by Xan Arch (Director of Collection Services, Reed College Library)
Four years ago, I edited a PDA issue for Against the Grain. Patron-driven acquisition was a hot topic then, and conference programs were full of sessions on library experiences with this purchasing method. I was curious what the authors from the 2011 issue thought about their articles now and how PDA has changed since then.
Bob Johnson’s article started off the 2011 issue by outlining the basics of PDA. He had implemented a PDA program at UCI in 2010 and was ready to discuss the main issues a library should consider before starting one of their own. Now, Bob no longer works in collection development, but his colleague Keith Powell provided an update on UCI’s program.
Here at the UCI Libraries we have had considerable success with an e-preferred DDA program over the last several years. Our first pilot begun in late 2010 with Coutts/MyiLibrary was very informative and allowed us to launch a second pilot with YBP/EBL in January 2012. This second pilot had the necessary linking infrastructure we desired with our print approval programs and now has been fully operationalized as a standard purchasing program. We have loaded over 25,000 records — over $2,000,000 worth of content, while our actual DDA short-term loan (STL) and purchase costs of that content have been substantially under $150,000 to date. Having a DDA program has allowed us to continue to provide a large amount of relevant content to our users while minimizing costs during a time of serious budgetary constraint.
At UCI, we use an STL model where we purchase on the third use. This creates an additional premium for the materials we purchase, but the overall savings combined with our access to much greater content far outweighs that premium on cost. The rising cost of STLs is creating pressure to reevaluate our current model, and we are monitoring this. Additionally, we have seen general usage in terms of STLs and purchases increasing as we load more content and as eBooks become more acceptable to users in various disciplines. Our costs this next year alone may match our entire costs to date over the past three years. Even then the savings will continue to be significant.
DDA has been a success for UCI, yet increasing costs and usage may create a less favorable return. Nevertheless, UCI’s success with e-preferred DDA has allowed us to investigate now the possibility of a print DDA pilot. So, as we all know, change is constant and adaptability necessary.
Sandy Thatcher and Rick Anderson love a good debate, and that’s exactly what they contributed in 2011. They debated the effect of PDA on scholarly publishing. Sandy has since retired but is still thinking about library issues. He says:
My view of PDA has become somewhat more nuanced since the article appeared. I now tend to think of it as a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it may actually help counter any bias that exists about purchasing revised dissertations (a subject about which Rick and I have sparred over the years). On the other hand, it potentially has a negative influence on cash flow as it likely results in delayed ordering of monographs that under approval plans would have been ordered at the time of first publication, and it poses a threat to the income stream from course adoption of paperback editions (and for that reason some presses have kept some books out of PDA systems and also the eBook aggregations like the ones that JSTOR and Project MUSE run).
That PDA is a mixed blessing, as all collection development strategies and tools are. I have never claimed (and would never claim) that PDA is a perfect solution to the problems of library collection-building. Unfortunately, perfect solutions aren’t available to us; we’re stuck with a situation in which genuine needs (not just wants) greatly outstrip the resources available, which means we have no choice but to make difficult and sometimes wrenching decisions about what to buy and what not to buy. If we had functionally unlimited resources, I’d be in favor of erring on the side of inclusiveness — buying as much high-quality and high-relevance scholarship as we can and making all of it available to our students and scholars. But that’s not the world we live in, sadly. We live in a world of strictly, even drastically limited resources, and I have no choice but to deliberately exclude large swathes of the scholarly record from my library’s collection. And of all the criteria available for me to use in deciding what small subset of the scholarly record to include, I still can’t think of a better and more responsible one than genuine, demonstrated local need.
In 2011, Michael Levine-Clark focused his contribution on how to maintain a PDA program over time. He comments that many of the issues that he discussed in 2011 are still concerns today.
Four years ago, I wrote about what I thought it might take to make DDA the primary means of building collections in academic libraries. At the time I recognized that most libraries would not want to go this route, but believed (as I still do) that for many libraries a large DDA consideration pool would provide their users with the broadest and deepest collection possible. I saw several barriers to this expansive vision of DDA, two of which are worth noting. 1) I observed that DDA would not work on a broad scale unless more titles were available through DDA models. While there was definite progress in this regard after 2011, publishers have recently begun pulling back from DDA with increased STL costs and limitations on front-list titles, and some have probably quietly stopped placing titles into DDA pools at all. 2) I stated that for DDA to be anything more than a complement to traditional collection development, we needed a way to ensure long-term preservation of those titles in our consideration pools that we had not yet purchased. This preservation need is something that the NISO Demand-Driven Acquisition of Monographs Working Group, which I co-chaired, articulated in its recommended practice document published in June 2014. It is still something that is vitally important, but as yet there is no preservation solution for not-yet-owned content.
Jason Price wrote in 2011 about the effect of Digital Rights Management (DRM) on patron-driven acquisition.
Four years later…and libraries and their users are still frustrated by simultaneous user restrictions and digital rights management (DRM) of books they own on aggregator platforms. Although there have been a couple of noteworthy improvements in these areas of friction, the dual access that would allow the ideal marriage of sophisticated demand-driven purchasing and DRM-free use remains elusive and exclusive to the few savvy libraries that have managed to negotiate it. At least one major aggregator (ebrary) now provides an option to automatically and seamlessly upgrade a single-user book to multi-user based on demand for the individual book. Additionally, many publishers are experimenting with evidence-based selection (EBS) models in lieu of the sophisticated triggering systems that are still unique to aggregators. The impending demise of the short-term loan component of demand-driven acquisition may reduce the need for sophisticated triggers, but the appeal of a “one stop shop” and desire for flexible, responsive allocation of book funds across publishers suggest that publisher-by-publisher EBS is only a partial solution, at best.
In 2011, we heard from Emily McElroy and Susan Hinken about the Orbis Cascade Alliance DDA program. This program was only in the design stage at that point, but now is up and running. The current chair of the Alliance eBook team, Serin Anderson, comments on the 2011 article.
It’s fascinating to reflect on an article that, while written a short time ago, outlines a program that has seen so much change. Subscription eBooks, initially removed from consideration in the pilot, have become a popular addition to the Alliance service. The DDA — which still comprises the majority of the budget and service — is now centrally managed by Alliance staff with minimal work on the part of individual institutions. The partnerships, which were so key to getting the DDA started, are still highly valued today. Yet, changes driven by publisher actions such as increased STL fees and front list embargoes, have increased the financial pressure on the current model. It’s difficult to know exactly how current partnerships will adjust or what new partners may be on the horizon, but I certainly expect the Alliance’s eBook service will continue to transform, much as it has over the last three to four years.
The responses to the 2011 articles show that many of the same hopes for PDA remain valid, as do many of the same concerns. However, new worries about STL pricing lead our authors to wonder about the future of this purchasing model.