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KBART, the next generation: Why automation is top of everyone’s wish list

Jan 24, 2019

KBART Admin Tool

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) will be announcing a new Recommended Practice that will focus on automating the request and retrieval of KBART reports for title lists and library holdings. The new guidelines will also recommend that reports reflect individual library holdings, with a reduced reliance on general collections.


The NISO KBART Automation Working Group has been working on the proposal since early 2017. Following a public consultation period late last year, it is now refining the document with the aim of publishing the final version in the first few months of 2019.


But what will it mean for librarians, content providers, and the third-party companies that support them? Working group member, Jozef Paulik, is a Senior Product Manager for Elsevier’s platform integration group. Jozef has been instrumental in developing ScienceDirect’s KBART API, many features of which form the basis of the working group’s Recommended Practice proposal. In this article, Jozef provides a little more detail about the Elsevier API and explores the benefits it brings. He also explains how other companies can gain from the API’s development work, which Elsevier is making freely available to the KBART community.



How the ScienceDirect KBART API evolved


It was back in 2014 that NISO published a Recommended Practice for KBART, proposing widespread industry adoption of the format for metadata transfer.


Jozef explained: “At that stage, the link resolvers suggested that the best way to deliver KBART reports was for content providers to create a list of their content packages. Customers could then scroll through them and choose the ones they had subscribed to.


“However, Elsevier offered nearly 1,000 packages back then, so we knew the job of manually selecting them would be labor-intensive for librarians. In addition, packages don’t always reflect what a customer has access to, and even after generating the report, librarians had to wait 20-30 minutes to retrieve it.


“So, we decided to invest in developing our own technology and, within a couple of years, we had gone live with account-level KBART reports, which show customers their holdings; that’s the range of full text content they can access, not just what they’ve purchased. The reports include the packages (and any amendments agreed with the sales team), as well as single subscriptions, and open access, promotional and legacy content. Essentially, we are mirroring what a user can access when they visit ScienceDirect online. We also made it scalable by moving to the cloud, which has increased the speed of report retrieval.”


But even though the development team had gone above and beyond the NISO Recommended Practice, it wasn’t happy with the result, particularly the fact that librarians were still spending valuable time downloading and processing the files.


Jozef said: “We knew we could do better. And the solution we came up with was to create an API that would allow automatic retrieval of the information by the systems that librarians use. But an API, or application programming interface, is essentially a link between two software programs so there was no way we could do it alone. We approached OCLC and I have to give them credit for coming on this journey with us. They shared our vision and while we were building the API, they created systems that would allow them to retrieve the reports on a customer’s behalf. We went live with the API in 2015/2016. Since then, Ex Libris (SFX® and Alma) have come on board.”


Jozef added: “The only manual steps a librarian now has to take is to decide which companies can access their holdings data and how often they want the API to run updates – weekly, monthly, or even daily, if that’s what they need and the link-resolver/library management system supports it. The rest is automated. To give a vendor access, the librarian selects the Create Token option in the ScienceDirect Admin Tool and gives the token to the vendor. This ability to choose who can see the holdings data is something that is very important to our customers, particularly companies and corporations.”



KBART automation – the benefits


Although companies can choose whether they want to adopt the Recommended Practice, Jozef believes there are strong incentives to do so, with benefits for all parties involved.


“This is one of those rare win/win situations with everyone gaining in some way. That doesn’t happen very often!”


Understanding the benefits for:



The NISO proposal also highlights the benefits for authors – regular updates and improved accuracy ensures their work receives better exposure, potentially increasing usage.


According to Jozef: “When we launched the API back in 2015, we found librarians were really enthusiastic because it frees up their time and they can spend it doing better things.


“And other publishers and content providers don’t have to start from scratch – all the technology we’ve developed is internet-standard and we are making API retrieval of these reports freely available to vendors or customers. We can also create free configurations for any link resolvers interested in adopting it, including customers who have built their own in-house link resolvers.”


Jozef added: “From our perspective, the move by NISO to incorporate our work in the new guidelines is great news as we never wanted this to be just an Elsevier thing. And, the more widespread it becomes, the more opportunity for the technology to improve, and the more we can make life a little easier for librarians.”