Tuesday, 1 November 2011

British Library Document Supply - new and improved

The length of time that has passed since my last post is only indicative of how busy it has been since the beginning of term!  I am really behind in my cpd23 exercises - my time has been taken up with desk sessions, inductions, Moodle and a lot of display work.  I am afraid to admit that I haven't even opened my blog since my last post.  I will need to come back to cdp23 in time, but I was prompted to return following a visit to the British Library last Friday.

On Friday afternoon I attended a roadshow given by the British Library Document Supply Service (BLDSS).  They have just completed a £6m 2 year project to upgrade their Document Supply interface and service (partly funded by HEFC).  The presentation was given by Barry Smith (Head of Commercial Services) who introduced the developments and Anthony Troman (Project Manager) who, despite technical difficulties not allowing him to show us the end product 'live', demonstrated the interface.  The main benefits of the new service are:
  • Quicker and higher quality copies: delivery time will be reduced from 5 days to 4 (although most are already turned around in 48 hours).  All documents will be sent in colour as standard.  Also on offer are 'Get it for me' and 'Find it for me' whereby the DSS will track down a copy if not available through them - this is offered at an additional charge.
  • Better searching: one search box which will search on any bibliographic data. Improved keyword searching at article level with more articles being included.
  • Better communication: the ability to track orders 'Amazon style', and accept or decline orders if the interface is made available to users for them to place orders.  Dispatch/delivery dates and costs are provided at ordering stage.  Problems and cancellations can be reported via the site rather than ringing customer services.  The 150 ARTemail codes have been reduced down to 23 and you can opt to receive plain Enlish emails instead.
  • Four-stage order process: confirmation of item selected; delivery details; review order; shopping basket of ordered items.  Items are given a unique British Library reference number to use with correspondence (you can also add your own reference number).
  • Statistics: can provide stats through their reporting facility.
  • Enhanced administration features: a separate desktop icon for administrators that allows you to control accounts, delivery details and contact information.
Despite the updated functionality they did admit that there are still issues with the Document Supply service as a whole.  Due to a number of reasons their fulfilment rate had fallen in past months but is now back on a rise from 65% to 71%.  Electronic delivery still causes problems for some users who are unable to install the required software onto their networks.  Due to copyright agreements, unencrypted delivery is only available to universities and pharamceutical organisations.  Whilst the new interface will be an improvement to most it does require Flash (and therefore Internext Explorer 7 or later) which will cause problems for some users - this was raised during the roadshow and the response was that it is being looked into.  Another question raised was whether the BLDSS are looking into supplying e-books - the response to this was that a suitable platform hadn't been found considering the type of material that the British Library tends to supply.

Migration has begun with 2 customers already on the new interface at the time of the Friday roadshow.  Customers are being migrated in batches and all customers should have been migrated by February 2012.  (Existing orders will not be shown on the new interface so there may be a short transition period to complete any outstanding orders.)  Users should start to see the difference before they are migrated however, by November/December everyone should be receiving better quality colour copies quicker and plain English emails.  By December there will be full administration functionality and by January/February the full ability to search and order.  Throughout the process all customers will receive full communication from the BLDSS as well as the opportunity for both institutional and online demonstrations.

Barry finished the presentation by outlining the next developments they want to look at:
  • Integrate Document Supply with other services, such as journal databases, via a popup.
  • Manage Digital Rights Management online so that customers of electronic delivery do not have to visit the library to sign the copyright declaration form.
  • Improve electronic delivery whereby a software installation is not required.
  • Increase the number of digital copies from suppliers to improve the quality of copies supplied.
  • Providing Document Supply to mobile technologies - the current issue remains that iPads, for example, do not disaply PDF documents.
Overall I was impressed.  The new interface looks much more up-to-date with functionality, such as the order tracking, that is commonplace now in many other ordering systems.  A lot of the processes have also been simplified, such as the ARTemails.  Lack of communication had always been my main frustration with the current system so I am pleased to see the thought that has gone into the information that will be provided for each order and the ability to look back at open and past orders.

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