Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Conventional Wisdom or Faulty Logic? the Recent Literature on Monograph Use and E-Book Acquisition

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Conventional Wisdom or Faulty Logic? the Recent Literature on Monograph Use and E-Book Acquisition

Article excerpt


The idea that librarians are just "guessing" at what our patrons want and, in many cases, guessing wrong has its genesis in the literature about patron-driven acquisitions (PDA) for print books beginning in the late 1990s.1 In 1999, Perdue and Van Fleet published an article about a program for purchasing materials based on interlibrary loan (ILL) requests at Bucknell University. Their data showed that such a program could be a cost-effective way to reduce ILLs and that the materials purchased enjoyed a higher rate of use overall than traditional firm ordered or approval books. Around that same time, a number of libraries implemented print purchase-on-demand programs and reported on their success in articles published during the first decade of the 21st century. The authors of some of these studies cautioned that PDA programs should serve as a supplement to, not a substitute for, traditional collection development. Use studies on the books purchased through PDA were done to debunk the idea that PDA purchases would be too specialized or otherwise inappropriate for library collections (Tyler 2011).2

Tyler et al. (2013, 4) wrote that "in rapidly short order" librarians went from suggesting PDA be used in conjunction with ILL "to asserting that PDA and purchase-on-demand (POD)-style programs have largely proven themselves and are well on their way toward becoming advisable, established, necessary, standard, and/or 'more sane' practice." Though Tyler et al. were chiefly concerned with print PDA programs, eight of the eleven articles they cited as making these assertions related to PDA for e-books or a combination of print and electronic purchase-on-demand programs. Without exploring it deeply, Tyler et al. acknowledged the popularity of patron-driven acquisitions for e-books and cited Rick Lugg (formerly of R2 Consulting and now, as of 2015, an Executive Director at OCLC), Rick Anderson (currently Associate Dean for Scholarly Resources and Collections, University of Utah) and Dennis Dillon (former Associate Director, Research Services, University of Texas at Austin Libraries) in their review of enthusiastic proponents of this method of acquisition.

These three authors also seem to be some of the earliest to popularize the idea that traditional collection development is ineffective or has "failed," and they seem to have done so around 2010, in conjunction with the widespread availability of vendors' PDA plans for e-books and their promotion of these plans in their own or to others' libraries.3 While print PDA proponents encouraged libraries to add patron-driven purchasing to their collection development practices, these authors, and others who subsequently wrote about e-book PDA programs, were much more likely to encourage libraries to replace their current practices with PDA, claiming that much of what librarians buy never circulates and that academic libraries' traditionally-built print collections are little-used.

In 2009, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) hosted a conference in Bloomington, Indiana at which both Lugg and Dillon were speakers. Both claimed in their presentations that traditional collection development had failed and called for libraries to shift half of their collection of print and electronic books to PDA. Both of their presentations would be subsequently cited in the literature, and both are still available online. As with many who would later repeat this idea, Lugg and Dillon cited little data to support it.

Lugg (2009) characterized what he called "expert selection" both "then" (1975) and "now" (post-2006). The only published research he cited for either era was the Pittsburgh study, a comprehensive study published in 1979 about collection use at the University of Pittsburgh between 1969 and 1975 (Kent et al. 1979). To support his conclusions about the ineffectiveness of expert selection in the first decade of the 2000s, Lugg presented a summary of his consulting firm's "informal circulation survey" of six Association of Research Libraries (ARL) libraries. …

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