NC LIVE’s Rob Ross headed to Rome on a Fulbright Grant

NC LIVE Executive Director Rob Ross will spend parts of the spring and fall in Rome to help the Conference of Italian University Rectors (CRUI) set up a new management system for electronic resources and establish workflows across the group.

The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board selected Ross for a Fulbright Specialist Grant, and Ross worked for several years to find the right project to match his expertise and schedule. After exploring projects in Myanmar and Uruguay, Ross found the perfect match with the Coordinamento per l’Accesso alle Risorse Elettroniche (CARE) group across the CRUI.

The CRUI-CARE consortium currently lacks a centralized system for managing its e-resources licenses. Consequently, critical data informing decision-making--like whether or not a resource can be reprinted, shared between libraries, or used in classroom curricula--is not available to member libraries. Additionally, automatic renewal and payment reminders are not currently possible, which can prevent CRUI-CARE staff from meeting critical deadlines in the contract negotiation process.

“The spirit of the Fulbright program is to encourage American scholars and professionals to lend their expertise to organizations in other countries where help is needed,” Ross says. “Once I knew what their goals and timeframe were, CRUI-CARE felt like the perfect fit. We talked it through a few times and everyone agreed that this was meant to be.”

Established under the provisions of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, the Fulbright Program is administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, United States Department of State with the cooperation of World Learning.

Most e-resources management systems are designed to be used by an individual library, not across a consortium of institutions. Comprising all 79 academic and research institutions in Italy, CRUI-CARE recently selected ConsortiaManager, a new e-resource management system built with consortial needs in mind. Ross will help them implement the software and establish new workflows.

Ross heads to Italy on April 29, spending three weeks in Rome to assess CRUI-CARE’s current workflows. He’ll return stateside for the summer, during which time he’ll develop and manage the implementation plan virtually. Then he’ll go back to Rome for three weeks in the fall to complete implementation and assess the project.

It’s a formidable task and an ambitious timeline, but Ross is looking forward to the challenge.

“Anyone who manages e-resources understands the importance of automating processes. But even large consortia still use spreadsheets and file cabinets,” Ross says. “There really hasn’t been an automated system that was particularly helpful to consortia until now. So consortia historically said ‘You know, there are so many workarounds, we might as well stick to the spreadsheets.’”

Ross will be working closely with Alberto Franco Pozzolo, a Professor of Economics at the Università degli Studi del Molise, which is part of CRUI. “Since the CARE group within CRUI only started to manage a large number of contracts three years ago, processes are still in their infancy and can fruitfully benefit from the advice of an external observer with Rob’s expertise in the field,” Pozzolo writes.

“As Executive Director of NC LIVE, Rob faces daily the same types of problems that CRUI-CARE must deal with. Although CARE represents all Italian universities, management problems in the relationships with associates and publishers are likely to be very similar to those of NC LIVE. The opportunity to learn from and connect with a different management culture will improve the know-how of our organization.”

Ross is looking forward to a culture shift, too. But first he needs to pick up a little more Italian.

“NC LIVE licenses a language learning tool called Pronunciator, so I’m eating my own dog food,” Ross laughs. “I’ve been to Italy before, but for this gig I’m going to need to expand my five-word vocabulary.”

This article was originally published on NCSU Libraries News.