Demand/Patron Driven Acquisition: Common Concerns

Brock is currently implementing a Demand Driven Acquisition (DDA) strategy for ebooks.  I created the following literature review to help give my colleagues a sense of the issues around DDA and to answer some of the questions they had.  It’s not really in a publishable form right now but perhaps I’ll get around to editing/beefing it up someday…


Thus far, I have been unable to find a library that started doing some form of demand/patron – driven selection only to later stop doing it. For a good literature review on the subject I invite all of you to read Tyler et al. (2011) which addresses the literature around many of the concerns that are voiced below. Also, Sword’s book Patron-Driven Acquisitions: History and Best Practices is a good place to look for broad overviews.

On Electronic vs. Print

There was a general question about DDA necessarily privileging electronic over print and the extra cost that that would entail.  It is true that how we have proposed to do DDA only deals with electronic content but it is possible to do something similar with print. At MUN we did a print DDA program, purchasing ILL requests for books when it was going to be more expedient to buy a copy rather than wait for another library to send us their copy.  The criteria for this program were that the book had to have been published in the last 3 10 years, not be a textbook, and be scholarly.  MUN is hardly alone in running a print DDA program in this fashion there are a number of papers about the subject. For example: Perdue & Van Fleet (1999) talk about Bucknell’s implementation; Hodges, Preston & Hamilton (2010) talk about Ohio State’s efforts; and Ward (2002; 2003) has written about Purdue and Wisconsin-Madison’s programs.  Several essays in Sword (2011) mention these programs as a precursor to DDA with e-books.

Part of this question also dealt with the idea that electronic copies are more expensive than print. Certainly, if Esposito et al. (2012) are to be believed publishers see electronic as being vastly more expensive than print. My contention is that DDA of e-books will save money up front and over time. I will concede that the upfront cost of purchase of most e-books is at least x% (i.e. our discount with Ingram) more expensive than print. Purchase is underlined above because part of the appeal of DDA of e-books is that we aren’t limited to outright purchase of titles. By substituting short term loans for some purchases we will limit our outright purchases and that should in turn limit our up front spending. Assessing life cycle costs are more difficult. Courant & Nielsen (2010) estimate the life cycle cost of a print book to vary between $0.86 per year for high density storage of items that do not receive high circulation to $4.26 per year if we use open stacks like we have. These figures are per book per year. As a comparison, Courant and Nielsen (2010) provide data on storage costs for the Hathi Trust of $0.40/book/year.  This number is not as helpful for our purposes because we will not be the ones running the servers, hosting the content, etc.  Instead we pay platform fees.  Ebrary, for example, has a platform fee that varies with a number of criteria but is no more than a few hundred dollars per year.

Even though no one mentioned it numerous studies show that there is still a strong user preference towards print. For example, another OCUL is just finishing up the analysis of a study looking at user preferences that found a preference for print at every level. Given the relatively small pool of funds we will be working with initially we will still be purchasing the majority of our items in print.

On Costs and Funding

There were several questions about funding the program and ensuring an equitable distribution of purchases. The question of how other schools have funded their DDA programs came up more than once.  In my experience most schools have done one of three things: started with a limited trial where one subject area devotes some of their monograph money (e.g. Herrera, 2012; De Fino & Lo, 2011); used one time money or repurposed money from elsewhere in the budget (e.g. Mays 2013); took a slice off the top of their monograph budget (e.g. Reiners 2012). My preferred method is to take a slice off the top of the monograph budget but at present that isn’t feasible because of some issues with our monograph accounts.

Several people felt that contributing to the DDA pilot would disadvantage their subject areas since their areas are not monograph based. The literature indicates that these concerns are misplaced.  Price and McDonald’s (2009) data would seem to refute that notion. In their study of purchasing data from 5 schools DDA purchases were very similar in LC class distribution to librarian purchases (with the exception of one school where users picked a more balanced selection of titles – since the data was anonymized the authors couldn’t follow up to ask the library if the skewed distribution was by design). Similar results can be seen in Fischer et al. (2012); Hodges, Preston & Hamilton (2010); Print DDA programs have shown similar results (see e.g. Nixon 2010)

There was also concern about the idea that some purchases will be triggered on a departmental fund by students/faculty not affiliated with the subject area of the book.  This concern comes from a misunderstanding of how the program would work.  There will be one central pool of funds which will be built from contributions from departmental funds. Once the funds are in the pool there will be no way to assign purchases to a specific department.  Purchases will not be attributed to a specific fund.

The fairness issue was also manifested in concerns about the process by which any unspent money in the DDA program would be given back to Liaisons.  This concern is something that we will have to deal with when we come across it.  My preference here is to proportionally divide any remaining funds according to which contributing funds benefitted least from the DDA program.

An issue that comes up a lot in the literature is schools quickly going whatever money they set aside for DDA and having to allocate more funding to the project. The common thread among these studies (which are too numerous to list here) is that they were almost all conducted before or during 2010 on platforms that had really low purchase triggers of 2-5 uses (where a use was looking at a page) and did not allow short term loans.  Way and Garrison (2011) have a really good background read on the cost issue and then provide data to show how STLs and more generous triggers save costs.

On Philosophical Concerns

There were three major interrelated philosophical concerns. Firstly, there was the concern that implementing DDA is an abrogation of our duties as Librarians and is essentially deskilling and outsourcing collection development. This concern seems to make the assumption that DDA will be giving our users complete control over our collection development work. This view is incorrect. Our users will only have access to a limited pool of titles.  The creation of that pool will be created to comply with our Collection Development Policies.  The creation of the criteria to determine what goes in that pool is just as dependent on our local knowledge as our current book selection processes. Moreover, until such time as publishers decide to open their catalogues more there will continue to be a need for selectors to pick the individual titles that the publishers choose to not offer through DDA (and in some cases not offer electronically at all).

The second concern is that the collection purchased through DDA will be unbalanced and not stand the test of time; essentially, our expertise is required to build a better collection. The literature is clear on this point: librarians do a really good job of building balanced collections but when we start making comparisons based on usage librarian built collections simply are not used as much as patron built collections. For example, an analysis by Tyler et al. (2013) of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s print DDA program showed that books selected by patrons circulated an average of 1.96 times compared with 1.37 times for librarian selected materials and a paltry 1.06 times for items acquired through a book vendor approval plan. For a longer time horizon Nixon and Saunders (2011) looked at Purdue’s program of print DDA over an 8 year span and found that books bought on demand circulated 0.7 circulations more than normally acquired titles (3.1 vs 2.4).  On the ebook side McDonald and Price (2009) used anonymized data provided by EBL that covered 11 different libraries. They compared a sample of 10988 “user-selected” ebooks with a sample of 4685 “pre-selected” ebooks.  Usage statistics were substituted for circulation statistics and painted a clear picture: user-selected titles were used more (8.61 vs. 4.31 times / year) and by more people (around 5 unique users vs 2).  As mentioned above users in McDonald and Price’s data also selected titles according to roughly the same subject distribution as librarians.

The third concern is that we are doing our collection harm by “renting” access to titles. Philosophically, I agree that renting is definitely sub-optimal. However, we simply don’t have the budget to buy all the materials that a decent research collection should own and the trends in the publishing industry are definitely against us (see Levine-Clark 2011). Baring a major infusion of cash I don’t see how the library can, in good conscience, ignore such a powerful tool. Swords (2010) presents data from Grand Valley State University that shows that GVSU saved over $130,000 by using 2 short term loans prior to purchasing. This data is fleshed out more fully in a presentation by Way (2011).

On Content Concerns

Many of you were concerned that we would have insufficient control of the pool of titles. Obviously different vendors give different options but all the interfaces that I’ve seen (i.e. EBL, ebrary, Ebsco) allow inclusion and exclusion based on publisher, date, LC class, Dewey call number, subject heading, keyword, author, title.  This would give us similar control to what we currently have with our slip profiles.  Alternatively, with the announcement that EBSCO and EBL will be listed in OASIS in the near future it may be possible to run our DDA program through Ingram using our existing profiles.

A subsidiary concern is that it will take so much effort to create the rules governing the potential purchase pool that it would be easier for liaisons to continue to pick the good stuff title by title. As stated above librarians will still be picking the majority of titles for the collection due to restrictions on availability inside the DDA pool and the limited nature of our funding. In terms of creating the rules that govern the pool there would have to be some discussion among librarians to decide what acceptable parameters are. Typically rules are quite broad for example price less than $250; must be English language; only from publishers x, y, z; only in subjects p, q, r; etc.

On Assessment Concerns

There was some concern over whether or not usage was the only way to assess the trial. More generally, people wondered what other places had done in terms of assessment of their programs.  There seems to be two primary forms of assessment: usage, and subject specialist opinion. Usage comparisons usually take the form shown by Price & McDonald (2009) of calculating use per year (i.e. how many uses did a title get from the first time it was triggered) and comparing that use to the use of librarian selected ebooks.  The other primary form of assessment has been using liaison librarians.  Shen et al. (2011) had selectors look at the DDA list before the trial started and pick the titles that they would purchase if the DDA program didn’t exist.  This list was then compared to the eventual purchases made during the course of the trial. Most frequently in the literature the liaison assessment has come at the conclusion of a trial with liaison’s examining the list purchases and noting how may items in their area were unsuitable. Way (2009) took this a step further and did a comparison of DDA purchases with peer library holdings using WorldCat.  Levine-Clark (2011) lays out a number of assessment criteria that essentially blend elements of what has been mentioned above.

Works Consulted

NOTE: this list contains the works cited above and a selection of what I read in preparing this report.  The literature around this topic is vast and even the literature reviews I’ve read have left out studies that I think are important.

Chan, G. R. Y. C. (2004). Purchase Instead of Borrow. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Information Supply, 14(4), 23–37. doi: 10.1300/J110v14n04_03

Courant, P. N. & Nielsen, B. (2010) On the Cost of Keeping a Book. in Council on Library and Information Resources. (2010). The idea of order: transforming research collections for 21st century scholarship. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources, 81-105.

Crane, E., & Snyder, L. (2013). Patron-Driven Acquisition Optimization at Liberty University. Faculty Publications and Presentations. Retrieved from

De Fino, M. (2011). New Roads for Patron-Driven E-Books: Collection Development and Technical Services Implications of a Patron-Driven Acquisitions Pilot at Rutgers. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 23(4), 327–338. doi: 10.1080/1941126X.2011.627043

Dillon, D. (2011). Texas Demand-Driven Acquisitions: Controlling Costs in a Large-Scale PDA Program. In Swords, D. A. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions : History and Best Practices. Berlin: De Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110253030.157

Esposito, J. J., Walker, K., & Ehling, T. (2012). PDA and the University Press. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 44(3), s1-s62. doi: 10.3138/jsp.44.3.011

Fischer, K. S., Wright, M., Clatanoff, K., Barton, H., & Shreeves, E. (2012). Give ’Em What They Want: A One-Year Study of Unmediated Patron-Driven Acquisition of e-Books. College & Research Libraries, 73(5), 469–492.

Fountain, K. C. (2010). Just Passing Through: Patron-Initiated Collection Development in Northwest Academic Libraries. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 185–195. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2010.486745

Herrera, G. (2012). Deliver the eBooks Your Patrons and Selectors Both Want! PDA Program at the University of Mississippi. The Serials Librarian, 63(2), 178–186. doi: 10.1080/0361526X.2012.700780

Hodges, D. , Preston, C. & Hamilton, M.J. (2010). Patron-Initiated Collection Development: Progress of a Paradigm Shift. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 208–221. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2010.486968

John McDonald. (2013, March 17). Ebook Availability Revisited: A Quantitative Analysis of the 2012 E… Retrieved from

Lamothe, A. R. (2013). Comparing Usage Between Selective and Bundled E-Monograph Purchases. Collection Building, 32(3), 116–121. doi: 10.1108/CB-03-2013-006

Levine-Clark, M. (2011). Building a Demand-Driven Collection: The University of Denver Experience. in Swords, D. A. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions : History and Best Practices. Berlin: De Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110253030.45

Mays, A. (2013). Biz of Acq – PDA, Circulation, and Over-Budget Requests: Harnassing Data to Inform Library Strategies. Against the Grain, 25(1), 65–69.

Nixon, J. M. (2010). A Study of Circulation Statistics of Books on Demand: A Decade of Patron-Driven Collection Development, Part 3. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 151–161. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2010.486963

Nixon, J. M., Freeman, R. S., & Ward, S. M. (2010). Patron-Driven Acquisitions: An Introduction and Literature Review. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 119–124. doi:10.1080/01462679.2010.486957

Perdue, J. & Van Fleet, J.(1999). Borrow or Buy? Cost-Effective Delivery of Monographs. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Information Supply, 9(4), 19–28. doi: 10.1300/J110v09n04_04

Price, J., & McDonald, J. (2009). Beguiled by Bananas: A Retrospective Study of the Usage and Breadth of Patron vs.Llibrarian Acquired eBook Collections. Library Staff Publications and Research. Retrieved from

Reiners, L. A. (2012). Patron-driven acquisition: the experience of three university libraries. SCONUL Focus, (55), 33–37.

Schroeder, R. (2012). When patrons call the shots: patron-driven acquisition at Brigham Young University. Collection Building, 31(1), 11–14. doi: 10.1108/01604951211199128

Shen, L. (2011). Head First into the Patron-Driven Acquisition Pool: A Comparison of Librarian Selections Versus Patron Purchases. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 23(3), 203–218. doi: 10.1080/1941126X.2011.601224

Swords, D. A. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions : History and Best Practices. Berlin: De Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110253030

Swords, D. A. (2010) Financial Importance of Short-term loaning eBooks, a Case Study.  No Shelf Required. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from

Thomas, J., Racine, H., & Shouse, D. (2013). eBooks and Efficiencies in Acquisitions Expenditures and Workflows. Against the Grain, 25(2), 14–18.

Tyler, D. C. (2010). Just How Right Are the Customers? An Analysis of the Relative Performance of Patron-Initiated Interlibrary Loan Monograph Purchases. Collection Management, 35(3-4), 162–179. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2010.487030

Tyler, D. C. (2013). Patron-Driven Acquisition and Circulation at an Academic Library: Interaction Effects and Circulation Performance of Print Books Acquired via Librarians’ Orders, Approval Plans, and Patrons’ Interlibrary Loan Requests. Collection Management, 38(1), 3–32. doi: 10.1080/01462679.2012.730494

Walters, W. H. (2012). Patron-Driven Acquisition and the Educational Mission of the Academic Library. Library Resources & Technical Services, 56(3), 199–213. doi: 10.5860/lrts.56n3.199

Ward, S. M. (2002). Books on Demand. The Acquisitions Librarian, 14(27), 95–107. doi:10.1300/J101v14n27_12

Ward, S. M. (2003). Collection development based on patron requests: collaboration between interlibrary loan and acquisitions. Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 27(2), 203–213. doi: 10.1016/S1464-9055(03)00051-4

Way, D. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions: Transforming Library Collections in the Virtual Environment. Presented at the Michigan State University. Retrieved from

Way, D. & Garrison, J. (2011) Financial Implications of Demand-Driven Acquisitions: A Case Study of the Value of Short Term Loans. In Swords, D. A. (2011). Patron-Driven Acquisitions : History and Best Practices. Berlin: De Gruyter, 137-156. doi: 10.1515/9783110253030.137