Associate Director for Library Resources & Administration
Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
Note: This article is based on a poster presentation at the 2013 Annual Conference of the Medical Library Association.
The rapid expansion of discovery tools, both commercial and free, raises user expectations for instant access to an ever-growing range of materials. It is becoming increasingly difficult for librarians to predict and acquire in advance what users may want. Our library has implemented several complementary on-demand services to improve access and user satisfaction, while staying within our budget.
Publisher Facilitated Article Pay-Per-View
Through this service we facilitate instant access to a large number of journals, but pay only for articles actually downloaded. A user connects to an article through our journal locator or link resolver, as if we had a subscription. For each article download, the library is charged one “token,” purchased in advance for a flat rate. If use of a journal significantly exceeds the cost of subscribing a subscription is triggered, but we have never met this threshold. We also maintain subscriptions to core journals. Overall spending for content is lower than subscriptions alone, since some journals are used regularly but lightly. We use the Wiley “Article Select Tokens” program, but other vendors offer some version of pay-per-view, such as ScienceDirect, IngentaConnect, and Copyright Clearance Center’s “Get It Now.” Typically, access can be mediated or unmediated by the library.
Demand Driven Acquisitions (DDA) for ebooks
An analysis of our circulation statistics for a recent sample year found that 66% of the 8,145 print book titles purchased that year were never checked out, and 21% were checked out only once. Publisher ebook “bundles” increase our concerns about buying content our users will never need, but interlibrary loan is typically impossible for ebooks. To address this issue, we implemented demand-driven acquisitions (DDA), aka patron driven acquisitions. DDA eligible ebooks are identified by our book jobber, YBP, using our existing selection profile, with a price cap. Approximately one-third of our profiled titles are available via DDA. We can also manually add DDA titles. We add MARC records to our catalog weekly, and users have instant access. If a title is never used, we pay nothing. We save more by paying for “short term loans” for the first three uses, typically at 10-20% of list price. A fourth use triggers a purchase at list price. Coupled with selective ebook firm orders and two affordable subscription ebook packages, DDA has reduced our book expenditures substantially while increasing the number of titles available instantly. Ebsco, ebrary/EBL (ProQuest), and JSTOR all offer DDA directly or through YBP, as do an increasing number of publishers. There are also experiments with group DDA, so it’s important to check with your consortium, if you belong to one.
Direct Article Pay-per-View Charged to Library
The few faculty using a few extremely high cost-per-use journals insisted they needed 24/7 instant access. We didn’t want to discriminate against users needing high cost information, so in lieu of maintaining subscriptions, we provide instant, unmediated access. If the library does not have a subscription, selected faculty are authorized to charge article downloads from any publisher website, without mediation, to a library credit card (via an internal authorization system). Cost per article has ranged from $25 to $50. Actual use has been much less than we budgeted, as the service is used by only a few researchers working in highly specialized areas. We promote use of our increasingly fast interlibrary loan service when instant access is not necessary, and most faculty choose interlibrary loan.
Getting Started at Your Library
These strategies have worked well in expanding access and holding down costs for our library. Initially we were worried that the unmediated user-triggered purchases might cause runaway costs beyond our control, but instead costs have significantly decreased. To test the effectiveness at your own institution while minimizing risk, you might consider implementing services on either a mediated basis, or running a pilot with a fixed budgeted amount. This would allow your library to monitor and control the costs incurred while testing the local demand.