Breaking Up and Moving On: Emery/Stone Chapter 7 & 8

On Breaking Up:

As a follow-up to their chapter on annual reviews, Jill Emery and Graham Stone offer advice to librarians who have decided that they need to cancel some of their electronic resources. Cancellation cannot be a decision that you make on your own (nor can you keep it to yourself). It is important to communicate with stakeholders and help them understand the repercussions of the change. For example, I would imagine that sometimes when budgets are cut, the budget “cutters” may not always realize what is being lost. Meeting with the faculty to help them understand what needs to be done may help them prioritize and puts the onus of a difficult decision on them. Stakeholders may also shed some light on reasons for underperformance of a resource.

Even if you are ending a relationship with a vendor, you shouldn’t burn any bridges. After all, you never know if that representative you just yelled at for raising your subscription rates will decide to move and become your new representative with a different vendor. Or, your funding may return in a couple of years, and you might want to take them back–who wants to go back with their tail between their legs. Instead, it’s best to approach cancellation with the attitude that feedback helps the market. Regardless of your reason for leaving, letting the vendor know why might help them improve their service or someday help you again.

Of course, your patrons will also need to be notified–the more notice, the better. Change is hard for folks and the transition will be smoother if they know it’s coming or if you can give them some time to get used to the replacement. It’s a good too to keep notes on your reasons and plans for canceling for your staff. You wouldn’t want someone to accidentally re-order something that you just tried to cancel. Also, down the road, that stinker of a cancelled database might be on the table to be purchased again and we wouldn’t want to repeat a mistake just because you didn’t communicate the problem with them.

Moving On:

Emery and Stone suggest that the state of e-books is in the same mess that e-journals were in about 10 years ago. Here’s hoping that vendors, librarians and researchers figure out what they want and how to use them soon. There’s some disagreement on the best format for e-books in libraries, so like a lot of things, they feel like a risky place in which to sink a lot of money. Traditional publishing may look different in the future and scholarly content delivery may come from sources we wouldn’t expect. The trick is to be on the cutting edge, but not the bleeding edge.

In my opinion, the most exciting prospect for electronic resource management is the refinement of the workflows in ILS and ERM Systems. Like Ken Chad says, ILSs are “ripe for disruption.” As electronic resources have taken their place in libraries and we’ve need ERMS to keep track of them, it only makes sense that the ERMS and the ILS start working together. Why not look for a consolidation that saves time and keeps us from duplicating information? New systems will help us work smarter, not harder. To get better, we’ll need to keep looking at TERMS and understand the frustrations, needs and wants of the information professionals on the front lines.

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”…