Electronic Resources

The resources to which “electronic” applies (in the context of collections development) include:

  • Online Electronic Resources
  • Web Sites – Open Access and Full-Text
  • Web Sites – Bibliographic
  • Electronic Journals
  • Data Files

Electronic: defined by The Oxford Dictionary of New Words as an adjective relating to activities or processes mediated or enabled through the use of the computer, frequently by means of telecommunications links.
Internet : A network of networks which permit computers to communicate via a variety of languages called protocols. The internet may be used for electronic mail, discussion groups, file transfers, and web services. Protocols include FTP -file transfer protocol, HTTP – for the transfer of web pages from a server to a browser, and SMTP for e-mail transfer.
Web or World Wide Web (WWW): a portion of the Internet for the sharing of information using the HTTP protocol. It is incorrect to use it as synonymous with the Internet.
CD-ROM: Compact Disk-Read-Only Memory is a type of optical disk capable of storing large amounts of data which can not be erased. A single CD-ROM has the storage capacity of 700 floppy disks or 300,000 text pages.

Online Electronic Resources
“Librarians invest time and resources in creating reference Web sites, because doing so extends four familiar library service functions into cyberspace: 1. Selection . 2. Endorsement . 3. Organization . 4. Cooperation .”. Steven W. Sowards (1998)
A Typology for Ready Reference Web Sites in Libraries p.3

The Library’s acquisitions budget will be used to pay for license fees to access fee-based web sites Current research and instructional needs must be supported. Online resource selection shares many criteria outlined for both print and other types of electronic resources.

Online Resource Evaluation : Basic Criteria

  • Does additional software have to be downloaded or purchased to make use of the resource?
  • Is the web site well organized?
  • Do the graphics and images support access to the substance of the resource?
  • Do the table of contents or menus accurately reflect the content?
  • Does the reputation of the source or sponsor of the site provide evidence for the accuracy of the information?
  • If the site is a gateway, do the sites to which the links point have content relevant to the stated mission of the gateway?
  • Is an e-mail address provided for the copyright/license holder, particularly in those instances when restrictions apply on the downloading of information?
  • Is there clear evidence for the regular updating or maintenance of the web site?
  • If a search engine is incorporated into the site, is it easy to use and does it support keyword (preferably Boolean) searching?
  • Is the content scholarly, serious, and thorough?
  • Is the site reliable, i.e. is it usually available, does the URL change infrequently, are the revisions and changes to the site genuine enhancements?

Web Sites – Open Access and Full-Text
This category of electronic resource constitutes the core of the LibGuides on the Articles& Research Databases page. Access is provided from the Library’s homepage.

The web sites to which we establish links on our homepage are selected with the research needs of undergraduate and graduate students in mind and are intended to expand the range of resources available to these students. Particular attention will be paid to the following:
The information provided by the selected site will compensate for print monograph collections that are out of date and/or deficient in key subject areas. If significant to the subject of inquiry, attention will be paid to those scholarly, authoritative sites that have at least some Canadian content.
The selection will be of benefit to students who are studying from a distance or who are infrequent visitors to campus. Particular attention will be given to the needs of graduate level students who are enrolled in distance courses.
Once selected, each site will be carefully annotated by the Collections & Archives Librarian or the assigned Liaison Librarian with information of specific interest to our patrons.

MSVU / Library – Subject Guides
represents the current organization of web sites arranged under the 24 departments and programs that have been assigned allocation funds in the Library’s acquisitions budget.

Among organizational schemes created by academic libraries is:
Luther College Course Guides
Guides specific to individual courses are arranged by department. Each guide lists relevant print reference tools, scholarly article databases with annotations, websites with annotations and information on locating periodicals and using interlibrary loan.

Among the important factors to consider will be frequency of updates, change of content, redesign, reassignment of responsibility. At that time a decision will be made whether to retain or remove our link to the site, and if the link is retained, whether to revise the annotation in a LibGuide. Visitors to the Electronic Library will be encouraged to comment on the E-Library’s content and organization, and suggest sites for possible inclusion.


INFOMINE : Scholarly Internet Resource Collection
A cooperative effort of academic librarians to create a gateway to over 115,000 high quality scholarly education resources, both open access and fee-based, on the web. The advanced search and browse screen permits search strategies by field (keyword, description LCSH etc.), broad subject category, resource type.


Internet Public Library
Web site reviews with links can be located following a search path of increasing specificity e.g. subject collections>social sciences>education. IPL also provides access to sites maintained by associations. University of Michigan School of Information students work on its maintenance and enhancement.
The Scout Report
The Scout Report provides detailed information on its selection criteria based on evaluation of content, authority, maintenance, presentation, availability ( i.e. do the links work ?) with a “very critical” look at for-fee sites. Subscribers to The Scout Report can contribute their own rating for each site. The Browse Resources page permits the identification of relevant sites pertaining to narrow subject areas.
Based at Strathclyde University, this web site evaluation guide is aimed primarily at the academic community in the United Kingdom. Some international content is available. Advanced search supports Boolean. Each web site review is assigned a DDC number that can be used for searching purposes.

Web Sites – Bibliographic
In most instances the Library has chosen the electronic equivalent of indexing and abstracting services for which we had long established print subscriptions and that support the research and curricular needs of students and faculty at MSVU, e.g. Gender Studies Database and Hospitality & Tourism Index focus on the specialized programs offered at our institution.
Many of the reference databases to which we subscribe are aggregations, i.e. the vendor or aggregator conglomerates journals from several publishers under one interface and search engine. The inclusion of article full-text as part of the index is a significant feature of Academic Search Premier (Ebsco) and Academic Research Library (ProQuest). Among the features of aggregations to take into consideration are 1. the stability of content due to the requirement that the vendor negotiate rights from several publishers and 2. the embargoes on access to full-text articles in the most recent issues of some indexed titles.

Electronic Journals
Electronic or e-journals are defined in the Harrod’s Librarians’ Glossary as “journals in which all aspects of preparation, refereeing, assembly, and distribution are carried out electronically.”

In most instances the electronic journals to which MSVU subscribes have been bundled with current print subscriptions. Recently we have elected to subscribe to some titles as e-journals only. Some major publishers that provide electronic journal access to faculty and students at MSVU are Wiley, Elsevier, Royal Society of Chemistry, Springer and the American Chemical Society.
Note: In most instances, print or print/electronic subscriptions will be retained if the only electronic source is an aggregator (e.g. ProQuest or Ebsco) – embargoes are unacceptable. The preferred source for an electronic journal is from the publisher of the title.
Once a subscription to an e-journal is initiated, the journal will be catalogued for Novanet.
The library budget will not be used to support access to e-journals from computer labs or faculty offices unless comparable access is available from public areas of the library.

Electronic Journal Evaluation: Basic Criteria
When selecting e-journals, the following should be considered:

  • Does access require the purchase and loading of special software, or the purchase of additional hardware like printers?
  • Are the pages marked up to support text images and links, or scanned to replicate the print version, or does more than one format co-exist?
  • Can the user download the full-text to disk or print it? Can the entire article be downloaded / printed, or only a single screen at a time?
  • Does the e-journal have an index? Does it support full-text searching?
  • Does the e-journal have features which are not available in the equivalent print version e.g. interactive links or links from footnotes?
  • Once access to the electronic version is provided will the equivalent print subscription be cancelled, and if so, will the access fee be affected?
  • What is the e-journal’s archival capacity? Who is responsible for maintaining the archives? What guarantees are in place for the retrieval of back files?
  • Are there license agreements to be signed at the time of ordering? What mechanisms must be in place to prevent unauthorized use?
  • How is the subscription rate determined: by the number of simultaneous users, the number of access points, the number of passwords or IP addresses, enrolment, the maintenance of an equivalent print subscription?

E-Journals: Collection Development Tools

Serials in Cyberspace Collections, Resources, and Services.
A useful directory of web sites with information relating to e-journal acquisition and access arranged by country and institution.
Electronic Collection
Published Canadian books and journals that are accessible through the worldwide web. The collection may be searched by title, subject, or keyword. All publications are catalogued and archived by Library and Archives Canada

Data Files
For the purpose of the Collections Development Policy Manual, machine readable data files or MRDFs are defined somewhat narrowly as data files created at academic institutions for research purposes, or by government agencies for policy planning, and subsequently made available under license to researchers. The curricular and present or anticipated research needs of a sufficiently broad sector of the university community must justify the acquiring, archiving, and servicing of data files. At the very least, the license must give access to any member of the university community who can make use of the data for non-commercial purposes. Access to data files purchased or licensed for use by the Library should not be restricted to a single researcher.

Data Liberation Initiative (DLI)
provides university researchers and instructors not-for-profit use of a wide range of Statistics Canada data files and databases. The files may be distributed to member institutions on CD-ROM or downloaded via FTP from the DLI site by the University’s designated DLI contact. Many data files are accessible from the server at the University of Western Ontario for DLI subscribers via Equinox.
A database of downloadable Statistics Canada Survey files (including the Censuses) has been made accessible to faculty and students at DLI member institutions. Researchers can access the Equinox site from work stations on campus, select variables of interest, download the data using a statistical package or, in many instances, display the data on screen in tabular form using Beyond 20/20 browser software.

Electronic Resource Funding
Most electronic resources, both multidisciplinary and subject-focused, are funded from the Library’s acquisitions budget. This line provides funds for aggregated databases such as Ebsco’s Academic Search Premier and Proquest Research Library and full-text databases such as the electronic journals collection published by Wiley InterScience.

Canadian Research Knowledge Network National Site Licence that provides access to scholarly databases ( MathSciNet, Elsevier ScienceDirect etc.) is funded by its own line in the Library’s acquisitions budget

Electronic Resource Licensing
A copy of the licensing agreement should be kept for easy referral in the appropriate department e..g. Reference or Serials, with a duplicate copy retained by the University Librarian. The head of each library unit is responsible for the submission of registration or warranty cards, and the maintenance of a file of documents pertaining to the resources purchased or licensed for use by the unit.
The University Librarian will review and sign licensing agreements, and will be consulted in decisions with respect to the lease or purchase of electronic data from acquisitions funds.
provides useful information and assistance for academic librarians as they read and negotiate licenses with information providers, with the caution that this is a U.S. resource with references to U.S. laws.

Electronic Resource Evaluation: General Guidelines
Electronic resources are selected using many of the same criteria adopted for the selection of monographs and serials. Please refer to “Monographs: Selection Criteria” and “Serials: Selection and Review” in the Collections Development Policy Manual. Obviously the fundamental question to address during evaluation is whether the resource will contribute to the strength of the collection and the quality of service to our patrons. Content and authority is usually weighed more heavily than design or operational features during the evaluation process.
Among general questions to consider with respect to both open-access and fee-based electronic resource selection:

  • Is electronic or print the best medium to deliver the information?
  • Will the electronic resource enhance instruction and/or the acquisition of knowledge?
  • Does the product’s interface and other features seem appropriate for, and usable by our patrons?
  • Does the software allow for both printing and downloading?
  • Will the resource require an excessive amount of time to learn and teach in order to be useful?
  • Does it use a search engine similar to those already used by patrons?
  • Do on-screen tutorials exist or will customized tutorials have to be prepared by reference / bibliographic instruction staff?
  • Does the resource incorporate useful support materials ,e.g. thesauri of search terms, function-specific help screens?
  • Are there similar resources available to compare with the one under consideration?
    Questions appropriate for fee-based resources include:
    Does the continuation of the print version impact favourably on the subscription cost of the electronic versions?
  • What is the reputation of the vendor for support and service?
  • Is the vendor’s documentation thorough and clear?
  • Do updates of the support materials or the software upgrades arrive in a timely manner?
  • How compatible is the resource with library hardware and software, and will upgrading be required to ensure its optimal use?
  • Does the content justify the price?
  • Can the resource be networked?
  • In the instance of an electronic resource with a print equivalent, can it replace the print edition or does the latter have features that recommend duplicate subscriptions?