Small institution, robust ebook strategy

James Bagshaw, Collection Development and Assessment Librarian at the Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) Library in New Zealand, recently shared his library’s experiences with JSTOR’s ebook programs. VUW, or Te Herenga Waka, the Māori name for the university, is home to four central libraries, including the main library in Kelburn, and three small libraries servicing the Commerce and Government schools, Law school, and Architecture and Design schools.

James said, “Because we are a relatively small university located in a small capital city, there are opportunities to work closely with people and build connections. This flows through to our collection development. We are an e-preferred library with robust acquisition strategies.” He noted that VUW “had a well-developed ebook acquisition strategy before the pandemic, so we weren’t suddenly inundated with requests for online resources because we were already providing them. However, attitudes towards ebooks have cemented. The library’s preference for ebooks is now understood so it’s a good time to grow the collection with an eye to trying new things. We have the tools, how can we develop them in new ways?”

VUW partners with JSTOR to drive ebook success

James cites ease of access and use, with the best possible integrated metadata and MARC records to ensure discoverability, as the most important factors when choosing an ebook platform. Another key consideration is the staff time needed to manage purchase requests, and notes that “JSTOR sets the bar high. It offers the ability to utilize purchasing models for thousands of titles and gives us the flexibility to manage that year-on-year. We have a level of control without putting the burden on our Acquisitions staff. Given the complexity of the academic ebook market, JSTOR is exemplary.”

In 2014, VUW joined JSTOR’s Demand-Driven Acquisition (DDA) program, which James describes as “excellent.” He said, “DDA helped us move toward a truly e-preferred library because the success was clear. JSTOR has a very reasonable threshold for when a DDA candidate title is triggered to be purchased. We were able to monitor the results closely and get an understanding of the demand. Naturally, after a while, there was no need to monitor it. Amazing!”

Three years later, in 2017, VUW also joined JSTOR’s Evidence-Based Acquisition (EBA) program. James said, “What makes the combination of EBA and DDA work for us is being able to get the MARC records in and out automatically. To the reader, there’s no difference in how the ebooks are discovered or accessed.” He appreciates that JSTOR provides access to “so many fantastic titles” and feels the EBA / DDA combination works for VUW because it “provides the ability to make changes to suit our collection strategies: newer and older titles. It’s a complicated model, but it gets amazing results for our library.”

When asked about faculty and student responses to JSTOR, James said, “The usage of JSTOR titles is significant and compares amazingly well with other platforms. I think it’s a testament to the long-standing commitment of JSTOR to make scholarly publishing more accessible. It’s easy, readable, and discoverable.” He joked, “If I have a criticism, the only issue I see is that it’s too good. It gives academics the feeling that all ebooks are free and come without any licensing restrictions!”

Recommendations for other libraries

What advice would James give his librarian colleagues? “I would happily recommend JSTOR to any library interested in scholarly books. It wouldn’t be a question of whether you should work with JSTOR, it would be a question of what models fit best with your workflows and collections.” Since joining JSTOR’s DDA and EBA programs, James said, “our ebook collections have grown with up-to-date, relevant, unrestricted titles. JSTOR provides the library with scheduled emails showing the changes to the packages for easy monitoring. Also, our students and staff can clearly see when something is or isn’t available. I wish all platforms provided the same level of understanding of library needs. Like most institutions right now, we’re having to make hard decisions. We really appreciate organizations like JSTOR who have been flexible and open during this time.”

“JSTOR provides all the information we need to assess the acquisition models and look closely at all the details regularly. I wish all platforms provided the same level of understanding of library needs.”

— James Bagshaw, Collection Development and Assessment Librarian at the Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) Library, New Zealand