Patron-Driven Acquisition: What happens when everyone relinquishes control (at least, for a few areas)

For a library to pilot a patron-driven acquisition program, it has to be willing to trust that the materials its patrons select are worth the money. The safeguards often put in place by librarians before triggering an auto-purchase (such as paying 10% for several short-term loans before purchasing) crank up the price, but also demonstrate that the title is in demand and has proven its usefulness. The librarian has to give up control of the selection process and trust that the money won’t be wasted. I like that the patron is given the power to show through their actual research process what they are looking for.

Is it strange that I no longer expect that industry to work to provide products based on the wants and needs of its clients? It’s just good business to do this, yet we’ve gotten so used to just accepting whatever is put in front of us, like it’s our parents telling us to “Eat your vegetables; they’re good for you.” The one-size-fits-all business model has become the norm.

Yet, here in two of our readings for this unit (Herrera, 2012, and Hamel et al., 2012), we see examples of academic libraries (University of Mississippi Libraries and University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries) who were able to successfully collaborate with e-book aggregators to create PDA programs aligned with their institutions values, missions and budgets! Both reports expressed concerns that they were still working to resolve, but also that the projects had been worth pursuing. Barb Hamel of UW-Madison Libraries came to speak to our class live and echoed Herrera’s conclusion: PDA e-books have a place as a PIECE of a collection policy. There also has to be room, especially in the budget, for a regular [print and database] collection too.

Polanka & Delquie, in their chapter of the 2011 book, Patron-Driven Acquisitions: History and Best Practices, provided a useful analysis of the aggregators providing PDA e-books, all of which seemed to offer fair and logical options for their clients. I think the authors were right to conclude that the evolution of such programs will depend on the market, the roles of librarians and the adoption of e-books. If libraries are able to create successful PDA systems, their patrons get what they are interested in AND their vendors earn a steady stream of e-book sales from the libraries, without the cost of shipping and binding and processing. Win-Win-Win.

In five to ten years, however, I wonder if these vendors of PDA systems will still be as “nice” and responsive to the libraries they serve—or if we will be back to the big guy telling the little guys “how it’s going to be”…

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