Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Doing More with Less: Adoption of a Comprehensive E-Book Acquisition Strategy to Increase Return on Investment While Containing Costs

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Doing More with Less: Adoption of a Comprehensive E-Book Acquisition Strategy to Increase Return on Investment While Containing Costs

Article excerpt

Libraries have used the concept of acquiring materials on approval since the latter half of the nineteenth century. (1) The practice of using it as a library- collection management and acquisition tool grew in popularity in the 1960s and soon became a widespread and accepted acquisition model. During this time, the government started encouraging education and supporting libraries with increased funding at both the state and federal level, enabling approval plans to gain traction. As the demand for material increased, libraries used the approval plan model as a cost-effective method of acquiring library books. Using this model, librarians, working with their vendors, created profiles that mirrored their collection development policies. Libraries then received ship- ments of newly published titles that matched their plan and received new title notifications for items that did not match the plan. Approval plans proved to be an effective way for libraries to acquire material that resulted in savings of both time and money.

Brigham Young University (BYU) is primarily an undergraduate institution with selected PhD and master's programs and enrolls about thirty thousand students. Its Harold B. Lee Library (HBLL) has developed robust general approval plans with extensive US and UK coverage, and more specialized approval plans for fine arts, music scores, and Latin American material. Since the HBLL started using approval plans, the number of books it acquired and the amount it spent on them steadily grew, peaking in 2003. Since then, both the annual numbers of items acquired and dollars spent have continually decreased. Like many libraries at the turn of the twenty-first century, the HBLL was exposed to the disruptive introduction of electronic publishing and the acquisition of e-books. The staff started investigating and launching different e-book acquisition measures, and has since established a comprehensive e-book acquisition strategy. New acquisition models unique to e-books enabled the library to introduce additional cost-savings measures without sacrificing the time savings gained through approval. This study examines what effect the adoption of a comprehensive e-book acquisition strategy has had on the library's domestic approval plan and how these changes have affected content availability and library expenditure.

Literature Review

An abundance of literature has been written about approval plans and the acquisition of e-books, including patron-initiated purchasing. The literature on approval plans focuses on their implementation and management, and the evaluation of their effectiveness, including benefits and drawbacks. Many of the studies attempted to discover whether a significant difference existed in the usage of books acquired through approval plans and those selected by subject librarians. An early study and its follow-up endeavored to determine effective acquisition methods by measuring use, and concluded that books selected by librarians were used more than books purchased through an approval plan. (2) A more recent study at the University of Houston found that the usage between the two acquisitions methods was not significant, although firm orders or those selected by subject librarians were again used more frequently than approval books. (3) Other studies reviewed the goals and purposes of approval plans to develop a more rounded collection and to simplify the acquisitions process. (4) Rossi collected literature from 1967 through 1986, creating a bibliography on approval plans that referenced material on both general plans and studies that attempted to evaluate them. (5) He wrote that approval plans were of great importance to librarians in the 1960s and 1970s who both "scorned and praised" them, and that the single most important aspect of an approval plan is the profile. (6) Case's more recent bibliography attempted to fill gaps from earlier papers and give librarians methodologies, data, and conclusions that could help them evaluate their own studies. …

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