Libraries and digital content purchasing

data-streamI recently conducted a flash survey to learn the key issues specialized libraries are facing regarding the purchase of digital content such as value-added online services, ebooks and online journals. What I learned surprised me… a lot!

When I asked the survey participants an open-ended question about their biggest concerns regarding their digital content budget, I expected a fairly wide range of answers. Instead, over a quarter of them said that their largest frustration is that their vendors raise rates every year for the same content, whereas the library budget stays flat, forcing them to cut back somewhere else just to maintain the same level of content as the year before. Significantly fewer respondents mentioned lack of budget support from management and concerns about selecting the right content and getting a good ROI from their digital content purchasing.

I also asked about the most important factors when selecting or changing digital content vendors. It wasn’t even close — cost and content were mentioned by most of the respondents, with considerations such as functionality, ease of use, vendor relationship or contractual terms being mentioned far less frequently. Interestingly, although many online vendors tout their exclusive content, not a single respondent mentioned exclusive content as a consideration. (Email me if you’d like a copy of the survey results.)

Bottom line: It’s not the bells and whistles, advanced features, a great account rep or exclusive access to Widgets Daily. Librarians buy digital content based on whether they get the content set they need at a price that fits within their budget. Offer them something with a better ROI and they’ll switch.

See more of my thoughts on library issues

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