I remember listening to a discussion a few weeks ago about library budgets and how dollars are allocated. If you take away salary and benefits much of the library’s budget is used on resources like databases, journals, books etc., which isn’t much of a surprise. Also not a surprise is how much of this money is now put towards electronic resources and how less is put towards printed resources. I do think libraries in general have a way to go before they are entirely online and have no printed books or physical materials on the shelves. (As to if and when that ever happens, it will probably depend on the type of library and its scope.) But there is no doubt that we are collecting more online and the amount we are spending for online resources has increased significantly. Depending on how your library classifies resources you might find that at least 70% of the total resource budget goes to online resources.
What was kind of surprising was the percentage of staff costs that go toward the non-electronic resources. What do I mean by this? Well on a very simple model (one person library) think of how much time a person spends checking in printed journals, binding journals, ordering and processing printed books, photo copying, routing table of contents, etc.
Now ask the question, “Is your library staff structure in balance with your resource spending?” While the amount staff time may not be exactly equal to your spending, it should not be completely out of whack. For example how effective is it for your library to have people focusing on BackMed to fill out a collection when your library is shrinking its print collection? Do you need to have somebody checking print issues in when you get the journal online? How indepth do you need to process a printed book if it is available online?
Let us look at it from another angle. How many people access your website and how many staff do you have to maintain it? How many staff are doing the high touch outreach services and also adding online tutorials to those they can’t reach? Now compare that with the how you staff the reference desk where you pay your staff to sit and wait for a question.
These are overly simple examples, the true answers can be a little more trickey. There are also exceptions to every rule and there are reasons we do what we do, but one of the reasons should not be, “We’ve just always done it this way.” It is easy to fall in to ruts and continue what we have always been doing. We are creatures of habit. But every now and then we need to step back and look at our library from a different perspective, look at where the majority of our money is going and whether we are appropriating staff time, knowledge and skills accordingly.
This morning my colleague and I finished recording our brief video that will be a part of MLA’s ABC’s of E-Books: Strategies for the Medical Librarywebinar on November 10th. You can see the agenda for the presnterson MLA’s website.
Marian Simonson and I will have a brief 4-5 min. video presenting how we manage our ebooks at the Cleveland Clinic. We will talk about how/why we add them to the catalog and how we originally created a plain old web page listing all of our ebooks by title and by subject. Then as we started to collect more and more ebooks the web list became difficult to manage, time consuming, and too long to scroll through. So we decided to manage our electronic books using our Electronic Resource Management system. Our ERM is through our ILS which is Innovative Interfaces. In the video we discussed how we are using our ERM to manage our ebooks and what our patrons will see and how they might use it as well as what the librarians will see and how they use it. (Side Note: We didn’t mention this in the video but you don’t have to have III to have an ERM, many other ILS providers have ERMs, including systems specializing in small to medium size medical libraries.)
Our video was only meant to be 4 minutes and I feel like we could have talked longer on the topic. After the webinar on November 10th I will post about some of things that I think I would have liked to have said or expanded upon if we had more time. It is easier to do it after the webinar so I when I refer to things, you will have already seen the video.
Last week I sat in on the Springer LibraryZone Virtual eBook webinar and it was a very interesting discussion. Many libraries (especially academic) are investigating and collecting e-books in lieu of some printed text. How much they are collecting and the nature by which they to the selection process seems to vary according each library, their type, size, consortia involvement, usage data, etc.
The reasons why and how much they bought all varied but the frustrations, questions, and concerns the faced were very similar and seemed on the minds of every librarian regardless of their library, type, size, consortia involvement, etc. So what were these concerns?
DRM- Digital rights restrictions. It seems that every publisher has different rules and while some things can be put on electronic reserve others cannot. While some things can be shared through ILL or on Blackboard others cannot. This is not only a particular frustration among librarians but also patrons who aren’t as savvy with copyright issues. The patrons get frustrated with DRM restrictions for library materials and they are even more frustrated with the restrictions for e-books they buy themselves. Their view is, “I bought, don’t tell me how I am allowed to use it.” I am not saying this is always the right or wrong thought process, but it is their thoughts and to a certain extent librarians.
Access – How do people find your e-books was a common question among the librarians. The e-books publishers don’t always have decent MARC records (if they have any) that can be easily added to the catalog. So the cataloger must work to add them into the catalog, yet more and more patrons really don’t use the catalog these days. They would rather randomly search the library’s website or Google. Some librarians mentioned universal search engines on their web sites as helpful but few mentioned those as having all the answers for finding e-books. The impression that I got was universal search engines help but aren’t the magic bullet to finding your e-book collection.
Platform confusion – Every publisher’s platform is different and this causes a lot of confusion for finding the book in the platform, accessing it, reading, printing off a chapter, not to mention linking to it within catalogs and Blackboard. People (librarians and patrons) don’t want to think. They want a standard look at feel when selecting an e-book and reading a chapter. They want to print of a paragraph, chapter, or section but some platforms only allow you to see one paragraph at a time on the screen, others disable printing, while others allow the chapter to printed off in PDF. See how confusing this is for a student who goes into one book reads the chapter in PDF then goes to another book on another platform and wants to print out that chapter to read offline. This type of problem of platform variation was seen a lot with e-journals in the beginning. There are still some differences in e-journal sites but many are starting to gradually adopt a similar look and feel these days. One can only hope e-book publishers might do the same.
Package vs. Single Title – There is some frustration and confusion over how publishers bundle (or don’t bundle) their e-books. Some expressed how it is frustrating that if they bought the titles they want/needed ala carte they would be paying a lot more than if they bought them in a bundle. Why is this a problem? There were people who expressed anger at paying for titles in the bundle that they didn’t want. Others expressed frustrations with publishers who allowed their content to be on independent or outside platforms only to yank their books from those platforms later. McGraw Hill has been doing this recently with their textbooks on other reseller platforms such as Ovid and StatRef, interestingly not all of their pulled titles are even available on a McGraw Hill platform, thus leaving the title unavailable online.
Content – This is one of the biggest frustrations among librarians and was a recently discussed on liblicense-l and Medlib-l. Just because you bought the textbook doesn’t mean that it is the same in e-book version and vice versa. It can be something as simple as no page numbers on the electronic version (making it difficult for people to cite a reference in their articles). Or it can be as extensive as missing chapters in the printed volume that are only available online via a special subscription service or code intended for individuals (not libraries). If the missing material is in electronic form it means the library may not be able to get the content via ILL, depending on that publisher’s copyright policies. This phenomenon is also happening in reverse, online texts not having all of the content of the printed text. Therefore, a library buys the e-book for for curriculum reasons and the teacher wants to link out to a specific chapter on Blackboard only to learn that chapter is not available electronically, it is only available in print. At least in this scenario libraries can get the printed chapter via ILL. Many feel this is a classic example of buyer beware or bait and switch since very few publishers disclose these caveats when somebody is buying the printed textbook or e-book. There were some librarians on Medlib-l who now refuse to purchase certain publishers based on these questionable editing practices.
There was some discussion about e-books on Kindels, Nooks, iPads, etc. but it appeared that most librarians weren’t currently collecting e-books for specific readers. They still collected e-books based on need and for curriculum reasons. It seems that many still have patrons accessing them on desktops or laptops. So while it seems that many in the publishing world are focused on the various readers, it appears that librarians are focused on content and accessibility, NOT the readers. Which makes things difficult. It kind of reminds me of dating and the old saying, “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” Perhaps librarians and their patrons are from Mars and publishers are from Venus, we both focus on different things in our relationship making communication and partnership difficult. Librarians would like to purchase e-books but feel frustrated by backbone issues like accessibility, content, etc. while publishers would like to sell e-books but are focused on exterior issues like readers. It probably makes each group (librarians and publishers) feel like they the other is playing hard to get.
According to iMedicalApps.com Kaplan is offering 100 free e-books through the Apple Bookstore for a limited time. There are 19 medically related books available including USMLE books, MCAT, and CCRN books.
Unfortunately this free book detail is only available to iPad and iPhone users (because the deal is only available at the Apple Bookstore) until August 30, 2010.
Check out iMedicalApps.com for more information and some good screen shots of what the books look like on the iPad (they state it is “significantly easier” to read the books on the iPad).