New developments in on-demand purchasing

Below is an article from LJ – published today. Please comment – but should we also schedule a “brown bag” discussion – and ask Joe for some hard figures about how much various ILL items cost?


Time and Tools Are Ripe for On-Demand Acquisitions, Say Charleston Speakers

Models removes guesswork and can save money over ILL, especially when the process is simplified for the end user

Josh Hadro — Library Journal, 11/12/2009

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Collection development librarians: predicting use is ineffective
Supply chain improvements and e-access make on-demand viable
Software tool collapses distinction between ILL and purchase requests

While the notion of “just-in-time” acquisitions has generated buzz at professional meetings for some years, readily available pilot program data and maturing software tools are paving the way for more institutions to move away from the traditional “just-in-case” model.

Demand-driven collection policies and procedures were the focus of five sessions over three days last week at the recent Charleston Conference <> (on “issues in book and serials acquisions”) and favorably mentioned in many others. With growing support from ebook, journal, and print monograph publishers, it’s become much easier for collection development librarians to let user requests drive purchases rather than rely on librarians’ predictive abilities.

“We are not good predictors of use,” acknowledged University of Vermont <> acquisitions and preservation librarian Albert Joy, who, along with collection development librarian Peter Spitzform, described their library’s Order on Demand Project. The university has purchased more than 600 books since 2007 prompted directly by user requests.

With records for readily available materials from a number of publishers—including Wiley, Oxford, and MacMillian—loaded into the catalog, graduate students and researchers can readily identify new works relevant to their research interest. Moreover, they can treat them as they would any other material not held locally by the university.

In the mind of the end user, there is essentially no difference between “off-site” and “not-yet-purchased,” said Joy, especially now that e-access has come into its own, and it’s less likely that materials will go out of print. The materials purchased via the pilot program circulate, on average, more than twice as often as other monographs, the presenters said.

GIST of Geneseo
In part echoing the observations made by Joy and Spitzform that users are indifferent to the source of materials, a team of librarians and programmers at the State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo <> is working to collapse workflow distinction between content acquired by inter-library loan (ILL) and ordered from outside sources like Amazon.

Tim Bowersox, Cyril Oberlander, Kate Pitcher, and Mark Sullivan of SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library described the Getting It System Toolkit <> (GIST), a software package is designed to merge “acquisitions and ILL request workflow using one interface, enabling user-initiated requests, coordinated collection development and acquisitions.”

<>The first version of GIST, released in August, combines ILL and purchase request options on a single interface for the user, and integrates on the back end with OCLC’s ILLiad resource sharing management software. The request screen, linked from the catalog or discovery interface, includes sections highlighting holdings, preview or full-text options from sources like Google and the Internet Archive if available, Amazon reviews, and pricing details from a variety of booksellers.

Behind the scenes, the software directs the user’s request to a librarian and helps that librarian weigh whether to purchase the item or submit it as an ILL request; it displaysWorldCat holdings availability as well as the price of alternatives to ILL in case a purchase can save money and time over borrowing from another institution.

Version one of the GIST software is available for download at the project’s site <>. Version two will be a standalone application, and is expected to be released in August 2010.

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3 thoughts on “New developments in on-demand purchasing

  1. Arabella

    Let me see if I understand the UVM model correctly. They have bib records in their catalog for stuff they don’t currently own, but can presumably receive quickly if it’s selected. So presumably the item record (or whatever) instead of, like in Midcat, saying ‘Available’ would say something like ‘can be obtained.’ So the user who has searched and found such a record clicks on ‘can be obtained’ (or some similar process) and the order is placed.

    This is significantly easier than our current ‘user request’ process which is to fill out a webform with the author, title, publisher, etc. Yet, a place the size of UVM has only done 600 such orders in two years? I really have nothing on which to base this, but it seems like we’ve probably matched or exceeded that (particularly if you correct for differences in user populations) with our comparatively ‘clunky’ request process, haven’t we? Just sayin’ ….

  2. Sue Driscoll

    What’s more interesting about this article is the idea of a coordinated effort between ILL and Acquisitions to purchase frequently requested items instead of borrowing them multiple times.


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