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DLF Electronic Resource Management Initiative

Electronic Resource Management: The Report of the DLF Initiative (August 2004).
This project is developing common specifications and tools for managing the license agreements, related administrative information, and internal processes associated with collections of licensed electronic resources.

WHEN LIBRARIES ACQUIRE electronic resources from publishers or vendors, they must understand, record, transmit, and inform others about the many financial, legal, interrelational, and access aspects of these arrangements. The acquisitions and licensing processes are complex, publishers transmit this information to libraries in a variety of paper and electronic formats, and the number of licensed electronic products libraries are collecting is increasing rapidly. Such situations tend to spawn local, ad hoc fixes; what is needed, by contrast, is an industry-wide, standardized solution. The Electronic Resources Management Initiative (ERMI), an ongoing project of the Digital Library Federation (DLF), is creating such a solution.

ERMI grew out of research that Tim Jewell at the University of Washington conducted for a report on the selection and presentation of commercially-available electronic resources: Selection and Presentation of Commercially Available Electronic Resources: Issues and Practices (2001). During the course of this research, he became aware of the many databases and local practices libraries use to manage their licenses and associated information. With Adam Chandler of Cornell University, he established a Web hub to foster communication among interested parties. Tim subsequently worked with librarians involved in those efforts to inventory their systems' functions and data elements and began informal discussions of the potential value of standardizing functions, element names and definitions. The ALCTS Technical Services Directors of Large Research Libraries Discussion Group developed an interest in this work and agreed to sponsor an informal meeting at the January 2002 ALA Midwinter meeting that led to further discussions of functions and data elements. Following this meeting, an informal steering group was formed that included Tim, Adam, Sharon Farb and Angela Riggio from UCLA, Nathan Robertson from Johns Hopkins, Ivy Anderson from Harvard, and Kimberly Parker from Yale.

In May 2002, NISO and DLF sponsored a Workshop on Standards for Electronic Resource Management; in addition to 40 librarians, the group included representatives from EBSCO, Endeavor, ExLibris, Fretwell Downing, Innovative Interfaces, SIRSI, and Serials Solutions.

Librarians, publishers, and vendors are now coming together under DLF sponsorship to create and test standards for electronic resource management, including an XML schema for recording the details of a license agreement and for managing related descriptive metadata and administrative information associated with collections of licensed electronic resources. A common XML format will make it easier to share information and thus minimize duplication of effort. It will also give publishers and vendors a standardized format in which to deliver license information to customers and information management systems.

Since then, DLF has established a working group consisting of the members of the DLF/NISO workshop steering group and other interested DLF members, whose task has been to continue the efforts already begun and to produce the deliverables noted below.


The following products are posted on the project's web hub, with traditional paper publication through DLF/CLIR.

1.      Problem Definition/Road Map: Our ad hoc, grassroots effort has assembled an extensive collection of documents relevant to the management of electronic resources. This report gathers the most valuable data and conclusions into one document, including an overview of existing or proposed standards and XML schemas, and their relationships to the work being undertaken.

2.      Working Documents: These specifications, standards, and best practices have been used in drafting system specifications, as well as directing vendors' development efforts, and include:

  •         Workflow Diagram
  •         Functional requirements
  •         Entity Relationship Diagram
  •         Electronic Resources Management System Data Structure
  •         Data Element Dictionary
  •         XML investigation

3.      Report.

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