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Librarians questions answered

This post answers the questions that we did not have time to address in the recent UKSG webinar for librarians about COUNTER.



Q1: Is there a new version of COUNTER coming in the next months/years?

A: Yes, COUNTER is working on Release 5 of its Code of Practice. We aim to publish the new version in the summer of 2017 (and for it to become effective at the end of 2018), but drafts will be available before then for consultation.


Q2: I pull stats directly from providers; we just implemented EDS – will the stats pulled directly from Gale or ProQuest be accurate?

A: Full-text statistics (e.g. Journal Report 1) from Gale, ProQuest and other providers will continue to be accurate since, unless the full text is part of an EBSCO database, the provider will be recording and reporting on the full-text activity. If you are referring to database statistics, you should check whether or not the discovery provider has a metadata-sharing arrangement with the other content provider. If, for example, your Gale databases are hosted and indexed on the EBSCOhost platform, then the searches, result clicks and record views relating to EDS activity will be included in the EBSCOhost COUNTER reports – you should add the EBSCOhost statistics for that database to the reports from the provider. If there is no such metadata-sharing agreement, then the COUNTER reports from the provider will represent activity on those databases.


Q3: What reports are recommended for conducting cost per use? What types of analysis are libraries doing with COUNTER reports?

A: You can use a number of reports to calculate cost per use. Our COUNTER Friendly Guides have some tips.


Q4: Is there any interest in trying to have vendors streamline the way their reports can be accessed, e.g. IP range vs login?

A: If this question is about identifying which activity is related to a given institution, COUNTER reports do not distinguish between logins via IP range and other authentication methods. The content provider/host is responsible for identifying which activity is associated with a given institution and reporting on it. If the question relates to providing COUNTER reports that represent the activity for a given department or subset of users within the institution, the answer is that recent additions to the SUSHI protocol make this technically possible: users can request reports for a given department, for example. However, since there is no single way for providers to categorize usage transactions to capture reporting by subsets, any implementation of department or IP-range reporting would have to be provider-specific and is beyond the scope of the COUNTER Code of Practice.


Q5: What kind of reports are institutions using to manage their e-books?

A: COUNTER Book Report 1 (BR1) reveals the total number of successful title requests by month and title, but data from this report should only be exported when the vendor provides the entire e-book as a single file. As the majority of publisher sites present e-book content at a ‘section’ level (e.g. providing book chapters or encyclopedia entries in individual files), COUNTER Book Report 2 (BR2) can be applied to run more relevant usage metrics. It measures the total number of successful section requests by month and title.

COUNTER Book Report 5 (BR5) outlines total searches by month and title, highlighting how many searches are performed by library users at an e-book title level. This mirrors data collected in COUNTER JR4, and highlights different ways in which users may engage with e-book content on a publisher platform.

COUNTER BR1 and BR2 (and the upcoming BR7) provide usage data for e-books that libraries either purchase in perpetuity or lease from a service provider for a given period. COUNTER Book Reports 3 and 4 (BR3 and BR4) concentrate on a different context – access denied to e-book content. BR3 highlights access denied to content items by month, title and category, while BR4 reveals access denied to content items by month, platform and category.


Q6: Is it possible to ask vendors and publishers to create custom-related database reports for my library?

A: Providing custom (non-standard) COUNTER reports is not a requirement of the COUNTER Code of Practice. Many providers do offer such reports to meet the specific needs of their users. If there are additional standard COUNTER reports that would be generally useful, please bring these to the attention of COUNTER so that we can consider adding them as required reports.


Q7: Are there any automated data-collection tools available?

A: The SUSHI protocol provides instructions on how to automate the collection of usage statistics reports from compliant vendors, which would otherwise have to be downloaded manually from a vendor website or receive via email. For information please see:

In terms of tools that make use of SUSHI, there are a number of commercial ERM and usage-consolidation products on the market. Open-source tools like CORAL (an open-source ERM) have also included SUSHI.


Q8: How do we obtain link-resolver click stats?

A: At present link-resolver usage is not covered by the COUNTER Code of Practice. You will need to obtain statistics from your link-resolver provider.


Q9: During Release 3 of the COUNTER Code of Practice we added up the two types of user activity reported in DB1 for our yearly SCONUL report. In Release 4, DB1 provides usage statistics for four types of user activity: Regular Searches, Searches-federated, Record Views and Result Clicks. Now we are not sure if we should add together result clicks and federated searches for the SCONUL report.

A: Adding up searches from DB1 is problematic when you have a discovery service or a federated search tool or when you use a service that allows multiple databases to be searched at the same time. When a search is performed against 10 databases, each one will get credit for that single user action on the DB1 report; therefore, if you add up the DB1 values for searches, you will be adding 10 to the SCONUL search report when you have in fact performed only one search. If you need to report searches, it is better to use the Platform Report 1 from the provider. A Platform Report 1 report includes ‘Regular Searches’, which will represent the actual number of searches performed.

The Record View and Results Click metrics represent user actions and thus correlate to a user having expressed interest in a given database. Searches can be conducted across multiple databases, particularly when a discovery system automatically searches dozens of databases to find relevant results. Thus the fact that a database was searched may not mean much if the user did not act on a result from that database. The new metric types are about measuring user action, not system action.


Q10: What usage aggregate services would you recommend? Are there any freebies?

A: There are a number of commercial usage consolidation and ERM products that will help you manage your COUNTER statistics. Most of these are tied to a knowledge base or other resource-management tools from the same vendor, so the pros and cons of each are very much dependent on a given library’s situation. If you are looking for a free option, CORAL is worth considering.


Q11: Why can’t I get e-journal COUNTER stats for EBSCO Full Text Finder? I can get e-book stats.

A: EBSCO Full Text Finder is a link resolver and an A-to-Z list. As such, it isn’t covered by the COUNTER Code of Practice; however, if you want usage reporting, there are reports available within EBSCOadmin under the ‘Full Text Finder’ section on the ‘Reports & Statistics’ tab. Note that EBSCOhost statistics are available for both books and journals, under the ‘EBSCOhost/EDS’ section of the ‘Reports & Statistics’ tab.


Q12: How should we deal with the fact that BR2 reports from different vendors are hard to compare? For example, one vendor defines a section as a chapter and another defines it as individual pages, giving very different results.

A: Different publishers define sections in different ways – as chapters, parts, units, etc. This is because the way books are divided for use and download varies – sometimes this reflects the nature of the book(s) in question. There is no easy way to compare the different types of sections available.

To address this challenge, COUNTER recently introduced BR7, which provides a count of unique book views in a session. This solves the problem of BR2 and the varying section types; it also solves the problem of BR1 reporting on usage of e-books created as a single file, while BR2 counts usage of sections of e-books. BR7 is currently optional, but will become standard in the next release of the Code of Practice.

Q13: Where we can find the DOI for a journal?

A: Try the Crossref query:


Q14: Increasingly, a title subscription is for the current year only, as the previous years’ issues are OA. Will running JR1 and JR1-Gold Open Access (GOA) separate these figures effectively?

A: COUNTER labels JR1-GOA as ‘the number of successful full-text downloads published under a Gold Open Access (GOA) model’. It is designed for hybrid journals, which include traditional subscription and Gold Open Access content – that is, articles made open access via the publisher’s website when an APC (article processing charge) is charged for open access in a hybrid journal. The APC is usually paid on acceptance of an article manuscript to ensure that the article is open access from its date of publication. For libraries that are attempting to calculate cost per use for journals via COUNTER JR1, subtracting the JR1-GOA metrics from standard JR1 stats may provide a more accurate figure.

All usage, including the GOA usage, is also included in JR1.


Q15: Other than ‘encouraging’ non-CC publishers, is there any other pressure to oblige some vendors to produce meaningful COUNTER-compliant data?

A: Please point non-COUNTER-compliant publishers in the direction of our Friendly Guide: This explains the benefits, and how to become COUNTER compliant.


Q16: Other than from JR1-GOA, is the usage of other types of open access articles reported? For example, issues are sometimes offered free for a certain period of time such as Elsevier’s free access to backfiles of math journals.

A: JR1-GOA reports on the use of articles made freely available at the time of publication because an APC (article processing charge) has been charged. Such articles are permanently open access. However, other types of open articles can change status: for example, they may be open for a limited period after publication or in response to a national or international crisis; or they may become open access after an embargo period. JR1 will include all usage for the journal, including all usage of articles that are open access (regardless of model); however, only Gold Open Access is tracked in a separate report.


Q17: I know the DOI of a journal comes with the report. Do we have any use for it?

A: The journal DOI (digital object identifier) provides a unique identification to content and a persistent link to its location on the internet, even if its domain name changes. In COUNTER reports for each journal, there are fields for journal DOI, proprietary identifier, print ISSN and online ISSN (columns D-G). These all help to ensure that a journal (and its use) is clearly identified. This becomes important when two or more journals have similar names, or when the name of a journal changes.

One of the reasons for including the DOI was that its persistence means it serves as a match point to allow a COUNTER report to be merged with other analysis data – holdings, cost, etc. – that may also include that DOI.


Q18: I saw recently on a LIBLICENSE mail list that someone in the USA has noticed that in a few licences, contractual clauses are being added that restrict libraries’ use and dissemination of COUNTER usage data. Have you seen anything like this?

A: We have also seen the discussion about this on the mail list, but have not seen any examples of such licences.

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