Collaborative Collection Conference

Collaborative collection development has been on our lips for 30 years. It’s one of those topics that, to paraphrase Mark Twain (or whoever), everybody talks about but nobody does anything. I exaggerate. There have been a lot of what I’ll call prospective collection collaboration: shared subscriptions, buying clubs, cooperative approval plans. But retrospective collaboration is a tough nut. “Retrospective collaboration?” you say. What to do about managing existing collections, especially monograph collections, in a collaborative fashion? How to weed our monograph collections in an extensive fashion (creating spaces for other activities), while still preserving the greatest diversity of the scholarly and cultural record? Now THAT is on my lips all the time these days.

And its on the lips of several great presenters for ALCTS. See this ALCTS virtual preconference to learn a lot more about this kind of collaboration:

Local Collections, Collective Context: Managing Print Collections in the Age of Collaboration
June 4-6: there are three sessions, 90 minutes each,  beginning at: 11am Pacific, noon Mountain, 1pm Central, 2pm Eastern

Sign up now! I’ll see you there.


I had tea yesterday with a long-time Medieval Studies/English Literature faculty member here. She has always been a heavy user of the library and a real supporter of everything we do. She’s actually retired but still doing a lot of things in the English Department on a part-time basis. Yesterday, she turned to me and asked earnestly, “why is the library going so electronic in everything it does?”

How would you answer that question?

Georgia State E-Reserves

A verdict has finally been issued in the Georgia State University e-reserves case (Cambridge University Press et al v. Patton et al). Several publishers were suing GSU over their electronic reserves practices. The judge’s decision is mostly favorable to libraries. Most of the particular claims of infringement were rejected. The case, however, may establish some specific guidelines or safe havens that may not be exactly what librarians would want.

Further summaries of the case:


Legal Beagles

All I’m thinking about today are legal issues. Is this what library collection development has come to? And are they teaching students about this in library school? There are, of course, the usual license agreements for subscriptions and electronic resources, but I have some other more specific issues on my mind:

  • Hathi Trust: we’ve been thinking about joining this collaborative organization. I think they are doing important work to ensure the preservation of digital collections. They started with a base of materials digitized by Google from libraries in the Big 10 (and some others), but Hathi is managing these digitized materials with more of the librarian’s concern about preservation, more than Google, certainly. But now there is the sword of Damocles, in the form of a lawsuit from the Authors Guild, hanging over Hathi’s head. I don’t really know all of the ramifications of the suit, or how much it might affect the benefits of joining the organization. But it gives one pause.
  • WEST: this is another collaborative organization that my library HAS joined. The organization is working to create a distributed print repository of print journal holdings. The idea is to ensure at least one print copy of selected journal titles exists within the member libraries of the organization. In order to make the print holdings as complete as possible, some libraries will ask others to contribute journal volumes to fill out a complete run. Here is where the legal issues come in. My state has specific laws about disposing of state property (including library collections of state universities). Can I convince our legal counsel that sharing some volumes from our journal holdings with another library in another state is legal and in our best interest? If we can’t contribute toward the collective holdings of the organization, are we even valuable members?
  • Costco v. Omega: who would have thought that a lawsuit between a mega-store buying club and a Swiss watchmaker would have any impact on an Academic library? This issue came up because someone donated a 6-volume British publication to my library. I mentioned it online and someone suggested that Costco v. Omega may come in to play, especially for a donated book. You see, the Supreme Court ruling (or none-ruling) in this case upholds a lower court ruling (at least in the Ninth Circuit Court) that libraries do not have the protection of the right of first sale regarding materials not manufactured in the United States. What that means is that libraries may not even have the right to circulate foreign publications. Sheesh! Some legal beagles are saying not to worry. There are other protections the cover library activities (beagle1.pdf and beagle2.html). Some of the protections suggest that if you bought the material in a legitimate way, there is a presumption that permission to do library stuff with it is understood. That also presumes, however, that you can demonstrate how you purchased the material. Because of the vagaries of our ILS, we do not even maintain purchase orders for books in our system for more than 2 years. We still have copies of the invoices. But how would we match a particular book purchased 5 years ago with its corresponding invoice? We also do not have title-by-title records for most donations. Extra Sheesh!  I wonder what libraries in the Ninth Circuit are doing.

Thus, I spend the day worrying about the law and not thinking about how to build a good library collection. Maybe I should go to law school.

Tech Timeline

I’ve been working on a tech timeline (both personal and library) that I thought more appropriate over on my personal blog. Tell me about the technological change you’ve experienced in your career.

Transforming Collections

ALCTS E-Forum:

Transforming Collections

Date: February 22 & 23

Description: “Join us to talk about all the ways our collections are changing and discuss topics such as handling new formats, preservation methods, repository services, planning for the future, best practices for moving forward, and budgeting for changing times. Come share your success stories about how you are meeting the research, teaching, and recreational needs of your users of today and tomorrow.”

Acquiring E-Books

So you want to acquire some e-books for your library? Overdrive isn’t the only game in town. There is a huge and growing number of ways for libraries to acquire e-books. I thought I’d compile a list. The main pathways I see (although the boundaries between them are by no means solid) are aggregators, vendors, and publishers. This list is far from complete. My knowledge is primarily in the North American academic library arena. If you have information to add, post a comment.


Aggregators gather titles from a variety of publishers and present them on a single platform. Titles can typically be licensed on a rental or purchase model and are available in subject packages or on a title-by-title basis. The delivery platforms vary as to their features and functions.

ACLS Humanities E-Book:
The American Council of Learned Societies. Primarily a subscription service. Files: page image, PDF, txt.

Business, finance, and IT focused collections. Files: HTML (all web-based platform).

Credo Reference:
Over 500 reference books. Files: HTML (all web-based platform).

Dawson Era:
From British bookseller Dawson Books. Don’t know much about them.

Aggregator of Spanish-language e-books from Spain, Caribbean, and Latin America. Variety of purchase and lease plans, including subject collections. Files: PDF, HTML.

Australian company (but widely available). Multi-publisher, multi-subject collections. Strong on academic material. Variety of purchase options, including user driven. EBL was an early developer of the “short-term loan” for e-books. Files: PDF, EPUB, multiple concurrent users, and downloadable. Download requires Adobe Digital Editions.

Ebrary (Proquest):
Wide variety of publishers with materials for academic, public, and school libraries (although academic is the main strength). Variety of use options, including user driven and short-term loan.  Variety of use options, including user driven acquisitions. Files: PDF, downloadable. Download requires Adobe Digital Editions.

“E-book collection from Ebscohost” – includes the former NetLibrary collections. Variety of use options, including user driven and short-term loan. Files: PDF. Download requires Adobe Digital Editions.

Pay-per-use model from Library Ideas. Popular reading? File: EPUB?

Not yet available. Will include aggregation from major university and commercial scholarly presses.

MyiLibrary (Ingram/Coutts):
Aggregation platform serving Ingram and Coutts customers (public, school, academic, and professional libraries). Variety of use options, including user driven acquisitions. Files: PDF, downloadable. Download requires Adobe Digital Editions.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. Primarily life science and healthcare titles, most with free download and purchase on demand. Files: HTML, selective PDF.

NetLibrary (See Ebsco)

Widely used in the public library world. Various purchase options available. Files: PDF, EPUB, Kindle, audio.

Primarily science and medicine topics. Files: ?

Project MUSE:
Platform host for the University Press E-book Consortium. Various purchase options. Content integrates in with Muse journals. Files: PDF (DRM-free).

Safari Books (direct and through Proquest):
Direct from Safari is designed more for individuals or as an enterprise model. Through Proquest there are a variety of purchase models. Files: HTML?

A new player in the e-book market, although not new to library services. The 3m Cloud Library has a lot of unique features, link kiosks and dedicated ereaders, but not a big track record. Files: EPUB?

Aggregator platform of bookseller Casalini Libri of Italy. Includes Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish e-books. Variety of use options. See also EIO – Editoria Italiana Online for Italian titles only. Files: ?




As with print books, vendors function as a mediator between the library and the publisher or aggregator. You can buy and pay for your e-books from a single source, but actually get access from multiple providers. Some vendors like Ingram/Coutts and Dawson serve as both the vendor and the aggregator.

Baker & Taylor:

Dawson Books:

Casalini Libri
European book vendor. See Torrossa aggregator.

Coutts (academic division Ingram):




W.T. Cox:

YBP (academic division of Baker & Taylor):




Many publishers offer their books through aggregators and vendors but also through their own platform or storefront. I’ve listed here mainly publishers that offer a hosted platform for libraries. A couple, like California and Michigan, are really storefronts intended for end users. Some, like Cambridge and Oxford, are actually beginning to function as aggregators of other publishers’ e-books. There are many others that I have not listed. Feel free to note those in the comments.

American Psychological Association:

Cambridge University Press:

De Gruyter:




MIT Press:

Morgan & Claypool Publishers:

National Academies Press:

Oxford University Press:

Palgrave Macmillan:

Sage Publishing (primarily offered through aggregators):


Taylor & Francis:

University of California Press (mainly intended for individual users not libraries):

University of Michigan Press (mainly intended for individual users not libraries):

Wiley Blackwell:


Occupy Elsevier

There is an academic boycott of Elsevier going on now that is getting a lot of press and social media chatter. (See “The Cost of Knowledge.”) I know Rick Anderson has written a post about the boycott over at Scholarly Kitchen, but I am going to refrain from reading his thoughts until I get this post down. (Perhaps a follow-up after I read it.) In the interest of disclosure, I should say that I work in a library that is a big customer of Elsevier. In fact, we recently licensed the “Freedom Collection” of bundled journals from that publisher.

The point of the boycott is to encourage scientists and scholars to sign a pledge not to publish in, referee for, or do editorial work with any Elsevier journals. The rationale given on the web page is three-fold (my paraphrase): 1) their prices are high, 2) their practice of bundling journals saddles libraries with a lot of titles they don’t want, 3) they support SOPA, PIPA, and the Research Works Act.

I do not deny that each of these points is bad for libraries and for scholarly communication generally, nor that they apply to Elsevier. But I do want to raise a couple of points of concern about the boycott.

  • The boycott seems a bit like déjà vu all over again. Our discourse regarding scholarly communication has been vilifying Elsevier specifically for at least 20 years. I often have conversations with faculty in which they say, “I know Elsevier is bad, but…” or “I thought we were supposed to avoid Elsevier…” And, yet, with that knowledge, faculty continue to publish in Elsevier journals and serve on Elsevier editorial boards. In short, all that negative publicity has done little to affect the bottom line of Elsevier, but more importantly, has not changed the high rating and impact of many Elsevier journals.
  • All three of the issues raised by the boycott apply equally to dozens of other scholarly publishers. Why are they not included in the boycott? What can the boycott hope to achieve if other publishers simple take up what Elsevier loses? Are we to believe that an open access paradise will be achieved by taking on the large scholarly publishers one at a time? We will have a sequence of boycotts for Wiley, Springer, Sage, Taylor & Francis?
  • I have always thought that libraries were always stuck between a rock and a hard place regarding high-priced scholarly journals. The solution has never been that libraries should simply cancel their subscriptions. The very process of promotion and tenure in higher education requires that faculty publish in the highest rated journals, regardless of the sales practices of those journals. I don’t think, however, that the boycott as it is currently organized presents a coordinated effort that will get the desired results.

I admit to be at a loss to how this boycott ought to be organized. The rot here goes to the very heart of the P&T system in higher eduction. Individual scientists can sign the boycott, but that will have little impact if, at the point of tenure review, entire academic departments (or even entire universities) do not discount the value high-price journals and take predatory publishing into account. It is difficult to see how that kind of journal evaluation can take hold without coordination that goes even beyond department and university, encompassing entire academic disciplines and all the journals serving those disciplines.

Academic Kindle

ALA Midwinter 2012: I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but a source at Ebsco tells me that Amazon will soon start offering Kindle downloadable content through academic e-book aggregators like Ebsco, Ebrary, and EBL. I didn’t hear a timeframe on this other than “soon.” Obviously, the Kindle program through OverDrive was considered a beta project. Amazon seems ready to expand library lending beyond the public library market.

As it was described to me, the Kindle academic lending would operate somewhat differently than the OverDrive program, which actually redirects users to affect the loan through the Amazon store. It sounds like the academic plan is to allow a seamless and direct load to the Kindle Fire. Other Kindle devices would require download to a computer and then transfer to the device. That procedure sounds a lot like Adobe DRM-protected files, where an e-book is downloaded and authorized through Adobe Digital Editions and then transferred to a registered device. One assumes that Amazon won’t using Adobe DRM. So, what is the transfer mechanism? Just a drag and drop file management process also seems unlikely. So, I don’t know how much all this is vapor ware , but my source seemed pretty confident it would hit the shelf fairly soon. Looking forward to seeing how it works out.

It’s time for productivity not publicity

I’ve written here a time or two about apps developed by libraries to highlight unique collections. Three prominent examples:

All of these are well-designed and effectively promote their respective libraries to a readership that is increasingly online and mobile. As a first step to demonstrate, at least partly, what is possible in the mobile world, they are impressive.

Suddenly, however, I begin to have issues with these sorts of library products. Part of my misgiving about them is that they are demonstrations. They are tools for promoting the library collections but they are not the library collections themselves. They are surrogates and even billboards for tangible collections sitting on library shelves.

Obviously, a great deal of the digitizing that libraries have done to date has been focused on unique and valuable collections. Digitization has always been advertising for what was great and special about any particular library. It has been a means of creating online exhibits, as it were. But it is precisely that goal that makes library digitizing and app development of limited value to library users. Advertising and exhibits can be interesting, informative, and motivational, but, in the end, they do not take the place of actually using the library. They do not even especially aid or enhance use of the library in any immediate sense.

Part of what makes the Google Book project so interesting is that it has the audacity to digitize the entire library (many libraries, in fact). It is the library in a way that most library digital projects and products are not. Aside from lacking a collection scope that would serve more user needs, most library digital products are also short on functionality. They are not intended to enable users to do things with information. I think it is time that we start to build apps that will help users do things with information.

Some of what I envision has, up to now, been left to vendors and commercial interests to develop. Some may be beyond the financial means of libraries. Some is just plain hard to do. I think we shouldn’t let those things stand in the way of trying. Collectively, we ought to be able to push the envelope more than we have thus far.

Some of the things library mobile apps ought to enable:

  • Discovery of library collections across all kinds of formats
  • Authentication for and use of licensed digital collections
  • Annotation and note taking
  • Citation management
  • Sharing and conversation via social media
  • Remixing and mash-up of content

We can talk a lot about the digital library, the virtual library, but until the tools we offer to users actually enable use, we are only advertising for the physical library and hypothesizing about a digital future. It’s time to give users real productivity tools and make the digital library a reality.