Since September of 2013 the Frick Art Reference Library has been providing its readers with access to ebooks through EBL on a demand-driven basis. Nearly three years of usage has provided some perspective on how this program has performed and ways in which it has impacted the use of the Frick’s collection. Numerous webinars and eforums have focused on ebook usage such as a recent ACRL webinar entitled Ebooks Usage on a Global Scale: Patterns, Trends, and New Conclusions. However, I feel concrete data as it pertains to art libraries will be beneficial to any institution currently participating in or considering a Demand-Driven Acquisition (DDA) program.
Since its inception, statistics have been kept on the use of our DDA program including Short Term Loan (STL) cost, STL instances, purchase price of title, STL percentage of purchase price, as well as the number of times the title was requested. These statistics, when examined at the micro and macro level, reveal the extent of the use of our DDA program and whether it corroborates the trends and concerns associated with DDA and ebooks.
The scope of the Frick Art Reference Library’s collection focuses on Western art from the fourth century through World War II. Our DDA plan includes titles relating to our scope but also touches on related elements such as architecture, photography, history, and museology. The purpose of our DDA plan is to provide remote access to titles within our scope as well as titles that supplement our holdings. With the exception of a few titles – The Language of Doctor Who: From Shakespeare to Alien Tongues is one that comes to mind – this has largely been realized. Usage has been especially high for titles pertaining to museology and museum studies. There are also noticeable trends in the use of titles that reflect upcoming exhibitions – our own staff and interns have been using the DDA plan to supplement their research.
One of the larger concerns with DDA plans is the increasing cost of the short term loan. In fact, this seems to be the area of greatest consternation whenever the discussion of DDA plans arises. However, an examination of our statistics shows that the STL percentage of purchase price has decreased over time. As reflected in the chart below, the percentage of purchase price of the average STL has gone from 14.6% in 2013 to 12.3% as of June 2015. The increase in STL price has in part been stymied by implementing a mediated request on all titles with very high rate of STLs. Requests to access such titles have to be approved in order to prevent frivolous expenses. Also, compared to when the DDA plan was first implemented we have shortened the length of the STL from several days to only one day. Overall, the 300 instances of STLs have resulted in an 85% savings compared to the outright purchase of the requested titles.
Despite the benefits of our DDA plan outlined above, there are some points of contention. One is the variability in yearly usage. As outlined in the chart below, usage does not seem steady year-to-year. There are a number of reasons that could point to this fluctuation: the rather convoluted login process or readers may simply be using our library to access physical material. Our own staff is responsible for a lot of early usage as we tinkered with the new system. Also, our early system allowed users to access content with a login which increased use until we found it to be too costly. It will be interesting to see if usage levels out – or increases – over time. Another area of frustration was the initial available titles and publishers. The previous provider for our DDA plan did not follow specific classifications for titles and included non-scholarly titles. As a result, large swaths of publishers had to be eliminated from our ebook holdings because they were blatantly out of scope. YBP, our current provider, has a more granular subject access that has excluded non-scholarly or wildly out of scope titles from our holdings.
While there are an infinite number of trends and insights to be gleaned from our DDA plan statistics, this brief overview hopefully elucidates some of the findings after three years of use. Ebook usage is often mentioned only in an overarching sense that fails to address the specific needs of special and art libraries, especially museum libraries. I hope to use this initial post as a starting point for discussion about ebook usage and DDA plans. I would be very curious to see how other institutions have fared.