November 21, 2017

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Collection Development: A Centralized Approach

EBSCO_CollectionDevelopment_600pxCollection development, the process of gathering and maintaining information resources for libraries has become increasingly complex, with libraries continuing to consider their blend of print volumes to e-books under shrinking budgets and a growing number of acquisition models.

Luke Swindler, collection management officer for the University of North Carolina Library, sees collection development at University libraries going in one direction. “It’s become increasingly centralized,” says Swindle. “We’re relying on algorithms and, to assess results, metrics more than ever.”

With a collection as extensive as UNC’s—there are more than 7,000,000 print volumes, 4,000,000 microforms, 1,500,000 Government documents, 2,5000,000 graphic items, and manuscript and archival holdings exceeding 25,000,000, with nearly 1,000,000,000 full-text items—it seems as if centralization would be an enormous task.

And it is. Swindler’s job managing the collections has actually expanded to include analysis, planning, management, monitoring, and assessment. This includes managing resources, implementing policies and procedures, governance, and overseeing budgets. The role also includes adopting new programs and methods of acquisitions, creating collecting prototypes by partnering with major content providers, and taking advantage of growing publisher/vendor technical capabilities.

“As more monographs become available—via approval plans, blanket or standing orders, e-books package acquisitions, DDAs, or leased subscription collections—subject specialists concentrate their selection activity on the comparatively small numbers of problematic titles, while devoting more time to engagement and instruction to faculty and students,” says Swindler.

Vendor partnerships play a crucial role in balancing these programs. Swindler says that collection development for print books continues to focus on approval and blanket order plans and standing orders supplemented with title-by-title selection. UNC has a number of approval and blanket order plans designed to acquire major books from the U.S., U.K., and Western Europe according to detailed profiles.

Plans are also in place to collect specialized categories of titles (e.g., art exhibition catalogs); or in the case of foreign countries where the book trade is not well developed or unreliable, bring in what can reasonably be acquired by having vendor agents on the ground selecting the titles. Approval and blanket order plans save not only time for the selector, but also for the technical and fiscal services staff. “In addition to bringing in relevant content, these plans sometimes include shelf-ready processing that allow the books to be placed directly into the collections and available to readers with minimal handling and delays,” says Swindler.

But UNC has also accelerated the transition to virtual collections. And this falls closely in line with findings from the recent Library Journal survey, Ebook Usage in U.S. Academic Libraries 2016. While students in academic institutions still have access to more than two and half times the number of print volumes as they do e-books, the percentage of a library’s budget allotted to e-book purchases has increased across all academic institutions since 2012. According to the survey, 9.3% of a library’s total collection budget in 2016 was spent on e-books compared to 7.4% in 2012 with the percentage expected to grow to 16.2% in 2021.

Swindler notes that as libraries acquire more e-books, their aggregate use increases; conversely, as academic libraries acquire more print books; their aggregate circulation almost invariably declines. The more e-books that are available to users, the more accustomed they are to using them, which depresses print book circulation.

Finding the right mix between print and e-books requires careful review of the growing number of e-book acquisition models. One usage-based model that UNC had adopted earlier in 2015 is demand-driven acquisition (DDA). But it’s one that comes with limitations according to Swindler.

“DDAs always excluded significant portions of publishers’ high-use/high-visibility books, beginning with ‘trade’ and course-adoption titles as well as textbooks broadly interpreted that generated large numbers of sales to individuals,” says Swindler, who adds, “They have always excluded reference works and multi-volumes sets. And, as with all categories of digital books, DDAs were never acceptable as a full substitute for art, architecture and photography titles and other categories of books with many images because the high cost of permissions typically resulted in these crucial graphics being missed. UNC has no hesitation about DDAs, beginning with the fact that it never envisioned patron-driven acquisitions as a be-all/end-all substitute for purchased or leased books—which they could never be.”

UNC balances its collection development by critical and on-going assessments of individual programs. Campus libraries experiment with new methods to acquire and deliver research collections and assess their ROI. While collection development will continue to shift to digital acquisitions, UNC uses data to assess whether acquisitions are aligning with need. “Academic libraries increasingly will rely upon growing arrays of data—e-resource usage, print circulation, ROI, internal databases, niche consortial program metrics, and broad publishing trends and expenditure patterns,” says Swindler.

He says he also hopes that collections librarians will take advantage of the ever-expanding publisher/vendor and library computer capabilities, networked resources, better possibilities for creating carefully-crafted approval profiles, a strategic use of both traditional and evidence-based DDAs (and other acquisitions programs based on behavioral analytics) and the possibilities of increasing the level of e-book purchasing. The effect will be a reduction of the time and effort subject librarians need to spend on selection—and less time required for technical services staff to acquire, process and make available collections.

“Staff time savings will continue to allow librarians to provide more valuable services and support to faculty and students in more sophisticated ways.” says Swindler, “especially in terms of evolving digitally-based knowledge-creation and knowledge-management needs.”

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