The large investment that libraries make in subscriptions to electronic resources evokes a need for systematic ways to measure their use. Given the many paths that library patrons may find to gain access to electronic journals, databases, and other items provided for them by the library, only the publisher can accurately measure their use. Libraries need accurate use statistics to inform decisions regarding the relative value of each product to which they subscribe.
The delivery of use statistics from information resource providers to libraries benefits from efforts to standardize their format and delivery mechanisms. The format for use statistics was standardized in 2002 through the COUNTER initiative (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources). ICOLC , the International Coalition of Library Consortium, played a leadership role in the process of drafting and gaining wide adoption of the specifications.
Prior to COUNTER, a library might receive use statistics from the many publishers and providers of the electronic resources to which it subscribes, if it received them at all. With the wide success of COUNTER, libraries now receive statistics in this standard format. Many libraries specify compliance with the COUNTER Code of Practice for Journals and Databases in the terms of the license agreements before they will finalize a subscription purchase. COUNTER resulted in a vast improvement though standardizing the format for use statistics related to electronic resources.
To address the still daunting task of gathering COUNTER statistics, the Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative, or SUSHI, specified a protocol that could support automated retrieval process. Using SUSHI, a library can use a software program, profiled with the specific details of each of its electronic resource providers, to automatically harvest COUNTER statistics and to consolidate them into a reporting environment. An electronic resource management system might, for example, include SUSHI support in order to provide use reports. NISO launched an initiative resulting SUSHI in November 2005, and began to see adoption by publishers and ERM products as early as 2006. SUSHI involves two components, one that integrates with the server of the resource provider that listens and responds to requests, and a client associated with an ERM system or statistical reporting system that initiates requests.
Today SUSHI is well established as the means for routine transfer of COUNTER statistics from resource providers to libraries. Release 3 of the COUNTER Code of Practice for Journals and Databases was published in August 2008 with a requirement for SUSHI support by August 2009.
Serials Solutions, a major developer of products related to the access and management of electronic resources, announced that it will offer a SUSHI client without cost as open source software. This software provides the basic structure for retrieving statistics from multiple SUSHI servers, and could be adapted by developers of products requiring this functionality. Serials Solutions created the tool for retrieving statistics from the resources offered through other companies within its overall corporate family including ProQuest, CSA, and Chadwyck-Healey, and can be use by other providers to test their ability to respond properly to SUSHI requests. Serials Solutions sees this action as a way to facilitate consistent adoption of the SUSHI among both those involved in providing resources to libraries and to those developing applications that retrieve and manage use statistics.
The software is offered under the BSD open source license: http://code.google.com/p/sushicounterclient/ The release of this code by Serials Solutions illustrates that open source software can play an important role, even among vendors primarily involved with proprietary software. Almost all library software today contains at least some open source infrastructure components. Having open source components for library-specific functions is an important contribution to the corpus of component available to those creating software for libraries. In this case, having an open source component for SUSHI gives providers of resources a tool for testing their compliance to the standard and gives those developing applications for harvesting statistics a jump start.