We’ve had the pleasure of adding several new members since the last update. So before we start, I’d like to take a brief moment to thank the seven librarians for taking the time to participate and for their very comprehensive responses. The input of the board is incredibly useful in helping Exact Editions to further our understanding of the inner workings of libraries and make development decisions accordingly.

The Board Members:

  • Rick Anderson, University of Utah
  • Bill Maltarich, New York University
  • Peter Brantley, University of California Davis
  • Megan Heady, West Virginia University
  • Wendy Walker, University of Glasgow
  • Neil Davies, Durham University
  • Angus Sinclair, Goldsmiths University of London
Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

The focus of this round of questions was effectively the purchasing process of libraries. We asked what is needed from digital resources, who is involved in the purchasing process, how it works and the desire for perpetual access.

Question One
What would you say are the most important features of a digital content provider like Exact Editions? e.g. search functions, bookmarking, integration with bibliographic software.

The board were in agreement that the foundation of any good platform is reliability and simple navigation. If users are unable to access a platform with ease, or it is confusing upon entry, or sluggish, they are likely to leave and not return. This affects usage, and in turn, renewals.

Search functionality came out as another top priority. Students are now accustomed to searching in Google-style, so platforms should be searchable by keyword and using Boolean functions. This is essential to the student experience — they want to be able to access a resource, find what they want quickly, then leave.

Finally, bibliographic integration with robust metadata was repeatedly cited as an essential characteristic of a strong platform. Librarians want to ensure that the title is available in their discovery systems, this increases its visibility and encourages usage which is an important metric for deciding renewals.

Other features of importance:— 
– Image quality (very important for magazines)
– Constant access to the table of contents during reading
– Bookmarking & Citation Data
– Annotation functionality
– Responsive formatting (on various Web, iOS and Android devices) 
– Ability to read offline and/or download articles
– Support for learners with learning difficulties (e.g. text-to-speech software)
– Counter compliant statistics
– Marc Record availability
– Remote access such as EZProxy or Shibboleth

Question Two
What is the process for purchasing a resource? Who are the key people involved and how do they interact to reach a decision?

Based on feedback, the typical structure seems to be that a Subject Department or Academic Liaison Librarian becomes interested in a resource. They have to assess its quality and its relevance to course structure (this may involve a trial). After this stage, the request will be handed to the Acquisitions/Collections team. Should the budget be tight, the Department may have to justify its decision to a Purchasing group, or effectively swap one resource for another. The Collections team will be responsible for negotiating price, terms and ultimately procuring the resource.

Many factors are considered during this process, such as; utility, relevance, sustainability, cost, licencing, discovery knowledgebase coverage, access rights and the platform’s usability.

I would also like to mention the efforts being made at the library of Goldsmiths University to diversify reading lists via their Liberate Our Library campaign, details of which can be found here: https://www.gold.ac.uk/library/about/liberate-our-library/

Question Three
Is there a dedicated, separate budget in each library for Perpetual Access purchases? Do libraries tend to focus on resources they already subscribe to?

Some libraries have a separate budget for perpetual access purchases, whereas others pay for both one-time and ongoing subscriptions out of the same budget bucket, but will monitor the expenditures separately.

Libraries will usually wait until the end of the purchasing year and if they have any spare money they will look into perpetual access, otherwise, they will stick to subscriptions. It is often used as a way to ensure the budget is used up.

The general consensus was that libraries only buy perpetual access to a journal’s backfiles after it has consolidated itself as a well-used title as a subscription. They will review usage statistics, inflation rates, overlap with other resources, and continued subject relevance to determine its validity.

The interest in perpetual access varies from library to library, with some placing an emphasis on it as it is a predictable, non-variable expense. However, others are more inclined to continue with subscriptions, either because of budget cuts or because subscriptions allow more flexibility to cancel and adapt.

This was a very useful round for Exact Editions and once again I’d like to thank the board for their time.

If you’d like to join the conversation, please do get in touch via institutions@exacteditions.com