STAFF RESOURCES

Rutgers University Libraries
Report on the Document Delivery Pilot Project

Introduction

The Document Delivery Pilot Project began in May 1997. In order to assess the feasibility of providing access to journals rather than library ownership of journals, a small group of Cook faculty was provided with innovative access to the literature via the UnCover Reveal service. UnCover is an electronic database of information taken from the tables of contents of over 15,000 journals in many disciplines. Using UnCover, participants could receive automatic electronic delivery of the tables of contents of journals, establish subject profiles, browse the index for journal articles, and request delivery of journal articles either by fax or electronically. By analyzing the patterns of use and the direct feedback of participants, the future direction of library services in general and the Chang Science Library, in particular, can be shaped.

Project Summary

Five Cook College science faculty were invited to participate in the Document Delivery Pilot Project. To begin the project, Chang Science Library personnel provided the participants with some training in using UnCover and helped them set up user profiles. The project group was instructed on the option of automatic delivery of the tables of contents of journals and subject profiling and was encouraged to search the UnCover database for journal articles. The participants were each allotted $1,000 for the delivery of journal articles. Given that the average cost of delivery of one article is $17.57, the participants were able to receive approximately 57 articles each on average.

Use patterns of UnCover document delivery service for each participant were tracked monthly, with the number and type of article requested, requests cancelled and filled, response time, and cost recorded. In addition, participants were invited to a group meeting in February 1998 to discuss their use of the system. The project continues until the participants exhaust their allotted accounts for document delivery.

Quantitative Results

As of January 31, 1998, the account balances for document delivery for the five participants were as follows:

SA212 $715.60
SA21201 $1.20
SA21202 $1,000.00
SA21203 $804.50
SA21204 $1,000.00

Of the five, only three used the accounts provided to them to request journal article delivery.

In total, the three ordering participants requested 97 articles during the months from May 1997 to January 1998. Eighty-one of those articles were sent to the participants, making the fill rate of requests 83.5 %. The reasons for failure to supply the requested articles included unresponsive fax machines, UnCover's inability to supply the article, and the placement of duplicate orders.

Thirty-one (32 %) of the articles ordered were from the current year. Fifty-six percent of the articles were between two to five years old, leaving 11% of the articles ordered, which were more than five years old.

Considering the small size of the group that was monitored, statistical analysis of use patterns has limited actual use. The number of journals, however, ordered by the participants through UnCover that are already owned by the Rutgers University Libraries is significant. Of the 58 journal titles requested, the Libraries own 50.

Group Discussion

On February 20, 1998, participants in the Document Delivery Pilot Project met with library administrators to discuss their use of UnCover. Present at the meeting were four of the five project participants. A list of questions was distributed to all present at the meeting to direct discussion. Though most questions were discussed, there were certain themes of concern that developed at the meeting.

How did you use UnCover?

Participants used UnCover from their offices or from home and had articles delivered via fax. They found that the quality of the copies they ordered depended on the quality of the fax machine receiving the articles. Sometimes article pages were difficult to put in order when they were received, and they could not be cleanly photocopied. Participants were satisfied with the speed of delivery and rated UnCover's responsiveness to problems as excellent overall. One of the participants who did not use his UnCover account at Rutgers reported that he was familiar with a document delivery system in place at the University of Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts also used UnCover, and he found it successful.

Did UnCover meet your needs for access to the journal literature?

For the most part, participants were able to find and order the articles they sought. One participant, however, researching in areas outside the mainstream (sustainable agriculture, floriculture statistics) was not able to order the articles she needed. She did report that information she found using UnCover enabled her to contact authors directly. Even though some articles were unavailable through UnCover's document delivery service, this participant was able to use the database to conduct research. This participant also commented that UnCover alerted her to articles of interest in the core journal collection maintained within her department.

What was your opinion of the cost of articles?

Participants were concerned about the cost of ordering articles and sometimes refused to order articles they deemed expensive. One participant reported receiving articles that appeared appropriate but were actually useless to her. Participants suggested that more article abstracts would help users order more appropriate literature.

Members of the group said that they would not themselves be willing to pay much for the service. Considering that so many journals ordered were owned by Rutgers, participants thought perhaps to restrict UnCover document delivery to only those journals not owned.

Did you have problems using UnCover?

Group participants reported some problems with the database. In general, they thought the Boolean searching was cumbersome, passwords were difficult to remember, and profile setup could be difficult. A printed guide to using UnCover would be helpful. They noted, in addition, that if more people were using the system problems would be easier to solve. One could consult one's colleagues for help.

Recommendations

It is doubtful that we could ever totally subsidize universal document delivery from UnCover for the entire university community. Many universities and colleges, however, have provided universal access to the Reveal Service, and we recommend that option be explored immediately. Use of the Reveal Service will decrease the per article charge for Rutgers users to a flat $8.50, impacting positively on our interlibrary loan operations as well. Resources required are the UnCover site license fee of $4,300 for more than 400 subscribers and development of instructional materials and classes.

It is also our recommendation, based on the group's use and feedback, that another larger-scale test of the document delivery service be implemented. In order for more meaningful statistical results to be collected, we should expand access to the system to a larger faculty group, representing different disciplines and campuses. In this trial, we should consider restricting document delivery to only those journals not subscribed to by the Libraries. We should request UnCover accounts that provide more detailed statistics and use the data to assess when cost of delivery from a particular title is less effective than the cost of subscribing.

In order to overcome many of the problems that group participants reported, we recommend using UnCover Web and exploring the UnCover Desktop Image Delivery option. With this option, users will be able to download articles to their desktop computer from UnCover's Web site, thereby eliminating the problems of fax delivery. By implementing UnCover Web, users will find the system easier to use.

This pilot project did not provide sufficient information to assess the feasibility of providing access to journals rather than library ownership of journals. It did show that a universal document delivery service would be a significant enhancement to our service and collection programs, but it would not replace them. Measures of use remain the ultimate criteria for our collection building, but access via a document delivery service such as UnCover should be considered when making deselection recommendations.

Attachments

Faculty Participants
Margaret Brennan, Department of Agricultural Economics and Marketing
Robin G. Brumfield, Department of Agricultural Economics and Marketing
Caron Chess, Center for Environmental Communication
Douglas E. Eveleigh, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology
John R. Reinfelder, Department of Environmental Sciences

Project Team
Project Coordination: Jeanne Boyle
Data Coordination and Analysis: Janie Fultz
Data Analysis: Chad Mills
Report Preparation: Christiane Mills
Financial Support and Analysis: Robert Sewell
Instruction and User Support: Irwin Weintraub

Report Prepared 3/30/98

Comments on this report may be sent to Jeanne Boyle at: jeboyle@rci.rutgers.edu.  The report is being discussed  by the Standing Advisory Committees and Cabinet.  5/7/98



 
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