A Review of R2 Digital Library
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Louisa Verma, MLIS, Reference & Electronic Content Librarian
Huntington Memorial Hospital, Health Sciences Library


The R2 Digital Library (R2DL) is Rittenhouse Book Distributors’ platform for medical, nursing, and allied health ebook content. Content is also available in dentistry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, psychology, consumer health, chiropractic medicine, veterinary medicine and undergraduate medicine. The main library markets are hospital, academic and medical libraries. R2DL offers over 5,000 ebook titles from over 45 publishers. Key publishers include AAP, ACP, Cambridge University Press, CRC Press, Delmar Cengage Learning, Elsevier, LWW, Springer and Wiley-Blackwell. A full list of publishers is available at the R2DL website: http://www.r2library.com/Home/About.

Features & Functionality

The R2DL is accessible on any web-enabled device including tablet or smart phone. Although the screen does resize for smart phone browsers, the text is not optimized until users actually get into the content of a book and this can make searching and navigating via smart phone a bit challenging. Institutions have the option to automatically authenticate users based on IP or to require username and password access. IP authenticated access may still require users to create their own accounts for offsite access and for My R2 personalized functionality, such as saving content, bookmarking, creating reserves, etc.

A single search box at the top of R2DL allows users to search for content across all books. Users can also browse by title, discipline, author, publisher or practice area (medicine, nursing, allied health, psychology, etc.) An A-Z index provides links to topics across the collection and it allows users to filter by drug names or diseases or by practice area or discipline. The interface is easy to use, but may require some user training on filtering and search strategies. For example, MeSH index terms are searchable and hyperlinked within the text for additional ease in searching throughout the collection. Keyword terms are not highlighted in the results, which can make it difficult to locate the exact section where a searched for topic is discussed. Our users have noted that there is no back of book index, which they have found useful on other platforms.

Adjacency is the default search for multiple keyword terms. The Boolean operators AND and OR can be used to construct more complex search strategies. There is an Advanced Search option for field searching, which allows users to limit searches to the following fields: author, title, publisher, editor, ISBN and publication date range. Once a search has been run, links to images and video content, if any, appear on the left sidebar. Images can be saved to the My R2 personal account space and then downloaded from there to import into a slide presentation or article.

Once inside a book, the search interface includes the following drop downs: Browse/Search this Title, Topics and Tools. These provide users with the means to further refine searches. The Topics pull down behaves somewhat like a back of the book index and users can jump directly to a topic within the book. The Tools drop down provides added functionality to print, email, export citation, or save as a bookmark, save reference or save as course reserve.

Added Features
There is a My R2 workspace that allows users to bookmark and save content such as searches, references, course links and images. The last three searches run, whether saved or not, are also available under the My R2 workspace. The Reserve Shelf feature allows administrators to set up subsets of purchased books and also add any relevant links to external resources under a Reserve Shelf folder. The Expert Reviewer option can be set up on the admin side to allow users to recommend titles for purchase, review resource lists and create/manage reserve shelves.

Help documentation consists of a User Guide, hyperlinked at the bottom of each screen in the interface, and a link to an ASK YOUR LIBRARIAN form which sends comments to the email contact set up at the admin side. It would be nice to have video tutorials on some of the advanced functions and features of R2DL to better provide users with training, but the User Guide provides enough of the essentials to get users started. For the prospective client, there is an FAQ (also linked at the bottom of each page within R2DL or directly at http://www.r2library.com/Home/Faqs). The FAQ does a good job of answering the most relevant questions library administrators would want to ask. From within the Admin side login, under the R2 Outreach and Technical Documentation sections, there are a number of different documents for both the end user and administrator: Quick Starts, Power Point Demos, PDA and Expert Reviewer Quick Starts. Under Technical Documentation, there is information on Federated Search Integration, EZ Proxy Configuration and Trusted URL Configuration.

Additional Administrative Features
R2DL is updated regularly as new editions come out. There is a short lag time from when a publisher releases a new edition to when it appears in the R2DL collections. R2DL provides administrators a number of different tools for managing users and collections and gleaning statistical use of the system. Administrators can set up their own IP ranges, brand R2DL with institutional logo and message, manage referrers and manage users (there is also user side self setup).

Purchasing or adding a title to the institution’s PDA collection is a simple process and there is no wait time to access titles (invoices must be paid within 30 days). There are a number of ways to search and filter the collections in order to make collection decisions. Featured lists, such as Clinical Cornerstone and Nursing Noteworthy, also help to simplify selection. Titles that are Essential Doody’s Core Titles (EDCT), Doody’s Core Titles (DCT) or former Brandon Hill are denoted with logos. For EDCT/DCT titles there is a link to the Doody’s Expert Review, from within the admin side, providing additional information for collection development. MARC records can be easily exported individually or as a batch.

Usage Statistics
There are a number of different usage reports available directly from within the R2DL administrative login. In addition to COUNTER reports (BR2, BR3, BR5 and PR1), there is an Application Report that gives a quick overview of the use of R2DL as a whole. The Resource Usage report provides statistical data not provided in COUNTER such as: TOC retrievals, print and email requests, PDA views, purchased or PDA added date, content and access turnaways (access turnaways are for institutions that allow users to see TOC for non-purchased/non-PDA books). All reports are exportable into Excel spreadsheets and viewable on screen from within the system. Resource Usage reports also can be saved and set to autorun periodically to ascertain how usage changes in the context of the calendar year (e.g. before exams, etc.).

Business Model

R2DL can be licensed for an annual platform maintenance fee of $1,200 plus the cost of purchased titles. The annual fee is waived in the first year. After year one, the annual fee can be paid in a lump sum or set up to be paid monthly. Consortial pricing is also available. R2DL also provides discounted sale pricing for Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) titles a couple of times a year.

Ebooks are sold individually by one concurrent user license only. All ebooks are purchased for the life of the edition with one-time payment. When a new edition comes out, older editions of purchased titles are archived but still accessible. Archived editions that were set up as PDA will no longer be available. Be aware that if MARC records for PDA titles are imported into the catalog, workflows for catalog maintenance of archived editions will need to be thought out. Institutions can purchase titles outright, set up titles as PDA or can provide a mix of purchased and PDA titles. There is no option for short-term loans or loan to purchase. Whether or not a title has been purchased or is available as a PDA is not apparent to end users, which can pose a challenge in explaining to end users why a title is available one day and not the next.

For titles designated as PDA, there is a three-use trigger. A single use is counted as a session in which a user retrieves content beyond the table of contents. The length of the session or the amount of content retrieved are not counted as a factor in a single PDA view. Each title only allows one user at a time; for multiple users, additional copies for each title can be purchased. Purchasing a PDA title is not automatic. After the three-use trigger, a PDA title will go into the institution’s shopping cart and will no longer be available on R2DL to users. The administrator is notified when a title has been moved to the shopping cart and the institution can then decide whether or not to purchase the title. If no decision to purchase is made, the title will stay in the shopping cart for 30 days before it is automatically cleared from the cart. After 30 days, institutions can still chose to purchase the title by searching for it from the admin side of R2DL. Titles that have previously been in a institution’s PDA collection but not purchased will include the notice “Title was removed from cart after 30 days” on the admin side of the system.


Overall, the R2DL provides a comparatively low cost, low risk, customizable option for providing medical, nursing and allied health titles to users. It is probably best suited to smaller or medium-sized libraries that do not have the budget or usage to warrant purchasing larger bundled options. It also may be of interest to larger libraries for providing affordable ebook access to titles or niche collections not found on some of the bigger package platforms.

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