Collections as a Service

Daniel Dollar

Daniel Dollar

Daniel Dollar, Director of Collection Development, Yale University Library, said that libraries are now in a transition from a print to a digital environment and are straddling a hybrid world. As we move away form tangible formats, the library must continually adapt to changing environment and think of collections as a library service, not as an end in themselves.  Libraries support teaching and learning and connect users to diverse collections.  We must move away from acquiring material with no near-term expectation of use, and try to make some data-informed decisions: who needs what and why.  Yale has formulated a collection development philosophy.

How do we know what to buy? Here are some examples:

  • Approvals: Circulation frequency data showed that of 8,000 monograph titles that Yale had acquired, only 5% had circulated. (As time goes on, circulation usually grows to about 15% of the titles.) Adjustments to circulation development policies were made based on circulation data. Funds were moved to shelf-ready services, and a shift to e-books was approved.
  • Borrow Direct is a service in some of the Ivy League+ libraries to share and move books around from one library to another rapidly (in 2-4 days). The hope was that it would open up access to lesser used materials; however Yale’s experience was that 60% of the materials borrowed were already owned by the library but were checked out.
  • Print books: There is currently a lot of press about how important print still is; however, undergraduate circulation of print books decreased 47% between 2006 and 2015. Graduate student circulation decreased 51% between 2011 and 2015. Access to books is generally decreasing.
  • Ebrary: Yale has had a subscription since 2003 and has access to over 100,000 titles. About 25% of collection is not used. If an electronic copy is the only one available at Yale, will users try to get a print copy? The data shows that not many do, so there is a role for a “good enough” copy.
  • It is difficult to compare circulation of print and electronic books.  Print circulation seems to be holding steady.

Collection trends: 40% of the circulation is primary source material for the humanities. Expenditures got up to about $21M in about 2008. Eletronic resource expenditures are taking a lot from print and were about 70% last year. About $7M was spent on e-books, and $250,000 on maintenance fees. These trends are continuing: there is more spending on digital resources, collective collection development and management as part of multiple networks. Borrow Direct is important in serving users. In all collection development activities, service is a guiding principle.

Don HawkinsDon Hawkins
Charleston 2015 Conference Blogger and Against The Grain Columnist


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