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Guidelines for Statistical Measures of Usage of Web-Based Information Resources (1998, revised 2001, 2006)

Issue Date

(Initially released in November 1998, revised December 2001, September 2006)

With the continuing endorsement of 83 consortia from around the world, this revision reflects the ICOLC’s previous endorsement of Project COUNTER and the ICOLC community’s new endorsement of NISO’s Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative (SUSHI) protocol and reliance on XML as the standard delivery format for usage statistics.


The use of licensed electronic information resources will continue to expand and in some cases become the sole or dominant means of access to content. The electronic environment, as manifested by the World Wide Web, provides an opportunity to improve the measurement of the use of these resources. In the electronic arena we can more accurately determine which information is being accessed and used. Without violating any issues of privacy or confidentiality we can dramatically enhance our understanding of information use.

The participating consortia of the ICOLC have a responsibility to ensure that their library members receive usage information for licensed electronic resources. Information providers should want the same information to better understand the market for their services as well as to create an informed customer base. These mutual interests can be best met by defining and creating a common set of basic use information requirements that are an integral and necessary part of any electronic product offering. These requirements apply to vendor operated web sites and to software provided to libraries or consortia for local operation. Information providers are encouraged to go beyond these minimal requirements as appropriate for their specific electronic resources.

The ICOLC Guidelines for Statistical Measures are designed to provide consortia administrators with the information needed to effectively carry out their responsibilities and to provide vendors a practical framework in which to deliver usage statistics in the current environment. The 2001 revision simplified the data elements to be reported and also strengthened the administrative aspects of confidentiality, access, delivery, and report formats.   

Additionally in March 2003 ICOLC issued a Statement Of Support For Project COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources).  It said:

ICOLC expresses its appreciation to Project COUNTER for the significant progress it made with its Code of Practice (Release 1) toward the development of "credible, compatible, consistent publisher/vendor-related statistics for global information."   As an independent organization, ICOLC has no position on the specific solutions that have been developed to date.  However, Project Counter's efforts thus far are in alignment with the intent of the ICOLC "Guidelines For Statistical Measures Of Usage Of Web-Based Information Resources."  We heartily support the process and initiatives that Project Counter is undertaking to standardize and make operational statistical measures of usage of web-based information resources for use within the library and information community.    ICOLC looks forward to work with Project Counter to continue to advance these important goals.


Each data element defined below should be delineated by the following subdivisions:

  • By each specific database of the provider
  • By each set of institutional IP addresses or other special data element (e.g., account number), using the institutional name as specified by the institution or consortium.
  • By overall consortium, aggregated at the consortium level
  • By time period, with a month as the primary coverage unit, aggregated annually as appropriate. Vendor should also provide summary usage data by hour of the day. Dynamic aggregation of multiple months or other time periods should be possible, with no limitation to preset annual or other collective periods pre-determined by the vendor.

Data elements that must be provided are:

  • Number of Sessions (logins) must be provided in order to satisfy reporting requirements of government agencies and professional organizations. ICOLC recognizes that the definition, collection, and reporting of this measure are subject to interpretation. In the stateless web environment, statistics gathered as "sessions" can provide only a rough indication of the number of actual sessions conducted, thus limiting the overall meaningfulness of this particular indicator.
  • Number of Queries (Searches) categorized as appropriate for the vendor’s information. A search is intended to represent a unique intellectual inquiry. Typically a search is recorded each time a search form is sent/submitted to the server. Subsequent activities to review or browse among the records retrieved or the process of isolating the correct single item desired do not represent additional searches, unless the parameter(s) defining the retrieval set is modified through resubmission of the search form, a combination of previous search sets, or some other similar technique. Immediately repeated duplicate searches, double clicks, or other evidence indicating unintended user behavior should not be counted.
  • Number of Menu Selections categorized as appropriate for the vendor’s system. If display of data can be accomplished by browsing (the use of menus), this measure must be provided. (e.g. an electronic journal site provides alphabetic and subject-based menu options in addition to a search form). The number of searches and the number of alphabetic and subject menu selections should be tracked.
  • Number of Full-Content Units examined, downloaded, or otherwise supplied to user, to the extent these are recordable and controlled by the server rather than the browser.

    - Journal articles – by journal title with ISSN and title listed

    - E-Books – by book title with ISBN and title listed

    - Reference materials – by content unit appropriate to resource (e.g. dictionary definitions, encyclopedia articles, biographies, etc.

    - Non-textual resources – by file type as appropriate to resource (e.g. image, audio, video, etc.)
  • Number of Turn-Aways, peak simultaneous users, and any other indicator relevant to the pricing model applied to the library or consortium.

2. PRIVACY AND USER CONFIDENTIALITY: Statistical reports or data that reveal personal information about individual users will not be released or sold by vendors without the permission of that individual user, the consortium, and its member libraries.

3. INSTITUTIONAL OR CONSORTIA CONFIDENTIALITY: Providers do not have the right to release or sell statistical usage information about specific institutions or the consortium without permission, except to the consortium administrators and other member libraries. Use of institutional or consortium data as part of an aggregate grouping of similar institutions for purposes of comparison does not require prior permission as long as specific institutions or consortia are not identifiable. When required by contractual agreements, information providers may furnish institutional use data to the content providers.

4. ACCESS: Consortium administrators must have access through a single access method to usage information for each institution covered by the consortium license. Usage data for all consortium member libraries should be available to all other member libraries, unless an individual member library requests that its usage data not be made available to other member libraries. In the latter case, all usage data must be reported in the consortium summaries.

Access to usage information should be entirely separate from access to administrative functions such as default settings, display options, and time out limits. Access to institutional usage data should be controlled via either IP address or password, at the option of the individual institution.

5. DELIVERY: Usage reports must be delivered via an interactive web-based reporting system preferably on a real time basis, but at least within 15 days after the end of the month. Report content should be customizable, as specified in the Requirements section. Information providers are also encouraged to present data as graphs and charts.  Vendors should maintain a minimum of three years of historical data. These data also should be available in flat files containing specified data elements that can be downloaded and manipulated locally. The preferred format is XML through the web services protocol described in the documents available from the NISO Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative (SUSHI) <;.

6. DEFINITIONS: Definitions and / or other explanatory material must be provided for each data element supplied.

7. REPORT FORMATS: Sample summary formats for a consortium, an individual library, and titles are provided. These are intended as illustrative of possible presentations of minimum data requirements. They do not illustrate all aspects of these guidelines. Vendors are encouraged to provide additional data pertinent to their individual products and services.

Sample Report Formats


These report formats are intended as illustrative of possible presentations of minimum data requirements. They do not illustrate all aspects of these guidelines. Vendors are encouraged to provide additional data pertinent to their individual products and services.

Contact Persons

Kathy Perry, Director, VIVA (The Virtual Library of Virginia), MSC 2FL, c/o George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444, Phone:  703.993.4652;

Endorsing Organizations

This statement was adopted in principle by member representatives of the "International Coalition of Library Consortia" (ICOLC) whose institutions are listed below. This statement does not necessarily represent the official views of each consortium listed.

Consortia whose member representatives have adopted this statement as of July 25, 2007:

Academic Libraries of Indiana (ALI) (USA)
The Alberta Library (Canada)
ALICE (Adventist Libraries Information Cooperative) (International)
Amigos Library Services (USA)
ANKOS (Anatolian University Library Consortium) (Turkey)
Association of National University Libraries (ANUL) (Japan)
AULC (Arizona Universities Library Consortium) (USA)
Bibliographical Center for Research (BCR) (USA and Canada)
BIBSAM Sweden: Consortium of Research Libraries (Sweden)
British Columbia Electronic Library Network (Canada)
California Digital Library (USA)
California State University - SEIR (Systemwide Electronic Information Resources) (USA)
Canadian Research Knowledge Network
Cape Library Consortium (CALICO) (South Africa)
CAUL (Council of Australian University Librarians) (Australia)
CBUC-Consorci de Biblioteques Universitàries de Catalunya / Consortium of Academic  Libraries of Catalonia (Spain)
Chesapeake Information & Research Library Alliance (CIRLA) (USA)
CIC Center for Library Initiatives (USA)
College Center for Library Automation (CCLA) (USA)
Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries (CARL) (USA)
Colorado State Library (USA)
Cooperating Libraries in Consortium (USA)
Coordinamento Interuniversitario Basi dati & Editoria in Rete (CIBER) (Italy)
Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)
Council of Atlantic University Libraries (Canada)
Council of Federal Libraries Consortium (Canada)
Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL) (Canada)
COUPERIN (consortium universitaire de publications numériques)
Consortium universitaire des publications numériques (COUPERIN)
CREPUQ (Sub-Committee on Libraries of the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Universities of Quebec) (Canada)
Danish Electronic Research Library (DEFL) (Denmark)
FCCN / Biblioteca do Conhecimento Online (b-on) (Portugal)
Fenway Library Consortium (USA)
FinELib (Finland)
Florida Center for Library Automation (USA)
Greater Western Library Alliance (USA)
HEAL-Link (HEllenic Academic Libraries Link) (Greece)
JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) (United Kingdom)
Kentucky Virtual Library (USA)
KLN (Keystone Library Network) (USA)
LOUIS (The Louisiana Library Network) (USA)
Maine Info Net Consortium (USA)
MALMAD - Israel Center for Digital Information Services (Israel)
Michigan Library Consortium (USA)
MINITEX Library Information Network (USA)
MOBIUS:Linking Missouri's Academic Libraries (USA)
NC LIVE (North Carolina Libraries for Virtual Education) (USA)
NEOS Library Consortium (Canada)
NERL (NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium) (USA)
Network of Alabama Academic Libraries (USA)
Nevada Council of Academic Libraries (USA)
New England Law Library Consortium (NELLCO) (USA)
Novanet (Canada)
Ontario Colleges Bibliocentre (USA)
Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) (Canada)
Orbis-Cascade (USA)
Pioneer, Utah's Online Library (USA)
QULOC (Queensland University Libraries Office of Cooperation) (Australia)
RBT, Norway: National Office for Research Documentation, Academic and Special Libraries  (Norway)
SCONUL (Society of College, National & University Libraries) (United Kingdom and Ireland)
SOLINET (Southeastern Library Network) (USA)
Southeastern Wisconsin Information Technology Exchange (SWITCH) (USA)
SUNYConnect (USA)
TexShare (USA)
Triangle Research Libraries Network (USA)
UKB (Dutch Association of University Libraries, Royal Library and Library of the Royal Academy of Science) (Netherlands)
University of Texas System Digital Library (USA)
Utah Academic Library Consortium (USA)
Virtual Academic Library Environment in NJ (VALE) (USA)
VIVA (The Virtual Library of Virginia) (USA)
VOWB (Vlaams Overlegorgaan Wetenschappelijk bibliotheekwerk vzw) (Belgium)
Washington Cooperative Library Project (USA)
WiLS (Wisconsin Library Services) (USA)
WRLC (Washington Research Library Consortium) (USA)


The International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) is an informal, self-organized group currently comprising approximately 200 library consortia in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. The member consortia serve all types and sizes of libraries. ICOLC has been in existence since 1996.

ICOLC supports participating consortia by facilitating discussion on issues of common interest. Twice per year ICOLC conducts meetings dedicated to keeping participating consortia informed about new electronic information resources, pricing practices of electronic information providers and vendors, and other issues of importance to directors, governing boards, and libaries of consortia. From time to time ICOLC also issues statements regarding topics which affect libraries and library consortia.