Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

E-Resource Collection Development: A Survey of Current Practices in Academic Libraries

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

E-Resource Collection Development: A Survey of Current Practices in Academic Libraries

Article excerpt


As the amount of money spent on electronic resources increases, it seems fitting that as librarians we examine the process we use for selecting such materials. Collection development policies for print collections and ordering processes for such materials have become commonplace at many, if not all, academic libraries. As the transfer from paper to electronic resources occurs, especially in the acquisition of serial titles, we felt it necessary to examine the process we and other academic libraries use to select electronic resources.


All libraries have experienced a tremendous shift in content from print to electronic. We are deluged daily by offers for electronic databases in a myriad of formats. Frankly the breadth and variety of what is available in e-format is overwhelming. So the question that naturally arises is how do librarians make decisions on what to purchase and what to cancel, simply stated how do we manage our e-collections? At the Kutztown University Library we find ourselves frequently playing "catch up" with all the e-resources offers. They come to us via email, listservs, regular mail, visits to conferences, and from faculty and students. We frequently feel overwhelmed trying to stay on top of all the offers and make the best decisions. Our protocol involves contacting the appropriate library liaison, getting input from faculty, meeting with the library dean, and making the best decision we can at that particular time. It frequently leaves us feeling dissatisfied and dismayed with the process, often wondering if we are really meeting the needs of our users. We thought there must be a better way, so the decision was made to conduct a survey of other academic librarians in Pennsylvania and determine how they were tackling the problem of "e-resource overload." What follows is the results of this survey.

Literature Review

Much of the literature in this area is devoted to the selection of Internet resources that are made available through library web pages. Very little can be found that is devoted to selection processes and criteria for online databases. Barbara Vignau, et al., suggest that the term "digital collections" should be defined (139). They also offer a five step process for collecting electronic (or "digital") material:

* Gathering of information contents

* Evaluation of information contents

* Organization of information contents

* Construction of digital collections

* Maintenance of digital collections (140).

The Kovacs Guide to Electronic Library Collection Development and Gregory's Selecting and Managing Electronic Resources are basically introductory guides to the topic of e-collection development and concentrate mainly on creating a collection of web-based resources, not subscription databases. The processes and criteria they provide could be applied to many types of electronic resources, however.

The type of information that is absent from the literature is a study of current library practice in this area and librarian input about whether the current process (or lack of processes) is an effective way to select electronic resources. More research is needed to demonstrate processes for e-resource selection that are currently in practice and effective and manageable.


The survey we developed sought to answer one basic two-part question: What process does your library use evaluate which electronic resources to purchase and cancel? This question was then followed-up by a series of other queries to determine the "how and whys." We chose to use the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc. (PALCI) list of electronic resources librarians as our survey sample. We did this because PALCI represents a broad variety of libraries across the state from small private colleges to large research institutions. A total of 72 librarians were contacted via email. …

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