PackTracker – the future for CLA returns?
Posted by gazjjohnson on 4 February, 2011
Yesterday (Thursday) we had a demonstration of the Packtracker software from HERON. We’re not members of HERON currently, but one thing we do do is a lot of digitisation of materials for online course packs (well over 2,500 items last academic year alone). While most of this is under the CLA Digitisation Licenses, not all of it is and for much of it my Copyright & Coursepacks administrator does have to go back to the publishers or other rights holders directly for permission.
It’s a time-consuming task, not simply in the creation of the scans though that is a factor. It’s time-consuming because we need to keep extensive records and documentation of everything scanned, whom it is for, number of students etc. Now we’re not doing this simply for the good of our own health, oh no, we’re required to do it by the terms of the license. We have to make an annual report back to the CLA on items used and all the myriad of details they need so that publishers can be paid the appropriate remuneration as agreed under the license. It’s a task that certainly generates an awful lot of administrative burden, and as demand for this kind of provision increases (and it is continuing to increase across all our colleges) then two does the admin time.
Now to date we’ve kept very meticulous records on Excel. It’s not ideal, but it is functional after a fashion. What it isn’t is scalable really to the level at which we’re now operating. We’d considered developing an inhouse access database, but without any available staff-time to do this that’s an idea that’s rather fallen by the wayside. Then last year we started looking at the PackTracker software which by all accounts does all the record keeping and generation of returns to the CLA automatically. Having seen it live over in Sheffield, we decided it would be best to have an in house demonstration.
PackTracker isn’t installed locally, it runs on a dedicated webserver space maintained by HERON. It can take our Excel spreadsheets, and with a little bit of work, populate a dataset automatically which was very good news. Certainly it can do all the things we were hoping it would, but what was my biggest surprise was what it can do over and above the simple records keeping mandate. It can diarise a lot of activity, sending you warnings when tasks need to be completed and perhaps even more exultingly tie into service standards to make sure items are actioned within our predefined requirements (5 working days normally). It can generate customisable coversheets for scanned PDFs, something that is an entirely manually driven process right now. It can even send off requests to the British Library for copyright cleared materials.
I also quite liked opening up the records to other registered users, like our Information Librarians – allowing them to check directly what items were requested for modules in departments they support, and their current status. This is something we currently have to check ourselves, so labyrinthine are our records to the untrained user! I was also quite keen on the way it pulled down data from Amazon in part for copyright checking but also to enssure that bibliographic information was right as well.
Personally, I think it’s a good-looking products, and while I have a few niggles about certain aspects it’s something I certainly feel fairly favourable towards right now. I’m not aware of any competing product out there, which perhaps explains the subscription cost for the system. In any event my next step is to draft a more detailed evaluation report to go to our senior management team for their illumination and hopeful discussion.