Evidence based acquisitions - a win-win?

In theory EBA acquisition models promise a win-win for libraries, publishers and customers alike. But does the evidence support this hybrid model?

In recent years as more electronic monographs become available, library acquisitions has undergone rapid innovative shifts. Evidence based acquisition, also known as user driven acquisitions, is among the newest acquisition models for libraries to acquire electronic monographs based on usage.

Libraries in the US increasingly under the pressure to justify their acquisitions by 'value', often measured by the usage statistics, are moving away from large package deals to models such as patron driven acquisitions where libraries only incur costs only upon usage. While the trend has worked well to the libraries' advantage, the publishers have grown concerned over the erosion of their profit margin and longer recovery on their costs. Evidence based Acquisitions (EBA) is developed as a hybrid model between patron driven acquisitions and package purchase.

Typically in an EBA model, a library pays an upfront access fee that is relatively smaller than the full cost of a collection of titles. Users have unlimited access to the entire collection for an agreed period of time. At the end of this period, the library determines purchases for the titles based on the usage. And the upfront access fee goes towards the purchase cost. The library and the publisher negotiate on the amount of access fees, title list, tiers of cost for purchases, rights, etc.

In a nutshell, libraries eventually only acquire what users need. The expenditures are easier for the libraries to predict and access easier to manage. On the other hand, because of the upfront access fees, the publishers realise a faster cost-recovery and more accurate profit forecast than the PDA model. In concept, evidence based acquisitions appears a win-win for both libraries and publishers.

Nevertheless in practice, does EBA truly accomplish these goals? How does it compare to other acquisitions models such as PDA or package? And is it sustainable for libraries and publishers? As an emerging acquisitions model, few studies have been conducted on EBA. And that is the objective for my case study.

My case study at Internet Librarian International 2014 will introduce an evidence-based-acquisitions pilot between my library and a prime publisher on a collection of recent textbooks in STEM disciplines. My library serves a large public university in the US with a sizeable population of STEM users and distance learners. Based on 12-month data, I will present the assessment on EBA and answer:

  • Does the usage meet expectations?
  • What is the return-on-investment (ROI)?
  • What are the pros and cons of EBA?
  • How does EBA model compare to other acquisitions models such as PDA, firm or package?

Besides lessons learned on the EBA pilot, I also hope to share my perspectives as a librarian on critical issues such as licensing, DRM, maintenance and workflow. Hope you can join me!

You can hear Ying speaking in session C105 at Internet Librarian International 2014 - for more information visit the conference website.