Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Monash University Electronic Reserve Project

Hans W. Groenewegen, Debbie Hedger and Iris Radulescu describe Monash University's Electronic Reserve Project which is at the core of the electronic library project at the University's new Berwick campus.

Monash University is one of the largest universities in Australia. It has six campuses, five in metropolitan Melbourne, of which the biggest is in the suburb of Clayton, approximately 30 kilometers from the Central Business District and one in the South Eastern region of the State (the La Trobe Valley). Its newest campus is located at Berwick a major population growth centre, south-east of Melbourne. The University obtained government support for establishing the Berwick campus in 1993 and it was decided from the outset that this new campus would rely heavily on electronic delivery of courses and course materials from the University's other campuses. In line with this emphasis on electronic teaching, the plans incorporated a concept of an electronic library. This was translated in the building plans into an area of some 200 square metres to be equipped with computer workstations and printing facilities, from which staff and students would be able to access information located elsewhere. At the start of 1995 the University enrolled its first students at the Berwick campus. However the building would not be ready until 1996, so students were accommodated at the adjacent Casey College of TAFE. Conventional library services were also provided by arrangement with the Casey College. Monash University Library funded the purchase of a small collection of basic reading materials which were located in the College Library and listed in its catalogue. However it was recognised that it would not be feasible to build up another substantial library collection at Berwick and that the electronic library solution was probably the most practical alternative.

During the second half of 1995, as the building was slowly beginning to take shape on the University's Berwick campus, the Library started work on an electronic "reserve" [1] facility that was to be at the core of the electronic library . It was decided to base the e-reserve [2] on an existing image system that had been developed largely in- house by Library systems staff , to give access to past examination papers. This system stores digitised images of examination papers, which can be retrieved for viewing and printing. Most of the functionality required for an electronic reserve system was already incorporated in the examination papers system, including a module which would let the Library charge a fee to recover printing costs. The major new features required were: more direct integration with the Library's on-line public access catalogue (OPAC) and a copyright management facility.

Intellectual property issues

The examination papers system had avoided the intellectual property issues associated with the scanning of texts for electronic storage; the University owns the copyright in these materials. This made examination papers ideal subjects for earlier library imaging projects. However with the types of publications that are included in undergraduate reserve collections the copyright problem can no longer be avoided. The educational copying (Statutory License) provisions contained in Part VB of the Copyright Act do not extend to the making and storing of electronic copies. Indeed, the CAL Collection Scheme Agreements specifically exclude these activities. During 1995, in discussions between the Copyright Agency (CAL) and the Australian Vice- Chancellor's Committee, through the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), the possibility of some comprehensive electronic reserve license agreement was explored.

However it did not appear likely that a satisfactory arrangement would be arrived at in time to fit in with Monash University's timetable for the Berwick campus. It was therefore decided to adopt as an interim solution the approach previously taken by San Diego State University, reportedly successfully [3], and contact publishers direct.

To this end a form letter was developed and this was used in all initial approaches to publishers. The following conditions were offered by the Library in return for permission to scan and store the material in question:

Those publishers who replied requesting payment of a fee (or who indicated that they would withhold their permission because of concerns re potential loss of income) were offered a royalty payment based on the following formula:

RP x TP x U.

In this formula the value of RP is the Recommended Retail Price of the monograph, or, in the case of a journal the single issue price of an issue of the journal, or the annual subscription price.

The value of TP is based on a straightforward page count, i.e. number of pages scanned as a fraction of the total number of pages of text contained in the monograph, or in the case of a journal, the total number of pages of editorial contained in the entire issue (if RP is the single issue price) or the entire volume (if RP is the annual subscription price).

The value of U is either the number of students enrolled in the course/10 or 15, whichever is the greater [4].

The rationale for dividing the number of potential users by 10 is that this would be the likely number of uses of a physical copy of the material that the library would expect to get in the conventional reserve system. The rationale for introducing a minimum value of 15 for U is that otherwise the royalty payable for small classes (i.e classes of less than 150 students) would become trivial.

As is clear from Table 1, the approach taken by the Library was successful to the extent that the majority of publishers who replied gave their approval without charging a royalty. The minority who wished to charge a fee, were generally happy to accept the "Monash formula". The major problem encountered was that a very large number of publishers did not reply at all, in spite of several follow up letters. Almost certainly, in the majority of cases the letter ended up in their "too hard basket", although inevitably, there were problems locating a current address for many smaller publishers, particularly of older publications.

Number of requests sent:1,235
Number of requests approved (no fee):489
Number of requests approved (fee charged):53 (*)
Number of requests denied:45
No reply:648

(*) Total amount paid in royalty fees AUS $ 3,900, i.e. average of AUS $73.68 per item.

Table 1: Fate of Requests for Approval to Scan (as at 28/2/1997)

Technical issues

Graphics File Format: After detailed investigation, the Library adopted the TIFF format for imaging examination papers and, consequently, for the e-reserve. The exact flavour is TIFF Group 4 CCITT compressed multipage, which provides the highest possible compression for images of text documents (as opposed to formats like GIF and JPEG, which offer good compression for pictures, with JPEG being exceptionally good - albeit lossy - at handling high colour photographs). The compression scheme avoids the usage of proprietory algorithms, such as LZW or GIF (which can also be supported within the TIFF format), yielding fairly compact files, which is necessary in view of the Internet transmission method adopted. Obviously, even with this scheme, the higher the resolution adopted for imaging, the bigger the file size. We have decided to avoid imaging at more than 300 dpi for this very reason.

The multipage feature of this format also means that documents are much more manageable, as all the related pages are stored within a single disk file, rather than in multiple files that must be put together by program or other means. PDF (Adobe Acrobat) also handles multipage documents. However, later statistics show that it is very labour intensive to create PDF documents, which may themselves include other binary formats and even TIFF, with the added drawback that speeding up their printing is not possible, unlike with TIFF - more about this later. It is generally accepted in imaging circles that TIFF Group 4 is the best option for imaging books or documents that are black and white text, even when these include the occasional diagram.

There are drawbacks to the use of this TIFF format, one being that multipage is not handled well by most of the available freeware viewers for Windows 3.11. Also, the specification [5] allows for a huge range of variations, including the hardware- specific fill-order of bytes and even bits within the byte. These problems can, however, be overcome by software, and we have been singularly successful at that.

Scanning: Very few programs for the IBM PC exist that interact with a scanner to allow the creation of the required TIFF format. Utility tools from Kofax, Watermark and Accusoft were trialled and eventually the Accusoft engine was included in the final product. However, there are other issues in scanning large numbers of pages, such as the cost and availability of high-speed scanning equipment and staff numbers to handle what is, essentially, labour intensive. For this reason, it was decided to send large batches of pages / volumes to be scanned to an outside bureau specialised in this sort of work. The Library has received excellent service from its chosen contractor, the Australian Securities Commission, which uses specialised high speed scanners and a properly run quality control work flow so that results are always of the highest quality.

In the context of the day-to-day operation of the e-reserve section, however, many book and article excerpts are trickling in. These can easily be scanned in-house, using a simple scanning utility built in the viewing module, or using the off-the-shelf Watermark program. The images are stored directly on the computer's hard disk. To overcome the limitations of flat-bed scanners (the Library uses a HP ScanJet 3c), a photocopy of the chapter or article is first made. These A4 pages are then fed into the scanner's ADF for automatic chaining within the multipage TIFF file.

For both in-house and bureau scanning, the very simple idea was adopted of barcoding the article or excerpt and using the barcode number as the file name. This has worked extremely well for both imaging implementations. The graphic resolution used is quite low, such as 200x200 or 300x300; this yields perfectly acceptable quality both on screen and in print and leads to very small file sizes. For example 20 densely-printed pages, scanned in-house at 300 dots per inch, are stored in a 1 Megabyte file.

Storage: When large batches of documents are scanned by the bureau, the resulting CD-ROM is used both as a transfer medium and as a back-up medium. For speed of access, images are transferred to the hard disk of the server, which is periodically backed up to DAT tape. In-house scans go directly to the hard disk, so they are also picked up on the tape backup.

Retrieval of imaged documents: At the point when it comes to handling more than 100 documents, one needs a database and a search algorithm. In the case of the Monash Library, PALS, the Library's on-line catalogue, already holds the searchable records of all required course reading, making it an ideal candidate for the on-line e-reserve database. The Library also has a web-based interface to this mainframe catalogue, implemented via CGI programming to pass search parameters from a web user to the mainframe, capture the search results, format them as HTML, then display them to the user's browser. For imaged course materials, a tag is added to the catalogue record, containing the full path name of the associated image. The CGI program, in turn, was modified to look for this tag before displaying the search results, making this into a hot link with the caption "View this item".

When the user clicks on the hyperlink, the browser fires up a full URL that results in the e-reserve WWW server automatically retrieving the image file and serving it directly to the user's browser. The delivery mechanism is built into the http protocol, and so is the subsequent handling of the image file: if the user's browser has a viewer configured to handle TIFF files, then this is invoked by the browser, else the user is prompted to get and install a multipage TIFF viewer. This kept programming and development work to a minimum, while utilising the best and most up-to-date tools to achieve the purpose.

Viewing: Because of the lack of commercially available viewers capable of handling multipage TIFF under Windows 3.11, one was developed in-house: Monview, a standalone viewer based on the Accusoft imaging engine. This is available for FTP download from the campus web server [6], and has been downloaded by about 500 users world-wide in the past 9 months, since its development. The viewer also includes options for scanning and printing TIFF images, and can also work as a DDE server.

Printing: The thorniest issue in imaging implementations is the very slow speed of printing, since any graphics files are converted by the Windows printing engine before being submitted to the printer. While it does that, the workstation is kept busy, sometimes for a very long time. The Library solved this problem by implementing a "fast-print" method, which relies on using a specialised printer capable of doing the decompression and printing at the same time. QMS printers with the ImageServer option accept the raw compressed TIFF and process it extremely fast, freeing up the computer within a fraction of a second [7]. There is specialised code added to the Monview viewer which detects the presence of a QMS printer, then encapsulates the raw TIFF in PostScript and submits it directly to the printer queue, bypassing the Windows conversion mechanisms. Although all new models of QMS also accept raw TIFF, it was decided to stay with EPS because it permits separation of the pages, so they can be counted for internal accounting purposes.

Print charges are levied via the University's networked print accounting system, itself using a shareware program called PCOUNTER, or via Unicard charge cards on slaved QMS printers.

Implementation and User acceptance

To ensure that the e-reserve supported the teaching programme on the Berwick Campus, academic staff were encouraged to give suggestions and reading lists to the Library. In the initial stages, before the campus opened, liaison with the academic staff was largely via email. Academic staff had to be re-educated in the use of electronic reserve. It was stressed to the lecturers, that the long lead time required for receiving copyright permission would require them to get their reading lists in promptly. As is the case in "conventional reserve", some lecturers did not return lists in time, if at all. The lecturers who did submit reading lists sent in lists of articles for electronic reserve, and also lists for books. The book lists were forwarded to the Casey College of TAFE Library. In some pressing cases, books were temporarily transferred from other campuses.

When the library opened in late March 1996, there were 24 networked Pentium workstations and a QMS printer. There were 72 documents scanned on the database and available for viewing. A further 73 articles were available in "hard copy" format, as permission to scan had not yet been received. By the end of 1996 there were around 500 items available for viewing on the electronic reserve database.

The workstations at Berwick are set up with the web interface to the Library catalogue. To catalogue new additions to the e-reserve system, the conventions of the traditional reserve system were followed. An item record is created with author, title, description and identification fields. When the publisher's permission to scan an item is received, the item is scanned using the document feeder on the scanner. It takes approximately 20 seconds per page to scan in an article [8]. The resulting TIFF image is saved to the image drive, under the appropriate course code directory. To link the catalogue record and the image file, the identification field in the catalogue record is updated and then the image is viewable immediately over the web.

Responses from users have been varied. The best use of e-reserve seems to occur when lecturers encourage their students to use it. For example, when they brought their students into the library for classes at the beginning of semester, this resulted in the highest use of e-reserve by these students. Other students learned to browse by asking library staff for help and soon became quite successful in browsing for themselves. Mature age students found the whole system quite overwhelming, and many of them made a point of coming into the library for lunch time user education classes and even after examinations were over, for refresher lessons, to prepare themselves for the next academic semester. Some students could not understand why the e-reserve articles were not on the shelf, like the ones for which the Library had not received permission to scan and which were on the shelves in folders.

The advantages of electronic reserve were explained to them, such as the item never being "out on loan", and its protection against theft and mutilation by anti-social students. Also, in "conventional" reserve, students can spend a good deal of time queuing to use an item that is in great demand, and then, quite probably, again to use the photocopier. Having e-reserve cuts down on the chaos created by the situation when one or two hard copies of a document are required by a entire class.

Correspondence and record keeping

As letters started coming in from publishers, letters were filed in manila folders under publisher name. It was decided, as the folders became more numerous, to file them in alphabetical order via use of "Cutter numbers" [9]. The Cutter number was added to the description field in the catalogue record. This number became the link (for staff use), between the correspondence files and the catalogue record, for use in the end of year statistical reporting, and will be used in future enhancements to the reporting procedures.

A final comment

The bilateral negotiations with publishers have proved to be very labour-intensive and only partially successful, due, in particular, to the very large number of requests that received no reply. In August 1996 the AVCC made application to the Copyright Tribunal for a determination concerning the rate of equitable remuneration payable under the Copyright Act by tertiary institutions for making electronic copies of literary works for storage in a data base for electronic reserve. Assuming that a reasonable rate is set by the Tribunal, this will ensure a rapid growth of the facility.

Footnotes and References

  1. The concept of a "reserve" collection is well known in university libraries. Basically such collections consist of student texts and articles from journals and chapters of books that have been recommended by teaching staff as undergraduate course reading materials.
  2. Monash University Library - Berwick Campus Electronic Reserves,
  3. Bosseau, Don L. Anatomy of a small step forward: the electronic reserve book room at San Diego State University. J. Acad. Librarianship vol 18, no.5 p. 366-368, 1993.
  4. For example: If we were to scan 10% of a publication, whose RRP is $40, for the use of a course in which we had enrolled 300 students, the fee we would pay for the right to scan would be:
    $40 x 10/100 x 300/10 = $120.
    If the number of students enrolled in the course was 60, then the fee would be:
    $40 x 10/100 x 15 = $60.
    (as 60/10 is less than 15)
  5. The TIFF specification is currently at version 6, with version 7 being now drafted. The official maintainers of the specification are Adobe (email bmaret@adobe.com for details of the upcoming web site where Adobe will publish the draft).
  6. Monash Library - Electronic Reserves - Microsoft Windows Viewers,
  7. There are other print accelerator cards which may be used with other printer models, but they are usually very expensive (so adding their price to a cheaper laser printer will simply put its price up so it becomes comparable to, if not dearer than, the equivalent QMS laser printer) and they may not necessarily relieve the workstation from the burden of decompressing the image.
  8. This compares favourably with processing times for Adobe Acrobat, for which a recent report indicates that one page, using PDF, takes 46 seconds to scan, 105 seconds to process and 180 seconds to proofread.
  9. Named after Charles Ammi Cutter, who developed a table of alphabetico- numerical codes for surnames to facilitate their alphabetical arrangement.

Author Details

Hans W. Groenewegen, Deputy University Librarian,
Debbie Hedger, Project Officer,
Iris Radulescu, Systems Programmer,
Email: hans.groenewegen@lib.monash.edu.au, debbie.hedger@lib.monash.edu.au and iris.radulescu@lib.monash.edu.au
Phone: +61 3 9905 2672
Fax: +61 3 9905 2610
Address: Monash University Library, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia