April 17, 2018


eCollections Management: A Case for Vendor Support

By Edith Falk, library school lecturer, academic library consultant, and former chief librarian of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

eCollections_image2After the massive replacement of print journals by ejournals and the introduction of packages that included the whole range of journals from select publishers (now known as the Big Deal), the age of e-books dawned on libraries. From there came an interest in applying a similar approach to the purchase of e-book packages or eCollections.

According to a 2016 Library Journal survey, “e-books accounted for 12% of the acquisition budget, a sizeable increase over 2012 when the estimated e-book spending accounted for 9.6% of that year’s total acquisition budget.” (Library Journal, 2016). Additionally, a survey published by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2014 reported that over half of book acquisitions of academic libraries were in eformat in 2012.

As interest from academic libraries—historically the main buyers of scholarly monographs—grew, publishers quickly tried to duplicate the success they found with ejournals and offered not only their new publications, but also most of their archives in a digitized format.

However, the economic recession and the constraints of the multi-year “big deals” with publishers such as Elsevier, Springer and Wiley left most academic libraries with few financial resources for the acquisition of e-books. Anxious to remain up to date and provide their patrons with the trendy and convenient new product, librarians looked for the most affordable solutions for the purchase and maintenance of their e-book collections.

But, unlike acquiring print titles, with e-books librarians have to consider not only the traditional criteria of content and demand, but also licenses, business models, platforms and interfaces. They also have to consider the fact that the relationship with the provider doesn’t terminate with the arrival of the book, it continues as long as the book stays in the library collection.

Using Vendors for the Acquisition of eCollections

Researchers report that the most popular e-book business model among acquisition librarians is purchase with perpetual access. (Vassileiou et al. (2012a), Maceviciute et al., 2014). The ownership model is the most similar to the purchase of a printed book. The historical benefits of using a vendor for the purchase of e-books are well known and include consolidation of ordering and invoicing, personalized customer service and support, and often discounts. These advantages extend beyond the purchase of single titles of e-books.

In spite of their preferences for the one-by-one selection and purchase of e-books, librarians are often tempted by the offers of publishers’ eCollections; the cost is considerably lower and the acquisition process much easier. The deal is generally made directly with the publisher, and each library commits to dealing separately with each publisher—from the negotiating to the licensing, cataloging and the activation of the collection. The advantages of going through a vendor are lost and an added burden is put on the library technical services.

However, some libraries choose to go through a vendor when purchasing an eCollection from a publisher, enjoying the financial advantages of the package and the time, as well as labor saving services provided by the vendor, such as aggregated information about each item, duplication control, ILS synchronization and customized MARC records. And of course, the same title-by-title advantages still apply, including the one-stop acquisition process and the personalized service adapted to the profile of each library.

Aggregated Information and Duplication Control

One of the main advantages of using a vendor for ordering single titles and eCollections from publishers or aggregators is the easy duplication control at the acquisition stage regardless of format or acquisition method, before the cataloging of the items in each package.

Carreno and Maltarich from New York University wrote: “we reasoned that making information about our e-book purchasing centrally visible in the vendor’s web-based acquisition tool, GOBI, was the primary way to avoid duplicate e-book purchases. Involving GOBI Library Solutions [formerly YBP Library Services] in pre-purchase package negotiations and in the acquisition of large packages of backlist electronic books, or, alternately, including them post-purchase through holdings loads in their system, we could ensure that selectors have up-to-date information regarding our purchases at the time of selection decisions.” (Carreno and Maltarich, 2013).

Including the list of titles in a publisher’s package in the central database of a vendor is an excellent way to control the acquisition of packages and avoid duplication.

The integration of the list of items in an eCollection within the book vendor’s database also offers the librarian the opportunity to choose the best and most economical way to acquire a specific item—buying as part of a collection or as a single item, choosing the preferred platform or e-book provider, buying from the publisher or a content aggregator and selecting a purchase or a subscription model.

ILS Synchronization and Customized MARC Records

On the 2013 ALCTS eforum on e-book acquisition, most participants stated that the primary access point for e-book discovery is the catalog and that “discovery may be problematic for subscription package titles that are not added to the catalog, although access is provided via other e-resource services.” (eBook Acquisitions, 2013).

Most libraries strive to include a MARC record in their catalog for each title in the eCollection they subscribe to or purchase. Most eCollections today provide MARC records that are batch loaded into the catalog of the library. However, those records must be customized before their inclusion into the library catalog. A vendor can hold a profile for each one of his customers and promptly provide customized records. Most vendors provide an API that allows a simple integration of the MARC records into the library catalog, providing easy access to the newly acquired resource.


The acquisition of e-books by libraries remains a complicated process, constantly changing as publishers and aggregators strive to offer a wide mix of acquisition models to their clients. More and more eCollections are being offered by publishers attempting to capitalize on their existing and new content while acquisition librarians and catalogers take on multiple tasks in order to deal with the enormous quantity of items that they have to integrate into their library collection.

By purchasing eCollections through vendors rather than directly from publishers, libraries benefit from the support and various technical services vendors provide: access to aggregated and updated information in a modern database in which their orders in any format are included; easy and precise duplication control and a streamlined workflow for collection development librarians; online ordering with access to data that enables acquisition librarians to make better financial decisions; integration of newly acquired eCollections within the library’s ILS; as well as customized MARC records. These services contribute to the streamlining of acquisition and technical services workflows, thus freeing staff time for the development of new, smart services for library patrons.


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