Missing Link – Optimizing Access to Reduce Unnecessary ILL Requests Presentation Transcript

Jun 24, 2020Featured, Transcriptions

Tony Espe:

It started with a hunch. It seemed like our patrons were submitting an awful lot of interlibrary loan request for items that we already owned electronically. Patrons could have downloaded the items themselves, but they didn’t. They submitted ILL requests instead.

Tony Espe:

We wondered was this truly happening and if so, why? But before we share our research results, we’d like to tell you a little bit about us.

Rebecca Wisniewski:

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is a four year, comprehensive regional public university located in the central portion of the US State of Wisconsin. In 2019, UWSP enrolled 7,251 students and employed 1,247 staff members.

Rebecca Wisniewski:

University library is the singular library on campus occupying seven floors of Albertson Hall. The library’s collection includes approximately one half million physical items, access to 130,000 print and online periodicals and maintained subscriptions to 280 databases. Library patrons are able to discover and explore the library’s collection using Ex Libras Primo interface.

Tony Espe:

That brings us back to our research question, exactly how many of our patrons were submitting ILL request for online items that they could have access themselves through the university library.

Tony Espe:

To answer the research question, we crunch data. We examine more than 4,500 borrowing requests for the calendar years, 2017 and 2018. We concentrated on requests for online items, primarily scholarly articles, but also book chapters, theses, et cetera, basically any non-returnable that we delivered to patrons as a PDF. We grouped ILL request by fulfillment method, ultimately, how did we supply the item to a patron, did we scan a print copy for document delivery? Did another library send us the article? We primarily were concerned with ILL request for items that the university library already owned online.

Tony Espe:

We dubbed these unnecessary request. The label sounds a bit harsh, but don’t get us wrong. We actually were grateful that patrons reached out via ILL to get a needed source. The ILL requests were unnecessary in the sense that patrons could have access the items instantly through the university library for free, instead of filling out an ILL form and waiting sometimes days for delivery.

Tony Espe:

For the two years, we studied exactly how many patrons were submitting unnecessary ILL request. Our hunch was correct, but why? Why were patrons submitting ILL request for online items that they could have access instantly for free through Primo or other university library databases? We didn’t know for certain, but we had a hunch.

Tony Espe:

We suspected that some of the confusion stemmed from Primo. From beginning to end primo require six steps to access the full text of a scholarly article. If any link is broken, the search is derailed. Primo also required patrons to navigate the confusing view it screen, which often listed unfamiliar databases with no clear instructions of how to access the full text of a desired article. Our hunch was that patrons would land on the view it screen, become stumped and opt for interlibrary loan instead, even though the full text was available.

Tony Espe:

In January, 2019, the university library subscribed to LibKey.

Kendall Bartsch:

When researchers start their process in the library, they potentially have access to millions and millions of digital items, articles, and book chapters, and so forth that can be searched and discovered and things like Primo, Summon, article level databases like Web of Science and Scopus and what not. But we know that regardless of where that researcher starts their process, the expectation is, is that once they find an article of interest, that they can get directly to it.

Kendall Bartsch:

But we also know that, that’s typically not the experience for researchers. That instead when they go from that point of discovery and try to reach that out of interest, they’re typically having to navigate through a link resolver, which requires multiple clicks and different screens loading and what not. That can be a definite break in the research process. And that breakdown of the research process is something that is generally well understood. This is sort of one of the effects of link resolvers.

Kendall Bartsch:

So over the past decade, for example, we look at a number of ways that this has been reported within the library literature. For example, two studies in 2011 kind of speak to this, one in CRNL looked at students that were tasked with trying to advance through a link resolver in order to get to the point where they print the article and only 62% of those were successful. In a study, again the same year, and [inaudible] review found that users just want to get to full text. They didn’t want to have to confront navigating through library systems every time they had to get to an article. Five years later in an internal study of user perceptions of library systems, Rutgers University librarians found that, “the link resolver was reported as being confusing, cumbersome and unreliable.” The next year in a 2017 study from the journal electronic resources librarianship, the authors wrote that, “almost a quarter of participants did not click through all the links and buttons needed to get from a database citation to the full text of an article.” Then just last year in a study of graduate students’ research behaviors that was published in the Journal Portal, the authors reported how students related that, “the library access is too hard and takes too many clicks.” In asking these graduate students how they can improve library services, they commented, “just do a SCI-Hub does.”

Kendall Bartsch:

So we know that lots of great tools out there that allow people to discover or understand a tremendous breadth of digitally available electronic content. But that the process of going from that point of discovery, to the actual item still relies on technology that’s relatively unevolved. Link resolver sort of that ubiquitous piece there that that provides that last mile connection but for many users it’s confusing and becomes kind of that break in the research process.

Kendall Bartsch:

So to solve that last mile problem, we think isn’t involving just sort of like tweaking the link resolver. Instead it’s innovating a new technology that provides direct, reliable and fast article access, regardless of starting place in order to connect users from library subscribed and open access content. That’s exactly what LibKey’s designed to do. We see LibKey being able to be used in lots of different places, really anywhere you can think of researchers out there trying to connect to and get access to information within your discovery service, in databases, even open web searching of sites like Wikipedia or research gate. LibKey can actually even be used to resolve identifier-based look-ups. So if you have a DOI or PubMed ID and you want to get access to that article, LibKey can help direct in that way.

Tony Espe:

LibKey has altered the way patrons access, scholarly articles in Primo. If a full text article is available from a university library journal, LibKey inserts, a direct link in the Primo record, enabling PDF downloads with one click. LibKey has simplified full text article access in Primo by avoiding the puzzling view it screen altogether. LibKey also presents fewer links susceptible to breaking. LibKey has offered an intuitive, reliable alternative for downloading full-text PDFs of peer reviewed articles in Primo.

Tony Espe:

After subscribing to LibKey for one year, we wondered if unnecessary ILL request had decrease, considering that patrons now had one click access to full text PDFs of thousands of scholarly articles.

Tony Espe:

We revisited the data this time we analyzed one year of ILL borrowing request resulting in a reduced sample size. Other variables remained the same except LibKey had been implemented into Primo. In the first year of LibKey unnecessarily ILL requests dropped by more than a third from 43.9% to 26.9%. Perhaps university library had discovered its missing link.

Tony Espe:

Correlation or causation, we’re not sure. However, our hunch tells us that we are receiving fewer unnecessary ILL request because of one click access to full text scholarly articles in Primo. Fewer unnecessary ILL requests have resulted in less wasted staff time. More importantly though, patients don’t have to wait for ILL to deliver online items. Our hope is that patrons are downloading scholarly articles instantly in Primo.

Tony Espe:

Beyond interlibrary loan, LibKey has significantly simplified Primo. Before the university library subscribed to LibKey I avoided showing Primo to patrons searching for scholarly articles. The Primo view it screen was too complicated and I encountered too many broken links. I instead would search directly in article databases, such as EBSCO pretending like Primo didn’t exist. Now with LibKey, whenever library patrons request peer reviewed articles, Primo is my first choice. LibKey has dramatically improved my reference and instruction services.

Kendall Bartsch:

The last few slides are just showing some kind of related benefits that we see with LibKey.

Kendall Bartsch:

The first are a couple of points that come from a study that the University of Manchester did in looking at the impact of LibKey within their Primo environment. The first point here is probably an obvious one that getting directly to content just simply means fewer clicks for their end users. But the second point here in green actually looks to calculate really what that means in terms of time saved.

Kendall Bartsch:

So in their case, they looked at kind of the average amount of time that it took to get from that record in Primo, through the link resolver to the actual article itself, compared that with the number of full text requests that are usually made in Primo in a period of time, extended that out over the course of a year. What University of Manchester is finding is that they’re literally saving the research community a hundred days of time. Time that’s otherwise spent doing nothing other than simply navigating through library systems. So you can see how this is pretty impactful for researchers and for the university where the library is literally able to return that time back to the community, to do things like prepare for classes and write papers and go to labs and so forth.

Kendall Bartsch:

But equally importantly for the library, LibKey also was correlated with a reduction of the number of help desk requests that the library saw. So by simplifying access to content, University of Manchester is able to see a drop in things like people reporting bad links or sending in support requests because they got confused at a certain point within the process. So it took some of the burden off of kind of that support overhead that the library was otherwise having to be involved in.

Kendall Bartsch:

So some nice benefit there. We also see benefit from mobile users. If you’re using library systems on your mobile device, even if they’re kind of optimized for mobile, anytime that you’re having to go to a different screen, or if there’s a little pop up menu, something that you have to navigate through that can be very challenging within a mobile device. So we know that within LibKey, if you’re in a database or discovery service, being able to have that one tap access to the full text can be very beneficial within mobile environments. In this case, we actually even look specifically at PubMed or National Library of Medicine reports that about 45% of their users interact with PubMed on their mobile device. So again, you can kind of see the power of this, that if you were in PubMed, you find an article of interest. Now you want to get to it, you tap on it, the next thing you see then is going to be the PDF of the article. So we’ve seen nice benefits for mobile users and with a lot of people working remotely, you might even be seeing an increase of the number of mobile interactions that you have within your library services.

Kendall Bartsch:

Then finally in sort of like an exciting horizon for us is just improving accessibility of library services overall. So we look back at a study, like for example, the one indicated here from 2018, looking at blind academic library user’s experience with library services. The general findings are that vision impaired or blind users are challenged trying to find full text using a link resolver, and that there’s a cognitive load to learn new pages, anytime that you’re confronted with one of them. So you can kind of see the kind of application there within the link resolver experience that once you get beyond that source screen page, you might be brought off to an aggregated site or publish your page or something like that and you have to kind of learn through the screen reader process, all the different nuances of that page to become kind of better at advancing through them to get to the PDF of the article that you’re actually interested in.

Kendall Bartsch:

So the practical implication then that they talk about in this particular study is just the general principle that fewer clicks to content are better and that can actually help improve accessibility. So while this study did not look at LibKey specifically, I think the general principles about improving accessibility of library services overall apply to what we’re doing with the LibKey technology. Again, I think are going to provide exciting new opportunities for us to investigate further benefits.