How does the Library provide scholarly resources to the Vanderbilt community?
Library collection development is a complicated business involving several factors, such as price, budget, availability, and licensing. Libraries have never been able to own everything. In the 21st century, collections have evolved into a service. While they still purchase many print materials, academic libraries also concentrate on providing access to scholarly resources. At Vanderbilt University Library (VUL), as with other research libraries, we receive an annual collections budget from which both one-time and recurring resources must be purchased.
Books, scores, DVDs, and many digital collections constitute most of the one-time acquisitions and account for nearly 20% of the VUL collections budget. Subjects Librarians (Liaisons) work to anticipate the needs of faculty and students. They not only select items individually, but they also curate subject profiles with book vendors so that books meeting certain criteria—subject, reading level, publisher, price, etc.—ship to VUL automatically. The library also has patron-driven acquisition (PDA) plans for ebooks and streaming video. In these models, a purchase is triggered once a certain threshold of use is reached. The library has a few subscriptions for ebooks and streaming videos, as well.
Given the breadth of what is being published today, there will be items that may escape notice. If a faculty member or student needs an item, the Library wants to know. A researcher may notify a library liaison or may make a purchase suggestion using this form, which goes directly to the Acquisitions & Eresources department for ordering. In most cases, the item is promptly ordered. Sometimes a conversation may occur regarding edition, price, or availability. The requestor can ask for rush ordering and indicate notification preference. Faculty may also request the delivery of print materials to their departments. Materials ordered rush are usually received within 7 to 10 business days, contingent on availability and place of publication. Non-rush materials can take 4-6 weeks. Electronic materials are often available more quickly, but time varies according to licensing requirements.
The acquisition of expensive one-time items is dependent upon the budget. The library maintains a desiderata list of expensive one-time purchase items that faculty have requested or that library liaisons know would be beneficial to the teaching, learning, and research community at Vanderbilt. We visit that list at least twice a year—December and May—as budget projections become clear. Accompanied by strong negotiations, we have been able to fulfill many requests through this practice. Examples include JSTOR journal archives and digital collections from AdamMathew, Gale, ProQuest, and Readex.
Requests for recurring resources, such as journal and database subscriptions, are more difficult to fulfill and sustain because of annual price increases and the licensing process. The Acquisitions & Eresources unit currently manages over 4,600 subscriptions and more than 50 journal packages, including Elsevier, SpringerNature, and Wiley, as well as smaller ones like the University of Chicago Press Journals, Project Muse, and Royal Society Journals. As with one-time purchases, we attempt to fulfill every request, but turnaround time may be longer. We may have to wait until the next renewal cycle when we examine the rising costs and the amount of use of recurring resources. To begin a new subscription, we may need to “swap” a title that is costly and receiving little use, for the desired title and stay within the collections budget. We also provide access to needed materials through an extremely efficient interlibrary loan (ILL) service. In most cases, ILL supplies an article to a user within a few hours, fulfilling the occasional need for content from a particular journal without the ongoing cost of an expensive subscription.
In sum, library collections are a complex, ever-evolving service that involves the work of several library staff and input from the Vanderbilt community.
Nancy M. Godleski
Associate University Librarian for Collections and Core Services