University of Huddersfield

Venue: University of Huddersfield

Date: 9th January 2014

  • Cherry Edmunds (Senior Library Assistant)
  • Briony Heyhoe-Pullar (Acquisitions Manager)
  • Kate McGuinn (Subject Librarian)
  • Alison Sharman (Academic Librarian)
  • Graham Stone (Information Resources Manager)

1 – Selection

Academics want students to use e-books, which are regarded as an efficient way of providing access to large numbers of students and also to part time and distance students. However

  • Textbooks are not necessarily available
  • E-book availability often lags behind print (so the library sometimes buys multiple print copies, and then buys the e-book as well)
  • Collection information is always out of date (e.g. delays with lists on Summon and in updating MARC records)
  • Titles drop out of collections with no warning

Instability of aggregator title availability impacts Reading Lists, so the team does not to include collection titles in reading lists as there is no guarantee of access (therefore the library ends up buying some titles both in a collection and individually).

Finance regulations, based on the aggregator procurement, preclude going direct to publishers without special justification other than for Jisc deals.

Poor value for money is a key factor:

  • Direct purchase of a title from publishers can mean purchasing a package
  • Academic publishing choices can raise value issues – e.g. £33k p.a. for a book published by a Huddersfield academic. KnowledgeUnlatched or similar models could start to offer alternatives, though direct author payment needs to be on offer

We need more intelligent selection / acquisition tools to search external resources, find pricing, and assess other factors (institution preference, national e-book agreement, credit models). Note that Swets has some services in this area.

Selling directly to academics (like Coursesmart) generates problems

  • They create support difficulties for the library – namely who provides user support and who owns user problems with a resource? The assumption would be the library.
  • Furthermore it is in everyone’s interest that the Library should offer guidance on value, licensing, UX etc

2 – Administration

E-book workflows are problematic although improving. Dawson, as preferred UH supplier, is well integrated into UH workflows. However new library management systems are likely to change workflows and may ‘favour’ some suppliers.

Working with suppliers

  • UH is seeing a better approach from such as Dawson working with some universities
  • UH would welcome advocacy and lobbying activity by SCONUL and/or purchasing consortia to complement institutional and user group activity (noting that user groups are not as commonly or clearly established as they are for software vendors).
  • Bear in mind that book suppliers are not focused as scholarly organisations as HE is a small part of book supply (e.g. Bertram (Coutts) is not UK based and not HE specific).

There are workarounds for some issues – e.g. a spreadsheet to record details of books not in the Serials Solutions KB or in SS KB but not appearing in Summon. Note that every library faces these issues and therefore a collaborative list makes sense – especially if shared openly with vendors. This could fit in to KB+.

PDA is a major challenge – it is very good for students but involves significant admin in setting up and closing down offers (removing records, etc). Part of the problem is that suppliers are not necessarily on top of PDA themselves (e.g. Coutts cannot supply a list of non-purchased titles from a PDA agreement). The team questions whether suppliers really test these systems or simply improvise based old systems?

Credits management is also a significant overhead, with different approaches across the providers and a lot of automated email traffic to be managed (e.g. Dawson sends an email from 25 credits down to zero).

3 – Use & Assessment

The UH Acquisition team was emailing the subject team with information about 12 month anniversary, number of credits, budget code, whether on reading list, etc. This has now been automated by UH in a dashboard, which also covers usage patterns (e.g. whether used by a single student or multiple students), which can inform best value purchasing decisions and also budget allocation (e.g. which faculty is using a title).

COUNTER stats do not monitor the nature of use (e.g. for Reading List material we require user level access stats). COUNTER does indicate if you are getting value from collections. It might also be useful to break out publisher level COUNTER stats to compare cost of individual title purchase from a publisher compared to cost of publisher package. Libraries therefore need two kinds of information:

  • For packages/collections = COUNTER (via JUSP)
  • For individual titles = transaction level data to ascertain best purchase model, which UH gets from EZproxy (locally sourced)

4 – User Experience

There is not time to show students all features so they miss the benefits platforms offer (e.g. Dawson’s bookshelf, Ebrary highlighting and annotation, etc), which they may find compelling if aware. Could there be shared documentation across the community (even if then built in to local guides)? Could a standard set of features be supported?

It was always easier with e-journals in that users always get PDFs, with much less temptation for a platform features beauty parade.

Mobile (phone, tablet, reader, etc) support is a source of frustration (e.g. Increasing support for Kindle Fire but no support for Kindle). This is a struggle for both library staff and suppliers and is (almost) inexplicable to Students. It may be that the providers may not be aware of the issues and there may be room for open information exchange on a more systematic basis (e.g. a features / problems database linked to e-book packages, managed in KB+).

Why are multiple interfaces an issue for users who deal with this all the time in their personal digital worlds (Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, ebay, etc)? The perception is that the Library is the interface in this case – so students are unhappy with this supplier providing multiple interfaces, equivalent to Amazon having multiple interfaces for selling books. Furthermore students are not all 18 years old and tech savvy and also many still prefer print so are easily dissuaded by the muddle.

Accessibility is a key challenge at UH as up to 10% students are registered with a disability. Supplier provided ‘accessible options’ do not typically work well. Note that White Rose has an accessibility project.

Should we be using free e-books?

  • UH loaded a range of free e-books into Summon but it did not work well as they ranked too highly in search results; however the Hathi trust is different as the content is searchable in Summon
  • The bigger UH concern is about integration of titles published by University Presses and such likes (e.g. Huddersfield, UCL). Getting titles in to DOAJ has been a serious challenge and we might expect more of the same with e-books (DOAB). Perhaps Jisc Collections could help here.

5 – Most discussed pain points

  • The tension between the expectations of academics and students and the reality of e-books in terms of price, availability and user experience
  • Titles moving in and out of collections so they cannot reliably be used to support Reading lists
  • The overheads of PDA workflows exacerbated by the chaotic approach of vendors to systematizing them

6 – Future Developments

The following may be of interest:

  • ‘Rent a chapter’ is being tried by some
  • ‘Build your own textbook’ by bringing together chapters (see Cengage)
  • ‘Social reading’ – ideas and opportunities arising from a project undertaken by Alison Sharman involving Gutenburg and Readmill content. Tutors could see what students were reading and what they were making of it – and therefore guide the students. Students found they could ‘think aloud’ and had a record of what they had done.

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