Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Patron-Driven Re-Acquisition

At first blush, a relationship between deselected print monographs and patron-driven acquisition (PDA) is far from obvious. In a typical deselection project, the prime candidates are books that have not circulated for 10-20 years. Recent imprints are excluded since they have not had enough time to prove themselves. In short, withdrawal candidates are the books patrons don't want. 

PDA titles from the major eBook aggregators, on the other hand, are intended to offer rich discovery and evaluation metadata for books that patrons might want. When the record set is further refined by application of an approval profile, the result should be books that patrons are most likely to want, given the curriculum and research interests of the institution they serve. Best case, those criteria might be further enhanced by analysis of historical purchase and use patterns.

And never the twain shall meet. Well...not so fast.

The prospect (never mind the act) of removing books from library shelves makes everyone nervous.This is a good thing, until we as a community are certain that all content is archived to our satisfaction. But for collections and public services librarians, there is also that primal belief that it would be better to have immediate access to a withdrawn title, just in case a patron ever wanted it. For most titles, this need will be accommodated by shared print storage agreements, or inter-library loan.

But there are other options. In cases where a Hathi Trust public domain title is available, that offers essentially a free online replacement. For that availability to be made clear and convenient, the Hathi URL is simply added to the cataloging record for the print version. This can be done simultaneously with the removal of the item record for the print version being withdrawn. In this example, that converts the library's catalog record to a do-it-yourself PDA record.

Clearly, the same principle can be applied to any eBook provider with PDA capability. Since the bibliographic, item, and holdings records for a withdrawn book have to be changed or removed anyway, the insertion of another URL would add almost no time to the process. Instead of suppressing or deleting a record for a withdrawn title, the library converts it to a PDA record, retaining its discoverability, but with a different delivery option. That option might be one-click electronic access, short-term rental, or re-acquisition through purchase (in addition, of course, to calls from storage or ILL).

By combining this record conversion with print deselection, the shelf space is freed, and the cost of maintaining an unused print version on the shelf is eliminated. But the potential for access remains intact, and in some cases actually improves. It's a solution that could satisfy both deselection and service objectives, a rare combination. Let's call it patron-driven re-acquisition (PDR). It's a technique that could work with eBooks, but also with print-on-demand (POD) providers. The key would be to have relevant URLs available at the time the withdrawal decisions are made, ready for batch matching and insertion into candidate file bib records.

At present, the degree of overlap between withdrawal candidates and titles available through PDA programs is probably miniscule. It would be interesting and useful to quantify that. But even if it's small now, that overlap will continue to grow.  The possibilities are quite interesting.

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