, we reduce the lead time considerably from addition to completion. We also detect items that require scanning via this method, regardless of whether the academic sends the list for review or not.
Using the CLA's Permission Checking API with Talis Aspire data
Our data is exported to a CSV file. We use an automated bespoke Excel tool (Fig. 3) that connects with the CLA's permission checking API, which checks the data on ISBN for HEI Licence Scanning permissions. This tool was developed by Robert Williams at Birkbeck University, and we have adapted it to work with the Talis report data format. The original code written by Thomas Hodgson is available at Github.
Any reading list items cleared for scanning has its ISBN highlighted in green. The team then provides this as a scan, within the usual constraints of the CLA HE Licence. Any item where the ISBN is highlighted in red is not covered under the CLA Licence, so the team attempts to source the reading as an Ebook, or see if permission can be obtained elsewhere.
Choosing the appropriate content format, to maximise budget efficiencies
Demarcating the Material Type of the bookmark means there is no ambiguity about the necessary acquisition action. By differentiating scans from book acquisitions, budget efficiencies can be made. In previous years, academic staff would add a Book to a reading list, with a note in the Student Note field indicating which pages were to be read. A scan was subsequently requested and supplied via email. As the item was added initially as a "Book", the Acquisitions team bought multiple copies based on our purchasing ratio. However, a scanned PDF would have sufficed for the taught course content requirement, and multiple copies of the text were not needed.
By focusing on the most appropriate format for the content delivery through proper identification of the content need via the Material Type, we can divert the budget spend to where expenditure is required most, e.g. additional copies of in-demand print texts, or additional e-Book licences.
Bespoke alteration to our tenancy of Talis Aspire
We continue to use Reviews in Talis Aspire for book acquisitions, as the "View Breakdown" tool maximises the benefits of linked data in our tenancy, providing a useful, at-a-glance analysis for holistic book ordering. However, the tool currently cross-references Book and Chapters that appear on other lists, where the "parent" ISBN from the Chapter appears on another list. The tool does not make any visible distinction between the two Material Types (Fig. 4). This means that Acquisitions staff are prompted into buying additional copies fo texts, when they are not needed. For our workflows, this diminishes the usefulness of the View Breakdown tool considerably.
We have liaised with Talis to create a bespoke alteration in our Reviews "View Breakdown" screen to ensure effective budget management and maximise efficiency gains. This is currently scheduled for completion for us in February 2018. You can read more about a development proposal to amend this for all customers at the Talis Ideas Forum. Our alteration will include visibility of the Material Type of the item cross-referenced on other reading lists (Fig. 5). This means that when the Acquisitions team use this tool, they can ignore making additional purchases for items that have been created as Chapters, as the content requirements for those reading lists have been satisfied by a scanned reading. No additional print copies are necessary.
We would be interested to share experiences and best practice with other institutions with a high volume of scanning that use the DCS in conjunction with Talis Aspire. Please feel free to leave comments below or contact me directly if you would like to discuss this or other related matters arising from this blog.
UPDATE: Since the above article was written, Talis completed our bespoke consultancy work to the “View Breakdown” tool in Reviews. On February 16th, the improvement was released to all tenancies, as Talis felt that others would find this useful.
About the Author
Kevin O'Donovan is the Library Acquisitions Manager at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He enjoys thinking about strategic developments, operational excellence, automations and APIs, data analysis, transitions, and lean supply chains. In his meagre free time he enjoys chess, running, cycling, and science fiction.