'Efficiency is the buzzword for libraries today'

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Victoria Suslak explores the various choices that libraries have when acquiring content 

It is April in New England, and the tease of warmer days to come is apparent in the sprouting tulips, crocuses, and daffodils. Contemplating my garden, I reflect upon what will reemerge from last year and what I will need to plant. As I envision the design of my garden and how it will grow, my thoughts drift to the realm of librarianship and collection development, and the striking parallels between growing a garden and cultivating a collection.

Librarians face the same challenges when building an e-book collection that will serve the needs of their patrons and researchers — how will I use this space? What will form my foundation, and what can I sprinkle in to add some interest? How can I manage it? Most importantly, how can I do this as successfully and as efficiently as possible?

The different types of e-book acquisition models vary greatly and are ever evolving. And herein lies the challenge. Librarians must have clear visibility into all the e-book acquisition options that are available to them to optimally support user needs. Which methods are best for providing broad access to e-book content to readily support course reserves, for example, and which methods are best for faculty and student requests? Librarians must be able to build a collection that aligns with their budgets and collection development strategies, while leveraging a mix of acquisition models in the process.

There are several acquisition models that librarians can consider when building an e-book collection. These options include models that allow for broad access to e-book content, such as publisher-platform eCollections and eSeries, as well as eApproval plans. Approval plans in general enable librarians to create a precise profile of criteria for titles that match their collection development goals, and any matching titles can be either automatically delivered to the library or sent to the library as a notification, allowing librarians to review matching titles before making a final purchasing decision. eApproval plans can be e-only, in which case only matching e-books are sent; or they can be e-preferred, in which case a notification or delivery of a matching print book would occur for instances where there is no matching e-book. Library staff can also acquire titles on a title-by-title basis to fulfill specific requests that may come in from faculty or researchers, or they can utilise data- or usage-driven models such as Demand-Driven Acquisition (DDA), which leverages approval outputs to create a pool of available content, and Evidence-Based Acquisition (EBA) to align acquisition with demand and specific usage patterns.

In addition, due to the growing emphasis on open access, librarians need to be equipped to explore open access e-books in the same place where they’re selecting and acquiring their e-books. By having the ability to view both traditional and open access e-books in one environment, librarians can gain a comprehensive view of the e-book acquisition options available and make the right acquisitions decisions for their needs and their budget.

Librarians can achieve greater efficiency and time savings in the selection and ordering process by using a combination of acquisitions models. Having a single platform that offers a variety of acquisition models allows librarians to gain a better understanding of their options and make informed decisions when building their collections. This centralised approach also provides benefits beyond the ordering process, such as consolidated invoicing and customer service, and deduplication control across all models and formats, which can quickly become unwieldy when dealing with multiple vendors or suppliers. By having these efficiencies in place, library staff can have more time to tackle other responsibilities in the library, as well as explore new models and approaches.

To ensure that the content they acquire or make available to patrons and researchers is suitable, librarians require more than just a range of options; they need guidance and support from expert librarians to make informed decisions. With tens of thousands of academic titles from thousands of publishers and imprints published annually, librarians cannot possibly remain up to date on every pertinent title. Fortunately, they can access various resources for recommendations on the most trustworthy, relevant, and highest quality titles, whether it’s through setting up approval plans or notifications, or by leveraging curated selection lists created by fellow librarians. These selection lists include titles that cover key topics and support initiatives that align with the library’s collection development goals and strategies, for example, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. As library staff job roles continue to evolve and expand, they need to be able to leverage collection support services they know they can trust.

Taking a step back and thinking back to our garden, we need to consider the wider ecosystem at play. The concept of choice extends past the selection and acquisition stage of the workflow. Librarians deserve the freedom to use the Integrated Library System (ILS) or Library Services Platform (LSP) of their choice, the discovery software of their choice, the reading list software of their choice, and to know that integrations exist for them to build their own, customised workflow. Helping preserve that choice for librarians is truly a universal benefit, helping all those involved in the library ecosystem build and grow their collections into something unique and into something that will serve their patrons now and for years to come.