Ever wonder how you can leverage usage statistics to select materials for your collection based on what patrons are actually using? Meet Evidence-Based Acquisitions: here is how it works. You agree with a publisher on a “deposit”- essentially, the dollar amount you commit to the publisher. This amount is a negotiated percentage of the value of the collection as a whole, and there is a floor amount required. This “floor” amount is then adjusted, based on the dollar value of the available titles. After 11 months, you look at the usage statistics, and decide which materials you want to purchase. Unlike demand-driven purchasing, there is no automatic trigger- you aren’t forced to buy books accessed “x” amount of times- it is up to you. The money in the deposit is credited toward the list price of what you decide to keep, and those materials are yours to access, download, and loan. If you want additional materials beyond the value of your deposit, some publishers will offer a discount for those, others won’t.
Here come the caveats. This system only works well if it is a publisher you will likely buy a lot from, but not everything. If you have a standing order with a publisher, this might be a good deal. Publishers can also decide to exclude some materials- think textbooks and encyclopedias- so it may not be as good as it looks. The “deposit” price is also negotiated annually, and it will increase as new content is added. And, what happens to those books patrons accessed during the trial period that you don’t end up purchasing? Voila- they may reappear during the next trial, and you re-gain temporary access—unless (or until) they are later excluded.
What’s in this for the publishers? They get a guaranteed purchase amount- certainty in this economy is nothing to sniff at- and a chance to create patron-driven demand for materials we may not have thought of buying. What’s in it for us? We get to try out a broad collection and buy what we want, with more information about how popular a title actually is before we commit. Usage statistics can indeed be eye-opening. We are currently using this program with two publishers, and for us, it is a fairly new venture. It takes a lot of time and attention to detail to make it work, so there is a significant degree of librarian effort involved. So far, we like it, but it may not work for every library. We welcome any information on others’ experience with this system. The more we know, the better informed our decisions.