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What Counts and What Doesn’t: An Insider’s Guide to Usage Reports
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Introductory Comments
Marthyn Borghuis
Marthyn Borghuis

Dear Colleagues,

Usage reports, like many aspects of how we collectively make available scholarly information, remain a hot topic. They also offer a success story – one of rapid progress and improvement, and one demonstrating how collaboration and technology can yield positive results.

The early 1980s brought establishment of arXiv, the physics and mathematics preprint archives conducting consistent usage analysis of electronically published articles. At Elsevier, the first e-journal usage analyses date back to 1995-1996 as part of the TULIP project. TULIP was set up in such a way that users could be distinguished by type (faculty, library staff and (under)graduates), which was really a luxury and provided insight into variations in behavior of these user groups. More on TULIP appears at

Since then, librarians and publishers have come a long way. Though at moments or from a certain perspective it may seem as if real impacts of usage analysis on key library functions remain in an early phase of development, we can see definitive progress.

Librarians are starting to set up systems that can handle detailed usage data from various vendors. Since the advent of COUNTER, librarians may be relying more on the comparability of usage data and usage reports provided by vendors. Today there is less inconsistency among usage reports provided by vendors, and more confidence that we’re keeping straight our apples and oranges. A growing number of librarians complement vendor-provided usage reports with usage data gathered locally from library systems and OPACs and so optimize knowledge about collections and their use.

Publishers apply usage data to meet librarians’ and researchers’ needs quickly and well, and to improve business. Usage has gained an established reputation amidst other journal performance indicators such as manuscript inflow, citations and revenues. Marketing most-used research articles is appreciated by the research community. Understanding usage across a customer’s journal collection can help sales representatives provide informed consultations, to ensure a customer’s real needs are met. Usage analysis can also inform understanding of effectiveness of a publisher’s e-journal platform, and assist developers seeking to improve the platform. Because usage reports offer real value to various parties, vendors continue to invest in better and faster usage-analysis systems and reports.

Now, for the first time in history, librarians and publishers are able to share the same usage information. What is more, both parties are better equipped to agree on the relevance and attractiveness of e-resource collections they subscribe to or produce.

This brief publication presents snapshots of how librarians and publishers are using electronic usage reports. These stories may inspire or inform you, as you seek to apply usage reports within your library or institute.

As you browse this pamphlet, you will find stories by librarians as well as by Elsevier representatives. Library staff may already be familiar with ScienceDirect and Scopus usage reports, provided by Elsevier and discussed in this pamphlet. These reports – reflecting holdings of particular institutes – are available to representatives of licensed institutes. If you would like to learn more about Elsevier's customer usage reports, please contact an Elsevier account manager or account development manager – or visit the Elsevier customer usage reporting site at

I wish you happy reading!


Marthyn Borghuis, Senior Manager, Elsevier Usage Research Department, Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Marthyn Borghuis serves as a senior manager for the Elsevier Usage Research Department, which he founded in 1999. His research specialties are performance measurement, user navigation analysis and library usage research. He has represented Elsevier on the COUNTER Executive Committee since the start of COUNTER in March 2002. Before joining Elsevier in 1989, Borghuis worked as a subject librarian in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the State University Groningen, in the Netherlands. Borghuis earned his master’s degree in social sciences at the same university.