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Programme Background

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ACORN: Access to Course Reading via Networks

Project web site

Programme area
Electronic Short Loan

Contact details
Ms Hazel Woodward, Project Director,
Pilkington Library, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU
Phone: 01509 222345 Fax: 01509 223993

Elizabeth Gadd, Project Manager,
Pilkington Library, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU
Phone: 01509 222366 Fax: 01509 223993

Richard Goodman, Technical Officer,
Pilkington Library, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU
Phone: 01509 222403 Fax: 01509 223993

Project description

as of May 13th 1997

Project Partners

ACORN is a partnership between Loughborough University, Swets & Zeitlinger BV, and Leicester University Library. The Pilkington Library at Loughborough University is the lead partner, with Computing Services and the Department of Information and Library Studies as additional key consortium members at Loughborough University, providing technical support and advice on project evaluation respectively.

Swets & Zeitlinger B.V., a major international journal subscription agent, has supported and facilitated the negotiation of copyright permissions with publishers and has acted as an agent for providing digital copies of articles.

Leicester University Library is the site for testing the transportability and validity of the model within the context of a different higher education institution

Project ACORN Overview

The growing numbers of students in Higher Education, together with moves to semesterisation and modularisation in many institutions, have greatly increased pressures on libraries' traditional short loan collections. Many services are struggling to meet these increased demands and are finding that traditional approaches are not adequate, particularly in meeting the needs of distance and part-time students.

Project ACORN has explored the potential of IT to deliver high-demand material electronically to students, across the campus, via networked computers, and has developed and implemented a model for effectively managing the whole process, from requesting reading lists from academic staff to the consultation of the text by students.

Copyright Clearance
With regard to copyright clearance, Project ACORN has developed an electronic copyright management system (CLEAR), in the form of a relational database, running on a PC, and created in Microsoft Access. This enables the project to manage and track the receipt of reading lists and permissions, and to calculate payments to publishers on the basis of usage data downloaded from the Acorn server.

The project has reported on the procedures required for gaining electronic copyright permissions, and has carefully analysed and reported on publishers' responses to electronic copyright clearance requests.

The project has explored and reported on the issues raised when digitising a wide range of articles from a number of different journals covering a date span of over 30 years. The need for a 'clean' copy for scanning, the choice of document format, and the stages involved in the digitisation process are assessed in the light of the need for accuracy in the text as well as speed and quality in the display and printing of documents across campus networks.

Project ACORN has developed a 'transferable' technical model by using readily available software such as the TalisWeb OPAC, Netscape, and the Adobe Acrobat reader. Documents are held on a SUN Unix-based server, and are linked to a Sybase relational database and the OPAC using CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts, written in PERL.

ACORN has undertaken a number of evaluation activities, including a survey of short loan collection users, a survey of academic staff attitudes to reading lists and short loan collections, a questionnaire survey and focus group discussions on the electronic system, and an assessment of the role of an intermediary in copyright clearance and digitisation.

Project ACORN Deliverables

  • Procedures for gaining copyright permissions and making royalty payments for high-demand articles on course reading lists
  • Procedures for making periodical articles in short loan collections available electronically
  • A model which demonstrates the costs and benefits to libraries of using a third party agent for copyright clearance and digitisation of texts
  • A system which links the electronic articles to the Library's TalisWeb OPAC catalogue via the reading list module in such a way as to provide the student with integrated and seamless access to both reference and text
  • An assessment of user reactions to the delivery of the electronic texts
  • A human factors analysis of the use and usability of the electronic texts
  • An assessment of the extent to which the ACORN model meets student and staff requirements for delivery of documents from an electronic 'short loan' collection.
  • A report on internal library procedures for acquiring and making available electronic articles.
  • A report on the transferability of both the technical model and library procedures to another higher education library (Leicester University Library)

Further Information

Project ACORN has disseminated its findings throughout its life span by means of seminars, publications, press releases, email lists and its Web site. Information has been targeted at the library, academic, computing and flexible learning communities in higher education, at publishers, subscription agents and students. Publications are detailed on its Web site. In addition the project has hosted many UK and overseas visitors.

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The Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib) was funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
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