NASIG 2011: Using Assessment to Make Collection Development Decisions

Speaker: Mary Ann Trail & Kerry Chang FitzGibbon

It is not in the interest of faculty to cut journal titles because it may be perceived as an admission that it is not needed. With relying on faculty input for collection decisions, the collection can become skewed when certain faculty are more vocal than others.

When a new director arrived in 2000, they began to use more data to make decisions. And, the increase in aggregator databases and ejournals changed what was being collected. In addition to electronic publishing, electronic communication has changed the platform and audience for faculty communicating with each other and administrators, which can be both good and bad for library budgets.

In 2005, after some revision of collection methods, cancellations, and reallocation, they went to a periodicals allocation formula. This didn’t work out as well as expected, and was abandoned in 2008.

As a part of their assessment projects in 2008, they looked at the overlap between print and electronic titles to see if they could justify canceling the print in order to address the budget deficit. Most importantly, they wanted to proactively calm the faculty, who were already upset about past cancellations, with assurances that they would not lose access to the titles.

They used their ERMS to generate overlap analysis report, and after some unnecessary and complicated exporting and sorting, she was able to identify overlaps with their print collection. Then she identified the current subscriptions before going to the databases to verify that the access is correct and noted any embargo information. This was then combined with budget line, costs, and three years of usage (both print and electronic for non-aggregator access).

They met their budget target by canceling the print journals, and they used the term “format change” instead of cancel when they communicated with faculty. Faculty showed more support for this approach, and were more willing to advocate for library funds.

Did they consider publications that have color illustrations or other materials that are better in print? Yes, and most of them were retained in print.

Did they look at acquiring other databases to replace additional print cancellations? No, not with their funding situation.

What was the contingency plan for titles removed from the aggregator? Would resubscribe if the faculty asked for it, but funds would likely come from the monograph budget.

NASIG 2010 reflections

When I was booking my flights and sending in my registration during the snow storms earlier this year, Palm Springs sounded like a dream. Sunny, warm, dry — all the things that Richmond was not. This would also be my first visit to Southern California, so I may be excused for my ignorance of the reality, and more specifically, the reality in early June. Palm Springs was indeed sunny, but not as dry and far hotter than I expected.

Despite the weather, or perhaps because of the weather, NASIGers came together for one of the best conferences we’ve had in recent years. All of the sessions were held in rooms that emptied out into the same common area, which also held the coffee and snacks during breaks. The place was constantly buzzing with conversations between sessions, and many folks hung back in the rooms, chatting with their neighbors about the session topics. Not many were eager to skip the sessions and the conversations in favor of drinks/books by the pools, particularly when temperatures peaked over 100°F by noon and stayed up there until well after dark.

As always, it was wonderful to spend time with colleagues from all over the country (and elsewhere) that I see once a year, at best. I’ve been attending NASIG since I was a wee serials librarian in 2002, and this conference/organization has been hugely instrumental in my growth as a librarian. Being there again this year felt like a combination of family reunion and summer camp. At one point, I choked up a little over how much I love being with all of them, and how much I was going to miss them until we come together again next year.

I’ve already blogged about the sessions I attended, so I won’t go into those details so much here. However, there were a few things that stood out to me and came up several times in conversations over the weekend.

One of the big things is a general trend towards publishers handling subscriptions directly, and in some cases, refusing to work with subscription agents. This is more prevalent in the electronic journal subscription world than in print, but that distinction is less significant now that so many libraries are moving to online-only subscriptions. I heard several librarians express concern over the potential increase in their workload if we go back to the era of ordering directly from hundreds of publishers rather than from one (or a handful) of subscription agents.

And then there’s the issue of invoicing. Electronic invoices that dump directly into a library acquisition system have been the industry standard with subscription agents for a long time, but few (and I can’t think of any) publishers are set up to deliver invoices to libraries using this method. In fact, my assistant who processes invoices must manually enter each line item of a large invoice of one of our collections of electronic subscriptions every year, since this publisher refuses to invoice through our agent (or will do so in a way that increases our fees to the point that my assistant would rather just do it himself). I’m not talking about mom & pop society publisher — this is one of the major players. If they aren’t doing EDI, then it’s understandable that librarians are concerned about other publishers following suit.

Related to this, JSTOR and UC Press, along with several other society and small press publishers have announced a new partnership that will allow those publishers to distribute their electronic journals on the JSTOR platform, from issue one to the current. JSTOR will handle all the hosting, payments, and library technical support, leaving the publishers to focus on generating the content. Here’s the kicker: JSTOR will also be handling billing for print subscriptions of these titles.

That’s right – JSTOR is taking on the role of subscription agent for a certain subset of publishers. They say, of course, that they will continue to accept orders through existing agents, but if libraries and consortia are offered discounts for going directly to JSTOR, with whom they are already used to working directly for the archive collections, then eventually there will be little incentive to use a traditional subscription agent for titles from these publishers. On the one hand, I’m pleased to see some competition emerging in this aspect of the serials industry, particularly as the number of players has been shrinking in recent years, but on the other hand I worry about the future of traditional agents.

In addition to the big picture topics addressed above, I picked up a few ideas to add to my future projects list:

  • Evaluate the “one-click” rankings for our link resolver and bump publisher sites up on the list. These sources “count” more when I’m doing statistical reports, and right now I’m seeing that our aggregator databases garner more article downloads than from the sources we pay for specifically. If this doesn’t improve the stats, then maybe we need to consider whether or not access via the aggregator is sufficient. Sometimes the publisher site interface is a deterrent for users.
  • Assess the information I currently provide to liaisons regarding our subscriptions and discuss with them what additional data I could incorporate to make the reports more helpful in making collection development decisions. Related to this is my ongoing project of simplifying the export/import process of getting acquisitions data from our ILS and into our ERMS for cost per use reports. Once I’m not having to do that manually, I can use that time/energy to add more value to the reports.
  • Do an inventory of our holdings in our ERMS to make sure that we have turned on everything that should be turned on and nothing that shouldn’t. I plan to start with the publishers that are KBART participants and move on from there (and yes, Jason Price, I will be sure to push for KBART compliance from those who are not already in the program).
  • Begin documenting and sharing workflow, SQL, and anything else that might help other electronic resource librarians who use our ILS or our ERMS, and make myself available as a resource. This stood out to me during the user group meeting for our ERMS, where I and a handful of others were the experts of the group, and by no means do I feel like an expert, but clearly there are quite a few people who could learn from my experience the way I learned from others before me.

I’m probably forgetting something, but I think those are big enough to keep me busy for quite a while.

If you managed to make it this far, thanks for letting me yammer on. To everyone who attended this year and everyone who couldn’t, I hope to see you next year in St. Louis!

ebook usage statistics

In a recent phone/web town hall discussion with Peter Shepherd, Project Director for COUNTER, mused about why publishers (and libraries) have not embraced the COUNTER Code of Practice for Books and Reference Works as quickly as they have the Code of Practice for Journals and Databases. His approach is that we are paying customers and should have that information. My perspective: meh.

I would like to see ebook usage for items that we purchase as a subscription, but for items we own (i.e. one-time purchase with perpetual access), it’s less of a concern for collection development. Licensed ebooks with annual subscriptions (like regularly updating encyclopedias or book packages) are more like online databases or ejournals than traditional paper books, so in that regard, it shouldn’t be difficult for publishers to implement the COUNTER Code of Practice for Books and Reference Works and provide use information to customers.

For books that are static and don’t have any annual cost attached to them, there isn’t much of a regular need to know what is being used. We keep track of re-shelving stats for the purposes of managing a physical collection with space limitations, and those problems are not replicated in an online environment. Where the usage of owned ebooks comes into play is when we are justifying:
a. The purchase of those specific ebooks.
b. The purchase of future ebooks from that publisher.
c. The amount of money in the ebook budget.

Hopefully Mr. Shepherd, Project COUNTER, and vocal librarians will be able to convince the publishers of the value of providing usage information. When budgets are as tight as they are these days, having detailed information about the use of your subscription-based collection is essential for making decisions about what must be kept and what can be let go (or should be promoted more to the users). Of course, in less desperate times, knowing this information is also important for making adjustments to the library’s collection emphasis in order to meet the needs of the users.

NASIG 2008: Managing Divergence of Print and Online Journals

Presenters: Beth Weston and Deena Acton

The National Library of Medicine spent 2007 examined the impact of content differences between print and online journals on library operations and services. They then followed up on this in 2008. In evaluating the situation, the NLM team working on this project were tasked with locating the differences between print and online, noting them, and then determining their impact.

One thing that is worth noting here is that the NLM is an archival library, by which I mean they consider it a part of their mission to retain copies of everything they collect. And, their ILL service to other libraries is considered an essential function.

Because NLM is responsible for indexing content for MEDLINE, they were able to locate the differences through the indexing workflow. They have noticed that there is anecdotal evidence of an increase in online-only content. Aside from the indexing, which will be decreasing over time, differences between print and online are discovered by patrons and reference librarians, as well as interlibrary loan staff.

The working group recommends that publishers take responsibility for identifying the version of record, and develop and implement a standard for communicating that version to subscribers. However, that’s only a start. Libraries will then need to determine how they will note that in their records, as well as workflows for following up on it.

The set that the working group looked at included 149 titles from 58 publishers, in both print and online formats, but which had additional online-only content. Data was collected for a specific set of these journals on: number of complete articles in each edition, editorials, commentary/letters, book/media reviews, advertisements, announcements/calendar items, and continuing education materials. Notifications about new issues, author correspondence information, and other extraneous content that is format-specific was not considered.

Approximately 13% of the articles were online-only, and 18% of the articles contained article-level online-only supplementary materials. Based on the one year sampling, they estimate that 12,739 articles from these 149 titles could be online-only.

One reason why there may be an increase in the divergence is due to the volume of content publishers want to provide versus the cost of printing all of it. It is likely that as the cost of publishing ejournals decreases in relation to the cost of print publishing, we will see more of this divergence.

[Side note: I really wish we would move away from the “presenting the data from my study” sessions to “here’s how I applied the data from my study” sessions.]

NASIG 2008: When Did eBooks Become Serials?

Presenters: Kim Armstrong, Bob Nardini, Peter McCracken, and Rick Lugg

Because this is a serials conference, Lugg provided us with a title change and enumeration to differentiate this presentation from the repeat in the afternoon. Serialists (& librarians in general) love corny inside jokes.

eBook users want to use the work; to browse, to search, and to have the institution subscribe to it for them. Much of this is due to the success and model of ejournals.

eJournals have brought about many changes in information provision. More content is now available to users, and they are increasingly using it more. However, archive and access issues have not been fully addressed, nor have possible solutions thoroughly tested. In addition, ejournals (and other subscription items) have taken over more and more of the materials budget, which has necessitated greater selection. And, in many ways, ejournals are more labor-intensive than print.

Subscription has become one of the most successful models for ebook providers. There are some emerging models in addition to subscription or purchase. EBL, for example, offers short-term rental options.

There are many more titles and decisions involved in purchasing ebooks as opposed to journals. The content isn’t as well advertised through abstracting and indexing sources, since it’s one large thing rather than millions of little things aggregated together under one title.

Acquisition of ebooks provides its own unique challenges, ranging from the variety of sources to the mechanisms of selection. Is the content static or dynamic? One-time purchases or ongoing commitments? What libraries say verses what they do — we say we can’t buy more subscriptions, yet we continue to do so.


Library/Consortial View

Librarians have been trying to figure out what to do with ebooks, whether to purchase them, and how we should go about doing so for at least ten years.

The Committee on Institutional Cooperation coordinated a deal with Springer and MyiLibrary to purchase Springer’s entire ebook collection from 2005-2010. Access went live in January 2008, and over the first five months of 2008, ebook use on the Springer platform was nearly half that of the ejournal use, even without catalog records or promoting it. On the other hand, the MyiLibrary use was a quarter or less, partially due to MyiLibrary’s lack of OpenURL support.

We need to make sure that we stay relevant to our users needs and not become just a place to store their archival literature.


eBookseller View

Back in the day, the hot topic in the monographic world was approval plans. Eventually they figured that out, and book acquisition became routine. Now we have serials-like problems for both booksellers and book buyers.

Approval plans had a seriality to them, but we haven’t come up with something similar for ebooks. Billing and inventory systems for booksellers are set up for individual book sales, not subscriptions.

The vendor/aggregator is challenged with incorporating content from a variety of publisher sources, each with their own unique quirks. Bibliographic control can take the route of treating ebooks like print books, but we’re in a time of change that may necessitate a different solution.

Maybe the panel should have been called, “When will ebooks and serials become one big database?”

eResource Access & Management View

The differences between ebooks and ejournals on the management side really isn’t all that different. The metadata, however, is exponentially larger when dealing with ebooks verses ejournals. The bibliographic standards (or those accepted) are higher for books than for journals.

How do we handle various editions? Do we go with the LibraryThing model of collecting all editions under one work record?