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Electronic Resources 1
Running Head: Development and Management of Electronic Resources
Collection Development and Management of Electronic Resources Alison Wilkins Emporia State University
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Collection Development and Management of Electronic Resources In today‟s society is quite different from that of just years ago. Today, people can keep in touch with friends 24 hours a day through various social networking sites, e-mail, and portable devices. Also, anyone can perform an instant search on the Internet using a device such as a computer or a phone to quickly answer a burning question. According to Horava (2010), we are living in what he calls the digital culture. He says, “The digital culture of today requires that resources are available 24/7 and are integrated into the information-seeking behavior of [library patrons].” Libraries must respond to this new culture. Resources are no longer only available in printed form. Books and journals can be accessed digitally, and it is up to the library to find how we can best serve our patrons with these types of digital resources. Tenopir (2010) says, “Library responsibilities are shifting from managing physical objects in library buildings to developing localized services built around bits and bytes.” The job of collection development librarians is changing rapidly. We must no longer only look to catalogues of books and print resources for additions to our library; we must now include room in our budgets for electronic resources as well. Electronic resources provide outstanding services for patrons, and patrons often expect to find quality electronic resources at their library. Librarians must still take many considerations before purchasing electronic resources. Once they are purchased, there are many advantages to purchasing electronic resources for your collection; however, there are also issues that librarians must overcome. Once librarians have overcome these challenges in acquisition and implementation, new sources will be provided to patrons that not only allow them access to large
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amounts of information, but the convenience and accessibility of these resources will greatly satisfy the patrons as well. Considerations for Purchasing General Considerations Before purchasing any electronic resources, librarians have several things they must consider. Spending portions of your collection development budget on electronic resources is big commitment, and it is important that the library purchases resources that will be utilized. Keller (2006) lists several factors that the library must consider before purchasing electronic resources. These include analyzing patron needs, value, cost, quality, relevance, depth of coverage and scope, and the way that the resource would contribute to the existing library collection. This list shows that of all the changes that e-resources brings to librarians, one thing has not changed: we still must provide resources that fit our patrons‟ needs. Understanding cost, value, and other specific issues surrounding electronic resources are not the only important considerations for librarians. In the end, collection development librarians must still find ways to serve their patrons. Keller (2006) states, “Resources are made available if they address the information needs of the learning community, match learner characteristics…and are consistent with the current knowledge base.” Quin and Guevara (2009) agree saying that when librarians understand what the information needs of their users are, their information-seeking behavior, and their information preferences, librarians will be able to “effectively build library collections and provide the right resources in the right format and, in the end, serve [their] users better.” It is important to remember that electronic resources are an extension to the library‟s current collection. They add new information and elaborate on already existing information.
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While analyzing cost and quality is important, analyzing the patron needs, scope, relevance, and depth of coverage allows librarians to decide if their patrons will use the particular electronic resource. Keller‟s statement on matching electronic resources to community needs is indeed true. Any resource, whether print or electronic, must match the needs of the community and the current knowledge base for it to be truly useful to the library and its patrons. Electronic Resource Considerations Electronic resources offer a whole new set of challenges for collection development librarians. There are so many different factors that go into purchasing electronic resources that were never an issue when libraries only purchased print materials. McElfresh (2006) provides a list of considerations librarians must make before purchasing electronic resources. These considerations include archival rights, e-reserves, content, and copyright constraints. Issues like copyright constraints and content were important considerations in the print-only era, but new challenges arise for librarians from factors like archival rights. These challenges will be discussed in more depth later in this paper. Another issue in purchasing electronic resources is stated by Sonsteby (2008) and Pappas (2004). They both point out that one important consideration in purchasing electronic resources is the amount of available full-text articles. This was never an issue in the print-only era. Libraries would purchase subscriptions to journals and magazines and would get full issues each month or quarter. In today‟s electronic era, electronic databases do not always provide full-text articles. From personal experience, I can say that this is very frustrating. In undergrad, I often found myself faced with the problem of being unable to find full-text articles that supported my paper‟s thesis. I would often find bibliographic information to articles that would be perfect, but my library‟s database could not instantly provide me with a full-text HTML or PDF copy.
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Amount of available full-text articles is an important consideration for libraries purchasing electronic resources. Having a large amount of available full-text articles offers great convenience for library patrons. Advantages of Electronic Resources There are many great reasons for librarians to purchase electronic resources for their library. For many libraries, e-resources are a great answer to keeping their collection up to date. Robinson (2010) states that “librarians face increasing pressure to maintain or improve the accessibility and size of their periodical collections despite inflating subscription and licensing costs. Cutting print subscriptions, for many, is an attractive and seemingly obvious solution for achieving immediate savings.” As libraries move to cancel their print subscriptions, they are finding electronic databases and electronic journals to replace them. Convenience of Access Robinson (2010) also points out that e-resources allow patrons the convenience of 24/7 access to full-text articles. This is perhaps the most obvious advantage of e-resources. By providing their patrons with electronic resources and databases, a library is giving their patrons access to large amounts of information anywhere and whenever they have Internet access. This is the new face of service in a world where everyone has some sort of computer or mobile device within reach. Electronic resources allow libraries to reach out to their patrons who are living in Horava‟s “digital culture” (2010). Salisbury, Vaughn, and Bajwa (2004) reiterate this sentiment of the advantages of convenience and remote and full access and add that more advantages include reliability, back issues, and ease of use and printing. Salisbury et al., whose study was performed at an academic library, state that these advantages are particularly important to academic faculty and research
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staff. Being able to easily access back issues allows for ease of research. Cross-referencing footnotes and reference lists is much easier when the user has access to older journals and articles. Multiple Patron Access Another advantage to e-resources the fact that electronic resources allow many more users to access a title in a short time period that would be allowed by print resources (Cox, 2004). A patron can take a print book or resource off a shelf, and after that, only that one patron has access to it. If a patron checks the resource, it will be in possession of that single patron anywhere from one day to a couple weeks (not even taking over-dues into consideration). With electronic resources, many patrons can access the articles, books, and journals simultaneously. This is a major advantage. It helps provide quick and immediate access to information for the patron. Disadvantages and Challenges of E-Resources Price Robinson (2010) points out a couple disadvantages of purchasing electronic resources. The first is that the money saved by cancelling print subscriptions may be negated by cataloging or licensing costs of the electronic version. This would have to be an issue that the librarians would need to resolve. If the switch to electronic resources is purely motivated by saving money, then the librarian will need to be sure that purchasing on-line subscriptions actually will save money. If the move to switch to electronic is motivated by other issues like creating shelf space or serving an electronic-obsessed patron-base, then this disadvantage would not be quite as serious of an issue. Poor Image Quality
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Another major disadvantage pointed out by Robison (2010) is the fact that many electronic journals have poor image quality in the articles‟ illustrations or art. This was an especially serious problem in the study performed by Robinson for this article. Robinson works at an art and architecture library, a place where illustrations are often every bit as important as the article itself. If the librarian is working for a library that has many patrons interested in art resources, or if the librarian is thinking of replacing journals whose artwork is important, then the librarian must perform a comparative study to decide which electronic subscriptions give justice to the illustrations in the articles. In Robinson‟s study, he compared 38 print journals to their electronic versions. Of those 38 print subscriptions, only 16 were cancelled in favor of the electronic version. This shows that even with modern technology, only about half of the important journal subscriptions had sufficient electronic versions of the illustrations. Depending on the library‟s situation and patron base, the librarian might have to seriously consider the quality of illustrations when deciding to switch to electronic resources. Confusing Licensing Agreements Keller (2006) points out that another possible challenge of electronic resources is confusing licensing agreements. Librarians must have a good understanding of licensing agreements and guidelines before purchasing any electronic subscription. There are many other policies, issues, requirements, and of course technology issues that can make an electronic licensing agreement more complicated than a print subscription. In order to be sure that the subscription being purchased will benefit the library, the collection development librarian must have a firm understanding of what the licensing agreement will entail so that there are no surprises and no rules or laws accidentally broken. Archival Issues
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One final disadvantage or challenge of electronic resources is archival issues. This challenge was pointed out by several sources including Wolf (2009) and Keller (2006). Many electronic subscriptions do not automatically give you archives of their issues if you cancel the subscription or let it expire. If a library decides to cancel a print subscription, they could still keep all the old issues that they received while paying for the service. However, with electronic subscriptions, this is often not the case. Many publishers will take away a library‟s access to archived and back issues if the subscription is cancelled. This would result in an automatic loss of information that the library has already paid for. Wolf points out that some publishers will give you a archival file on a DVD if you request one after your subscription lapses. However, he says that you must be aware of the policies because each publisher treats the archival issue differently. Wolf then states the issues of actually using the archival copy. He says, “Ideally the publisher would continue to provide access for you, but in most cases you would need to have your own server or server space where you could upload the content.” This would then create a whole new set of IT challenges in getting the archives available for patrons to use. This challenge creates many issues with service to patrons. If a library cancels a subscription, the patrons would still expect to have access to old issues that were available while the library was paying for a subscription. The removal of access to old issues is a perplexing problem. The library has already paid for these sources, and the simple cancelation of a subscription would cause this information to disappear. In order to meet this challenge, librarians must do two things: first, be aware of all terms of the licensing agreement so that they will know what to do in order to keep archived issues in case cancelling the subscription becomes necessary, and second, do plenty of research and make sure that the subscriptions being ordered
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will actually be of use in the library. If the subscriptions being purchased will greatly benefit the library, the likelihood of future cancellation decreases. Replacing Print Resources with E-Resources As the digital age advances, libraries continue to take advantage of electronic resources. Many of them are considering completely substituting their print resources with their electronic counterparts. However, as McElfresh (2006) states, the decision to go totally digital is not a black and white, yes or no choice that is easy to make. McElfresh says, “Under certain circumstances, even with the best possible license agreement, sometimes an electronic copy simply does not substitute for the paper.” For this reason, it is imperative that librarians look at subscriptions on a title-by-title basis before switching over to electronic subscriptions. Methods of Evaluation Many different librarians have tackled this issue in different ways. McElfresh (2006) states in her article that her library she examined each title in order to decide which ones should become electronic-only. After evaluating the subscriptions, she placed the 1,000 e-only subscriptions on line for patrons to use and evaluate. After the patron evaluations were completed and evaluated, nearly 90% of the 1,000 journals remained electronic-only. Salisbury et al. (2004) performed their print versus electronic evaluation in an academic library. They posted several electronic journals on-line for faculty to use. They then performed a survey in order to find what the users‟ preferences are, what they find convenient, and what they find difficult. This allowed the librarians to have a better understanding of what their patrons need and expect out of their journal subscriptions. They were then able to make decisions about which journals were best left in print and which were best switched over to electronic.
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Robinson (2010) performed a page-by-page comparison of each print journal and its electronic version. He noted image quality and completeness of information. He points out that some of the electronic versions do not have every bit of information provided in the print version. This would be incredibly important for librarians to note. If the electronic version does not have all the same necessary information that the print version has, it might be wise to continue the print subscription until the electronic version becomes more complete. Conclusion Electronic resources offer great opportunities for libraries to serve their patrons even better. Libraries must continue to keep the service to their patrons in mind as they begin selecting these electronic sources. They offer great convenience of access and they allow many patrons to use the information at once. However, these advantages must be weighed against the new challenges that electronic resources bring such as price, poor image quality, confusing licensing agreements, and archival issues. Librarians must also consider if the electronic resource is a truly beneficial replacement of a similar print resource. Electronic resources are still a changing and developing technology. Librarians must stay informed of developments and stay on top of new issues in price and licensing agreements. Once a librarian analyzes the options available and how the new technology will serve his or her patrons, the purchase of electronic resources will create great services for patrons and keep libraries relevant in the digital age.
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References Cox, J. (2004, October). E-books: Challenges and opportunities. D-Lib Magazine, 10 (10), doi:10.1045/october2004-cox Horava, T. (2010). Challenges and possibilities for collection management in a digital age. Library Resources & Technical Services, 54 (3), 142-152. Keller, C.A. (2006). Collection development: Electronic or print subscription resources? School Library Media Activities Monthly, 22 (9), 56-59. McElfresh, L.K. (2006). The e-only experience: „Moving beyond paper.‟ Technicalities, 26 (4), 1, 11-13. Pappas, M.L. (2004). Selection policies. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 21 (2), 41, 45. Qin, Z., & Guevara, S. (2009). A practical guide for building a user-focused digital library collection. Computers in Libraries, 29 (4), 6-10. Robinson, A. (2010). University of Kansas print and electronic journal comparison study. Art Documentation, 29 (1), 37-40. Salisbury, L., Vaughn, T., & Bajwa, V. (2004). Evidence-based services at the University of Arkansas libraries: Results of a faculty survey to assess the usefulness of electronic resources. Q Bull International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists, 49 (1/2), 36-40. Sonsteby, A. (2008). No sacred cows. Library Journal, 133 (13), 118. Tenopir, C. (2010). E-access changes everything. Library Journal (1976), 135 (1), 26. Wolf, R. (2009). Budget crisis: A review of perpetual access. North Carolina Libraries (Online), 67 (1/2), 34. Retrieved November 15, 2010 fromhttp://0vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com. www.white.lib.emporia.edu