October 2, 2014

ALA Midwinter 2012: Collection Development Officers Ponder Ebooks in Research Libraries

What keeps the collection development officers at the largest research libraries awake at night?

Pricing, content, and terms, according to one segment of a wide-ranging discussion Saturday morning at the ALA Midwinter meeting. David Magier, associate university librarian for collection development at Princeton, led the meeting, prompting questions about ebook issues with potential to affect the research library’s long-term permanent access mission.

“It’s the Wild West of ebooks in terms of delivery,” said Lisa German, associate dean for collections, information and access services at Penn Sate University Libraries, voicing a sentiment echoed by many that the proliferation of platforms from individual vendors ultimately proves confusing to users.

And while large-scale ebook packages from vendors like Muse and JSTOR would normalize access to ebook offerings from a large number of university presses, other apprehensions remain, especially where parallels are seen between journal packages and aggregate ebook platforms.

Zachary Baker, associate university librarian for collection development at Stanford, put his concerns over pricing bluntly: “I don’t have however many thousands of dollars extra for Project Muse at this time–what would I take away from our selectors in order to buy that?”

Patron-Driven Acquisition (PDA) is now a regular facet of collection building on many campuses, though outstanding concerns center on budget allocations and whether to turn selection criteria for purchases entirely over to users. Collection development officer Jim Mouw of the University of Chicago, described the thought process there:

“we’re treating our PDA program as an extension of our patron request programs, using it for titles we want to alert our patrons to, but that fall outside the primary scope of our collecting. We prefer to think of this as patron-informed rather than driven. As with other similar programs titles that reach a preset level of usage are automatically purchased. ”

Ownership and licensing likewise remain contentious. Aisha Harvey described the compromise approach at Duke: frontlist needs to be owned in print because ebook preservation precautions are simply not in place. However, for backlist, where the print collection is mostly being duplicated, Harvey said she is more comfortable in leasing.

The meeting also covered shared print repositories, and consortial or collaborative activities like licensing and shared collection development initiatives.


Visit LJ’s ALA Midwinter Meeting News channel for complete coverage of the conference, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

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Josh Hadro About Josh Hadro

Josh Hadro (jhadro@mediasourceinc.com; @hadro on Twitter) is the former Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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