The DCS is only for large institutions. Right?
I'm the librarian of a theological college with fewer than 200 students, mostly distance learners, and for the last year I've been very happily using the DCS.
The library at St John's College Nottingham is staffed by myself and an assistant librarian, both of us part-time. We don't have a centralised scanning service - scanning is done by my academic colleagues themselves, or by admin staff, in spare moments between their other duties. And the admin is done by me - in between all the other things I do as librarian (acquisitions, cataloguing, classification, information literacy, even the odd bit of cleaning when other staff are on leave - librarians in small institutions have to be versatile.)
What we used to do
Before the DCS most of our scans were put on the VLE by my academic colleagues - after checking with me that they complied with the CLA extent and ownership rules. Every summer I spent several stressful and tedious weeks filling in the spreadsheet to make the annual return to the CLA. Re-checking everything for accuracy and compliance, weeding scans no longer required, and ferreting out the odd items that had somehow crept on to the VLE without my noticing - it all took time, patience and rather more tact than I could always manage.
So when I first heard about the DCS, my immediate reaction was "what a great idea!" But, would something that had been trialled by very large institutions scale down to serve a very small one?
How we made the change
The first thing I did was to contact the CLA and ask for someone to come to talk to us about the DCS.
The second thing was to invite the college principal and the IT manager to that meeting - because if this was going to work I knew I had to get them on board. Quite a chunk of my time that year would be given over to the project, if we went for it. And our wonderful and indispensable IT manager had to be up for it.
When Julie Murray came to demo the DCS in February 2016 I was even more sure that this was something I wanted to use. (I should say that I have never once been made to feel that my institution was too small to really count. All the CLA staff I talked to were hugely helpful. In particular, the people responding to calls for help once the DCS was up and running have never implied that I have done something stupid - even when I have.) The interface looked easy to use; and I was greatly relieved to get confirmation that I'd never again have to fill in one of those spreadsheets.
I also made a point of attending the very helpful webinars which explained the system and kept us updated on progress.
The only issue that held us back for a while was authentication. We'd never used Athens, Shibboleth or EZproxy. Then I discovered two things: that Shibboleth software was free; and that my IT manager's eyes lit up at the very prospect of implementing it. It took him a while, but eventually we had Shibboleth access all set up and working. (It has also proved a boon in other ways - no longer do we have lots of different usernames and passwords for our various electronic databases and journals, not to mention the VLE - now Shibboleth does for (almost) everything.)
So then I spent part of the summer putting details of all our existing scans onto a spreadsheet and preparing the PDFs in question for bulk uploading to the DCS. Yes, this did take a while, and yes, my eyes did tend to glaze over a bit at the end of the day. But I knew it would be worth it in the end.
The other thing I had to do was to explain to academic colleagues what was happening. I knew I could take the opportunity to refine our processes and to ensure that all colleagues were up to date with CLA regulations. I went to staff meetings to explain what was going on and to show the benefits of the system as I saw them. And we implemented new workflows. My IT manager created a web-based form on which staff can request new scans, which comes directly into my email inbox. Once links are generated on the DCS I usually put them on the VLE - though academic colleagues can do it themselves if they wish. Most don't.
I have had not one adverse comment from staff or students about the new system.
Was it worth doing?
Definitely. The benefits are clear:
- Simpler, "one stop" checking for permissions and extent limits
- Greater control by the copyright officer of what is available on the VLE
- No need to worry about cover sheets
- No annual reporting
- Easy and swift roll-over
All of which saves this busy librarian of a small institution a significant amount of time and also helps preserve her sanity.
Drawbacks? I can't think of any. Except that if you are implementing a Shibboleth from scratch, you do need someone who knows what they are doing (I couldn't have done it myself). But if that's not an issue for you: go for it!
About the Author
Amanda Hodgson is the Librarian and Copyright Officer at St John's College Nottingham.