Friday, June 22, 2012

My latest obsession: Demand-driven acquisitions

This article on the Inside Higher Ed site spurred me to write about what in which I'm currently deeply involved - evaluation of our pilot of demand- or patron-driven acquisitions (DDA or PDA, which ever your preference).  Given the posting's source, it is no surprise that the focus is about the potential impact of DDA on university presses.
But how PDA stands to affect university presses -- the subject of Esposito’s Mellon-funded research, which he plans to release in full next month -- is harder to predict. If academic libraries pay only for what their patrons use, will university presses still be able to afford to publish obscure monographs that nobody reads?
Nobody truly knows the extent to which academic libraries prop up university presses that dutifully churn out hyper-specialized monographs and adapted dissertations in addition to their more popular titles, said Esposito...
But based on what little information he was able to glean through his research, Esposito did some admittedly rough accounting and estimated that ... university presses could be looking at a $32 million loss, or about 10 percent of total sales. "So a big enough number to be concerned, but it's not going to topple the business," said Esposito in an e-mail after the panel. He added that this was an extreme scenario in which libraries buy absolutely none of the titles that never get checked out of the stacks.
The point is that university presses might stand to take a hit if they do not adapt cleverly, said Esposito. “The challenge is for the libraries’ gain not to be the presses’ loss,” he said,
Well, that would be an interesting aspect to look at as I examine our own data from our pilot.  So far, I've looked at purchases by week (they appear to fluctuate similarly to circulations and e-resource usage), as well as purchases and usage by fund or discipline (there is extreme variation, with one field dominating both purchases and usage at 12%, and some having fewer than 1 percent of purchases).  I've also looked at different purchasing models we could have chosen to see which would have been more effective use of limited funds; it appears the model of "renting" the books up to 3 times before purchasing would have been a better fit, given how many books have been used less than four times.  I hope to present my results at a few conferences this year, but now I have a different aspect to examine - number of items purchased that were published by university presses.  Finally, I want to find out how well our users' selections stand against the test of time - will their selections continue to be used by others?  How does usage compare with those selected by our subject librarians?  That, I think, will be the deciding factor in the future of DDA.

I'm also interested in NISO's announcement of an initiative to develop recommended practices for DDA.  A couple of people have suggested I participate in this working group, so I think I'll look into that.  I like being involved in bigger-picture things.

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