As electronic content represents ever-growing investments of library funds, it's essential to constantly measure the usage level of each resource. Almost all license agreements now include requirements for publishers to provide libraries with monthly usage statistics for each subscribed title. These statistics reflect important metrics, such as the number of searches performed; number of citations viewed; and the number of articles downloaded by individuals associated with the library's institution.
In recent years, through an initiative called “COUNTER” (Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources), a variety of interested parties have created a set of specifications and practices that bring some consistency to the process of delivering usage statistics. The initial version of the COUNTER guidelines took effect in January 2003, and since then, they have been widely adopted by publishers and providers of electronic resources licensed by libraries.
Even with the consistency of data provided by COUNTER, the process of gathering statistics remains laborious. COUNTER guidelines specify that the publisher provide an administrative Web site, which only an authorized library representative can access to view and download statistics. The statistics can be provided in delimited files or in spreadsheet format. Given the large number of publishers with which a typical library does business, the process of visiting each one's site each month represents a time-consuming and tedious task.
SUSHI Standard to the Rescue
The Standards Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative, or SUSHI, provides a standard protocol that can be implemented—by which collecting statistics becomes an automated process—within a library's electronic resource-management (ERM) system. SUSHI takes the form of a Web service, which stands as the preferred architecture for exchanging services and data among diverse computer systems. SUSHI emerged as an initiative facilitated by NISO (National Information Standards Organization) among a group of vendors, libraries, publishers, and other stakeholders.
A number of publishers and automation vendors have announced support for SUSHI. Innovative Interfaces announced its Electronic Resource Management 2006, the third major version of this product, will include support for SUSHI. Ex Libris indicates it has successfully concluded proof-of-concept testing of SUSHI with its new Verde ERM. On the publisher side, EBSCO and Swets have announced the capability to support the SUSHI Web service as well.