Moving from 'Building Collections' to 'Ensuring Access'
October 26, 2017
Scholarly communications and publishing have changed significantly over the last few decades. Most noticeable is the shift away from print materials to electronic resources, coupled with faster publication cycles. In this environment of electronic information, the model of ownership – which previously defined print library collections – has changed to one of access. Libraries no longer build physical collections but instead provide access to resources through a combination of licensing, purchasing and resource sharing.
Drexel Libraries has fully embraced this new model, and “ensuring access” to authoritative information has replaced “building collections” as one of its primary responsibilities for addressing the University’s challenges to contain the affordability of higher education, shape future scholarship, and inspire the life-long quest for learning.
Identifying and Evaluating Resources
In the past, accreditation requirements and reviews of Drexel’s undergraduate and professional master’s degree programs have influenced the Libraries’ collection-building decisions. But in recent years, “impact on student success” has instead become a key driver of these decisions. Drexel expects students to gain high levels of competency in various “learning priorities”—including basic information literacy—prior to graduation. Access to appropriate information and scholarly resources is essential for students to learn, practice and master these priorities for successful life-long learning. Furthermore, faculty and other researchers, already life-long learners, depend on access to authoritative information to shape future scholarship.
Accordingly, a discipline-specific collection policy alone is no longer effective for the Libraries. Now, decisions to purchase and negotiate licensed access or to utilize resource sharing options are driven by multiple factors, and the Libraries considers the following criteria when evaluating resources for the Drexel community:
- Determine most economical access options (licensing, purchasing or resource sharing). The Libraries determines cost-per-use per access option to determine the most cost-effective method of access for a given resource.
- Prioritize convenience against expense to meet curricula requirements for students and unique access requirements for researchers. The Libraries evaluates which materials need to be available to the University community immediately, and which can be provided upon request within a week or sooner through resource sharing agreements, making every attempt to provide licensed, immediate access to materials core to Drexel’s curricular and research needs.
- Input from the Drexel community. Liaison librarians stay abreast of curricular changes and welcome direct input from their constituencies in regards to suggestions for acquisitions. The Libraries’ participation in Program Alignment & Review, various external accreditation processes and the University’s new academic degree program proposal process also provide formal avenues for evaluating discipline-specific collections.
Data utilized in making these decisions include depth of academic study, curricular reliance on authoritative information, accreditation requirements and level of research activity. Other metrics reviewed when making these decisions include the relationship between cost and past and expected use, and academic and institutional impact.
The Libraries also regularly reviews scholarly resources at the point of license renewal. Other triggers for review include cost, changes in publisher or provider, competitive availability of another resource that provides similar content, Drexel’s academic programs and funding levels for the Libraries’ budget.
A University Responsibility
The challenge of ensuring access to authoritative information fully affects the Drexel University mission. This is no longer only a concern for improving the student academic experience or the University’s research capacity. It matters to all programs.
Drexel’s key objective is to ensure access to information and to foster improved productivity through greater convenience– first prioritizing preparation of undergraduates and graduate students for life-long learning, and second, enabling faculty contributions to global scholarship in Drexel’s signature areas. The Libraries frames this difficult challenge as a financial one that also aims to contain the affordability of higher education for all Drexel faculty, staff and students.