Texas Medical Centre

Improved service and library usage report following a large-scale migration to OpenAthens for The Texas Medical Center Library

06 October 2020 • Sophie Allen, marketing officer

The Texas Medical Center (TMC) Library is a private, non-profit library based in Houston, Texas.

With over 55,000 students, faculty, staff, researchers, and clinicians, The Texas Medical Center Library is fundamental for vital work in biomedical research and health services. It is a member of the University of Texas consortium which includes 15 libraries.

The library team manages more than 185 e-resource packages and serves Baylor College of Medicine, University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, Texas Southern University (College of Pharmacy and Health Science), Prairie View A&M University, Houston Community College (Coleman Campus of Health Sciences), and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Before joining us as an OpenAthens customer in April 2018, The TMC Library was using OCLC’s EZproxy, as an IP-based authentication system.

The challenges

The TMC Library team overcame several challenges relating to the migration process. The complex nature and structure of the TMC organization and the number of users meant putting in place a solution that would benefit everyone.

Specifically, The TMC Library serves six different academic institutions. Some users are at hospital locations. Some use single sign-on (SSO) and some do not. This meant the team needed to work with multiple external IT departments, all with different security settings.

A combination of technical and publisher platform-based challenges came to light during the set-up process which started in July 2017. Consequently, the team had to develop several strategies for ensuring a successful migration.

On the vendor side, many did not support the use of two different authentication servers to test access in real time. In addition, some only allowed IP authentication and the TMC Library had to rely on publishers adding OpenAthens’ credentials to their sites to ensure continued access. Others required specialized logins that interfered with the use of institutional single sign-on.

Technical hurdles were compounded by TMC Library’s simultaneous migration to Alma/Primo VE. Both systems presented steep learning curves that made on-boarding and implementation tasks more difficult and time-consuming.

The team also discovered issues with users having bookmarked the (outdated) EZproxy URL for their own ease of access.

The solutions

The TMC Library selected to work with us for several reasons. They were reassured by our credentials working with other high-profile, complex organization customers including the Veteran’s Administration in the US and the National Health Service in the UK.

The team also put value in our federation which includes high impact content providers as well as our direct collaboration with Third Iron Technologies.

Our experience with problematic Web Access Management (WAM) put us in good stead as we were able to identify proxy errors (if any), data breaches and implement security certificate warnings.

Our solutions to TMC Library’s challenges helped us meet our predicted pipeline of work, produced a 14% decrease in the number of trouble tickets filed and the implementation of a secure authentication system.

Benefits and results

The TMC Library’s Head of Resource Management, Joanne V. Romano, describes the positive outcomes and important success points for her organization’s migration to OpenAthens including the improved library usage report.

“The new reporting capability has proven to be a major advantage, especially for one library serving multiple institutions. Also, the single sign-on option has made it easier for TMC Library users to authenticate with their institutional credentials. OpenAthens' customer service quality has been a big positive for us, especially in resolving issues related to linking syntax. The expertise shared by the OpenAthens’ team and Third Iron Technologies was a huge benefit, before, during and after our migration was completed.”

Joanne V. Romano, Head of Resource Management, Texas Medical Center

Systems Librarian, Nha Huynh, who worked on the project alongside Ms. Romano, is now the Library’s OpenAthens administrator.

“OpenAthens tech support never disappoints when linking issues requiring creative solutions. Reporting features have unexpectedly served to support vendor cost negotiations. This was an added benefit to choosing OpenAthens.”

Nha Huynh, Systems Librarian, Texas Medical Center

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