Collection Management Strategies for a New Research University Library

This post is the first of three installments of an interview with Jim Dooley, Head, Collection Services at the University of California, Merced on June 13, 2012. The interview was conducted by Matt Connor, Instruction/Reference Librarian at the University of California, Davis as research for a book he wrote that was recently published by ALA Editions: The New University Library: Four Case Studies. The remaining two installments will cover print and electronic books and Interlibrary Loan.

Founded in 2002, the University of California, Merced (UC Merced) is the first new University of California campus in 40 years and the first American research university of the 21st century. Since opening in 2005, UC Merced has grown in enrollment to over 6,200 students, including more than 350 graduate students.

Jim Dooley has been the Head, Collection Services at UC Merced since 2003. Prior to coming to UC Merced, he served in various capacities in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah for ten years. He has published in Against the Grain and presented at the Charleston Conference for many years. In 2012 he was elected chair of the ALCTS Acquisitions Section and currently serves on the ALCTS Budget and Finance Committee.

Matt: We could start with you giving me an overview of the innovations in the collection development practices here at UC Merced. Maybe that’s a place to start.

Jim: Well, this is an interesting question, and part of this is simply historical because of the way we developed. When I got to UC Merced in 2003 which was two years before the campus opened and began to engage [University Librarian] Bruce Miller with collection building questions, there were a couple of things that we determined pretty early on. We both decided that we’d already reached a tipping point in journals, that it did not make sense for us to be collecting print serials. And so we made a very conscious decision that we were only going to collect electronic serials except in those cases that we thought would become rarer and rarer as life went on, where we had specific faculty requests and the journal was only available in print. We would not refuse requests. So, that’s one bedrock thing we started out with. The result is at this point we have access to over 60,000 online journals. We have literally a dozen print journals. And if any of those dozen go online, I will cancel the print immediately. So, that was one decision that we made, and the faculty have accepted it. We have not had complaints from faculty that we don’t have miles and miles of stacks of bound journals.

Matt: This would seem to reverse the paradigm of the high-level researcher browsing through their print journal. Without having the journals in front of them, they don’t seem to miss it.

Jim: They don’t. Or at least they haven’t. It tends to be somewhat discipline-specific in that I think that all of our dozen print journals are in the humanities. None of our science faculty are interested in print at all that we can determine. The requests for print journals have come unanimously from humanities faculty. And we’re starting to see the same sort of division in terms of book requests. I do want to say at the very beginning that none of us set out with the goal of having an all-electronic library. We are simply saying that we are responding legitimately to the directions for scholarly communication. And I see us as being more and more in all ways electronic.

Matt: Getting back to numbers. I guess for the electronic journal collection, a certain amount is taken up with the Tier 1 subscriptions that are general for all the UCs, and then a certain amount for the Tier 2 subscriptions which are specific for subsets of campuses. So, what fraction of the electronic collection is Merced specific where it is ordered outside the packages?

Jim: As a matter of policy, we have participated from the beginning in financially supporting the acquisition of all electronic resources centrally licensed for all ten UC campuses—what we call Tier 1 resources—even if we had no immediate need for the content. We’ve done this to help build a unified UC digital collection. We also participate in acquiring electronic resources licensed by a subset of UC campuses that directly support teaching and research at UC Merced—so-called Tier 2 resources. In terms of locally licensed journals, I can give you a couple of ballpark numbers. As I said, we have access to over 60,000 centrally acquired electronic journals. Those are both licensed and free. The freely available are primarily journals that are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Both licensed and freely available journals are catalogued by the UC Shared Cataloging Program that distributes bibliographic records to all the UC campus libraries. We have local subscriptions to probably about 130 electronic journals that we have subscribed to because they’re not available through a system-wide license for a variety of reasons and because faculty request them. So, we’ve gone from 60,000 to 130. In general terms, I will always favor being part of a systemwide subscription license to journals rather than going it alone. We pay less than list price which is what I have to pay if I go it alone. Also, if it is licensed centrally by the California Digital Library (CDL), then access is managed centrally by CDL instead of my tracking down the publisher.

Matt: That would be a significant hassle.

Jim: And I don’t have the staff to do that. So, it makes it much more useful all the way around to be in on a systemwide license. From the perspective of UC Merced as a start up with a very small staff, for anything that CDL will do for me I’m very appreciative and thankful.

Matt: Maybe this would be a good time to talk about issues of packaging. It seems like we’re getting savings with these large packages of journals that are put out by vendors. But on the other hand, we ended up paying for a certain amount of content that we don’t really need. And on a finer level, this seems like it affects mostly smaller schools rather than larger where the larger have such a huge audiences they can find uses for everything that might be included in a package, but a smaller place might have more specific needs where more of the content ends up being unused. Have you seen anything like that?

Jim: This is an issue that the University of California Collection Development Committee (CDC) has been grappling with for several years. I would say it really hit us from about the time the university began to experience severe budget cuts a couple of years ago. There are a wide variety of reasons why packages make sense. There’s a really low per unit cost if you factor the whole thing out. There’s one license not ten. So, from the publisher’s perspective there are economies of scale. From the campuses’ perspective, it saves work. The fact that we do have the Shared Cataloging Program which provides MARC records for Tier 1s [electronic resources acquired by all ten UC campuses] and Tier 2s [more specialized electronic resources acquired by a subset of UC campuses] means there’s significant economies of scale for technical services. So, there are all of these reasons why packages are good. Where we get between the rock and the hard place is if we simply do not have the money to pay for the package. Then the pressures are really strong either to break the package or license only those journals individually that there is a specific need for, or else to try to negotiate the price down. The publisher response in many cases as we have seen the last several years is to then cut a much higher proportion of the content out of the package in order to achieve a relatively small price decrease. In this case, their strategy seems to be to make it so painful for the library that the libraries will simply give up and pay.

The UC libraries over the last several years have been very hard-nosed. We have broken one package completely, and we have accepted significant percentage cuts to other packages in order to achieve some level of cost containment. So, I can understand on the individual campus level why a selector librarian would say that we are paying for unnecessary or unwanted or unused content. I think if you look at the larger picture, there are some reasons for subscribing to packages that are still valid.


Call for Papers: Collection Management & Development Research Forum

Call for Papers
The Fifth Annual Collection Management & Development Research Forum
ALA Annual 2014

The Publications Committee of the Collection Management Section of ALCTS is sponsoring the Fifth Annual Collection Management & Development Research Forum (formerly known as the  Emerging Research in Collection Management & Development Forum) at the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

This is an opportunity to present and discuss your research.  Both completed research and research in progress will be considered.  All researchers, including collection practitioners from all types of libraries, library school faculty and students, and other interested individuals, are encouraged to submit a proposal.

The Committee will use a “blind review” process to select two projects.  The selected researchers are required to present their papers in person at the forum.  Each researcher should plan for a 25-30 minute presentation, with a 10-15 minute open discussion following each presentation.    Criteria for selection are:
Significance of the study for improving collection management and development practices
Potential for research to fill a gap in collections scholarship or to build on previous studies
Quality and creativity of the methodology
Previously published research or research accepted for publication prior to January 15, 2014, will not be accepted.

The submission must consist of no more than two pages.  On the first page, please list your name(s), title(s), institutional affiliation(s), and contact information (including your mailing address, telephone number, fax number, and email address).  The second page should be a one-page proposal, and it should NOT show your name or any personal information.  Instead, it must include only:
The title of your project
A clear statement of the research problem
A description of the research methodology used
Results of the project, if any
The deadline for proposals is January 15, 2014.

Notification of acceptance will be made by February 15, 2014.

ALCTS, in its bylaws, claims the right of first refusal for publication of any work emanating from an ALCTS body or program.

Researcher Networking and Profile Systems: Library Collections and Liaison Opportunities

For those attending ALA Midwinter, we hope you can join us for a  scholarly communication session co-sponsored by ALCTS Collection Management Section and ACRL Science & Technology Section.

Title: Researcher Networking and Profile Systems: Library Collections and Liaison Opportunities
Date:  Sunday, January 26, 2014
Time: 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Location:  Pennsylvania Convention Center – Room 121 B

Abstract: Researcher networking and profile systems such as VIVO, Symplectic Elements, Elsevier’s SciVal Experts, and Harvard Catalyst Profiles present interesting opportunities for libraries as they continue to address the evolving information needs of their constituents. Such systems might offer librarians and libraries opportunities for extensive new engagement with campus research environments, including: increased participation in team-based research projects and further development of born-digital collections of scholarly materials through the leveraging of existing library collections and campus academic support infrastructures. Speakers will discuss their experience working with (and in some cases developing) profile systems at their institutions, addressing library-related benefits and challenges associated with their implementation.


Paolo Mangiafico, Coordinator of Scholarly Communication Technologies, Duke University Libraries

In a former role as Director of Digital Information Strategy in the Office of the Provost at Duke, he co-chaired the Provost-appointed Digital Futures Task Force, which developed an open access policy for Duke faculty scholarship (adopted by the Duke Academic Council in 2010) and a set of recommendations for developing better infrastructure and support for management, publication, and archiving of research data. He is now working with librarians, technologists, and faculty to implement these, and serves on both management and implementation teams of the Library’s open access and digital repository projects and the University’s VIVO-based faculty data system. Paolo has been a fellow in the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke, led an early digital library project called The Digital Scriptorium and Duke Libraries’ Web Services and Research & Development groups, and has served as a consultant for universities, university presses, and government agencies, as well as a lecturer in information science. He recently completed a term as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Durham County Library system. His current work focuses on how new technologies can be adapted to further the knowledge-sharing mission of research universities, and the intersection between social, economic, and technical systems.

Griffin M Weber, MD, PhD

Dr. Griffin Weber is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and the Chief Technology Officer of Harvard Medical School and Director of the Biomedical Research Informatics Core at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. His research is in the area of expertise mining and social network analysis. He invented Harvard Catalyst Profiles, which is an open source website that creates research profiles for an institution’s faculty, and links these together through both Passive Networks, which are automatically generated based on information known about investigators, and Active Networks, which users themselves create by indicating their relationships to other researchers. These networks have numerous applications, ranging from finding individual collaborators and mentors to understanding the dynamics of an entire research community. Dr. Weber is also an investigator on Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside (i2b2), an NIH National Center for Biomedical Computing, for which he developed a web-based open source platform that enables query and analysis of large clinical repositories. Dr. Weber received an MD degree and a PhD in computer science from Harvard University and has worked on numerous biomedical informatics projects, such as analyzing DNA microarrays, modeling the growth of breast cancer tumors, developing algorithms to predict life expectancy, and building a medical education web portal.

Steve Adams, Life Sciences Librarian, Northwestern University

Steven M. Adams is currently the Life Sciences Librarian at Northwestern University (NU). In this position, he is responsible for doing collection development, instruction, outreach, and reference to several departments in the biological, behavioral, and environmental sciences. He is currently coordinating the reference management training workshops for Northwestern, leading an initiative to promote cooperative collection development, and working on several initiatives related to instruction and outreach. His current research interests include developing new roles for science librarians, modernizing outreach and instructional services in academic libraries, scholarly communication, and research networking tools. Previously, Steven was the Biological and Life Sciences Librarian (2003-2011) and Interim Psychology Librarian (2007-2011) at Princeton University. His Princeton projects included developing Princeton’s implementation of the LibX toolbar, starting Princeton’s first library blog for departmental outreach, designing and executing several successful curriculum-integrated instruction initiatives. Steven received a B.A in Biology in 1998 and an M.L.S. in 2000 from Clark Atlanta University, and a certificate in Instructional Design from Langevin Learning Services.

The Scholarly Clampdown

The hubbub started two weeks ago (6 December) via the blogsphere and twitter and grew into articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post. The scholarly publisher, Elsevier, had asked to remove final version editions of Elsevier publisher articles posted by scholarly authors to the social media site. In the ensuing backlash, Elsevier released a statement about why the takedown notices were issued, reiterating that takedown notification was an ongoing practice, and providing alternatives for scholars to use for posting articles such as utilizing the final author draft pre-print copy. In the various social media venues where this action was debated and discussed, one statement was made again and again, that the takedowns from ™ were probably just the beginning of takedown notification. Indeed, this week, the University of Calgary received a takedown notification for Elsevier content posted within their domain. Following this announcement, TechCrunch (TC) noted on 19 December that takedown notifications had now been sent to start-ups, Harvard, and individual researchers. Peter Suber followed up on this post by TC with a Google+ posting giving further information regarded the notifications sent to Harvard. In response to these notifications, the full legality of the takedown notifications has been called into question.  As noted by Mike Carroll, Washington College of Law, on the LIBLICENSE  discussion list:

“in the United States, you can’t transfer the exclusive rights under
copyright without signing a written agreement to that effect.  In the
absence of a signed writing, the author retains the exclusive rights and
the publisher is said to have been granted an implied non-exclusive
license to publish.  In the absence of a signed writing, a publisher that
asserts that it owns the copyright in a misleading copyright notice is
itself legally problematic.”

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) sent a memorandum out to the ARL Directors and this email in turn has been distributed out to ALA-ALCTS leaders. Here is a paraphrase from the ARL memorandum:

–Takedown notices are being sent to the designated DMCA agents at universities accompanied by spreadsheets of the articles that Elsevier claims are infringing. It is recommended that librarians communicate with your campus DMCA agent regarding these notices. Copyright should be respected when the claim of rightsholder is clear, but articles do not need to be removed if the author did not sign a copyright transfer agreement. In the case of these DMCA takedown notices, Elsevier bears the burden of proof that there is a signed agreement by the author(s) of the article transferring their rights to the publisher.–

The question of whether the copyright transfer agreements are really in place for all the takedowns being requested is a very real one.  Academic institutions are not involved in copyright transfer agreements and whether an agreement was signed or not was left up to the authors. In addition, academic institutions do not make any effort to centrally warehouse these agreements as a common practice. Authors often forget to sign these documents or refuse to sign them but see their work published nonetheless. In many cases, authors signed the agreement but did not keep it or forgot about performing that step when submitting their articles. Librarians have realized that this is a very opportune moment to educate faculty on what it means to sign a copyright transfer agreements, suggest alternatives to publishing with Elsevier, as well as capturing their research within library repositories. One response to the takedown notifications has been that librarians are developing online  messages such as this web site from Canadian Academic Research Libraries (CARL).

Lastly, in a comments exchange by Stevan Harnad with Tom Reller on the Elsevier web site, one practice is agreed upon:

December 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Stevan Harnad: Tom, I wonder if it would be possible to drop the double-talk and answer a simple question: Do or do not Elsevier authors retain the right to make their peer-reviewed final drafts on their own institutional websites immediately, with no embargo? Just a Yes or No, please… Stevan
December 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm
Tom Reller: Hello Dr. Harnad. I don’t agree with your characterization of our explanation here, but nevertheless as requested, there is a simple answer to your question – yes. Thank you.
December 20, 2013
Stevan Harnad: Tom, thank you. Then I suggest that the institutions of Elsevier authors ignore the Elsevier take-down notices (and also adopt an immediate-deposit mandate that is immune to all publisher take-down notices by requiring immediate deposit, whether or not access to the immediate-deposit is made immediately OA)… Stevan “


#ICanHazPDF vs. #ICanHazLibrary: Where Librarians Need to Rise to the Occasion

At the end of last week, a blog post by  Alex Bond, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, on the blog: The Lab and Field caught quite a bit of attention on Twitter.  The blog post is entitled: “How #icanhazpdf can hurt our academic libraries.” The post describes a twitter stream based on this hash-tagged phrase where researchers, academics, students, and other interested parties basically ask one another to share PDFs of articles to which the originator of the post does not have access but hopes to gain free access via someone who does have access to the content. Librarians jumped to attention and re-tweeted the blog post throughout the next couple of days pointing out that Inter-Library Lending (ILL) through libraries could also supply PDFs or articles for free. Some researchers countered that ILL takes too long (up to two weeks still at many institutions) and is still delivered at many institutions in print form as opposed to sending an electronic file to the requestor. In some cases, the researcher/academic wrote they were invited to come into the library to find the content they needed but either couldn’t because of time constraints placed on their research or due to wanting to access content when libraries were closed and unavailable. For a sense of the growing use and development of #icanhazpdf, I recommend the blog post by Jean Lui at AltMetrics entitled: Interactions: the Numbers behind #IcanHazPDF.

In the information glut society in which we now reside, librarians have opportunities to expand services and provide more content at the point of need. First, we need to insure that all open access content is made readily available through our discovery systems, include all OA articles and do not “not include” resources within our library catalogs/discovery systems because they do not represent a complete journal issue or journal run. There are times when access does trump ownership and open access content is one specific situation we can readily remedy by providing broader access through our current systems. Secondly, we need to explore how to provide context sensitive content delivery when possible and make it happen. This means document delivery. Build into your service and/or collection budget a fund for rapid supply of article delivery to the desktops of faculty and graduate students. It has to be article delivery that is useful to the end-user, it cannot just be a PDF that can only be used for a short period of time or not printed-out. It has to be full on article delivery to the end-user. There are service providers, some from within our very own community, who can make this happen. This type of service may in fact, be more important than the addition of more journals or journal packages. Lastly, establish a 24 hour article delivery option of print resources to faculty and graduate students by offering to scan and deliver to desktops, content that reside within your stacks or storage facility. It is worth the staff time and resource commitment to do this as this type of service will be greatly lauded by faculty and researchers on campus.

Librarians cannot fully compete with Twitter but we can improve both access and availability to the content we’ve collected and the content our end-users demand.


Market Efficiency, or, Arguing with Rick

Let’s have a little argument with Rick Anderson. His recent article from Ithaka S+R makes a lot of good points. The primary thesis is that libraries should concentrate on building up their special collections (non-commodity collections, he calls them) because that is what makes each library unique and building these collections will also result in the preservation of the widest possible selection of our intellectual record. I don’t argue with that. No sense in libraries all developing the same collection of commercially published products.

The backstory of Anderson’s thesis, however, (the backstory of all Rick’s articles) is that we live in an information-rich environment (check) and that (commodity) library collections are of declining value because so much of the information they might contain is more cheaply and readily available elsewhere. BONK!

Anderson says:

Today’s more efficient online marketplace features much lower prices and much lower barriers to personal collection-building, a pervasive full-text searching capability that makes traditional cataloging less obviously necessary, and widely distributed storage and access points that undermine traditional approaches to preservation and curation. (p. 3)

Some elements of that are partly true. There is a tremendous growth in full-text searching capabilities (“pervasive,” I don’t know), the Internet generally offers many storage and access possibilities that did not exist before, and the cost of some things is lowered by the 1000-pound-gorilla-ness of Amazon e-book pricing. But here’s my point: only a fraction of the scholarly communication record is affected by these factors.

Anderson suggests (p. 2) that because it is more possible (technologically) for scholars to share articles with one another, the need for such materials to be held and distributed by libraries is diminished. Clearly, it is faster and easier for scholars to share articles with one another today than it was 40 years ago, but there is no evidence I have seen in the literature that says this amounts to a majority of uses of scholarly articles or that this kind of sharing is responsible for a decline in library access. In fact, presumably scholars could by-pass use of the library copy in only three situations: for articles they wrote themselves (easily shared with others), for articles from journals for which they hold a personal subscription (easily accomplished but of dubious copyright and ethical status), or for articles that are freely available in an open repository (the sense of sharing in that case is not quite an accurate representation). It is implausible, in the first instance, that EVERY use of a scholarly article would be mediated by the author of the article. If that were true, the need for scholarly journals would cease to exist altogether. In truth, a great deal of sharing within the scholar community is accomplished, I would suggest, from downloading PDF files from library holdings. Obviously, the open access movement plays a significant role in the enhanced sharing of publications outside the commodity environment, but does anyone believe this is now the primary way scholars share information? The continued promotion/tenure scramble to be published in “top-tier” journals suggests otherwise.

The idea of lower cost and lower barriers to personal collection-building being the drivers of diminished library use (or at least relevance) certainly warrants study, but I don’t think it has been demonstrated and I doubt it would hold up under careful analysis. Do scholars today personally buy a greater percentage of the resources they use compared with scholars of the past? Perhaps marginally. Are scholars acting as intelligent consumers in the scholarly communication marketplace, finding the lowest price in all instances? Doubtful. At any rate, if they were behaving in that way, a free library copy would always be the best option. Interlibrary loan anyone?

The cost of almost all scholarly publications have, in fact, continued to go up relentlessly. Journal subscription prices outstrip the CPI every year. Even purchase-by-the-article services tend to run in the $25 to $50 range per article. Scholarly monographs are rarely cheaper than $50 per title. The existence of efficient distribution channels and digital options have not changed that very much. As an example, here are a couple of items my acquisitions team has dealt with recently:

  • Evolution and Human Sexual Behavior. Harvard University Press, 2013. We paid $33.24 through our regular academic book vendor. The hardcover edition is listed on Amazon at $35.67. There are 11 used copies listed there as well. None is cheaper than $34.50. There is a Kindle edition available at $31.16. No great savings in any case. What may make the Kindle version appealing is the instantaneous access rather than the price, but Kindle would not serve every user need.
  • Guidelines for Chemical Process Quantitative Risk Analysis. American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2000. Again our vendor is selling it for $254. Amazon lists it at $190. Used copies are more expensive than that. It doesn’t exist in the commercial, individual-user e-book market. Knovel offers it through a subject package and several other library platforms have it at $254 or more. This is content that some of our users really want, but they are unwilling to pay $200 for it themselves.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (Landmarks of the American Mosaic). Greenwood Publishing, 2012. $58 from our vendor, $37 from Amazon, $35 for a Kindle edition, $32 for a used copy. Some savings over our commodity-priced version, but not much. This is the kind of semi-academic title that might serve student needs very well, but they wouldn’t want to pay $30 for the right to quote a few lines. (Although that IS a use some students might find for the Google Books edition, provided that the appropriate snippet could be found in the limited-preview.) Faculty might be interested in using the book as a teaching text, but it probably wouldn’t serve their research interests. Few would pay for it themselves. Thus, the savings through Amazon is still not that appealing.

Let’s face it, the nature of library collections and collection use is changing due to an expanded digital infrastructure, but scholars and students continue to rely for the most part on the same kinds of resources: scholarly journal articles, scholarly monographs, and reference resources. The fact that these are available digitally and in a piecemeal fashion does not change their overall cost or make them more collectible by individuals. Their pricing, I suspect, still puts them beyond the reach of most users. But I’d be willing to be proven wrong. The mere existence of Amazon and e-book readers or Google and its Books and Scholar platforms does not necessarily demonstrate that these are the causes of declining library use or expanded information-consuming power for users. I’m not sure correlation is evident, let along causation. I think we need a lot more ethnographic studies of user behavior and its subsequent impact on scholarly publishing before we can make those kinds of assertions. But I’m totally on board with asserting that we should expend more effort and money on developing locally relevant special collections. Go for it.



Want and Need

Someone should write this history of librarianship: the longstanding tension between “give them what they want” and “teach them what to want.” Both have been with us almost from the very moment of birth of professional librarianship. Both have elements of nobility. Both have elements of condescension.

“Give them what they want” grants agency and, hey, even intelligence to library users. “Teach them what to want” is aspirational. We all can learn something new and keep on learning throughout our lives. Let’s look away for now from the nasty verso that each bears about the worthiness of library users–that what they want is of dubious quality–one says, “so what,” the other says, “this must be remedied.”

“Teach them what to want” had the upper hand in this fight for a long while, but “give them what they want” has made some serious inroads lately. Ah, but maybe it’s all a false dichotomy. Maybe we really can do both, even though it seems like they are diametrically opposed. Maybe we can add anything to the collection that someone wants but continue to teach skills about finding something better. No conflict there, eh?

Ithaka Faculty Survey

The 2012 Ithaka Faculty Survey of information behaviors hit the street this week. I’m not sure there are any great surprises in the report. The progression towards use of electronic materials continues at about the same pace. The disciplinary differences between humanities, social sciences, and sciences seem about the same as previous years. They are all shifting in their behaviors in the same direction.

What is fairly constant as well, is that most faculty continue to think that the most important activity of the library is to acquire or provide access to scholarly material. “The library pays for resources I need…” is uniformly the highest response in several questions about the role of the library. (See pages 63-76.) Of course, anyone who has looked at Libqual data will know this as well.

Contrast this with responses from library directors, especially regarding the development of library support services for scholars, and you begin to see a disconnect between scholar desires (or knowledge of library services, at least). On some issues there is almost a 40% difference in response rate between faculty and library directors. “The library supports and facilitates my teaching activities,” for example, or, “The library provides active support that helps to increase the productivity of my research and scholarship,” are both questions to show a wide gap between faculty and library directors.

Library collections continue to be very important for scholars. We need to continue thinking about the best ways to serve those scholarly information needs.

Innovation Abounds with the Electronic Resources & Libraries Annual Conference 2013

First off, I must admit bias when it comes to ER&L since I’ve been involved with this group since their inception. That said, the folks that own and run ER&L (Bonnie Tijerina & Sandy Tijerina) are doing some really nifty things in 2013. First and foremost, in conjunction with ProQuest & DLF, they’re hosting this super groovy #ideadrop House at SXSWi (South by Southwest interactive). Checkout some of the great streaming videos that have already been captured by this event and see what your colleagues are up to in promoting libraries. Also learn why “zebra” is the new pattern for librarians!

ER&L’s annual conference starts on 17 March and runs through 20 March. It’s not too late to join into this year’s conference! You can register to be part of the online conference experience, still sign-up to attend in person, & find out where online viewing parties are happening near you! This year’s conference is made up of great keynote speakers, fascinating programs, interesting tracks of content and even features a library publishing unconference.

ER&L is unlike any other library conference you attend. It provides a wonderful networking space to meet engaged and enthralling colleagues. There are multiple opportunities to become involved in the overall conference from simply participating in open discussions at the sessions held, joining in on the lightening talks, participating in the unconference, participating in any of the meet-ups happening or joining in online. There’s something for everyone at ER&L.

If you can do nothing else, just follow the forthcoming twitter streams at #ideadrop and #erl13. It is hard not to share the excitement that this conference generates each year and we hope you’ll join in on all the fun stuff happening this year!


Does the Buck Stop Here?

ALA conferences always seed something valuable for me.  Midwinter was no exception, with the ALCTS CMS Forum, “Scholarly Communication and Collections:  From Crisis to Creative Response”, yielding interesting questions about library investment in and the cost of open access.  As librarians, we seem to agree that open access is a good thing and a model we should advocate.  There is less agreement about our financial role in transforming the scholarly communication system.  Below are some of the questions that have preoccupied me of late…and a plea for further conversation.

When are we going to see costs decrease because of open access?

This question was raised at the forum and is filled with expectation.  I don’t regard OA as a means for reducing cost.  I think it is a more productive and efficient model for scholarly and scientific exchange and that library investment in OA publishing is a difference in kind from money spent on fee-based access models.  SCOAP3is an excellent example of this thinking—the consortium members are focused on re-directing, not reducing, their expenditures.  To paraphrase Kevin Smith, I believe that to realize significant change, libraries must be willing to apply their collection budgets to open access.

But is it a matter of will or capacity?

My library is a member of Public Library of Science, Hindawi, and Biomed Central.  Our support – drawn from our collection budget – allows OHSU authors to publish in open access journals at a reduced cost.  The money we spend on subscription journals dwarfs this investment.  Our subscription decisions are driven by faculty requests, publication and citation activity, and cost per use data.  There’s not a lot of fat.  Additional investment in OA would require difficult decisions about cuts to other resources that our patrons want and use.  Initiatives like SCOAP3 offer strategic models to emulate, but we’re still wanting for everyday, practical tactics that meet my institution’s content needs.

Why does it matter where the money comes from?

My friend Jill Emery and I have been talking about this as we prepare for our ACRL program on hybrid open access models.  I think there is something to be said for libraries contributing to the cost of open access besides the investment in building a better scholarly communication system.  Faculty value highly the library’s role as a buyer (see the 2009 ITHAKA S+R Faculty Survey).  Open access is not free.  By supporting OA financially – ideally in partnership with other stakeholders – libraries can preserve an evolved but familiar connection to the scholarly record.  Moreover, open content still requires management and curation, library expertise representing significant costs.

What are your answers to these questions? 

Mine are obviously still evolving.  So this is a call to continue the conversation we started at Midwinter within and across our institutions.  Ultimately, our conclusions will guide how we work to transform the scholarly communication system.