Two Association of Research Libraries member libraries, the University of Illinois at Urbana--Champaign (UIUC) and Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), evaluated their monograph acquisition approval plan profiles to answer basic questions concerning use, cost effectiveness, and coverage. Data were collected in tandem from vendors and local online systems to track book receipt, item circulation, and overlap between plans. The study period was fiscal year 2005 (July 1, 2004-June 30, 2005)for the approval plan purchasing data, and circulation use data were collected from July 1, 2004, through March 31, 2007, for both UIUC and Pen n State. Multiple data points were collected for each title, including author, title, ISBN, publisher, Library of Congress classification number, purchase price, and circulation data. Results of the study measured the cost-effectiveness of each plan by subject and publisher, analyzed similarities and differences in use, and examined the overlap between the two approval plans. The goals were to establish a benchmark for consistently evaluating approval plan profile effectiveness and to provide a reproducible method with baseline data that will allow other libraries to collect comparable data and conduct their own studies.
Approval plans have been considered an efficient and cost-effective way for libraries to acquire books in large quantities across many disciplines. Through approval plans, vendors supply current imprints as well as notification slips or forms to libraries on the basis of selected publisher output, subject profiles, and nonsubject categories such as readership level, country of origin, and format. When combined, these factors determine the parameters for selecting titles within the approval plan. Approval plan profiles can be limited by any number of factors, including price, scope, format, audience, language, and publisher. Each approval plan's profile is carefully established by library subject specialists to meet the research, curricular, and learning needs of the library's users.
If a library commits to purchase large quantities of books on approval, vendors may offer substantial discounts off the list price. Libraries also may have the option to return titles that they consider outside of the approval profile. Additional vendor services include shelf ready services, such as cataloging, bar coding, and labeling, at an added cost. However, shelf-ready titles cannot be returned unless they are received damaged or clearly outside of the approval profile (e.g., item exceeds price limit).
Approval plan profiles can take considerable time to formulate and, once implemented, may not always be subject to regular review and revision. However, libraries should regularly consider a number of questions concerning their approval plan profiles, including the following:
* How frequently should profiles be evaluated and revised?
* What criteria should be used when assessing the effectiveness of approval plan profiles?
* Can cost-effectiveness be measured, and if so, do the results point to reevaluation of local profiles?
To answer these and other questions surrounding the use of approval plans in large libraries, especially within the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the authors conducted an assessment of domestic approval plans at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). The study examined receipts from two book vendors: Blackwell Book Services at UIUC and YBP (formerly known as Yankee Book Peddler) at Penn State. These two institutions, both of which are members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, planned to undertake major reviews of their approval plans and decided that developing a study comparing results from similar institutions would be advantageous.
Although these university libraries vary in size and use different vendors, they share the mission of all libraries: to acquire the materials needed by their clientele. …