Patron Driven Acquisition and its Discontents

Yesterday I got kind of rage-y after reading A Skeptic’s View of Patron-Driven Acquisitions: Is it Time to ask the Tough Questions? [paywall] from the most recent issue of Technical Services Quarterly. The authors spend most of the article flogging the straw-man of unfettered patron-driven acquisition (PDA) and the possible nefarious consequences of that.  In the real world unfettered PDA is not really an issue – it hasn’t been my experience and I have yet to hear of another library that doesn’t in some way limit access to the potential pool of titles (even if it’s something simple like forcing students to click an extra link to get to the PDA platform). This is not to say that all is sunshine and roses in PDA land. There are, in my opinion, some very serious problems that I think need to be highlighted, discussed and conquered. Here’s 3:

1. Content

There is a significant amount of content from reputable publishers like Oxford, Cambridge et al. that is not available through any of the PDA platforms (in some cases there isn’t even an e-version you can buy). I can only speculate that publishers are doing this to give us some incentive to buy their big deals or little deals or packages that live on their websites. I’ll just state publicly here that there is no more money for new big deals at my school and there is a very good chance that we are going to be breaking up 1 or more big deals in the next few years.

Request #1: Publishers please make all your content available through PDA.

2. Integration with Existing Workflows

Because I currently use someone other than YBP as my principle monograph vendor I’m not able to offer multi-vendor PDA to my users in a targeted and easily controlled way. This has a few consequences: our program is limited to the content of a single vendor; and it is more difficult for staff to control the content that is being included in our PDA program. Luckily, our users have mostly confined themselves to using suitable academic content but it has created a problem with duplicate purchases. In my opinion our program would be much more effective if we could just use our monograph vendor to run a PDA program across a number of vendors using our existing monograph profiles.
Request #2: Monograph vendors and PDA vendors please make greater efforts to work together to allow all libraries to run cross platform PDA schemes

3. Platforms

Without getting into the problems with books in browsers / serious reading on your screen/tablet/phone / &c. I’d like to talk about preservation and alternative hosting arrangements. Here in Ontario we have a pretty robust infrastructure for local hosting of ebooks and journals. However, my current PDA vendor does not allow me to locally host content or even dark archive it on our existing infrastructure. They say that this licensing point comes from their agreements with publishers. Quite frankly, this is a ridiculous restriction on content that we have paid for. Especially since in most cases our platform already hosts some content from the publisher in question (i.e. mostly consortial big deals)
Request #3: Publishers please allow my PDA vendor to give me the files necessary to locally load the content that I’ve purchased.

There’s lots more to deal with – the reading issue for instance, but these three are a good place to start.