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To prepare for the launch of ProQuest Ebook Central, we kicked off a series of blog posts with the librarians that helped shape the platform during our beta testing phase. Our first post was an interview with Kathleen Folger in which the Electronic Resources Officer told us about how the new platform supports her accessibility initiatives at University of Michigan Library.
This week we had a chance to speak to two more of the librarians who provided insight during our ProQuest Ebook Central beta testing phase: Jeffrey Daniels, Head of Knowledge Access and Resource Management Services at Grand Valley State University Libraries, and Erin Crane, current E-Resources and Instruction Librarian at Germanna Community College and former Electronic Books Librarian at Jerry Falwell Library at Liberty University during the ProQuest Ebook Central beta testing phase.
The Grand Valley State University Libraries’ goal is to enrich the educational mission of the university by advancing intellectual growth and discovery. Jeffrey and his fellow librarians focus on the acquisition, application, dissemination and preservation of knowledge to promote teaching, learning and active scholars.
Germanna Community College Library aims to support the college curriculum, to meet the research and information needs of the college community, to promote information literacy and lifelong learning, to provide instruction in the use of library resources and also to encourage leisure reading and listening. In order to fulfill this mission, Erin and her fellow librarians need insight into the ways that their content is used so they’re sure to provide the resources that their researchers seek.
Read on to learn how LibCentral’s reporting features will help both of these libraries achieve their user-focused missions and stay tuned for additional profiles of libraries that helped shape the new ProQuest Ebook Central platform.
ProQuest (PQ): What obstacles do you face in proving ROI on your e-resources?
Jeffrey Daniels, Grand Valley State University Libraries (JD): To put it simply, our biggest obstacle is one that many, if not all, libraries face: collecting data that is consistent across platforms. COUNTER has started to help with this, but there are still a lot of vendors out there that don’t supply COUNTER-compliant usage statistics and resources that don’t lend themselves to COUNTER compliance.
The other problem is the scope of the data available. Our library provides researchers with access to such a large number of ebooks on multiple platforms. It’s a challenge to make sense of the scope of the numbers for those outside of the library who don’t understand the wealth of resources available.
Erin Crane, Germanna Community College Library (EC): I agree. One of our biggest obstacles is collecting detailed, consistent data with the context to make it make sense to those outside of the library — actually, sometimes data that I pull from vendors makes it difficult for even the librarians to figure out what it’s showing! Timeliness of data is a major obstacle as well as many vendors provide data a month later and it’s less helpful than it could be, especially nowadays when you need information quickly.
As far as consistency goes, I often run into the problem of not being able to easily export and manipulate cross-platform insights, especially as some vendors just provide HTML, some just provide PDF, some just provide a long Excel spreadsheet of numbers. As Jeffrey mentioned, COUNTER helps those with the trained librarian eye gain insight into what’s happening in our collections, but it’s helpful to have detailed info for more in-depth analysis when trying to prove return on investment and make the case for those outside of the library.
PQ: Has any of the data that you've collected surprised you? Why or why not?
JD: Specific to LibCentral, one thing that has surprised me since the ebrary and EBL merger under ProQuest is that there is a great amount of overlap between the EBL and ebrary catalogs. It’s to be expected as these have traditionally been competing products, but I’m excited to see that ProQuest Ebook Central will automatically address this duplication for me, removing the need for me to ensure that patrons are choosing the subscription option when we have it and the DDA record when we don’t.
EC: Since the new reporting functionality provides deeper insights into how our collection is used, I was able to see usage trends that were previously not clear to me. For instance, our EBL history titles received the most page views — history is not a major class here at Germanna, though it is required for many students as they work towards their associate’s degrees. The new LibCentral reports gave me good cause to look into why this is as well as to see how the Library can further support these students.
PQ: How will LibCentral help you assess ebook usage and expenditure?
JD: We provide access to over a million ebooks through multiple sources, but our highest usage is seen with EBL and ebrary. To have them consolidated in one platform is game changing.
We’re specifically looking forward to the reporting features, as they’ll allow us to do something that we’ve been wrestling with for a while now: weeding our electronic collection. We’re running into the problem of having multiple editions of the same title available. We have retrospective collections so filtering by year of publication doesn’t work, but we need to make it easier for our users to choose the most up-to-date title when it’s appropriate. Our library’s only option before LibCentral would have taken hours and hours of manual work and, honestly, just wasn’t feasible. LibCentral Title Reports make what used to be an unrealistic task a realistic goal.
EC: As I mentioned earlier, we need detailed data in order to make the case for resource investments. LibCentral has that level of detail available in the reports. Actually, it might even have more detail than we need!
I’m looking forward to being able to see not just which titles are used, but also how they were used and how long they were used. Looking through the reports I’m reminded of Michael Levine-Clark’s “E-Book Usage on a Global Scale: Patterns, Trends, and Opportunities” presentation featuring the in-depth usage analysis that he conducted in partnership with EBL and ebrary. The new LibCentral’s enhanced capabilities make it possible for me to gain as clear of a picture of the patterns, trends and opportunities for the Germanna Community College Library as Levine-Clark did for global ebook usage.
As far as expenditure goes, being able to pull the average STL costs to see if certain subjects are more expensive even though they receive less use will help us make the best use of our budget. We are part of a consortium so won’t be making these budgeting decisions on our individual level, but will be able to make the case should changes in the approach seem reasonable.
PQ: What are you going to be able to do now that you weren't able to do before using the new LibCentral?
JD: We’re going to be able to paint a clear picture of how our researchers are using our ebooks. As I mentioned before, we see our highest ebook usage in ebrary and EBL for current, general resources. Learning about this new reporting functionality as a part of beta testing with ProQuest has left me excited because I don’t yet know exactly what insight I’ll gain.
My hope is that we’ll see trends that were previously under the radar. Maybe there’s a department on campus that we didn’t think would rely on ebooks, but the reports prove otherwise and act as a conversation starter. With the report in hand, our liaisons will be able to approach faculty and say, “We’re seeing heavy use in this subject area. Would you like to work with us to build out the ebook collection for your students?” Any data that supports librarian-faculty collaboration is a definite win for all parties involved.
EC: At my previous institution, we didn’t use it very much as we relied on another platform for managing our ebook collection. With the launch of the new, improved platform and administrative portal, I can see ProQuest Ebook Central becoming a very useful data center on ebook use at my institution.
PQ: What else can ProQuest do to help you streamline your ebook assessment workflow?
JD: One of the things that I’m very happy about that’s not tied to the usage reports specifically is how ProQuest is helping to make DRM more transparent for users. The dream is no DRM but I understand the realities of it. Our users just don’t get DRM — They don’t understand the license restrictions, they don’t understand why they can’t print or download a whole book. What you’re seeing with Ebook Central is that the restrictions are made more clear by communicating how many pages a user can print and how many they have printed so far. The more information we can push to the patron to help them understand, the better, and ProQuest is definitely keeping this in mind.
Specific to LibCentral reporting, I’m looking forward to the Expenditure Reports. More and more of our budget has been dedicated to DDA as it’s a great way to let our patrons shape our collection and allows us to offer access to a greater number of titles than we would be able to with outright purchasing. The problem is we can’t dedicate our whole budget to DDA. Once Ebook Central launches, we’re going to have one platform driving the majority of our ebook usage so we’ll be able to review the Expenditure Report and make acquisition decisions based on which subject areas are seeing high usage, which areas are not and which are most costly. It will allow us to ask and answer questions to better shape our collection moving forward.
I’m impressed. I think ProQuest got it right with Ebook Central, taking the best from EBL and the best from ebrary to create what’s shaping up to be a very impressive platform.
EC: I’m pleased with the improvements ProQuest has made to reporting with the new LibCentral and excited to see the enhancements that they’ll roll out in the future as well.
Interested in learning more about Ebook Central? Contact us.