EBSCO, the world's largest subscription agency, has introduced a gateway service that helps librarians and their patrons identify titles to which a library's patrons have full-text access. The A-to-Z service (http://atoz.ebsco.com) covers titles accessible through publisher packages, stand-alone e-journals, or titles found in many different databases. It does not cover open Web sources. The service can also cover print titles from a library's collection.
EBSCO uses a master list of titles and coverage data from up to 400 sources, including all major database vendors and major publisher packages, as well as individual e-journals. EBSCO's Title Information Department maintains the master list with updating procedures that distribute changes to A-to-Z users at the same time as it makes internal corrections.
Libraries do not have to be current EBSCO customers to use the A-to-Z service; they may subscribe to A-to-Z as a stand-alone service. However the service does fit with other EBSCO e-resource products. According to director of development for EBSCO Subscription Services, Dan Tonkery, "A-to-Z is equipped with a complete suite of administrative tools that allows the librarian to customize the service, giving it enormous flexibility. With its competitive pricing and comprehensive features, A-to-Z has everything librarians need in this type of service—and more." Tonkery explained that other EBSCO services, such as LinkSource, which can link to the article level, depend on A-to-Z as an underlying platform.
Users can browse an alphabetical list of titles or subject lists. They can search by title name, publisher, or ISSN, and, through advanced searching features, by database name, etc. A-to-Z lists and links to available database providers and journal hosting sites, including EBSCOhost, Elsevier ScienceDirect, Ingenta, etc. When users link from A-to-Z, they reach the title, not just a database service.
The librarian administrator controls which titles go into the list seen by patrons. At the administrator's decision, patrons may link to the titles or view details like coverage, publisher names, database providers, ISSNs, local holdings, etc. The service allows administrators to "brand" the site with institutional logos, names, visual layout, and contact information.
Subscribers to the A-to-Z service can have the service hosted completely on EBSCO's servers, with a simple hyperlink connecting the list on the library's Web site, or users can download the entire list for local hosting. They can modify downloaded lists and upload them back to EBSCO for instant updating. Users can add CustomLinks, e.g., to connect to journal details available on an OPAC (online public access catalog). Users can also link to local linking servers or set up links to go through proxy servers. In the next release, scheduled for July or August, Tonkery said that EBSCO will add a feature that allows users to assign their own subject headings to titles.
The service provides administrators with usage data, including overall usage (sessions, searches, link-outs) and usage of each journal (link-outs by target). Administrators can use these statistics to measure overall system performance as well as individual user behavior. An Admin site secures access to customization features by administrators.
"Wizards" help users navigate the features in A-to-Z. Downloaded lists can appear in any of four different formats: HTML, Excel spreadsheet, tab-delimited for local database handling, and XML. Users can also schedule downloads for automated updating with different schedules for different formats.
Annual subscription charges for EBSCO's A-to-Z service run $750 for up to 6,000 unique titles, $1,250 for 6,001 to 10,000; $1,750 for 10,001 to 20,000; $2,500 for 20,001 to 30,000; and $3,500 for 30,001 and more. EBSCO offers discounts of 10 percent for customers who also purchase the EBSCOhost EJS e-journals gateway service or the TOC Premier citations database. Customers who contract for three years or more of A-to-Z service also get a 10 percent discount. (No more than one discount to a customer, however.)
Competitive services that offer similar linking services to EBSCO's A-to-Z service include TDnet.com, with over 28,000 e-journal sites in its database, and Serials Solutions, Inc., with an A-to-Z Title List service that starts at $1,125 for libraries with 7,000 titles or under.
Developing the A-to-Z service has been Tonkery's project for some time. He said, "We are really heading for a complete e-journal management system." Tonkery bemoans the amount of work it takes to handle e-journals. "Librarians are tearing their hair out. It's a nightmare. Publishers have gone out of their way to make the process difficult. On average, I estimate it takes 10 times the energy to handle e-journals. We have all this new technology to make it possible and then publishers build barriers." Tonkery hopes that EBSCO's efforts can ease the situation until "we will see again the same stability and standards people have in handling print journals."
In the development of its subscription services and electronic offerings, EBSCO has relationships with 60,000 publishers and maintains a database of more than 282,000 serial titles.