The Role of the Electronic Resources Librarian. Ed. George Stachokas. Cambridge, MA: Chandos Publishing, 2019. 176 p. $67.99 softcover (ISBN: 978-0-08-102925-1)

The eight chapters covered in this text give a detailed history about how the role of electronic resource (e-resource) librarians (ERLs) has evolved over the past several decades as libraries have shifted to an online environment. It covers the challenges faced from 1992 when the ERL title was first used, to 2019 where academic libraries are still a hybrid of print and electronic materials. The book is organized into eight chapters with three appendixes. The introduction gives a brief overview on the development of ERLs and a clear synopsis of chapters, which are a nice progression of how the ERL position has developed since the 1990s; how it has been represented in organizational structures across academic libraries; how it has handled a variety of obstacles (technology, expanding skill sets, budget constraints, etc.); and how it maps to current trends in managing e-resources.

The history of the ERL is covered in more detail than the current state and future of the ERL, and the details of the evolution of the ERL is a strength of this text. There is significant discussion on how technology, including the development of the World Wide Web, had a huge impact on the development of the ERL from CD-ROMs to online journals, e-books, and library websites. In several chapters the book addresses the many changes in technology, tools, standards, and requirements used to manage the information that has forced libraries to change. Chapter 5 discusses the Electronic Resource Management Initiative (ERMI), which saw the need for a system to manage all of the important information that needs to be tracked for e-resource management (ERM) systems. ERM systems were developed based on the Digital Library Federation (DLF) ERMI requirements. Other emerging technologies had a big impact on ERLs, including web scale discovery, knowledge bases, and COUNTER statistics. Historically, libraries have struggled to rethink their work with new technology and have been resistant to change. Many libraries are still facing the same issues and limitations, but it is critical to adapt to remain relevant.

Of particular interest is the impact of the evolving role of ERLs on organizational structures. New technology, along with the shift to an online environment, led to changes in how users looked for information, the development of new skill sets, and this forced libraries to rethink their structures. The book highlights several studies related to the evolution of ERL positions and how the role of the position has changed over time. Impacts such as economic downturns and the growth of e-resources have forced libraries to rethink positions, workflows, and services. These changes have resulted in different approaches to assigning ERL responsibilities. Early on, most of the work was assigned to one position, but as discussed in Chapter 8, most ERM work currently is a group effort, and many libraries still struggle with adequate staffing for managing e-resources.

A recent driver in reorganizations has been the Core Competencies developed by the NASIG Core Competencies Task Force (NCCTF) and its members in 2013. Appendix A, “Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarians,” includes a detailed explanation of the seven competencies. It clearly expresses the overall complexity of the challenge libraries are facing to transition to mostly electronic collections and the skill sets needed to manage them. With the lack of ERM courses in LIS programs, Chapter 8 discusses how ERLs have become more dependent on professional organizations for education in addition to on-the-job training.

The Role of the Electronic Resources Librarian provides valuable insight into the many challenges ERLs have faced and continue to face, and the importance of addressing and adapting to the ongoing changes in the digital world. Library administrators and technical services departments will relate to this book as many continue to struggle with managing traditional library services alongside the growth of electronic resources. Many questions still remain on how best to manage e-resources, but it is clear that it is vital to the survival and value of libraries. As the author says, “Librarians need to commit to providing the best possible information services in the digital world” (101). This book leaves one with a lot to think about and ponder in terms of the role of the ERL going forward.—Jennifer Murray (jennifer.murray@unf.edu), University of North Florida


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