Ranking of eResources

Proposal: Ranking of eResources

One of the common themes in the early training of staff and students and in conversations with bibliographers and faculty members has been the request for ranking resources within a folder by their relative importance. This did not come as a surprise to us. Other libraries use such rankings to considerable advantage, and some kind of ranking system had been on our own wish list almost from the beginning. But alas, more basic things had to be taken care of first.

The time has come now to improve the eResources by developing a system that allows bibliographers (folder authors) to distinguish, in the interest of library users, what is essential, important, and of possible interest among the resources in a particular subject folder.

Designing and implementing such a mechanism is likely to require considerable programming as well as bibliographer effort. This is why we are asking for the expedited blessing of the Digital Library Management Group, with the hope of having something in place for the next major release in the Fall.

While we will present the ranking issues at the next bibliographers meeting, we believe that there should be no need for a full-fledged discussion of the underlying principles, or of the general desirability of such rankings. The proposal is uncontroversial in the sense that many bibliographers have been asking for something like this because it will make it easier for them to design usable subject folders, and because it will lead to a measurable improvement in what we offer for our users. The proposed ranking mechanism is also flexible enough to allow for a wide variety of needs.

  1. We have to design a mechanism of arranging eResources within a subject folder in a fashion that goes beyond an automatic alphabetical sorting. Instead, eResources will need to be grouped by relative importance.
  2. This ranking of eResources should apply only to Indexes/Abstracts, Databases and Encyclopedias. Ranking other resource types such as journals and books would involve inappropriate value judgments.
  3. Preferred: 3-way ranking
    1. Major (or Primary)
    2. Important
    3. Related
    (the model for this can be found, for example, in the Univ. of Pennsylvania eResources)
  4. The ranking has to be subject specific. For example, one database or index could be "major" for Film Studies and "related" for Theater.
  5. The default ranking would be "important". This ranking would be applied automatically if an item falls into a folder because of the LC class assigned to it. Other rankings would require human intervention. (We assume that only a small number of resources will receive the "major" label. The "related" label is intended, among other things, to allow inclusion of inter-disciplinary aspects without overloading a folder.)
  6. Applying the ranking would be optional. In some folders or sub-folders it might be superfluous, in others the bibliographer might opt for only two of the three ranking labels.
  7. The ranking should be restricted to browsing the subject folders. Items found via Search would not be ranked.
  8. Display options: the three categories ("major", "important", "related") could be
    1. Displayed in three separate A-Z listings (see the attached sample of a Penn eResources folder), or
    2. Displayed as one A-Z listing with icons (stars, keys, etc.) indicating the ranking
    (The decision of which listing method should be used can be made at a later point)
  9. The actual input for the ranking criteria would take place in the staff interface; the data would be stored in the eResources database. The MARC record does not appear to be the appropriate place to store these "flags".
  10. The staff interface will need to be enhanced in order to allow item by item flagging of resources for specific subject folders..
  11. The ranking system adds work for the bibliographer (folder author) who has to enter the data for tagging "major" and "relevant" resources, but it also eases his/her decision-making process. It will definitely lead to a more user-friendly listing of resources.