This article was co-written by the e-Forum moderators.
The ALCTS e-Forum “E-book Management: What Works, What Doesn’t” was held on November 13–17, 2018 and moderated by Heather Shipman (Cornell University Library) and Xiaoyan Song (North Carolina State University Library). Discussion topics focused on staffing and organizational structure, e-book acquisition and licensing, tools for e-book management, e-book discovery, promotion, and troubleshooting.
Participants discussed the organization of staff around their e-book activities: some folks are the only one in their library working on it; some work in teams where each person has a very specific role; others work in cross-trained teams with more flexibility but also more chaos. In some cases, responsibility for—and power over—licensing or selection lies outside their department. Some of the changes that participants have experienced include a rearrangement of duties among staff members, outsourcing of some tasks, near-complete staff turnover, and the shift of attention to e-books over print. They also discussed whether or not there is an underlying principle that drives our choice on how to arrange things. Several libraries expressed that flexibility is the main driver in terms of staffing and organization. One participant mentioned subject liaisons having control over their subject areas.
Participants then shared the systems and tools used for e-book management. Some libraries have a suite of systems and tools to support their e-book management, while others have only one system to work with by centralizing their e-book with one provider. Among the tools, there are open source tools, such as FOLIO, KOHA, and CORAL. Some are home-grown, and some are commercial products, such as Alma, SirsiDynix, EBSCO ERM, Serials Solutions etc.
Library stances on the print versus electronic issue varied—and not just in terms of oft-debated philosophical differences. One library has a serious floor-load problem that prevents them buying more print books, so they’re buying more electronic. Class use is a particularly thorny issue, given limits on simultaneous users and the potential for a title’s removal from a non-perpetual issue; several libraries hesitate to promote e-book for class use. Participants largely agreed that withdrawal of e-books from packages is problematic but rampant; advance notification of the titles to be removed is lacking.
They compared notes on curation and over-triggering of demand-driven acquisition (DDA) titles, pros and cons of evidence-based acquisition (EBA), Alma migrations and Ex Libris support issues, and de-duplication challenges. Issues of DDA and perpetual title duplication were raised. Feedback on EBA was a mix: it works for some libraries, but not for others due to not enough usage.
Participants shared their wish for better tools, as well as challenges and opportunities they see in getting these tools. A couple of libraries wished for a centralized system, where they can perform all e-book management work. Other tools on the wish list include an automated duplication-checking tool, an automated access checker, and a way to monitor deletions for various suppliers. Some access checkers were mentioned by participants: Callisto to monitor downtime from various platforms, and TALIS Aspire and Innovative with URL checkers built in. As to de-duplication, one library uses EBSCO holdings management spreadsheet. One challenge mentioned is information technology (IT) development resources. Opportunities include system integration and partnership-building in the community.
Participants discussed the biggest challenges for troubleshooting:
- withdrawal of e-books from non-perpetual-access subscription packages
- e-book platform migrations
- ILS migrations
- archival access rights
- “analytic” or series titles
Some libraries take proactive approaches for troubleshooting, including:
- communication of known issues
- LibGuides for FAQs of how to navigate databases
- avoiding the complications of every platform doing things differently by only buying e-book from one aggregator
- considering accessibility when purchasing
As to e-book discovery, many libraries load all e-books into their catalog, though one library no longer loads subscription MARC metadata due to the complications of additions and withdrawals—they only load perpetual access titles. Some libraries perform maintenance work including reconciliation, troubleshooting access issues, and enhancing MARC record quality in MarcEdit. Scripts are created to automate integrated library system (ILS) record-management processes. One library also has staff to manually add new e-book titles to their LibGuides.
Towards the end, participants had some discussion on promoting e-books to patrons. Promotion efforts include sending regular collection highlights via campus email lists, posting announcements via social media, and distributing fliers.
Though there were differences in staffing, systems and tools, and local practices for e-book management across all libraries, common concerns surfaced from the discussion, and varying ideas and solutions were shared.
To view the full e-forum transcript, visit the ALCTS e-Forum Archive.