To stay robust and relevant, academic libraries may need to abandon hands-on collection development and big deal subscription packages in favor of patron-driven acquisitions (PDA), open access, and curation of campus specialties.
College & Research Libraries released a pre-print of From Stacks to the Web: the Transformation of Academic Library Collecting by David W. Lewis, dean of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) University Library.
Lewis predicts that the academic library world will radically restructure itself in the next eight years. He forecasts that by 2020, effectively all content delivery will have become digital (with print on demand for the few paper diehards). Academic libraries will pack up their open stacks into a few centralized print depositories for preservation and loans. Open access will be the dominant model for journals, many university presses will have gone under, and the rest will have reorganized into broader units that include libraries.
These coming changes, Lewis argues, require a transformation of how academic libraries collect. They will need to reduce print collections of material available digitally and move from an item-by-item book selection model to patron driven acquisitions and subscriptions. “The most important attribute of digital content from a collections stand point is that you don’t have to own an item before a user wants it,” the abstract said.
Though IUPUI is not currently using patron-driven acquisitions, Lewis told LJ it participated in a consortium to do so several years ago, and said, “I am convinced it will be either cheaper or deliver more use or both” once the model is more worked out. “The key to success will be to develop an understanding of demand and how to control costs,” Lewis said. “It is not clear whether you are better off using this model primarily to buy portions of the long tail, or to purchase core items. Publishers … are going to have to adapt to the new reality that libraries are going to find ways to purchase only what their users really need and that will mean lower sales.”
Lewis’s paper also calls for libraries to continue to support the open access model and restrain, if not reduce, spending on subscription journals. Especially, he said, they should abandon the “big deal” subscription package. “Our general strategy with journals is to try to maintain, but not increase, the dollars we allocate for journal purchases. This of course reduces the amount of purchased subscription content we acquire, but it has not been all that difficult. Faculty understand that prices are out of control, and while they don’t enjoy it, they are prepared to make cuts when required,” said Lewis.
Both for books and for journals, “building collections of published materials will decline in significance,” the abstract continues. By 2025 libraries’ collection development might decline by as much as half, to be replaced by curating unique, primarily digital content produced on, or of special interest to, the campus.
Lewis gave LJ an example of such curation on his own campus. “The IUPUI University Library has a special concern for philanthropy. This supports a unique campus center, the IU Center on Philanthropy,” he said, “The library has a print library on the topic and very strong special collections. We have a variety of electronic resources.”
Finally, he says the academic library world must develop new mechanisms to fund national infrastructure, as these web-scale enterprises take on an increasing role in preserving and providing the content that is not unique to a particular campus.