VLACRL Spring 2011: Patron-Driven Acquisitions panel

“Selectors are more fussy about the [ebook] platform than the students.” – Nancy Gibbs

Speakers from James Madison University, Duke University, and the College of William & Mary

James Madison University has done two trials of patron-driven acquisitions. The first one was mainly for print books that had been requested through interlibrary loan. If the book is a university press or new (past two years) imprint, they rush order it through an arrangement with the campus bookstore. The book arrives and is cataloged (actually, the book gets cataloged when it’s ordered, saving additional processing time) in about the same time it would take if it was coming through the ILL system, and most of these books ended up circulating frequently with renewals.

Their second trial was for ebooks through their book jobber, Coutts, and their MyiLibrary platform. They used the same parameters as their approval plan and set it up like most PDA ebook programs: drop the records in the catalog and after X number of “substantial uses” (i.e. not the table of contents, cover, etc.) the book is purchased using a deposit account fund. They excluded some publishers from the PDA process because they prefer to purchase the books on the publisher’s platform or have other arrangements (i.e. Gale or Wiley). If your library needs certain fields in the MARC record added, removed, or modified, they recommend that you have the vendor do that for you rather than touching every record locally, particularly given the volume of records involved.

The ebook PDA trial was initiated last calendar year, and they found that 75% of the ebooks purchased were used 5-19 times with an average of 14.77 per title. Surprisingly enough, they did not spend out their modest deposit account and were able to roll it over to this year. Already for 2011, they are seeing a 30% increase in purchases.

Duke University was one of the ARL libraries in the eBrary PDA pilot program. Out of the 90,000 titles offered, they culled the list down to 21,000 books published after 2006 with a $275 price per title limit. Even with that, they blew through the deposit account quickly. But, they found that the titles purchased were within the scope of what they would have collected anyway, so they added more funds to the deposit account. In the end, they purchased about 348 ebooks for $49,000 – mainly English-language titles from publishers like Wiley, Cambridge, and Oxford, and in areas like business and economics.

Other aspects of the Duke trial: They did not match up the 21,000 books with their approval plan, but used other criteria to select them. They negotiated 10 “clicks” to initiate a purchase (whatever the clicks mean). They were send approval slips for many of the titles that were purchased, but for whatever reason the selector did not choose them.

About 183 (over 50%) of the ebooks purchased were already owned in print by the library. One of their regrets is not capturing data about the time of day or day of week that the ebooks were accessed. It’s possible that the duplicates were accessed because the user was unable to access the print book for whatever reason (location, time of day, etc.). Also, two of the books purchased were already owned in electronic format in collections, but had not been cataloged individually.

Duke has also done a PDA program with interlibrary loan. The parameters are similar to JMU’s, and they are pushing OCLC to include preferred format in the ILLiad forms, as they would like to purchase ebooks if the user prefers that format.

They are also looking to do some topic-specific PDAs for new programs.

The College of William & Mary is a YBP customer for their print books, but they decided to go with Coutts’ MyiLibrary for their ebook PDA trial. This was initially the source of a great deal of frustration with de-duping records and preventing duplicate purchases. After several months and a duplication rate as much as 23%, they eventually determined that it was a time gap between when Coutts identified new titles for the PDA and when W&M sent them updates with what they had purchased in print or electronic from other sources.

In the end, they spent the $30,000 private Dean’s fund on 415 titles fairly evenly across the disciplines. About 45 titles had greater than 100 uses, and one title was used 1647 times (they think that was for a class). Despite that, they have not had to purchase a multi-user license for any title (neither has JMU), so either MyiLibrary is letting in multiple simultaneous users and not charging them, or it has not been an issue for a single user to access the titles at a time.

One thing to consider if you are looking to do patron-driven acquisitions with ebooks is the pricing. Ebooks are priced at the same rate as hardcover books, and multiple user licenses are usually 50% more. Plan to get less for the same money if you have been purchasing paperbacks.

There are pros and cons to publicizing the PDA trial during the process. In most cases, you want it to be seamless for the user, so there really isn’t much reason to tell them that they are initiating library purchases when they access the ebooks or request an interlibrary loan book. However, afterwards, it may be a good marketing tool to show how the library is working to remain relevant and spend funds on the specific needs of students/faculty.

COUNTER book reports are helpful for collection assessment, but they don’t quite match up with print use browse/circulation counts, so be careful when comparing them. Book Report 2 gives the number of successful section requests for each book, which can give you an idea of how much of the book was used, with a section being a chapter or other subdivision of a reference work.

Final thoughts: as we shift towards purchasing ebooks over print, we should be looking at revising and refining our workflow processes from selection to acquisition to assessment.

“Selectors are more fussy about the [ebook] platform than the students.” – Nancy Gibbs

VLACRL Spring 2011: Building an eReaders Collection at Duke University Libraries

They started lending ereaders because they wanted to provide a way for users to interact with new and emerging technologies.

Speaker: Nancy Gibbs

They started lending ereaders because they wanted to provide a way for users to interact with new and emerging technologies. The collection focus is on high circulation popular reading titles, and they do add patron requests. Recently, they added all of the Duke University Press titles, per the request of the university press. (Incidentally, not all of the Duke UP titles are available in Kindle format because Amazon won’t allow them to sell a book in Kindle format until it has sold 50 print copies.)

They marketed their ereader program through word of mouth, the library website, the student paper, and the communications office. The communications press release was picked up by the local newspaper. They also created a YouTube video explaining how to reserve/check-out the ereaders, and gave presentations to the teaching & learning technologists and faculty.

For the sake of consistency and availability of titles, they purchase one copy of a title for every pod of six Kindle ereaders. Amazon allows you to load and view a Kindle book on up to six devices, which is how they arrived at that number. For the Nooks, they can have a book loaded on apparently an unlimited number of devices, so they purchase only one copy of a title from Barnes & Noble. They try to have the same titles on both the Kindles and the Nooks, but not every title available for purchase on the Kindle is also available on the Nook. Each of the books purchased is cataloged individually, with the location as the device it is on, and they will appear to be checked out when the device is checked out.

When they first purchased the devices and were figuring out the local workflow of purchasing and loading the content, the tech services department (acquisitions, cataloging, etc.) were given the devices to experiment with them. In part, this was to sort out any kinks in workflow that they may discover, but also it was because these folks don’t often get the chance to play with new technology in the library as their public service counterparts do. Gibbs recommends that libraries purchase insurance options for the devices, because things can happen.

One of the frustrations with commercial ereader options like the Kindle and Nook is that they are geared towards individual users and not library use. So, unlike other ebook providers and platforms, they do not give the library any usage data regarding the books used, which can make collection development in these areas somewhat challenging. However, given that their scope is popular reading material and that they take patron requests, this is not as much of an issue as it could be.

Side note: Gibbs pointed out that ebook readers are still not yet greener than print books, mostly because of the toxicity of the materials and the amount of resources that go into producing them. EcoLibris has a great resource page with more information about this.

VLACRL Spring 2011: Clay Shirky, Fantasy Football, and the Future of Library Collections

As we shift to a demand-driven collection development approach, we will better be able to provide content at the point of need.

Speaker: Greg Raschke

Raschke started off with several assumptions about the future of library collections. These should not be a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention: The economics of our collections is not sustainable – the cost and spend has gone up over the years, but there is a ceiling to funding, so we need to lower the costs of the entire system. We’re at a tipping point where just in case no longer delivers at the point of need. We must change the way we collect, and it will be hard, but not impossible.

The old system of supply-side collection development assumes that we’re working with limited resources (i.e. print materials), so we have to buy everything just in case someone needs it 10 years down the road when the book/journal/whatever is out of print. As a result, we judge the quality of a collection by its size, rather than by its relevance to the users. All of this contributes to an inelastic demand for journals and speculative buying.

The new system of demand-driven collections views them as drivers of research and teaching. It’s not really a new concept so much as a new workflow. There’s less tolerance in investing in a low-use collection, so there is an increase in the importance of use data and modifying what we collect based on that use data. The risks of not evolving and failing to innovate can be seen in the fate of the newspapers, many of whom held onto the old systems for too long and are dying or becoming irrelevant as a result.

Demand-driven collection development can create a tension between the philosophy of librarians as custodians of scholarship and librarians as enablers of a digital environment for scholars. Some think that this type of collection development may result in lower unit costs, but the reality is that unless the traditions of tenure and promotion change, the costs of publishing scholarly works will not go down. One of the challenging/difficult aspects of demand-driven collection development is that we won’t be getting new funds to do it – we must free funds from other areas in order to invest in these new methods (i.e. local digital production and patron-driven acquisitions).

The rewards of adapting are well worth it. The more our constituencies use the library and its resources, the more vital we become. Look at your data, and then bet on the numbers. Put resources into enabling a digital environment for your scholars.

Demand-driven collection development is not just patron-driven acquisitions! It’s about becoming an advanced analyst and increasing the precision in collection development. For NCSU‘s journal review, they look at downloads, impact factors, publications by NCSU authors, publications that cite NCSU authors, and gather feedback from the community. These bibliometrics are processed through a variety of formulas to standardize them for comparison and to identify outliers.

For print resources, they pulled circulation and bibliographic information out of their ILS and dropped it into SAS to assess the use of these materials over time. It was eye-opening to see what subject areas saw circulation greater than one over 10 years from the year they were added to the collection and those that saw no circulations. As a result, they were able to identify funds that could go towards supporting other areas of the collection, and they modified the scopes of their approval profiles. [A stacked graph showing the use of their collection, such as print circulation, ejournals/books downloads, reserves, and ILL has been one of their most popular promotional tools.]

As we shift to a demand-driven collection development approach, we will better be able to provide content at the point of need. This includes incorporating more than just our local collections (i.e. adding HathiTrust and other free resources to our catalog). Look to fund patron-driven acquisitions that occur both in the ebook purchasing models and through ILL requests. Integrate electronic profiling with your approval plans so that you are not just looking at purchasing print. Consider ebook packages to lower the unit costs, and use short-term loans for ebooks as an alternative to ILL. Get content to users in the mode they want to consume it. Do less speculative buying, and move money into new areas. It is imperative that libraries/librarians collaborate with each other in digital curation, digital collections, and collective bargaining for purchases.

There are challenges, of course. You will encounter the CAVE people. Data-driven and user-driven approaches can punish niche areas, disciplinary variation, and resources without data. The applications and devices we use to interact with digital content are highly personalized, which is a challenge for standardizing access.

I asked Raschke to explain how he evaluates resources that don’t have use data, and he says he’s more likely to stop buying them. For some resources, he can look at proxy logs and whether they are being cited by authors at his institution, but otherwise there isn’t enough data beyond user feedback.