The College's Expanding Knowledge Initiative (http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/Dean/eki/) and its emphases on introducing new fields of knowledge to the Grinnell curriculum, fostering interdisciplinarity, and deepening inquiry-based learning, call for access by students and faculty to an expanding set of knowledge resources: databases, journals, books, films, datasets, and other recorded forms of scholarly knowledge and cultural expression. We are challenged to identify the best means of providing access to these resources for students and faculty.
The Key Challenge
Like most academic libraries, the Libraries serve the College's information needs through a combination of on-site collections and delivery services (or access services) such as interlibrary loan, document delivery, and—increasingly—leased electronic access to journals, music, video, and other materials. On the one hand, owned collections of tangible items give greater assurance in general that they will remain available to users in the future—both users at Grinnell and, through interlibrary sharing, users elsewhere (The contracts that govern electronic resources are complex and vary considerably from one to another. In most cases, electronic resources are leased for the period of the subscription, and when the subscription ends so does access. In some cases, continued access to past content is promised if the subscription ends, but the means by which that will be provided is in some doubt. Services such as Portico and LOCKSS are attempting to resolve this dilemma). On the other hand, delivery modes are typically able to supply a greater number of titles and (in the case of leased electronic access of journals and other databases) immediate accessibility at the user's desktop, but without the same assurances that they will be available the next time they are needed.
At the same time, the cost of information, especially subscription-based scholarly journals and databases (whether purchased or leased), is increasing between 5 and 10 percent annually. Moreover, the time and expertise required to manage both on-site print collections and leased electronic collections do not fully overlap; most libraries are, in effect, managing two libraries at once.
For at least the past ten years, academic librarians have struggled to find a balance between the following collection development strategies:
- Focus on building locally owned and controlled collections.
- Rely on forms of delivery service that may not guarantee future access.
- Duplicate content both in owned collections and through leased or transient access.
The librarians at Grinnell College are divided over the role that print-based journal subscription ought to play in our overall collections program. Before laying out the points on which we diverge, however, it is important that we note our broad areas of agreement:
- None of us consider this to be an either-or proposition: either only build local collections or only rely on delivery from other sources. The Libraries have always employed both strategies and, we expect, will do so for many years.
- We also agree that electronic access to recorded knowledge—especially scholarly journals—is preferred by most students and many faculty, and can significantly increase our community's productivity in finding and using information for their research, learning, and teaching (See, inter alia, Roger C. Schonfeld and Kevin M. Guthrie, "The Changing Information Services Needs of Faculty," EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 42, no. 4 (July/August 2007): 8–9: http://connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Review/TheChangingInformationSer/44598; and " Collection Management Strategies in a Digital Environment: Preliminary Results from the Collection Management Initiative’s Journal Use Study and User Preference Survey," 2003, University of California Libraries: http://www.slp.ucop.edu/consultation/slasiac/042903/CMI_SurveyResultsForSLASIAC04-29-03.doc; and the references for "Economics of Scholarly Publishing" at http://ithaka.org/research/economics-of-scholarly-publishing)
- We all recognize that in many cases format decisions (print and/or online) are not made by libraries or readers, but rather that the publishers of scholarly journals, data sets, and (in fewer cases) books are choosing electronic delivery only. The current global economic downturn may accelerate this shift away from print. We recognize, as well, that we must be sure that our operations and our staffing assignments are effectively aligned with this trend.
- We also all recognize that delivery (without ownership) of certain kinds of materials does not currently meet the needs of our community and is not likely to in the near future. Interlibrary loan, for example, cannot supply all of our community's needs for books, and for most users, even when electronic versions of books are available, the electronic books do not compete in functionality with printed ones.
Despite this broad agreement, we are not agreed on the relative weight that non-ownership forms of delivery should have for scholarly journals, newspapers, and other serial publications. Most of us do not trust publishers to guarantee access to their publications into the future, and some of us believe that the print paradigm—in which multiple copies are distributed to many libraries, which in turn share with each other through ILL—has worked well. Publishers have focused their skills on dissemination of current work, while libraries have preserved centuries of scholarship and cultural expression while providing effective access to this legacy. In an electronic environment in which access is largely governed by annual contracts and files are centralized on the publishers' servers, publishers have little long-term incentive to continue to provide access to works that may temporarily fall out of use but whose re-discovery may be vital to the next breakthrough. For journals that are core to a Grinnell education, some of us believe that maintaining print subscriptions and archives is part of our responsibility to future generations of Grinnell students and faculty.
On the other hand, in many fields—and in an age of scholarship characterized by "expanding knowledge"—faculty and students alike are using an increasingly diverse set of intellectual resources in their teaching, research, and learning. The concept of "core collection" seems accordingly elusive. The majority of the Grinnell College librarians believe that significant duplication of print and online journals is no longer the best use of our resources and that more of our staff energies and financial resources should be directed toward expansion of the number of titles available to the Grinnell community, good management of our electronic resources, and support for coordinated national efforts to preserve printed and electronic information. We agree that the challenge of digital preservation needs to be faced, but believe that it must be addressed by libraries and other information organizations working in concert through such organizations as SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)-- http://www.arl.org/sparc/, the Center for Research Libraries (http://www.crl.edu), Portico (http://www.portico.org), and the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) Federation (http://www.lockss.org) . With relatively lean staffing, the Libraries can best serve their users by directing staff time toward improving digital services while maintaining print collections for the genres in which that format works best
Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do
A. Make a greater shift to online-only journal subscriptions.
When we have a choice of formats, the majority of us believe that duplicated print and online journals should be scrutinized to be sure that the continuation of the print subscription is truly contributing to the College's present and future work. In many cases, we could redirect funds and time currently spent managing the print version. We do not, however, advocate a blanket policy of exchanging print for online. The Libraries will review all subscriptions and proposed subscriptions for duplication of print and online versions, and evaluate for conversion to online only. These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with faculty. Most things being equal, we will favor the online-only choice and use the savings for subscriptions to new titles, to cover cost increases that exceed our overall budget increases, or to support coordinated national efforts to preserve scholarly literature and cultural heritage collections.
B. Share the College's collections with others, in reciprocity for our use of theirs.
When considering online-only subscriptions, we will scrutinize their contracts to be sure that interlibrary sharing is permitted. (If we expect other libraries to supply some of our needs, we must be sure that we can share some titles in turn.) In addition, as we note in the section on Digital Initiatives, digitization of our existing collections (when copyright permits) and the development of a repository program for the scholarly and creative work of students and faculty are additional, important components in our overall responsibility to share.
C. Extend the Elsevier "pay per view" model to selected additional publishers.
In 2008, after consultation with faculty, we discontinued subscription to most journals published by Elsevier and applied the savings to a "pay per view" arrangement that gives faculty immediate online access to all articles in all Elsevier journals. Students also have access to all articles in all Elsevier journals, but they must ask a library staff member to download each article for them. Our policy is that articles will be retrieved within twenty-four hours, although they are typically retrieved much more quickly. We will identify one or two additional publishers for which this model might work well.
D. Base decisions on evidence of use.
We will develop systematic records of interlibrary borrowing and lending, electronic database and journal use, and book circulation patterns to guide decisions on new subscriptions, assignment of staff, and other issues.
E. Develop a campus-wide understanding on issues of scholarly communication.
It is vital that the Grinnell College community—in a discussion facilitated by the Libraries—become conversant with trends in scholarly publishing and librarianship, and that the Libraries develop working guidelines for print and digital collection development that suit both the College's principles and its financial resources. One component of this ongoing discussion will be facilitating faculty awareness of their options for scholarly publishing and management of their own copyrights.
F. Propose a new budget model.
As the national economy stabilizes, the College should develop a budget model in which the Libraries receive a standard increment to cover cost increases and an additional base increase for new subscriptions and other purchases in areas that have new faculty appointments (new positions or replacements) or new concentrations or other curricular programs.
G. Engage with national preservation and access initiatives.
The Libraries should participate more actively in national and international efforts to improve access to scholarly literature, educational resources, and cultural heritage materials, and should encourage the College leadership to do the same. Such participation comes through support for alternative technological and economic models of scholarly publishing; legislative advocacy; and development of openly accessible collections of scholarship and cultural heritage material at Grinnell. We will investigate the LOCKSS program as a complement to our membership in Portico, support efforts at the Center for Research Libraries and elsewhere to build archival collections of printed journals so that we do not have to, and encourage the success of open-access and not-for-profit scholarly publishing programs that offer low- or no-cost availability and liberal copyright terms.
Strengths to Build On
A. We have strong print collections that appear to meet user needs (with some qualifications) and a generous budget.
The Libraries are fortunate to have rich print collections that serve students and faculty and that can be contributed to national digitization and interlibrary-sharing programs in return for the collections shared by other libraries.
Based on 2007 data, Grinnell ranks sixth among its designated peers in total number of volumes. We rank 5th in number of volumes per user (faculty plus students), above the average and median values for our designated peer group. We have consistently acquired between 8,000 and 10,000 monographs per year. (We acquired 9998 monographs in 2007, which is above both the median and average values reported by peers that year). In total expenditures for collections, Grinnell ranks just below the median and average of our peers but above the median and average for per-capita expenditures on collections (counting students and faculty but not staff).
The Libraries' collection budget has risen ca. 44% since 2005; over a similar period (2004–2008) costs of scholarly journals have risen 37 percent ("Periodicals Price Survey 2008," Library Journal, 15 April 2008). For the 5-year period 2003-2007, Grinnell's average expenditures for collections are above the median and average expenditures of peers, as is the per-user expenditure.
Grinnell students and faculty make less use of interlibrary borrowing than their peers. Our ILL rates were below both the median and average per-user values for 2007 and for the 5-year average for 2002–2007. This low borrowing rate may suggest that our local collections well suit our community’s needs, although it could also suggest that ILL services are not viewed favorably. (When we administered the LibQUAL survey in 2007, results on this point were mixed). Conversely, circulation per user (student plus faculty) is slightly higher than the 2007 median (though slightly lower than the 2007 average). Grinnell's semester-long loans to students are longer than those of some of its peers, which should depress our circulation rate relative to peers with shorter loan periods.
See Appendix 11 for details of collections budgets and usage figures.
B. We have significantly expanded the number and availability of journals through electronic services.
Between 2003 and 2007, the Libraries maintained a stable collection of print journals (growing from 2600 to 2800 titles), while increasing the number of electronic journals available to students and faculty from 2,100 in 2003 to 19,315 in 2007. Based on 2007 data, Grinnell ranks second among its eleven peers in number of electronic titles received. However, definitions for electronic resources—what counts as a title—are notoriously slippery, and it is not clear that all the libraries in our peer group are counting the same things in the same way. As a consequence, this rank ordering may not be accurate.
We have also created good user tools for providing access to these titles: the "Journal Finder" and Article Linker, which are described in the Discovery and Access section.
C. We have had a positive—albeit brief—experience with Elsevier pay-per-view.
Based on just one semester of experience with pay-per-view access to articles in Elsevier journals, our users have reported satisfaction with the extent of access available to them. The costs, projected to the full year, are sustainable, assuming modest increases in usage and per-article fees.
D. There are strong international and local initiatives both to use the technology of digital publication to reduce costs and broaden accessibility of scholarly publications and collections of cultural heritage materials, and to preserve digital files for use by future generations.
Examples of these initiatives include open-access publishing programs like PLoS (the Public Library of Science), the NIH requirement for open access to research publications; DSpace, MDID, and other software that creates openly accessible collections of texts, images, and other materials; and the Portico digital preservation program. The Libraries already support PLoS and BioMed Central (another open-access publisher) through institutional memberships, and are charter members of Portico. The College uses PDID (our local implementation of MDID, the Madison Digital Image Database) primarily to make images available for classroom presentations and student review, and the Libraries use it as a platform for hosting digital collections such as the Historic Iowa Postcard Collection. However, PDID has not been configured to promote public access to or awareness of the openly accessible collections hosted there. The Libraries, in collaboration with other liberal arts colleges, are also developing a DSpace repository for student and faculty work. These local initiatives are described more fully in the section of this report on Digital Initiatives.
Furthermore, the College's recently revised copyright policy (2007) encourages scholarly authors to review their copyright transfer agreements carefully, and to consider amending their contracts or adopting a Creative Commons license to preserve "both their interest in seeing their work disseminated by publishers and their interest in ensuring that their work contributes maximally to the public good" (http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/research/copyright.pdf: p. 10)
Weaknesses and Constraints to Overcome
A. User dissatisfaction with our journal collections, especially our electronic collection.
The spring 2007 administration of the LibQUAL service quality survey indicated dissatisfaction among many users (See our report to campus, at http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/general/LibQUAL/index.html). For faculty, three of the five widest gaps between desired and perceived levels of service related to collections:
- Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work (below minimum expectation)
- Making electronic resources accessible from my home or office (below minimum expectation)
- The electronic resources that I need (at minimum expectation)
This dissatisfaction was strongest among science faculty.
Among students, similarly, three of the five widest gaps between desired and perceived levels of service related to collections, though for students our performance was above minimum expectations:
- Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work
- The electronic information resources I need
- Making electronic resources accessible from my office
Free-text comments in the survey corroborated these concerns.
B. We appear not to have moved as decisively as our peers toward electronic resources.
2007 data suggest that Grinnell's ongoing commitments to print subscriptions are significantly greater than the median or average of its designated peer group (see Appendix 11). However, we know that the institutions vary in the kinds of expenditures they account here and that their reports are not entirely comparable; and this datum does not seem consistent with our rank order among peers in number of electronic titles available, as noted above.
C. An imbalance in our ILL lending compared to borrowing.
Our lending rate is lower than our borrowing rate (that is, we are not contributing to the trading network as much as we are taking from it.
D. Lack of consortial partners.
As we note in our section on Partnerships, the Libraries have been somewhat constrained by the lack of a strong consortium for joint licensing of electronic resources or interlibrary delivery of books. State- and region-wide consortia, such as those in Ohio, Illinois, and Virginia, have given their users fast, convenient access to more titles—in both electronic and print formats—than has been possible in Iowa. Expectations that faculty users develop based on their experiences at other schools, including designated peer schools, cannot always be met within Grinnell's existing networks.
E. Lack of detailed usage data to support decision-making.
We have not, until recently, systematically captured and studied detailed data on the usage of print and electronic collections or related services such as ILL. In 2007, we established regular capture of usage statistics for electronic databases and journals, and in 2008 we started downloading title-level ILL statistics from OCLC. One of our articulated goals for 2008-2009 is to establish title-normalized data for ILL lending and borrowing, and subject-level circulation data for books and bound journals.
Although the relationship between print and online subscriptions is the most critical issue currently facing us, there are other important issues we need to address over the next three to five years.
A. Media (audio and video)
Film, music, and related media materials are heavily used by Grinnell faculty and students. Our collections include 32,117 audio and video items (based on 2007 reports) in a variety of current and older formats. LPs are housed in offsite storage but continue to be actively (though not heavily) used and cannot all be replaced by CD formats. Over the next three to five years, we expect that acquisition and service for DVDs, CDs, and similar portable media will remain our primary service model. We do not foresee commercial or third-party streaming services ("non-ownership access" models) supplanting portable media during this time period. However, we do expect such services to become increasingly important supplements and we will watch this sector carefully for developments. It is possible that third-party streaming services will evolve rapidly and we must be prepared to reconsider our collection development practices. We note that we already subscribe to the Naxos Music Library and DRAM Anthology of Recorded Music streaming services. We do not subscribe to a video streaming service, but we have made very limited use of the Amazon Video-on-Demand streaming service to meet last-minute faculty requests.
In focus group discussions in 2008, faculty and students expressed strong preference for maintaining a course-reserve model for media, in which media items on course reserve must be viewed within the assigned location (either the Burling Listening Room or the AV Center). (The alternative would be to treat Reserve media like Reserve books, allowing them to circulate freely but for short periods of time. Users would take the item to their preferred location and machine, not necessarily in Burling or ARH.) This preference means that the equipment in those facilities must be adequate to demand and in good condition.
The Listening Room opened in 1983 as part of that year's renovation of Burling Library. Despite various additions of viewing and playback equipment to accommodate new media formats, the bus architecture that carries the signals from the central control room to each viewing or listening station has largely remained the same. That architecture severely limits the ability of users to control their own experience (e.g., a user cannot skip from one track to another on a CD or DVD). Moreover, key components in the control room are showing signs of failing and should be replaced or upgraded to ensure continued service.
B. Access to Primary Evidence.
The College's strategic emphasis on inquiry-based pedagogy calls for increased attention to the availability of the kinds of primary evidence suited to inquiry in the various disciplines taught at Grinnell: research findings from field observation and laboratory experiments; political and sociological survey statistics; economic data; primary texts; images; etc. Increasingly, students and faculty prefer to use primary evidence in digital formats (sometimes alongside the same evidence in original non-digital formats). The Libraries are members of ICPSR (the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research)-- http://www.icpsr.umich.edu and ARTstor (http://www.artstor.org), and hold several important primary-source collections such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online and Early American Newspapers. Continued acquisition of such collections will be necessary to keep pace with the Expanding Knowledge Initiative. We also collaborate with Information Technology Services and some academic departments to help make digital collections available. (For example, we work with the Art Department to support use of the library catalog system for the Department's Slide Collection.) If the College’s goals are to be met, we must continue to develop our technologies to increase the visibility of these resources and to encourage their interdisciplinary use. In 2007, the Libraries, ITS, and the Dean's Office collaborated in developing an overview of the infrastructure of content and tools required for inquiry-based learning (see "Supporting Inquiry-Based Learning Under Grinnell College’s Strategic Plan: Implications for Library and Information Technology Services," http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/general/mission-policies/EKILibITVision112007.pdf).
C. Selecting Books for the Collection.
Most selection for the book collection is performed title by title. We have a few specialized approval plans (small-press poetry and fiction, contemporary French, Russian, and German authors, and music scores), but we do not have a general English-language approval plan. Faculty are somewhat active in recommending books, audio/video, and other material for purchase. Choice cards and Choice magazine are key tools for selection. As part of a recent reorganization of the consulting librarian program, consulting librarians now distribute appropriate sets of Choice cards to faculty in their areas in addition to selecting books themselves. The Collection Development and Preservation Librarian selects in all subject areas and provides oversight and continuity for the collection development program. However, our review of Choice tends to lag about a year behind, and we note with some concern how quickly books go out of print. We also wonder if librarian and staff time could be freed for other important work if we relied on a general approval plan for English-language university and major trade presses. We note that, according to a recent study, (Beth E. Jacoby, "Status of Approval Plans in College Libraries," College and Research Libraries 69(3) May 2008: 227-240) libraries with book budgets comparable to Grinnell's rely on at least one general approval plan. We will investigate further whether this is a good tool for us to consider.
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