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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2001

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[Board Accepted]

Managing Access to a Publisher Package: IEEE, IEL, and Xplore

John Matylonek
Engineering Librarian
Oregon State University

Denise Beaubien Bennett
Reference Librarian, Engineering Selector, Online Coordinator
Marston Science Library
University of Florida


The IEEE/IEE Electronic Library (IEL), using the Xplore interface, is a publisher-based service that must be managed as an aggregator service since it contains a variety of document formats (journal articles, conference proceedings, industry standards) that receive different levels of bibliographic control in library catalogs. These features require non-standard handling decisions and treatment in library catalogs and other finding aids. Many libraries are linking from catalogs to Xplore journals but not to the conference proceedings. Librarians acknowledge the value of linking from the catalog as well as the high maintenance costs involved. The expanding use of DOI links from indexes to full-text services may alleviate some of these linking concerns.


Librarians have debated the merits of including links from journal records in library catalogs to either the front door or to specific journal titles within aggregator services. Most of these discussions (Dennis 1999; Hawkins 1999; Kresge 2000) have centered around the general-purpose, undergraduate services such as IAC and EBSCO; and around providing links to the front door of these services or to the top level of journal titles. The IEEE/IEE Electronic Library (IEL), produced jointly by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), is an unusual aggregator since the service is aimed at upper-division researchers. In addition, although the IEL is publisher based, it contains a variety of document formats (journal articles, conference proceedings, industry standards) that receive different levels of bibliographic control in library catalogs. These features require non-standard handling decisions and treatment in library catalogs and other finding aids. This report will investigate the possibilities of cataloging of conference proceedings in local online catalogs.

Description of IEL and Xplore

IEEE Xplore is the user interface and delivery system used by all customers of any online IEEE titles. Available through IEEE Xplore are similar packages to the print products, such as: All-Society Periodicals Package (ASPP) for journals, over 100 titles; Proceedings Order Plan (POP) core collection, about 135 titles in 2001; Proceedings Order Plan All (Pop All), about 345 titles in 2001. IEEE Xplore does not currently deliver any standards packages. The standards available are currently for IEL customers. Standards Online packages will become available as individual packages in the future. Libraries may also subscribe to selected titles online for two titles -- IEEE Spectrum and Proceedings of the IEEE. The IEEE/IEE Electronic Library, or IEL, is the name given to the over-arching package that encompasses all the journals, conference proceedings, and current standards, from 1988 to the present. Like all of the packages delivered through IEEE Xplore, the IEL package uses the IEEE Xplore user interface -- and all of the components of the service. IEEE Xplore also serves as the interface for delivering member's subscriptions, the OPeRA service. The final acronym in the mix belongs to Information Handling Services (IHS) who provides the technical support for IEEE Xplore.

Any user may browse the table of contents of publications using IEEE Xplore. Access to the search engine and the publication's full text is limited to subscribers. The search engine supports tables-of-contents browsing. The user may select a category of journals/magazines or conferences or standards, and then identify a source by significant keyword. IEEE Xplore also supports searching, via Author search, Basic search (multiple indexes and variables), or Advanced search (command level). IEEE Xplore supports full Boolean searching and truncation using the Verity search engine.

Access from Library Catalogs

Librarians have viewed IEEE conference titles as "aggravators" for many years. The Library of Congress treats some IEEE conference titles as serials and some as monographs, with no rationale that is transparent to the user (or even to the average engineering librarian). Libraries that accept LC cataloging copy also accept and perpetuate this annoyance in local catalogs. The issues surrounding linkages from catalog records are much more challenging to handle in catalogs that contain both serial and monograph records for these titles.

Links from library catalogs to online resources work most successfully when the full-text resource has a stable link to the top level of resource title, whether that title is a journal name or a conference name. The IEL supports a table-of-contents browse feature, but it does not have a top-level page for each journal or conference title.

Methodology: Queries Sent to the Lists

On January 24, 2001, John Matylonek posted this message to ELDNET-L:

Oregon State University Libraries would like to hear from libraries that have purchased either the electronic-only or the print+electronic versions of the IEEE Proceedings Order Plan (POP).

Are you cataloging the titles in your online catalog? If so, as serials or monographs? How are you determining which titles are available (since they will be becoming available throughout the year) and when are you cataloging them? If you are not cataloging the individual titles, how are you providing access to these titles?

On January 26, 2001, Denise Bennett posted this message to STS-L.

We will soon subscribe to the IEEE Electronic Library (IEL). We will suddenly have access to the full text of many more conference proceedings, etc. than we've owned in print and cataloged. We are discussing how/whether to treat this sudden influx of new items in our catalog. If you subscribe to IEL, please let me know if you've done anything in your catalog to support description/identification/access to IEL items.

First, do any of these statements describe your situation?

  1. We have made no active decision regarding the treatment of IEL items in our catalog.
  2. We have actively chosen not to add/update any records in our catalog.
  3. We are adding records to our catalog.

If (3), are you creating provisional records or adding full records? Are you adding specific holdings to your records? Are you adding a generic "try IEL" link in any of your records?

What are the costs/benefits of enhancing our catalogs when we subscribe to a service such as IEL? How viable and professional is it to assume that our primary users will quickly learn to start out in IEL for their information needs, bypassing our catalogs and other indexes and services? What about non-primary users and non-Engineering reference staff, who are likely to search the catalog for these items -- and, if unsuccessful, conclude we don't have access and possibly go through the ILL process?

Many of us have overdosed on the topic of adding journal records to our catalog to represent full text available in our subscribed general-level article services. Are the arguments different with a service such as IEL, which serves a specialized, research-level population with a more stable list of titles?

Responses and Results

Several librarians responded to the postings. After removing the overlap and the postings that were valuable but not in direct response to the questions, profiles emerged from 12 libraries plus the authors' two institutions.

Libraries choosing not to add links to local catalogs:

The University of Alabama-Birmingham has the ASPP journals package, and intends to add links as soon as IEEE Xplore creates stable links for the journal titles. Virginia Tech would like to add links someday, but IEEE is deep in the backlog as of early 2001. The Naval Postgraduate School has not added links, although the online catalog contains records for all their print holdings. Iowa State is not adding records for proceedings into the online catalog, because the IEL holdings are sporadic and the number of conferences is overwhelming.

Libraries adding links for journals only:

Lehigh University subscribes to both ASPP and POP online, but has put links in the catalog only for the journals and magazines. Should IEEE or IHS make MARC records of the conference proceedings available to subscribing libraries, Lehigh would consider adding those records.

Libraries with links from INSPEC:

Virginia Tech will soon have direct links to IEE Xplore from their Ovid versions of INSPEC and Compendex, lessening the urgency of adding links to titles within the library catalog. The University of California, San Diego has links from the California Digital Library version of INSPEC to IEEE Xplore.

Libraries creating separate web pages with links:

The University of Minnesota has placed links in the catalog for journals. For proceedings, the catalog links to a separate web page that has the links plus the subscribed years of coverage.

Libraries choosing to add links, records and/or holdings info to local catalogs:

North Carolina State University has created an ambitious linking project. NCSU chooses to catalog new proceedings additions, and to link proceedings at the document level. A mechanism in Acquisitions will check IEEE Xplore for recent additions. At NCSU, a temporary cataloger works on cataloging enhancements such as this.

The University of Washington's philosophy is to catalog the electronic versions as they have cataloged the print. In print, the University of Washington subscribed to POP. With IEL, they now receive the equivalent of POP Plus. Many new records will be added to the catalog to reflect the "Plus" titles as this project emerges from the backlog.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has created a seamless view in the public catalog records for journals and proceedings. The patron sees the print location and holdings as well as the online link and holdings. The magic happens through a MARC format holdings record that is attached to the same bibliographic record. For conferences classed as serials, the link points to the top-level conference page in IEEE Xplore, and a note in the record recommends which keywords the patron should input to retrieve those proceedings. For conferences classed as monographs, the link points directly to those proceedings.

The University of Florida has committed to tackling the linking process with results similar to those in the University of Wisconsin-Madison catalog. Initially, links will be added to the existing journal records. The University of Florida shares the challenges of University of Washington; subscribing to the IEL means a sudden influx of POP Plus titles over the previous POP subscription.

Southern Methodist University switched to IEEE Xplore from the earlier, less-manageable IEL user interface. At SMU, the e-journal resources librarian must submit paperwork to request new titles be added to the catalog. Journal links are being added at a slow but steady rate.

The University of California, San Diego is partnering with MIT to catalog the electronic versions of the IEEE proceedings, and to make the records available through OCLC. In the UCSD catalog, existing records for proceedings will have the IEEE Xplore link added. OCLC will spin off separate records for the electronic version only, for the convenience of libraries that wish to download separate records.

Sample Integrated Catalog Records

University of Wisconsin - Madison

University of Wisconsin OPAC display

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University OPAC display

Perceived Coverage and Stability of Online Holdings

Librarians consider conferences and their proceedings "unstable." Conference titles are added, dropped, and title-changed with alarming frequency; and proceedings are published at variable rates (if at all). The IEEE and IEE conferences follow these conventions, and the apparent lack of coverage will, in many cases, not be the fault of the IEEE Xplore service. However, IEEE Xplore can help users and librarians by placing notes to indicate known gaps. Iowa State has learned that full text is only supplied in IEEE Xplore for those proceedings for which IEEE was able to obtain copyright. Mel DeSart (2000) from the University of Washington noticed missing proceedings, and IEEE replied that the sub-society chose to make the conferences of that series available for free viewing. The proceedings have not been duplicated in IEEE Xplore. Needless to say, IEEE received the suggestion to note or link to the free web site through IEEE Xplore. Other issues to consider are:

If title coverage is unstable and issue coverage is spotty, why bother trying to catalog IEEE and IEE conferences? Electronic publication will increase dramatically in the next decade. The dynamic nature of electronic publication will require cataloging departments to create processes to update and maintain the accuracy of holdings to even greater degree. Electronic publication makes it even easier for publishers to create, modify and cancel proceedings of meetings. Conference proceedings coverage, whether in print or electronic format, have always been a special problem in cataloging. Despite the challenge, most catalog departments have represented these holdings. The addition of many more electronic proceedings to the catalog provides an opportunity to re-examine how all proceedings are treated and to make that representation even more accurate. Automating procedures for this to happen will give valuable experience to technical services in working in this new environment. Cataloging electronic proceedings will also maintain the continuity to what has been historically represented in the catalog.

What about preservation of archives? IEEE is considering an archival policy. Electronic storage of large back-files on IEEE servers will require some careful considerations. Balancing the expense and risk of centralization versus the expense and responsibility of local libraries will be the central concern. As technology and electronic publication evolve, answers will begin to emerge. For now the current policy is stated on the IEEE web site is as follows:

"IEEE is committed to providing customers with access to the content to which they subscribe. As we develop a working archival policy, the IEEE will work with customers to determine a solution that meets all needs. Currently, the IEEE is prepared to offer archival content in CD-ROM, magnetic tape or print formats. A nominal fee is associated with the delivery of any archival content."

If remote storage becomes a central value in the competitive marketplace for electronic publication, then IEEE will probably feel more justified in providing the service. If libraries still maintain that their role is preservation, no matter the format, then the library establishment will find ways of providing historic access. Digital Object Identifiers may be part of the solution in keeping track of disparate locations of conference holdings content.

Some publishing peculiarities of the service. The rapidity of electronic publishing has impacted the timing at which conferences appear in the citation databases, the IEEE Xplore database and the online catalog. For instance, UCSD reports that many items are available through IEEE Xplore before they are indexed in INSPEC, which is not surprising due to the added value of the indexing in INSPEC. Science & Engineering reference staff and ILL staff at UCSD have acclimated to checking IEEE Xplore directly for known items. IEEE has recently stepped up this pace with more efficient procedures. Titles will be shipped to IEEE as close as possible to the conference ending date thus assuring the IEEE Xplore database as the final authority for the most recent publications. The online catalog and citation databases will lag behind in representing this access. IEEE IEL has always been ahead of INSPEC. When a publication gets into the IEL production queue, IEEE creates a "skeletal" bibliographic record and the corresponding PDF file. When the full INSPEC record arrives in two to four months, IEEE replaces the skeletal record. This ensures that users get access to the content faster than if they waited for complete INSPEC indexing.

Costs/Benefits of Adding/Enhancing Local Catalogs


The costs of adding and enhancing local catalogs with IEEE electronic publications is complicated by the level of access required, the subsets and packages subscribed to, whether the conference is treated as serial or monograph, and the way in which catalog records will be presented. Xplore/IEL publications can be cataloged at the database level and at the conference title level. Also, subsets of the electronic collection may be cataloged depending on subscription licensing rights and processing cost considerations. Each library must decide how it prefers to present the catalog records. The possibilities include the creation of separate or combined records, linking to secondary web pages or just adding links or holdings information to existing records. Conferences cataloged as monographs greatly increases the workload as each annual title has to be added to the catalog. Generally, if the aim is to create a record that integrates several formats, locations, and holdings information into one record, more up-front programming time and labor will be needed. Those libraries that opt to provide simple links or separate records will require more attention to incorporating new procedures or taking on additional ongoing workloads. Even those libraries that opt to do nothing will harbor some cost in terms of use patterns, perception of library research tools and user education.

Processing Costs

The creation of original records for inclusion into the online catalog has not always been obvious and easily measured when working with incomplete and semi-structured information. These cost estimates get even fuzzier when one takes in account the differences in catalog systems and local cataloging practices. Electronic holdings and format information has been treated in different ways depending on the local conditions. A good way to view the costs of processing electronic publications is in terms initial and ongoing costs associated with any particular solution. The use of preexisting infrastructure, procedures, and standards can be a way of keeping costs down, because it leverages current human resource skills and systems.

In the case of IEEE Xplore/IEL publications use of pre-existing MARC record sets can save much time in original cataloging work, manual entry or updating of lists, especially if bulk add and deletes capability is possible. Although these record sets are still being created (OCLC is working with the University of California, San Diego cataloging department to provide record sets for purchase) the existence of the resource will provide library system programmers with many options in getting IEEE electronic publications represented in the catalog.

Without the use of MARC records, catalog departments will have to depend on parsable lists or manual entry to modify or add records to the catalog. IEEE is providing some electronic lists that can be manipulated by catalog programmers. IEEE will list all conference proceedings in a given year, the package plan they will be in and shipment date for the print edition (Phase one will be available in May 2001). A link called "Loaded Online Into IEEE Xplore" will provide more services on the IEEE publications web site later this year in phase two. In the meantime, PDF files and downloadable customizable spreadsheet will be located at: {}

Parsing these lists (pulling out relevant information such as the ISBN that can be used match OCLC MARC records) can be accomplished by using conventional Unix utility programs. The process involves:

  1. Obtaining relevant fields from IEEE.
  2. Identifying those records with the relevant electronic resource fields.
  3. Converting that vendor holdings information to MARC record format.
  4. Importing the records into the catalog.
  5. Developing an automated process to update the catalog.

These steps will require a skilled programming time and effort. Manual entry in the creation of original records or manual modification of existing records is probably the most time consuming and expensive solution.


The benefits of enhancing catalogs are related to the idea that the online catalog provides a centralized location in which users can determine what the library has purchased, licensed or has special access. A centralized database of owned and licensed resources:

  1. Increases the usage of licensed electronic holdings.
  2. Emphasizes the identity of a collection policy and development strategy.
  3. Integrates resources for users and librarians in one authoritative tool.
  4. Allows the entire coverage of holdings in multiple formats to be more easily determined.
  5. Provides consistency in the treatment of all library materials including electronic books.
  6. Saves aggregators from reprocessing original publisher material.

Costs of Not Adding/Enhancing Local Catalogs

If the decision is to not to add/enhance the local catalog then libraries will still have deal with some consequences.

  1. Interlibrary loan may get more requests for material that is locally owned.
  2. Multiple databases will have to be searched to find a comprehensive collection of electrical and electronic engineering material.
  3. A perception that the catalog is less useful than desired may form as users go from one database to another.
  4. Confusion will reign over the location and access to print and online holdings.

No matter what decision is made regarding the enhancements in the web online catalog to support IEEE electronic publications, the publishing world will continue to explore ways of integrating electronic literature. Ambitious reference citation linking agreements between publishers, aggregators and library service providers will force individual libraries to either broaden the purpose of the online catalog or provide access to the systems that will support these initiatives.

Should the Online Catalog Give Direct Access to Conference Titles and Articles?

IEEE tags conference proceedings with special ascension "pu" numbers. Web online catalogs will be able to give almost instant access to articles by linking to the top-level proceeding page using these tags. Other solutions link to the main search page for each conference. This seamless access, from catalog record to resource, forces the online catalog to become less important as a surrogate of information and emphasizes the catalog as source of content.

Some have disputed the need to catalog and link from the catalog. Baruth (2000) has argued that the inevitability of changes in scholarly communication points to umbrella software that synthesizes the searches from a variety of disparate databases. She has argued that the online catalog and the technical services behind it are not up to the challenge of incorporating all the new literature that will be available electronically. She sees that the tremendous duplication will as be very inefficient and that consortia with central databases or electronic subscription management services would provide better service.

Despite consortium agreements and central services, local control and representation is still highly valued. As the general serials collection, e-books and other scholarly literature becomes networked, libraries will probably respond with some kind of pointer to these resources. Many feel that the prominence and central locus of the online catalog in libraries provides the natural platform in which to provide access to the full text. If not, users will have to search disparate citation and publisher databases. This answers the question whether links from indexing and abstracting services such as INSPEC and Compendex relieve the responsibility to have links in catalogs. If one of the main values of library catalogs is as an authority for local ownership and access then providing these records is clear.

Are the Arguments Different with a Service Such as Xplore/IEL Which Serves a Specialized, Research-Level Population with a More Stable List of Titles?

The IEEE Xplore service represents almost a third of the scholarly communication in electrical, electronic and computer engineering. Although, the problem of title stability and coverage is a general problem, IEEE conference organizers often have historic lines of communication with the IEEE publication services. IEEE will develop publishing relationships with conference organizers based on the relevance, quality and persistence of their activities. Many of these titles will remain stable for a very long time. Cataloging IEEE conferences in online catalogs will assure the continuity of the records within online catalogs.

Impact in the Near Future of Digital Object Identifiers

Digital Object Identifiers has been described as a system of electronic identifiers "that enhances a content producers ability to trade electronically by providing a mechanism to increase content availability." A complete overview can be found at:

The main value of the system is that publishing entities involved in the exchange of content can share central directories that automatically redirect users to the current location of the content. DOI links are used in the CrossRef service. This service links reference citations within journal articles directly to the full-text publisher of those citations. Currently, ScienceDirect, Web of Science, Cambridge Scientific are listed as participants in CrossRef. The INSPEC abstracting service is listed as a "partner" with ScienceDirect; IEE and IEEE are listed as participating publishers. IEEE currently cannot use the CrossRef service for conference articles because of inconsistent conference metadata. Currently, a metadata standards committee at CrossRef is working out the issues.


The retrieval of conferences has always been a special problem for reference librarians and users. For example, Lehigh University and others have noted that name changes creates tracing problems that confound users and that holdings are not always consistently represented. The current system of IEEE electronic conference publication still complicates matters because print, electronic, archival, and name changes may give rise to different locations or records. Integrated holdings in single records, timely updates, and the local storage of canceled subscriptions may mitigate this problem. But, the problem will require a local solution that will cost in terms of initial and ongoing expenses. The main distinction in the retrieval of electronic IEEE conferences will still between known item and topical searching. The online catalog will remain the primary authority for known item searching because it will contain the most accurate information about coverage. Indexing and abstracting services will provide topical searching, where the added value of controlled terminology will pinpoint particular articles within conferences. The direct use of the IEEE Xplore/IEL database will provide the most current publications but it will not lead a user to the archival copies or will have sophisticated controlled terminology for topical searching.


Baruth, Barbara. 2000. Is Your Catalog Big Enough to Handle the Web? American Libraries 31(7): 56.

Calhoun, Karen and Kara, Bill. 2000. Aggregation or Aggravation? Optimizing Access to Full-Text Journals. ALCTS Online Newsletter 11(1). [Online.] Available: {}. [May 1, 2001].

Dennis, Scott L. 1999. Aggravating or aggregating? Providing effective access to contents of aggregator databases: a reference/collection development librarian's perspective. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 28(4): 15-30.

DeSart, Mel. "IEEE Explore content info." In {ELDNET-L}. December 14, 2000.

Hawkins, Les. 1999. Title access to full text journal content available in aggregator services. Serials Review 25(4): 43-8.

Kresge, Lynda S. 2000. Toward better access to full-text aggregator collections. The Serials Librarian 38(3/4): 291-7.

Additional Background Reading

CrossRef. [Online] Available: [May 10, 2001].

The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) System. [Online] Available: [April 10, 2001].

Library of Congress. Program for Cooperative Cataloging. PCC Standing Committee on Automation (SCA). Task Group on Journals in Aggregator Databases. 1999. Interim Report. [Online] Available: {} [April 10, 2001].

Library of Congress. Program for Cooperative Cataloging. PCC Standing Committee on Automation (SCA). Task Group on Journals in Aggregator Databases. 2000. Final Report. [Online] Available: {} [April 10, 2001].

Library of Congress. Program for Cooperative Cataloging. PCC Standing Committee on Automation (SCA). New Task Group on Journals in Aggregator Databases. 1999. Charge. [Online] Available: {} [April 10, 2001].

Library of Congress. Program for Cooperative Cataloging. PCC Standing Committee on Automation (SCA). New Task Group on Journals in Aggregator Databases. 2000. Interim Report. [Online] Available: {} [April 10, 2001].

Special Thanks to the List Respondents:

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