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PDA: It's not just about public displays of affection. We’re talking about patron-driven acquisition, a topic for which some libraries have NO affection!

Patron-driven acquisition, which enables patron requests to translate directly into orders for the library, has become a hot topic for public libraries in particular. According to the ALA, the PDA model has gained traction because of “the convergence of ebook availability, patron interest in ebooks, new business models, and the economic crisis.” The ALA also notes a shift from a “just in case” collecting mentality to a “just in time” (JIT) strategy that mirrors the emergence of lean manufacturing and JIT inventory in the production world.

Some librarians fear that patron-driven requests, which are based on immediate, individual needs, will skew the strategic direction of the library collection. Another concern is how a PDA initiative will affect the budget, particularly if the program is heavily marketed.

Other librarians point out that PDA can have a very positive effect. A joint study by public and academic librarians cited these outcomes:

  • Obtaining users’ requested items quickly
  • Building collections by adding titles with user interest and which have a high potential for subsequent use
  • Increasing collaboration between the Interlibrary Loan, Collection, and Acquisitions departments
  • Filling requests both efficiently and cost-effectively with a streamlined rush acquisitions process

The study’s authors described the PDA process this way:

“The models differ in some details but in all cases Interlibrary Loan staff select the titles to be purchased and Acquisitions staff rush order the requested titles. Titles are then either rush-processed in Technical Services and circulated to the user, or are received un-processed in Interlibrary Loan for immediate patron use and are cataloged later.”

The Chicago Public Library, with 80 branch locations, recently launched its PDA pilot program with a $300,000 grant from the Illinois State Library. In this case, the program’s distributor created lists of adult fiction, non-fiction, and youth titles available for request, and their descriptions were added to the library’s online catalog. A request triggers a purchase, wherein the library gets a report and places an order with the distributor. The library expects to own 13,000 new materials by the end of the pilot program.

Though some librarians worry about a burgeoning collection of “one-off” or inappropriate materials, others see PDA, when guided by librarian expertise, as a way to meet patrons’ needs quickly with a familiar, Amazon-like experience.

What do you think about PDA (the kind related to libraries, that is)?

26 Nov 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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