Patron-driven acquisitions

‘Patron-driven acquisition’ (PDA) is, according to the Editor’s Note in Patron-driven acquisitions: history and best practices (De Gruyter Saur, 2011), synonymous with several phrases, namely ‘demand-driven acquisitions’, ‘patron-selection programs’, ‘user-driven collection’, ‘research-driven acquisition model’, ‘patron-initiated purchase’. In its most general sense, PDA refers to any system in which library’s decisions over which books to buy are driven principally by demand from patrons, rather than collection librarians’ judgement. The phrase is, however, often used in a narrower sense to refer to a system whereby a supplier (typically an aggregator such as EBL, ebrary, NetLibrary, or MyiLibrary) makes a collection of e-books available to a library free of charge. Purchases (or leases) of titles using the library budget are then triggered by patrons’ selection and use.

For libraries, PDA offers a number of advantages. In particular:

  • it hugely increases the range of titles available to users
  • titles have to be purchased only as they are required by users: this prevents wastage of library budgets on the acquisition of books that nobody reads (an extensive problem).
As the volume’s editor, David A. Swords, writes: “As I write this introduction, the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy has ‘turned on’ an ebook collection of 170,000 volumes for its students and faculty … If those books had to be purchased before they could be used, if they had to be shipped to the city of Baku on the Caspian Sea in the Caucasus, if they had to be processed and shelved, the library could afford only a fraction of them”.
A further advantage – though not one this book explores – is that PDA seems somehow in tune with the zeitgeist of crowdsourcing/openness/Web 2.0/wisdom-of-crowds.
The book does, however, acknowledge that PDA has some disadvantages. As Rick Lugg writes in his chapter, ‘Collecting for the moment’, users tend to “have a limited frame of reference … focus on past and current experiences … tend to offer incremental, rather than bold, suggestions … [and] are less familiar with the potential of future possibilities”.
In the Acknowledgments, Swords applauds his contributors. He is justified in doing so. Really the only disappointing chapter is that by Swords himself, on publishing. He states frankly that the ‘chapter has been a bear’ and lists the number of false starts involved (for example, Swords’ preference was to commission a publisher to write the chapter, but he had no takers). In the event, Swords builds the chapter around a telephone interview with Mike Shatzkin (though Shatzkin ‘had never heard of PDA’). Whilst one applauds Swords’ enterprise in plugging the gap, it might have been better to have quietly shelved the chapter.
It would be churlish, though, to dwell further on the one weak link in the book. Overall, Patron-driven acquisitions is very strong: it provides a rounded, informative, treatment of the subject. Particularly impressive chapters include:
  • ‘The story of patron-driven acquisition’ by Kari Paulson, tracing, in an engaging narrative, the genesis and evolution of PDA;
  • ‘Patron-driven business models: history, today’s landscape, and opportunities’ by Sue Polanka and Emilie Delquie, providing a concise and crunchy survey;
  • ‘Elements of a demand-driven model’ by Swords himself, providing an outline of (a) the acquisitions thinking behind PDA, (b) the workflow involved, and (c) a budgeting model.

 The book has been typeset, smartly, by Rainer Ostermann and handsomely produced by De Gruyter. It is an impressive piece of professional publishing. I’m grateful to Mark Huskisson for having alerted me to it.


4 Responses to “Patron-driven acquisitions”

  1. […] Towards a theory of publishing « Patron-driven acquisitions  |   […]

  2. […] example, ‘The case for grey literature‘, ‘Deconstructing journals‘, ‘Patron-driven acquisitions‘, and ‘Searching open access scholarly […]

  3. […] Ironically, the posts on Monographer’s Blog that elicit most page views from librarians are those reviewing books that publishers have kindly presented me with copies of. (They include Cloud computing for libraries and Patron-driven acquisition.) […]

  4. […] one continues to make sales several years after publication – a trend that the development of patron-driven acquisition in the library market might […]

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