As a returning student in a master’s program, I was excited at the prospect of accessing the wealth of resources a modern research library affords. But the reality has been more frustrating than I could have imagined. Whether logging in from off-site, navigating from ToC alerts or social media, or reading on my phone, I run into stumbling blocks that prevent me from accessing resources that should be available to me. The user experience of working with e-journals and ebooks in an academic setting has failed to keep up with changing practices and preferences for how researchers now expect to access the scholarly literature.
I called attention to some of these limitations in an Ithaka S+R issue brief earlier this year, and the STM Association invited me to present on this topic at their annual conference in October. The publisher community there expressed a real commitment to addressing these stumbling blocks. Several of the organizations spotlighted in my presentation have already begun to take steps to address some of the issues I highlighted, but as I emphasized in my talk the issues are community-wide and affect essentially all publishers, platforms, and intermediaries to one degree or another.
Ithaka S+R has subsequently been asked by several publishers to conduct assessments of how their users, working in an academic library setting, experience their products and services, with the objective of identifying bottlenecks that can be addressed. Such an assessment is one of the services that we can offer to help publishers address these needs. Our goal is not only to identify stumbling blocks for legitimate access but to help architect broad solutions to expedite research. We are also planning to convene several discussions among publishers about how to develop broader solutions to sticking points in areas such as authentication and discoverability.
The video of my talk at STM is now available. I hope you enjoy the presentation, and please feel free to reach out to me about these issues at any time.