E-Resources—the True, Inside Story!

Many people think of Duke University Libraries as the stately, public facing buildings they use for resource access, study space, and meetings. But they don’t know what really goes on behind the scenes at the library. In an exclusive tell-all, these Electronic Resource Management (ERM) professionals from the Continuing Resource Acquisitions department divulge the inside secrets of what is truly required to facilitate e-resource access.

The E-Resources Management Team

Licenses and Renewals – Abby Wickes

As the ERM team lead, along with assisting with troubleshooting and access management I also contribute to the e-resource lifecycle by processing renewals and supporting license review. License negotiation is an important part of e-resource management, as we want to ensure optimal access conditions for our patrons while protecting the university from undue liability. Each license is reviewed thoroughly by Virginia Martin (head of Continuing Resource Acquisitions), and myself, with additional support from EG colleagues when needed. Because of this attention, license review can be a lengthy process as we carefully assess and request changes in the best interests of our patrons and the university. Accessibility and Patron Privacy are among the high priority items Duke negotiates for with licensors.

Another area of negotiation is in renewal costs. To keep our e-resources affordable, we pay close attention to increasing renewal costs and push back when inflationary costs creep above certain thresholds. While I provide support for particularly gnarly e-resource AskTech tickets (Duke University Library’s Technical Services’ troubleshooting ticket service) and access issues, my colleagues on the team do the lion’s share of access management work for eJournals, online databases, and eBooks, as they describe below.

eJournals – Will Hanley

In a nutshell, I make sure patrons have online access to our subscribed and open access eJournals. For instance, I troubleshoot eJournal access issues that come to Tech Services via AskTech. I either restore our access, contact the party that can restore our access, or inform patrons/librarians why we should not have access. I also maintain URL and coverage date accuracy for eJournals in the Ex Libris 360 knowledgebase (aka the KB, formerly called Serials Solutions), and contact publishers and vendors when necessary.

There are a lot of ways to access journal content via the library website, including searching for articles from Summon,  and browsing eJournal titles via the catalog and our Online Journal Page.


  • Duke University Library’s discovery service, Summon, facilitates discovery and access for millions of article-level search results. From https://library.duke.edu/ , select the Articles tab.


  • From https://library.duke.edu/ , select the Books & Media tab.
  • Select the option “Title” from the drop-down menu and search for the requested journal.
  • If necessary, limit the search results to online resources by clicking the Available Online facet.
  • Click the View Online button beneath the requested eJournal.
  • On the Online Journal results page, click the link for the desired online platform (depending on coverage date).

Online Journal Page:

  • From https://library.duke.edu/find/journal-titles , select the option “Title Begins With” from the drop-down menu next to the search box and search for the requested journal.  Note: for common-word titles (i.e. Nature), I would suggest selecting the “Exact Title” search.

  • On the results page, click the link for the desired online platform (depending on coverage date).

Starting from these sources is especially important when accessing resources from off campus, as the catalog and library website both automatically include necessary proxy prefixes to URLs to facilitate authentication.


Online Databases – Pat Canovai

My primary duties revolve around access, description, troubleshooting, and maintenance of databases (aka online integrating resources). To define what is a database, we typically rely on the RDA definition of an integrating resource:
A resource that is added to or changed by means of updates that do not remain discrete but are integrated into the whole.

  • ACCESS – This includes activating databases in the Ex Libris 360 knowledgebase, communicating with Ex Libris when a new database needs to be added in the KB, requesting additions and updates to EZProxy, testing remote access, and sending Database Updates to LIB-collections. This work facilitates discovery and access from a few different parts of the Duke University Library website:
    • Summon: Duke University Library’s discovery service also brings search results from many databases
    • The Database A-Z List (currently maintained by Hannah Rozear) allows you to browse databases by title

  • DESCRIPTION – This includes loading catalog records into Aleph (Duke’s Integrated Library System or ILS) from OCLC as is, or enhancing in OCLC before loading. Occasionally it is necessary to create a new record in OCLC. Once the record is in Aleph, certain fields are manually modified, the most important of which is the URL that will link users to the proper landing page.
    • This facilitates discovery and access from the Catalog

  • TROUBLESHOOTING – Most troubleshooting is generated via AskTech tickets, but in our daily work we also make unexpected discoveries that prompt investigation. This frequently requires testing of access with and without VPN, confirming EZproxy status, verification of access methods, and communicating with providers and users.
  • MAINTENANCE – Databases are sometimes cancelled or ceased, or they migrate from one provider to another. When URLs change, database names change, knowledgebase targets are retired, or platforms are decommissioned, we need to keep the access up to date.

eBooks – Alaina Jones

As an Electronic Resources Management Associate, I’m in charge of granting, maintaining, and troubleshooting access to eBook collections. I grant and update access in the knowledgebase, troubleshoot access issue for eBooks via AskTech, and regularly communicate with vendor representatives and Ex Libris representatives to have issues resolved.

There are a couple of different ways to find eBooks starting from the library’s main page.

You can type keywords of what you’re looking for directly into the catalog search bar (with or without limiting your search from “All” to “Books & Media” first).

You can also click on the eBooks tab, which will take you to another page with a separate search bar for just eBooks. I think the best thing about this page though is the “Looking for more?” section. This section lists other ways to find eBooks that you may not be aware of.

I’ve used OverDrive a few times to check out novels (and graphic novels) to read during my downtime. It is a great way to download and borrow digital content while you’re self-isolating. There are a lot of eBooks and audiobooks to choose from!

Another way to access eBooks that I often use for troubleshooting access issues is the eJournal Portal. Yes, you read that right.

Here’s how you navigate to this page: Main Library Catalog Page à Click on Online Journal Titles tab,  Hit Search (don’t type anything in the search bar), on the top of the next screen you’ll see an option for Books Only. Select that and type your keywords into the search bar. Voilà!

Though it may take a little longer to navigate to this page, I use the eJournal Portal because the update time is much shorter than the catalog; it usually updates within 24 hours (when the catalog might take a few days). When troubleshooting AskTech tickets, it’s also handy for me to see which access point the eBook is being pulled from so that I know where to look in the knowledgebase. The eJournal Portal provides the necessary information that I need to investigate quickly.

I think the biggest challenge when troubleshooting remote access has been communicating the importance of VPN access. Connecting to VPN (using the Library Resources Only Group) has solved a lot of access issues for our patrons and colleagues. Logging into Library Resources Only not only gives you access to the content that Duke University Libraries subscribes to but it sort of “tricks” your computer into thinking that you’re on-campus so you can bypass having to log-in to access a lot of resources.

E-resource access management for eBooks, online databases, and eJournals can be a wild ride. Now that you know the inside story, think twice before you try to access a resource directly from a publisher site, especially without signing onto VPN. Search directly from the library site whenever possible, and be sure to check your VPN group when accessing resources remotely. The e-resource research time you save just might be your own.