snowballing debt

My parents have been talking to me off an on over the past five years or so about their budget plan that is allowing them to pay off debt (they’ll be completely debt-free in August, for the first time since the early 70s) and still live pretty well. They’re following the advice of financial guru Dave Ramsey, and have encouraged me to attend one of his Financial Peace University seminars. Considering that these things aren’t cheap, I’ve opted to make use of free resources, their advice/experience, and the advice/experience of friends.

Recently, a friend was commenting on how by budgeting only $1000 a month and paying down debt using a snowball plan, she could be completely debt-free in just a few years. My initial thought was, “sure, you must not have nearly as much debt as me, or at as high of an interest rate.” And while I was partially correct, I was very surprised to discover that with the same amount of money, I could be completely credit card debt-free in two years and have my student loans paid off in six years.

Of course, this will require a level of discipline I have yet to master, and I’ll need to be more creative about planning for big purchases that occur in frequently. However, seeing the plan laid out before me and realizing that it’s not some unattainable dream has made me much more motivated to just do it already.

The plan starts July 1. I’m going to reassess where I am at that point, and then start tracking my progress, which is also a good motivator.

NASIG 2010: Let the Patron Drive: Purchase on Demand of E-books

Presenters: Jonathan Nabe, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and Andrea Imre, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

As resources have dwindled over the years, libraries want to make sure every dollar spent is going to things patrons will use. Patron-driven acquisition (PDA) means you’re only buying things that your users want.

With the Coutts MyiLibrary, they have access to over 230,000 titles from more than 100 publishers, but they’ve set up some limitations and parameters (LC class, publication year, price, readership level) to determine which titles will be made available to users for the PDA program. You can select additional title after the initial setup, so the list is constantly being revised and enhanced. And, they were able to upload their holdings to eliminate duplications.

[There are, of course, license issues that you should consider for your local use, as with any electronic resource. eBooks come with different sorts of use concerns than journals, but by now most of us are familiar with them. However, those of us in the session are blessed with a brief overview of these concerns. I recommend doing a literature study if this interests you.]

They opted for a deposit account to cover the purchases, and when a title is purchased, they add a purchase order to the bibliographic record already in the catalog. (Records for available titles in the program are added to the catalog to begin with, and titles are purchased after they have been accessed three times.)

[At this point, my attention waned even further. More interested in hearing about how it’s working for them than about the processes they use to set up and manage it, as I’m familiar with how that’s supposed to work.]

They’ve spent over $54,000 since November 2008 and purchased 470 titles (approx $115/title on average). On average, 95 pages are viewed per purchased title, which is a stat you can’t get from print. Half of the titles have been used after the initial purchase, and over 1,000 titles were accessed once or twice (prior to purchase and not enough to initiate purchase).

Social sciences and engineering/technology are the high users, with music and geography at the low end. Statistically, other librarians have pushed back against PDA more than users, and in their case, the humanities librarian decided this wasn’t a good process and withdrew those titles from the program.

During the same time period, they purchased almost 17,000 print titles, and due to outside factors that delayed purchases 77% of those titles have never circulated. Only 1% circulated more than four times. [Hard to compare the two, since ebooks may be viewed several times by one person as they refer back to it, when a print book only has the checkout stat and no way to count the number of times it is “viewed” in the same way.]

Some issues to consider:

  • DRM (digital rights management) can cause problems with using the books for classroom/course reserves. DRM also often prevents users from downloading the books to preferred portable, desktop, or other ebook readers. There are also problems with incompatible browsers or operating systems.
  • Discovery options also provide challenges. Some publishers are better than other at making their content discoverable through search tools.
  • ILL is non-existent for ebooks. We’ve solved this for ejournals, but ebooks are still a stumbling block for traditional borrowing and lending.
  • There are other ebook purchasing options, and the “big deal” may actually be more cost-effective. They provide the wide access options, but at a lower per-book cost.
  • Archival copies may not be provided, and if it is, there are issues with preservation and access that shift long-term storage from free to an undetermined cost.

NASIG 2010: Integrating Usage Statistics into Collection Development Decisions

Presenters: Dani Roach, University of St. Thomas and Linda Hulbert, University of St. Thomas

As with most libraries, they are faced with needing to downsize their purchases in order to fit within reduced budgets, so good tools must be employed to determine which stuff to remove or acquire.

The statistics for impact factor means little to librarians, since the “best” journals may not be appropriate for the programs the library supports. Quantitative data like cost per use, historical trends, and ILL data are more useful for libraries. Combine these with reviews, availability, features, user feedback, and the dust layer on the materials, and then you have some useful information for making decisions.

Usage statistics are just one component that we can use to analyze the value of resources. There are other variables than cost and other methods than cost per use, but these are what we most often apply.

Other variables can include funds/subjects, format, and identifiers like ISSN. Cost needs to be defined locally, as libraries manage them differently for annual subscriptions, multiple payments/funds, one-time archive fees, hosting fees, and single title databases or ebooks. Use is also tricky. A PDF download in a JR1 report is different from a session count in a DB1 report is different from a reshelve count for a bound journal. Local consistency with documentation is best practice for sorting this out.

Library-wide SharePoint service allows them to drop documents with subscription and analysis information into one location for liaisons to use. [We have a shared network folder that I do some of this with — I wonder if SharePoint would be better at managing all of the files?]

For print statistics, they track separately bound volume use versus new issue use, scanning barcodes into their ILS to keep a count. [I’m impressed that they have enough print journal use to do that rather than hash marks on a sheet of paper. We had 350 reshelved in last year, including ILL use, if I remember correctly.]

Once they have the data, they use what they call a “fairness factor” formula to normalize the various subject areas to determine if materials budgets are fairly allocated across all disciplines and programs. Applying this sort of thing now would likely shock budgets, so they decided to apply new money using the fairness factor, and gradually underfunded areas are being brought into balance without penalizing overfunded areas.

They have stopped trying to achieve a balance between books and periodicals. They’ve left that up to the liaisons to determine what is best for their disciplines and programs.

They don’t hide their cancellation list, and if any of the user community wants to keep something, they’ve been willing to retain it. However, they get few requests to retain content, and they think it is in part because the user community can see the cost, use, and other factors that indicate the value of the resource for the local community.

They have determined that it costs them around $52 a title to manage a print subscription, and over $200 a title to manage an online subscription, mainly because of the level of expertise involved. So, there really are no “free” subscriptions, and if you want to get into the cost of binding/reshelving, you need to factor in the managerial costs of electronic titles, as well.

Future trends and issues: more granularity, more integration of print and online usage, interoperability and migration options for data and systems, continued standards development, and continued development of tools and systems.

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. You can gather Ulrich’s reports, Eigen factors, relative price indexes, and so much more, but at some point, you have to decide if the return is worth the investment of time and resources.

NASIG 2010: It’s Time to Join Forces: New Approaches and Models that Support Sustainable Scholarship

Presenters: David Fritsch, JSTOR and Rachel Lee, University of California Press

JSTOR has started working with several university press and other small scholarly publishers to develop sustainable options.

UC Press is one of the largest university press in the US (36 journals in the humanities, biological & social sciences), publishing both UC titles and society titles. Their prices range from $97-422 for annual subscriptions, and they are SHERPA Green. One of the challenges they face on their own platform is keeping up with libraries expectations.

ITHAKA is a merger of JSTOR, ITHAKA, Portico, and Alkula, so JSTOR is now a service rather than a separate company. Most everyone here knows what the JSTOR product/service is, and that hasn’t changed much with the merger.

Scholar’s use of information is moving online, and if it’s not online, they’ll use a different resource, even if it’s not as good. And, if things aren’t discoverable by Google, they are often overlooked. More complex content is emerging, including multimedia and user-generated content. Mergers and acquisitions in publishing are consolidating content under a few umbrellas, and this threatens smaller publishers and university presses that can’t keep up with the costs on a smaller scale.

The serials crisis has impacted smaller presses more than larger ones. Despite good relationships with societies, it is difficult to retain popular society publications when larger publishers can offer them more. It’s also harder to offer the deep discounts expected by libraries in consortial arrangements. University presses and small publishers are in danger of becoming the publisher of last resort.

UC Press and JSTOR have had a long relationship, with JSTOR providing long-term archiving that UC Press could not have afforded to maintain on their own. Not all of the titles are included (only 22), but they are the most popular. They’ve also participated in Portico. JSTOR is also partnering with 18 other publishers that are mission-driven rather than profit-driven, with experience at balancing the needs of academia and publishing.

By partnering with JSTOR for their new content, UC Press will be able to take advantage of the expanded digital platform, sales teams, customer service, and seamless access to both archive and current content. There are some risks, including the potential loss of identity, autonomy, and direct communication with libraries. And then there is the bureaucracy of working within a larger company.

The Current Scholarship Program seeks to provide a solution to the problems outlined above that university presses and small scholarly publishers are facing. The shared technology platform, Portico preservation, sustainable business model, and administrative services potentially free up these small publishers to focus on generating high-quality content and furthering their scholarly communication missions.

Libraries will be able to purchase current subscriptions either through their agents or JSTOR (who will not be charging a service fee). However, archive content will be purchased directly from JSTOR. JSTOR will handle all of the licensing, and current JSTOR subscribers will simply have a rider adding title to their existing licenses. For libraries that purchase JSTOR collections through consortia arrangements, it will be possible to add title by title subscriptions without going through the consortia if a consortia agreement doesn’t make sense for purchase decisions. They will be offering both single-title purchases and collections, with the latter being more useful for large libraries, consortia, and those who want current content for titles in their JSTOR collections.

They still don’t know what they will do about post-cancellation access. Big red flag here for potential early adopters, but hopefully this will be sorted out before the program really kicks in.

Benefits for libraries: reasonable pricing, more efficient discovery, single license, and meaningful COUNTER-compliant statistics for the full run of a title. Renewal subscriptions will maintain access to what they have already, and new subscriptions will come with access to the first online year provided by the publisher, which may not be volume one, but certainly as comprehensive as what most publishers offer now.

UC Press plans to start transitioning in January 2011. New orders, claims, etc. will be handled by JSTOR (including print subscriptions), but UC Press will be setting their own prices. Their platform, Caliber, will remain open until June 30, 2011, but after that content will be only on the JSTOR platform. UC Press expects to move to online-only in the next few years, particularly as the number of print subscriptions are dwindling to the point where it is cost-prohibitive to produce the print issues.

There is some interest from the publishers to add monographic content as well, but JSTOR isn’t ready to do that yet. They will need to develop some significant infrastructure in order to handle the order processing of monographs.

Some in the audience are concerned that the cost of developing platform enhancements and other tools, mostly that these costs will be passed on in subscription prices. They will be, to a certain extent, only in that the publishers will be contributing to the developments and they set the prices, but because it is a shared system, the costs will be spread out and likely impact libraries no more than they have already.

One big challenge all will face is unlearning the mindset that JSTOR is only archive content and not current content.

ER&L 2010: Patron-driven Selection of eBooks – three perspectives on an emerging model of acquisitions

Speaker: Lee Hisle

They have the standard patron-driven acquisitions (PDA) model through Coutts’ MyiLibrary service. What’s slightly different is that they are also working on a pilot program with a three college consortia with a shared collection of PDA titles. After the second use of a book, they are charged 1.2-1.6% of the list price of the book for a 4-SU, perpetual access license.

Issues with ebooks: fair use is replaced by the license terms and software restrictions; ownership has been replaced by licenses, so if Coutts/MyiLibrary were to go away, they would have to renegotiate with the publishers; there is a need for an archiving solution for ebooks much like Portico for ejournals; ILL is not feasible for permissible; potential for exclusive distribution deals; device limitations (computer screens v. ebook readers).

Speaker: Ellen Safley

Her library has been using EBL on Demand. They are only buying 2008-current content within specific subjects/LC classes (history and technology). They purchase on the second view. Because they only purchase a small subset of what they could, the number of records they load fluxuates, but isn’t overwhelming.

After a book has been browsed for more than 10 minutes, the play-per-view purchase is initiated. After eight months, they found that more people used the book at the pay-per-view level than at the purchase level (i.e. more than once).

They’re also a pilot for an Ebrary program. They had to deposit $25,000 for the 6 month pilot, then select from over 100,000 titles. They found that the sciences used the books heavily, but there were also indications that the humanities were popular as well.

The difficulty with this program is an overlap between selector print order requests and PDA purchases. It’s caused a slight modification of their acquisitions flow.

Speaker: Nancy Gibbs

Her library had a pilot with Ebrary. They were cautious about jumping into this, but because it was coming from their approval plan vendor, it was easier to match it up. They culled the title list of 50,000 titles down to 21,408, loaded the records, and enabled them in SFX. But, they did not advertise it at all. They gave no indication of the purchase of a book on the user end.

Within 14 days of starting the project, they had spent all $25,000 of the pilot money. Of the 347 titles purchased, 179 of the purchased titles were also owned in print, but those print only had 420 circulations. The most popularly printed book is also owned in print and has had only two circulations. The purchases leaned more towards STM, political science, and business/economics, with some humanities.

The library tech services were a bit overwhelmed by the number of records in the load. The MARC records lacked OCLC numbers, which they would need in the future. They did not remove the records after the trial ended because of other more pressing needs, but that caused frustration with the users and they do not recommend it.

They were surprised by how quickly they went through the money. If they had advertised, she thinks they may have spent the money even faster. The biggest challenge they had was culling through the list, so in the future running the list through the approval plan might save some time. They need better match routines for the title loads, because they ended up buying five books they already have in electronic format from other vendors.

Ebrary needs to refine circulation models to narrow down subject areas. YBP needs to refine some BISAC subjects, as well. Publishers need to communicate better about when books will be made available in electronic format as well as print. The library needs to revise their funding models to handle this sort of purchasing process.

They added the records to their holdings on OCLC so that they would appear in Google Scholar search results. So, even though they couldn’t loan the books through ILL, there is value in adding the holdings.

They attempted to make sure that the books in the list were not textbooks, but there could have been some, and professors might have used some of the books as supplementary course readings.

One area of concern is the potential of compromised accounts that may result in ebook pirates blowing through funds very quickly. One of the vendors in the room assured us they have safety valves for that in order to protect the publisher content. This has happened, and the vendor reset the download number to remove the fraudulent downloads from the library’s account.