Volume 27, Number 2, Summer 2005

eBook Solution for 3,000 Pennsylvania Libraries

Access Pennsylvania is a statewide project sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Its mission is to facilitate resource sharing among school, public, academic, and special libraries located across the Keystone State. Joe Scorza, executive director of HSLC/Access PA, is responsible for managing the union catalog shared by these libraries and the Access PA NetLibrary eBook collection.

When Scorza’s team took over the union catalog in 2000, they performed a complete infrastructure redesign and database migration. They also sought an eBook solution that they could easily manage while also serving the broad interests of more than 3,000 libraries.

NetLibrary was selected as a primary eBook service. One of the main reasons, explains Scorza, is the patron-driven purchasing model. Whereas collection development in a large consortium is traditionally performed by a selection process—determining purchases based on user trends and assumptions—this model allows Access PA to buy eBooks that users want. Users choose them simply by viewing them. On the second viewing of an eBook, the purchase is made.

The consortium also used the NetLibrary MARC record option to choose which eBooks to display. “We turned on all the titles,” says Scorza. “We loaded the entire 60.000 MARC record file into our union catalog.” Links to the eBooks were provided in the union catalog and through links to the POWER Library project through the Web sites of associated libraries.

User response was staggering. “Phenomenal,” says Scorza. “We consumed our budget allocation in the first six months.” And that wasn’t a bad thing, he notes. “That’s what the money was for. Whether we bought the books at the beginning of the year or the end, we would have spent the money.” The difference was that users decided what to buy, and the consortium purchased eBooks only as they were needed.

In the first year, Access PA purchased 9,000 titles, including multiple copies of the most heavily viewed eBooks.

The patron-driven acquisition model, says Scorza, is an ideal funding model because it allows Access PA to obtain exactly what patrons want and shows how eager they are to have eBooks. “What better evidence can we have to justify purchases?”