Tuesday, 5 March 2013

How to survive the clash between e-resources and budgets

Summary of and reactions to "Coping with Economic Issues and a Paradign Shift in Collections" by Regina Koury, chapter two of "Managing Electronic Resources: a LITA Guide" edited by Ryan O. Weir.
Given the drastic shift in library patron expectations from print to electronic resources in the past two decades, the flat-lining or decline of library collections budgets, and the accelerating increase in costs from publishers and library vendors, libraries are stuck between a rock and a couple of hard places.  There are also those that say that, with the added complexities of e-resource management, staffing needs are woefully underestimated.  Here are some suggested for weathering this perfect storm:
  1. Cancelling journals that are available through aggregators (as opposed to individual or package subscriptions, or full text purchases).
  2. Partnering with consortia.
  3. Elimination of some print journal processing procedures, such as binding and check-ins.
  4. Relying on interlibrary loan (ILL) for identified low-use titles.
  5. Developing pay-per-view (PPV) arrangements.
  6. Setting up patron-driven-acquisition (PDA) systems.
  7. Seeking to have library resources including in grant applications.
  8. Using data and systems to manage and assess the collection more effectively (e.g. CORAL, ERMes, CUFTS, or e-Matrix)
  9. Inexpensive marketing options.
My comments:
  • Although aggregator content can shift, so can allegedly more stable deal with publishers or other providers.  Journals change hands.  Platforms get upgraded.  The savings should more than cover the potential extra work in management that may have to be done regardless.  Patrons won't notice, and it's easy to defend cutting duplication to even non-library-savvy administration.
  • Although the "consortia" option is typically either open to you or not, this is advantageous to both the small to mid-sized libraries and the vendors.  The largest libraries, not so much, since they tend to be able to negotiate and manage themselves.  A little upset that this section doesn't mention OCUL or JISC in the list of sample consortia.
  • I really don't like the constant use of the term "print legacy" collections.  It simultaneously glorifies and belittles the value of print resources.
  • IMHO, the "interlibrary loan" option is just an excuse for not making the hard decisions about titles of little value.  ILL is always an option, whether the need for the title has been determined explicitly or not, so using it as justification is just avoiding the fact that the title's value has been lowered (or our bar has been set higher).  And although ILL costs would be great to use as a lower limit for evaluation subscriptions based on cost/use, I'm not sure our institution-specific data is there to be able to rely on it consistently.
  • Both PPV and PDA are great ideally, but I'm sure we know even now whether either can be managed properly.  The usual concern is the unpredictable costs involved.  The latter also raises the question of whether past use reliably predicts future use.  (I seem to recall a study that suggested that it did not, but can't remember it right now.  Anyone?)
  • I think the idea of thinking about the library in grant applications (or new course recommendations, or almost anything else the university may do) is a great idea.  An academic library IS used through the institution but I fear that costly information resources are simply taken for granted (pun not intended but appreciated nonetheless).
  • The final two points (using an ERMS and marketing, effectively and cost-effectively) seem very obvious.  Both should be part of standard electronic resource management practice in any institution.  We should always be using a "system" to manage our mass amounts of electronic resources even if such a system is not a piece of software.  And how can you expect our patrons to use our resources if they don't know about them, and, with today's social networking and communication options, I'm not sure spending more money would actually be more effective.

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