Sharing resources at national level for veterinary information.

Gradito P.1, Bucciarelli M. 2, Ciappelloni R. 3, Doglione L. 4, Fruttini L. 3, Lazzari L. 5, Lombardi L. 6, Marino A.M. 7, Piras E. 8, Pitaro L. 9, Sigon M. 10

1 Istituto Zooprofilattico del Lazio e della Toscana - Via Appia Nuova 1411, 00178 Roma Capannelle; 2 Istituto Zooprofilattico dell'Abruzzo e del Molise - Teramo; 3 Istituto Zooprofilattico dell'Umbria e delle Marche - Perugia; 4 Istituto Zooprofilattico del Piemonte, della Liguria e della Valle d'Aosta - Torino; 5 Istituto Zooprofilattico della Lombardia e dell'Emilia Romagna - Brescia; 6 Istituto Zooprofilattico della Puglia e della Basilicata - Foggia; 7 Istituto Zooprofilattico della Sicilia - Palermo; 8 Istituto Zooprofilattico della Sardegna - Sassari; 9 Istituto Zooprofilattico del Mezzogiorno - Portici (Napoli); 10 Istituto Zooprofilattico delle Venezie - Padova

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  Istituti Zooprofilattici Sperimentali (IIZZSS) are Health Institutes ruled according to public law, enjoying self-government as to the management and administration and providing a number of services. They act as the technical and operative support of the National Sanitary Service with regard to animal health, the control of the wholesomeness of food of animal origin for human consumption, the hygiene of breeding and zootechnic productions as well as the correct relationship between the environment, animals and human settlement.

IIZZSS have addressed special attention to the following issues: Public Veterinary Health, zoonoses and therefore the urban veterinary hygiene as well as the study of anthropozoonoses so as to prevent some pathologies communable between men and animals (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, etc.).

IIZZSS perform their job for the Ministry of Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Superior Institute of Health), Regions, Local Health Units, breeders and producers of animal origin food for human consumption and producers of zootechnic services and goods; consumers.

IIZZSS represent a network throughout the whole national territory consisting of 10 Central Sites and 90 Diagnostic Centres located in almost every Italian Province.

The laboratories operating in the various centres are highly specialized for research in the following fields: experimental microbiology, biochemistry, biotechnology, oncology, animal reproduction, epidemiological methodology.

The need for scientific updating is vital in the daily practice of every Institute, moreover, the researchers do express accurate information demands. For this target, since the very beginning, the Libraries have been set up in order to accomplish a documental and instrumental function aiming at supporting the activities of experimentation, research, diagnosis, production, didactics and training.

Each Library has been supplied with the documents and advanced technical instruments and equipment to meet the requests of its own users for information and updating.

The documents supplied by the Libraries of IIZZSS are made up of monographs, journals both in print and electronic form, bibliographies, CD-ROM and on-line data banks covering the following disciplines: veterinary, biology, microbiology, virology, immunology, parasitology, medicine, public health, hygiene and prophylaxis, food and nutrition, chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology, zootechnics, agriculture, environment, legislation.

The users' needs

The users have urged the development of technologically advanced services to provide a timely updating and a fast document retrieval. Generally speaking, the average user of each single Library of IIZZSS, both internal or external, demands for:

  1. simultaneous access to a wide range of data banks to retrieve an annotated bibliography which has to be as complete and updated as possible;
  2. the possibility to convert the retrieved citations into requests of full-text documents and, therefore, to obtain the primary sources needed in a fast and complete way;
  3. to examine the locally preserved documents to check the availability of the articles to request;
  4. to retrieve the documents required on one's own desktop.

Since it is currently not possible to meet all these needs, because of the fast-growing number of scientific publications and its cost-prohibitiveness for the budget allocated, each Library has endeavored to co-operate with other libraries and to enter into contracts so as to ensure what follows:

  1. primary source retrieval and access to the most important data banks in the biomedical field;
  2. the availability of electronical resources;
  3. the retrieval of articles in journals not held by the Library in a fast way through the document delivery service;
  4. the retrieval of works through the interlibrary loan. 
Notably, the Internet has made a researcher's dream to come true: to manage information directly on one's own desk.

The co-operation through the Libraries of IIZZSS

The libraries of the Institutes started an activity of co-operation though organized in an heterogeneous way because of the diversity of aids and equipments, of human resources and skills. Indeed, the Libraries of some Institutes were in disrepair, some had no catalogues or did not comply to any catalographic standard, notwithstanding the noteworthy document collections. The starting conditions were challenging. Since the very first meeting, which was held in 1995, the situation has dramatically changed and some choices have turned out to be pioneering in Italy.

Estimating the holdings of the various Libraries, the documental situation for some disciplines proved to be superabounding, showing an excessive number of duplicates in certain disciplines, whereas other disciplines, on the contrary, turned out to be hardly or by no means covered, in most of the Institutes. Furthermore, 90% of the budget was absorbed by the expense for the subscriptions to the journals and, though the allocation of higher funds, the number of subscriptions per year barely increased.

Analyzing the structures, services and documental holdings of the single Libraries and urged by the users' information requests, the librarians of IIZZSS set the following targets:

  • the creation of a collective catalogue;
  • the accurate inquiry of authoritative information from any location, via any network;
  • the access to bibliographic data banks of professional technical interest;
  • the access to the electronic full -text of a document.

Collective catalogue

The necessity to share the documents possessed by the single Libraries has stressed the priority to create a collective catalogue of the journals to allow the users to check the existence, placing and availability of a publication. 

At present, the catalogue of IIZZSS is connected to the bibliographic data banks. So, after a bibliographic research, the user is able to locate the article needed and to submit the request to the Library which owns the document. This functionality allows to complete a bibliographic search in a single work session and, by using the records found out, to require the selected documents through the document delivery service. Indeed, through Silverlinker by Silverplatter, it is possible to get immediately the document requested in electronic format.

Data banks

Untill 1999, each Institute ensured the bibliographic information to the researchers by means of yearly subscriptions to bibliographical indexes on print form, on CD-ROM and by connecting to data banks on host. Any inquiry into the indexes, both on print or electronically, had to be accomplished within the Library.

The total expenses for the purchase of the indexes in print form and on CD-ROM amounted to £ 120.000.000 (60.000 euros) in 1999.

The analysis of the data concerning the bibliographical resources available in the Libraries of IIZZSS showed the possibility to economize and, at the same time, to improve the scientific updating of the researchers by sharing the bibliographical resources (data banks) on electronic form. By cutting down the costs by nearly 25% and offering a remarkable value added, IIZZSS have started up the following data banks: CAB Abstracts (CABI), Cambridge Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), Analytical Abstract (ANABS).

IIZZSS agreed to employ the Internet Service by Silverplatter, by direct access to the server in Boston. As a matter of fact, this choice has allowed to reduce the demand of hardware resources and local administrations, since the installation of an onsite server and the ERL software was not necessary.

Indeed, this service offers:

  • the accurate inquiry into authoritative information from any location via any network;
  • the access to data banks of professional technical interest;
  • the possibility to display information about the local holdings of the Libraries directly within the bibliographical records of the data banks;
  • browsing and accessing to the full text of the electronic articles, being their availability granted by the publishers or by the international commission agencies or e-journal joint companies, by displaying the full text article directly on the user's p.c. -desktop 
  • integration with other resources and local services.
Notably, this service is time-saving for the researcher (Current Awareness, SDI; Document Delivery services) and contributes to the decision-making processes as to the purchases by means of an automatic management of the statistics.

The authorized users can have simultaneous access to the data banks from any location via any network and on a wide range of platforms. 

Any researcher is authorized to have direct access to the data banks from one's own p.c.

For the year 2000, the simultaneous accesses required to the data bank provider were limited and diversified because it was a trial stage, conceived to realize the features of the service and monitoring its actual use was deemed necessary. The data collected up to now show a continually growing use of the information systems and documentation requests.

In the year 2001, the number of data banks increased by signing the agreement with Science Direct, and by adding Medline and Silverlinker, which allows the access to electronic articles. Though Medline is on a free basis in the Internet, IIZZSS deemed necessary to start up this data base in the Silverplatter version in order to allow the users to use the same interface for the queries into this data base, the connection to the IIZZSS catalogue as well as to the full text of electronic articles.

Sharing electronic on-line bibliographic sources has lead IIZZSS to share the costs of subscriptions which are actually very high, the elimination of duplicate subscriptions as well as the acquisition of a number of user-friendly services.

Electronic journals

According to the cooperation experienced in sharing the bibliographical data banks, which allowed IIZZSS an overall remarkable reduction of the expenses and, at the same time, a better service as to quality and efficacy, a detailed analysis of the current journals and the costs was carried out, in order to forward a proposal for the year 2001. In 2000, the expenses for the renewal of the subscriptions to 626 journal was equal to £ (550.000 euros). It was given evidence that 240 journals were duplicate subscriptions in various Institutes, costing about £ 70.000.000 (35.000 euros). Therefore IIZZSS were urged to rationalize the renewals to limit the expenditure and to increase the number of the journals available.

Rationalizing has had the following meaning for the librarians of IIZZSS:

  • to limit the duplicate subscriptions as much as possible and especially the highly specialized journals which are cost-prohibitive, without limiting the demand for information and documentation of each single institute;
  • to ensure the presence of a print copy in one of the Libraries of IIZZSS, when the journals hold in print form are issued also in electronic formats. This choice was made to dispel the doubts of those who expect to loose the local documental property or the very access to information.
The attention has been focused on those journal names available electronically and especially on those publishers whose long-standing tradition of subscription policy considered sharing resources. Each single journal has been analyzed according to the following criteria:
  • electronical issue;
  • subscription to the journal in print form by one single Institute adopting the following criteria:
  • journal names pertaining to the activities of the reference centres operating in the Institutes;
  • agreements with local or territorial publishers;
Although the analysis covered a wider range of publishers, the Librarians of IIZZSS agreed to give priority to the subscription to the Elsevier journals for the year 2001. As a matter of fact, the number of journals by Elsevier is considerably high and represent one third of the budget each single Institute allocates for the renewals to the periodical publications. 

Indeed, it was clear that, previously for a small number of periodicals on average one third of the budget allocated was absorbed by the subscriptions; at present, in correspondence with an overall appropriation which is equivalent to the previous year, each Institute:

  • offers a remarkable number of periodical publications deemed "core information" in the specific field of activity;
  • avoids duplicate subscriptions to journals; 
  • supplies information to each researcher operating in the central sites and in the diagnostic centres in a capillary way.
This very first experience has represented a good test bench for sharing electronic journals which could be fostered according to the impact on the users.

The users' training

In order to promote the most relevant services, training courses have been planned and conceived targeting especially the authorized users. The courses held, involved what follows:

  • data banks reference;
  • access to e-journals;
  • instructions for using the newly acquired services;
  • collective catalogue and document delivery. 
In addition, information material has been issued so as to enable the user to enjoy the services offered autonomously.

Expected results

By sharing the electronic resources, the Institute have resolved to:

  • organize a supply of electronic information resources overcoming the limits inherent in the technology and type of service;
  • magnify the visibility of the resources and the possibility of their use both when the demand had been already expressed (by improving the service), and when no need had been shown (by offering a new tool);
  • to accomplish a better ratio between costs and profits by increasing the number of accesses and users and sharing the resources;
  • improve the quality of research;
  • wholly rationalize the resources employed.

Results Pursued

The virtual library, set up by sharing the resources, has given each Institute the possibility to have access to a remarkable and highly specialised documental property, allowing even the less endowed libraries to access to a wide range of information. It has allowed to improve the acquisition planning, moreover, with no increases in the appropriation, the subject areas which had proved to be not covered or hardly covered, have been definitely covered by merely avoiding or reducing the duplicate subscriptions. 

Furthermore, the cooperation between the 10 Institutes involved has allowed a professional growth and a continuous updating as well as the improvement of the services offered to the users.

Indeed, this has allowed to offer a service with the following features:

  • capillar - i.e. accessible from both central and departmental locations of IIZZSS;
  • timely and tutored;
  • available on a no-stop-basis;
  • meeting the quality requirements necessary for a good search: reply speed, unique interface, simple data processing;
  • of document delivery "just in time", in a fast way, informally, cost-effectively, time-saving.

Future prospects

Taking into consideration the positive experience the librarians have been through thanks to the homogeneity of their interests and notably, thanks to the top management's support to the librarians' objectives, the short-term projects are as follows:

  • to widen the number of subject areas covered by subscribing to a higher number of e-journals for all IIZZSS;
  • sharing the factual and bibliographic data banks produced by the single Institutes about the scientific and training activity;
  • to foster the use of advanced technologies in order to improve the efficiency of the services;
  • to authorize a wider number of local users, thus including all the subjects of the National Sanitary System;
  • to set up relationships of cooperation with the libraries of the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine, in order to create a national veterinary librarian pole.