Now I’m a believer : Not a trace, of doubt in my mind I’m in love, and I’m a believer / Barbara Opar, Architecture Librarian, Syracuse University Libraries

Now I’m A Believer

These were my thoughts after I sat down and began to compile a list of the many ebooks in our collection. After meeting with the new coordinator of our Architecture program in Florence concerning access to core titles, I felt obligated to review our holdings. Folks encounter e-titles one by one in our catalog searching by title, author or subject. I have selected e-versions in lieu of or mostly to supplement holdings upon request. But e-versions are not set up to be the default in architecture. Nor are they specifically requested except for large class reserve. Indeed even when we have a title in e format, faculty often request print for ease of use.

There are certainly pros and cons with   electronic versions and I will note them elsewhere in this column. But first I would like to tell you what turned me into a believer:  mainly the depth of content. When you encounter a new title in the catalog or order an e-version of a very specialized work like E. R. Yescombe’s Public-Private Partnerships you are not immediately made aware of all the library can offer in this format. One really can teach in our distance programs with the content at hand without much reliance on interlibrary loan. Our broad coverage means that students should easily be able to write solid history and theory papers using e content, regardless of whether they are here in Syracuse or in our New York City, Florence, and London programs.

I am in the process of compiling a subject based listing of key titles from the many e-packages to which Syracuse University Libraries subscribes. Beginning with the few individual titles I have purchased, I went on to review the appropriate packages and extract relevant titles. While I am sure that I have missed some titles, I know this exercise will benefit to our users. I am willing to share the list once completed with ARLIS colleagues. The findings may be of use to you even without access to the actual ebook.

What did I learn? First of all, I now have a better understanding of what items vendors do or do not supply. Secondly, as already noted, I gained a truer understanding of the rich content that is readily available with a simple click. This exercise certainly introduced me to the best overall providers of architecture titles.

I began by checking our database holdings by content type. I was surprised to see that we had not activated the books section of JSTOR. As one of the original subscribers to JSTOR journal content, I had expected us to automatically activate these holdings. Speaking with our area collection development and analysis librarian I was told that I can select relevant titles for inclusion in our holdings and plan to do so. Since this cost will come out of my architecture collections budget rather than the Libraries overall e-resources budget, for now, my selection will be done title by title. In this instance I am more driven by the reputation of JSTOR than the actual 402 architecture and architectural history titles. Brand identity will ensure that students click on the content. The publishers included are highly regarded and important university presses like MIT, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. I am hoping too for the same JSTOR traits of quality and ease of access. JSTOR titles include:  194X: Architecture, Planning, and Consumer Culture on the American Home Front. This title discusses post war planning in Syracuse and is one I will surely add.

Below is the list of databases to which Syracuse University Libraries does subscribe and what I found about the content as well as any concerns:

ACLS Humanities E-book focuses on full-text of books in all areas of history. The browse feature allows the user to identify very specific content like key figures ( Antoine Le Pautre), regional studies like the colonial architecture in Massachusetts as well as broader topics like architecture and science. Unfortunately while the subject access is good, content can be limited in many areas. The user will only find one title under landscape architecture of the United States, that being a biography of Frederick Law Olmstead.  But the content that is available is core like Technics and Civilization by Lewis Mumford and Barbara Miller Lane’s Architecture and Politics in Germany, 1918-1945. Presentation of the text is clear. After clicking on the title, the user will see a table of contents and can select individual chapters for download. One can even access book reviews. The number of pages which can be printed is however restricted.

Books24x7 provides business, technical and engineering content including digitized books, book summaries, research reports and best practices. Key architectural design titles are available but the sustainability titles are the most relevant to architecture. To that end, core reference titles like Lechner’s Plumbing, Electricity, Acoustics: Sustainable Design Methods for Architecture are included as well as more specialized titles like Watson’s Design for Flooding: Architecture, Landscape and Urban Design for Resilience to Climate Change. The viewer can easily narrow chapter content and find the appropriate section.

Credo Reference offers access to a collection of aggregated and integrated reference books from high-quality publishers. Titles like 100 Ideas that Changed Architecture are included in this database which focuses on reference works.

Early American Imprints is a multi-part series and a treasure trove of early architectural writings.  Evans 1639-1800  provides full-text and full-page-image access to books, pamphlets and broadsides printed in America from 1639-1800.  Available are works by John Norman, William Pain and Abraham Swan. Shaw-Shoemaker (1801-1819)  provides similar access to materials published in America from 1801 through 1819. Building trade information like carpenters’ guides and early cost estimating titles are included.

Early English Books Online: EEBO contains over 125,000 titles listed in Pollard & Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640), Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700), and the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661). From the first book printed in English by William Caxton, through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare and the tumult of the English Civil War, Early English Books Online (EEBO) provides e-content. TIFF files are also available for download. This is a good source for English editions of Palladio.

eBook Collection (EBSCO) requires Adobe Digital Editions to download ebooks from its collection to a digital device. This is by far the series with the richest architecture content. The collection includes works published between 1987 and 2015. The boolean phrase “architecture history” elicits a total of 348 titles, all of which are relevant, highly regarded and frequently consulted in print. Works on historical figures like Viollet-le-Duc are covered in addition to architectural movements (e.g. Arts and Crafts), building types, and topical studies like women in architecture. The Architecture of Industry: Changing Paradigms in Industrial Buildings and Planning from Routledge, Wine and Architecture from Detail, Pier Vittorio Aureli’s The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture published by MIT as well Leon Krier’s The Architecture of Community from Island Press are among the selections available to users. Birkhauser’s contributions include Designing Interior Architecture: Concept, Typology, Material, Construction.  The ebook database entries look like those for EBSCO’s article databases. One can select the pdf file or an offline download.

ebrary eBook Collection is a searchable ebook collection in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Ebrary requires the user to create a sign-in to get access to all its features. Titles available include  Francis Ching’s A Global History of Architecture, Architectural Theory : An Anthology from Vitruvius to 1870 by Harry Francis Mallgrave and Andrew Ballantyne’s Key Buildings from Prehistory to the Present: Plans, Sections and Elevations, all of which are frequently placed on course reserve.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online: ECCO  is a comprehensive digital edition of The Eighteenth Century microfilm set, which has aimed to include every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas, between 1701 and 1800. Asher Benjamin’s guides are part of the collections.

Springer ebooks are full-text ebooks in computer science, mathematics, business & management, engineering and physics. Titles focusing on energy are most relevant. There is also landscape related content to which the Libraries does not yet subscribe.

So with all this solid content, why have I not been buying more ebooks?  While some ebooks are published at the same time as the print, that is not always the case. Timeliness matters to our users. Other reasons include ease of use. Many people still do not like to read “serious” material online and the ability to go back and forth between chapters is difficult if not impossible in e-format. Limits on printing are issues faculty mention time after time. Lack of consistency with respect to how the material appears on the screen and downloading issues are troublesome. Some vendors require checkout while others do not. Cost, duplication, printing quotas, inconsistent platforms, and even certain library policies and practices are all additional factors I must consider when selecting this content. Our Libraries have gone from single user access to requiring unlimited access. The vendors however do not all provide this across the board or even throughout their platforms.

Then why consider ebooks at all?  The reasons are obvious. Besides 24×7 access, ebooks allow us to serve distance programs with the same kinds of resources they would find in-house. Faculty can suggest readings and know that the student will be able to locate the material. On campus, those students who may not be as likely to come into the library are now better served and will become familiar with critical readings.

Not everything is available in these databases or can be purchased title by title. We are still working in a hybrid environment. But I am pleased with my foray into the world of ebook packages and now see this as a way of expanding our user base and better serving everyone.


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