An ALCTS e-Forum on “The State of e-Books in Libraries” was held on August 15–16, 2017 and provided an opportunity for the library community to come together to discuss the opportunities and challenges of providing e-books to users. Mariah Harvey and Buddy Pennington (both of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City) served as facilitators. Topics of discussion included collection development and acquisitions, workflows and metadata, and assessment and usage. The discussion was engaging and informative with many participants contributing their experiences and suggestions to the community.
Workflows and Metadata
Workflows, particularly around metadata and MARC records, were of much interest to discussion participants. For many libraries, e-books are acquired not only as single orders but in large collections or packages. This leads to challenges for libraries as they must acquire and load in large sets of MARC records for their e-book collections. Not only do vendors send MARC sets on different schedules, but these sets often require some amount of review and revision prior to loading. Many libraries utilize scripted tasks in MarcEdit to make these changes to record sets. These tasks should be documented or even networked so that they are easily accessed by library staff and efficiently updated as needed.
Some libraries outsource this MARC records management to an outside service such as ProQuest (formerly Serials Solutions) 360 MARC Updates or OCLC WorldShare Management. These services will aggregate URL access points on different platforms onto a single vendor-neutral MARC record and provide these records and their updates to libraries on a regular schedule. These services assist libraries in handling duplicate records for the same e-book. Libraries also utilize features within their ILS platforms to deduplicate records utilizing ISBN or another field as a matchpoint. Others provide e-book holdings information in selection tools such as GOBI or Hoopla to mitigate duplication when placing orders. Cornell University Library provided an example record from their catalog that offered a very user-friendly way to link duplicates of the same e-book.
Assessment and Usage
Assessment and usage were also discussed during the form. While many libraries rely on COUNTER usage reports, many libraries go further to compare e-book usage across platforms. The Neumann Library at the University of Houston-Clear Lake provided a visually interesting example of presenting e-book usage data using Tableau. University of Florida Libraries shared a report comparing e-book usage by broad discipline.
Usability of e-books was discussed, with libraries noting challenges supporting users in terms of downloading e-books to digital devices. Users do not always use the latest device or operating system. If they do, the process to download an e-book can be cumbersome and not intuitive for users. The University of North Texas Library provided research in this area, including a poster presented at the 2017 American Libraries Association Annual conference entitled “Is Print Really Dead? Exploring the Relationship Between the Technology Acceptance Model and Use of E-books at a Large Research University.”
Overall, the two-day discussion generated 188 posts from participants working in public, academic, and special libraries, sharing their challenges and strategies in providing e-books to users.