Leveraging Digital Collections: Responding to Changing Use of Libraries
Expanding digital collections and offering demand-driven e-book acquisition are two examples of our evolving model.
As the University of Minnesota Libraries builds its collections, it makes deeply educated choices about what published materials faculty and students will want. That approach is shifting, though, when it comes to securing some digital material. Increasingly, students, researchers, and faculty members are playing a bigger role in determining what items the Libraries purchases — often without even knowing it.
Thanks to the evolution and growing availability of digital publishing, the Libraries is changing the way it purchases some digital books, journal articles, videos, and more. Among other things, it is looking at ways to empower the user, while also exploring new methods of acquisition.
In one new strategy, the Libraries spends a portion of its budget on sought-after items instead of surmising what the campus community might want. Called demand-driven acquisition, the model lets users dictate what digital books to download to the Libraries’ collections, explains Charles Spetland, collection development officer at the Libraries.
Purchase ‘on demand’ instead of ‘just in case’
“It has to do with making sure we’re spending our dollars on what’s being used,” Spetland says. “It’s a ‘purchase on demand’ approach as opposed to ‘purchase just in case.’ Academic libraries, traditionally, would make purchases just in case someone would use it someday. Not only can we not afford that, we don’t have funding or space in our buildings, so we need to be more selective by necessity. It’s an effective use of our money.”
Working with its vendor YBP, the Libraries already develops acquisition plans for most subjects. They profile what materials the Libraries wants to acquire, including subject matter, publisher, types of publication, academic level, and price range. But now, instead of YBP automatically sending items to the Libraries when they become available, the Libraries electronically lists the materials in its catalog. When a user spends 10 minutes browsing a digital book, reads 10 pages, or prints or downloads a portion, it automatically gets purchased for the Libraries.
It all takes place behind the scenes. Users cannot tell if something is already owned by the Libraries or just listed in the catalog waiting for the purchase to be triggered by their actions.
Joining other academic institutions, the Libraries started implementing the demand-driven approach in summer 2011 when it set aside $100,000 for these digital purchases. Over 15,000 titles have been uploaded to its catalog over that time — meaning these titles are available for purchase if a user starts clicking through them — and it continues to add more all the time, Spetland notes.
Purchase on demand took off very quickly, with users downloading and effectively buying about 2,000 digital titles so far. In 2012, the Libraries allocated an additional $100,000 for demand-driven digital materials. Based on this early success of the program, Spetland anticipates spending $200,000 this year on this strategy for digital procurement.
“Now we’re figuring out how to focus our profiles a bit to make sure the records we are loading are the purchases we want to fund,” he adds. “It’s still very experimental and we’re making sure it works the way we want it to.”
Expanding digital collections to include instructional videos
The Libraries continues to work in other ways to make more digital materials accessible. Take the School of Nursing. Many of its Doctor of Nursing Practice graduate students complete their courses online, only visiting campus a handful of times during a semester. Often they live out of town, juggling health care jobs and professional education on their way to becoming a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or other advanced practice nurse.
In the program’s Holistic Health Assessment course, professors typically recommended that students view Bates’ Visual Guide to Physical Examination, a set of 18 videos that walk nurses through assessing the health of patients of varying ages. Previously the physical videos were housed in the Libraries, and students often didn’t have time to go there to watch multiple videos when they traveled to campus.
That meant very few, if any, students went to watch the videos, says Mary Benbenek, coordinator of the family nurse practitioner program and a clinical assistant professor. Instead, professors spent valuable on-campus class time answering questions that could have been explained by the Bates videos. They also would direct students to YouTube to watch a variety of available clips, but the methods weren’t especially professional or standardized, Benbenek notes.
In pursuit of a better solution, Benbenek teamed with the liaison librarian to the School of Nursing, Liz Fine Weinfurter, and Nima Salehi, a School of Nursing instructional designer and assessment specialist. They determined they needed to provide students with access to streaming versions of the Bates videos.
Content is available to students at home, at school, or in the office
By the time the course was next offered in summer 2012, students could easily watch the content from their homes or offices. Vastly more students watched the videos, Benbenek says. During on-campus classes, professors then could help students perfect their assessment techniques for clinical exams instead of teaching them from scratch.
“The streaming video has helped students quite a bit,” she adds. “They could read about the exams but when they see someone doing it, you’re more likely to learn that way. The feedback from students was positive about the Bates videos, that they could access them at home and visualize the technique much better.”
Library materials for the School of Nursing have gravitated to the electronic realm over the years, but never more so than when many of the graduate programs went online. To accommodate more students — and especially distance learners — the Libraries also licensed a suite of 200 nursing films, Nursing Education In Video. It was no small task to work through technological and licensing considerations, Weinfurter says, but the process was worth it.
By licensing the Nursing Education video series, professors now can embed links to the videos right in their Moodle course management websites. With one click, students can watch a video about nursing procedures, patient safety, or cultural communication, and then come to class prepared to discuss the topic. In this format, users also can search transcripts for key words and within the videos for certain clips, making the material all the more accessible and useful, Weinfurter says.
“We’re spending a lot of money on the videos, so we want students and faculty to use them and improve their education, and make their education as good as it can be in the online environment,” says Weinfurter, who adds that professors in other health disciplines also find the videos relevant to their curricula. “We’re talking thousands of dollars of videos that are trapped inside the library when so much of our audience is online. We wanted to find a solution for that.”
Going forward, the University community from all disciplines will continue to have greater access to the Libraries’ digital materials and resources, helping them further research and education both on campus and from a distance.