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Document Delivery as Collection Development


Pål Hermod Bakka, University of Bergen Library, Norway

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The case for patron-driven acquisition of electronic books as a collection development model in an academic library. The paper is an evaluation of the 2012–2014 Ebray PDA trial project at the University Library of Bergen. The project was initiated in order to explore “patron-driven acquisition” as a document supply model for e-books based on the general observation that compared to printed books, e-books are expensive, and that circulation data universally shows that on average a quarter of the books bought by an academic library never leave the shelves. E-book acquisition using the traditional librarian-driven model of individual purchase, as well as the publisher-driven model of the subject collection, both run the risk of using money on “catalogue heroes”. The telos of the academic library is document delivery in support of learning, teaching and research. Document delivery is always “patron-driven”, regardless of whether patron demand is satisfied through the local collection or inter-library loan. The major focus of collection development is in fact to maintain the readiness of the library to meet patron needs as when they arise. While in no way denigrating the complexity inherent in maintaining the quality and diversity of an academically relevant, “deep” collection at a university library, the focus of collection development remains buying books “just in case”. The success of document delivery, on the other hand, is measured by “just-in-time”. The e-book is not inherently superior to the printed book. The direct demand is still limited; using my own student assistants as a “focus group” a third of them prefer printed books to the exclusion of e-books, a rather smaller proportion prefer e-books while the majority have no strong opinion on the matter. In terms of document delivery, however, the strength of the e-book is that it is immediately available if the library acquisition model so allows. And because an e-book never will go out print, one major consideration of traditional collection development – buying the book before it goes out print – does not arise. The analysis is based a comparison of the traditional collection development and circulation of foreign language scientific monographs with the acquisition and circulation of Ebrary PDA titles using circulation and collection development data from the BIBSYS catalogue and the Ebrary reporting system. The methodological challenge in this comparison is to find a common measure for the traditional circulation datum, books lent, and e-book usage, which can be measure din any number of ways. In terms of document delivery, the major finding is that Ebrary usage – Academic Complete as well as PDA – accounts for a substantial and growing proportion of scientific monograph circulation and has totally supplanted the use of printed compendia of book chapters on the student reading lists. In terms of collection development the quality of the titles used and acquired by way of the PDA-system in no way differs from those acquired by traditional means, measured on publishers and subject matter, except that all of them have been used by one or more patrons.

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