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ALA comments on the statement of work for ERIC

ALA comments on the statement of work for ERIC.

If you are concerned about this you should read the whole document. I'm
not an expert in this area, so these are only those pieces of the
documents I found particularly important. Note that the last paragraph has
implications for vendors working with libraries on providing resources
that provide full text to many academic institutions.

Available on the ALA home page. http://ala.org

May 6, 2003
Secretary of Education Rod Paige
U.S. Department of Education
Re: Draft Statement of Work for ERIC

Dear Mr. Secretary:

The American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and
Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of ALA, are pleased to offer
comments on the Draft Statement of Work for the design of the new ERIC
system, as proposed by the Department of Education. ....

These comments are informed by ACRL's Education and Behavioral Sciences
Section (EBSS), 1,000 members dedicated to serving the common interests of
education and behavioral sciences librarians and addressing a host of
issues in the areas of collection development, library and curriculum
materials center management, user services, and information literacy
instruction in education and behavioral sciences librarianship.



... not content to be a large and heavily used database, ERIC also
provides expert reference and referral services (e.g., AskERIC and AskERIC
Live!), syntheses of research on topics of high public interest and
impetus for issue-based professional discussions. The ERIC Clearinghouses
respond to over 150,000 phone calls and e-mails annually
(http://searcheric.org/abit.htm) from the general public and the vast
library community. The Clearinghouses have also done much to harness the
rich but unruly resources of the World Wide Web by providing links to
screened resources relevant to their subject scope. More than 10 million
people a month connect to the ERIC provided web pages
(http://searcheric.org/abit.htm) making it the most popular federally
sponsored education program.

1) While stating that the new ERIC will be comprehensive, easy-to-use and
searchable, the Statement of Work also directs the contractor to encourage
author submitted abstracts and use publisher and author abstracts and
indexing information to the maximum extent possible. ALA believes producer
provided and automatic indexing will reduce the value of ERIC
significantly by reducing the quality and consistency of the abstracting
and indexing of database entries. .... 

2) The Statement of Work also replaces the Clearinghouse system with a
more centralized entity, coordinated and controlled by a single
contractor. The new contractor would replace Clearinghouse expertise by
using three content experts in each of the current Clearinghouse topic
areas to select materials for inclusion in the database. Despite their
simple names, the current Clearinghouses each cover a broad range of
subjects that could not easily be encompassed by the expertise of three
individuals, however carefully chosen.... .... 

3) ALA believes that the elimination of many of the current Clearinghouse
functions, especially in the area of information dissemination will be
harmful to the needs of practitioners, researchers, students and the
general public. Currently the Clearinghouses offer users valuable
information services by responding to over 150,000 emails and phone calls
annually. Moreover, the loss of the Clearinghouses would lead to the
elimination of many of their publishing functions, including the ERIC
Digests, electronic journals and monographs, user oriented web sites and
outreach activities. We believe that these activities are critical to
broad education constituencies presently served by the ERIC system and
that they should be maintained....

4) ALA is concerned about the short time frames and entrepreneurial nature
of some of the changes outlined in the Statement of Work. Will new
indexing and abstracting be added to the database during the transition
period? Who will do that work and when will it appear in the database?
Some of the new contractor's processes for identifying sources of
information and setting indexing protocols will take place after the
Clearinghouses have ceased their functions.

Longer time allowances for some transfer functions would minimize the
potential for confusion and interrupted access. While we welcome increased
electronic access to the text of materials indexed in the ERIC database,
ALA recognizes potential problems. For example, linking to commercial
vendors will create distinctions between those users who have
institutional access to materials, mainly on college and university
campuses, and those who do not have access, except by purchase. Vendor
access interfaces that do not make it clear that some institutional
affiliates may be entitled to on-campus access to text products could be
confusing for users and the librarians trying to help them.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments on the Draft
Statement of Work for the redesign of the ERIC database. ALA and its
division ACRL are ready to provide additional information and support to
the Department of Education during this important process.