September 30, 2023

LJ/SLJ Ebook Summit: Academic Panel Tackles PDA, Ebook Discovery


At a late-morning panel today at LJ’s and School Library Journal’s virtual summit “Ebooks: The New Normal,” four academic librarians at different stages of implementing patron-driven acquisition (PDA) at their institutions shared a range of experiences as they tackled issues surrounding PDA and ebook discovery. The panel was moderated by Sue Polanka, head of reference and instruction at Wright State University Libraries, Dayton, OH, and author of the No Shelf Required blog.

“Blanket the world”
Nancy Gibbs, head of acquisitions at Duke University Libraries, Durham, NC, spoke about the challenges it faced during its recent PDA pilot project. Many ebook titles that the library wanted to offer weren’t available in ebook format, for example, and others that the library had little interest in were. However, the pilot was popular among patrons, particularly in subjects such as computers, business and economics, political science, and the physical sciences, Gibbs said. She also said that e-lending had advantages over print interlibrary loan, when available.

However, Duke’s experience shows that PDA also means a lot of work for library staff—at least during the initial transition. In an effort to make the titles discoverable, the library put all the PDA titles into its catalog and its discovery services, and made them accessible via OCLC. “We just tried to blanket the world with these titles,” she said. Making sure that all the various links worked was “quite a challenge in the beginning,” she said.

An ereader lending program, with 49 ereaders, made e-content more attractive to users, and usage was perhaps also spurred by timing—as the pilot occurred at the end of the fall semester. Once the pilot project was over, she said, the library continued to get requests in the brief period before the library could remove the titles from the catalog.

PDA behind the scenes
Scott R. Anderson is the associate professor of librarianship at Millersville University, PA, which is in an earlier stage in the PDA timeline; indeed, he opened his presentation telling the virtual audience that “we haven’t really done this yet”—but the library is “awfully close” to offering PDA ebooks to its users.

PDA-candidate materials, he said, would be findable, and full-text searchable, via the library’s EBSCO Discovery Service, not through the catalog. However, the library is committed to giving those materials the same look-and-feel as owned materials, as far as users are concerned—and he showed an example of how owned and PDA items appeared identical in the user interface. “We want to get as much of the back-office operation as far away from the users as possible,” he said, adding that “students don’t have to be aware that PDA is happening under the hood”—an ease-of-use strategy that Duke’s Gibbs also stressed.

Making the case for PDA
George Machovec, interim executive director at the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, noted that the consortium was the first to offer PDA, from 1999 to 2005, with NetLibrary—and he set out to make a case for the PDA model, particularly in a consortial environment.

The consortium did a ten-year study and found that at least 39 percent of print monographs selected by bibliographers were never used by patrons. That’s “a very strong argument in favor of why PDA programs are helpful,” he said.

In an upcoming pilot program the consortium is planning to undertake with YBP, ebrary, and Ebook Library, he said, it would focus on several issues—such as which publishers would participate; making PDA-candidate records properly viewable in the union catalog; controlling spending on materials; and avoiding buying the same materials in both electronic and print versions.

Machovec showed some hard numbers from a recent year-long PDA pilot at the University of Denver, in which some 65,000 Ebook Library titles were made available to users; over the course of a year: just 325 titles were purchased, 3,599 titles short-term loaned—and more than 6400 browsed for fewer than five minutes—for a total cost to the library of about $73,000. That is about one-tenth of what it would have cost for the library to purchase all of the titles outright.

Smita Joshipura, electronic resources management coordinator at Arizona State University (ASU), also presented some numbers  from ASU’s PDA program with Ingram’s MyiLibrary. From February 2010 to August 2011, the library spent $221,734 to purchase 1,547 ebooks using PDA. Over a slightly shorter period, May 2010 to August 2011, it spent $31,596 on 559 print books using PDA—suggesting that libraries could potentially expect increased patron involvement with electronic PDA. Like other speakers, she also stressed making PDA-candidate records accessible in a variety of ways, including discovery services and LibGuides.


David Rapp About David Rapp

Associate editor David Rapp previously covered technology for Library Journal.