Professional Development

ALA Midwinter according to Derrik

Friday, February 7, 2014 12:09 pm

Vendor meetings

As usual, I spent a large part of this conference in the vendor exhibit hall.

I learned that Alexander Street Press is close to signing a deal to offer a certain film collection that I’ve heard people here express specific interest in (I don’t want to jinx the deal by naming the collection before it’s finalized). Bad news: it will be by subscription only, at least at the start. I also had an interesting after-dinner conversation with the President of Alexander Street Press, about how hard it is to come up with a good short-term loan model for streaming media (do you charge by the minute? what’s the appropriate price point?), and the difficulty of getting rights holders on board with it.

Data-Planet (provider of Statistical Datasets database) is targeting June/July for the release of a java-free user interface, and are also contemplating offering a one-time purchase option for their Statistical Data Sheets.

Elsevier‘s main development focus seems to be on Mendeley right now.

I learned more about the respective e-book models of both JSTOR and Project MUSE. Both e-book collections primarily feature university presses. A Project MUSE presenter said they try to select their e-books to match their existing subject strengths, so that the journal and book collections will complement each other. MUSE offers single-title purchasing via YBP, and JSTOR expects to offer it “in a few months.” JSTOR also offers a DDA model for e-books.

Oxford University Press now offers individual title purchasing for their Oxford Scholarship Online books. They are also now offering journal backfiles for title-by-title purchase.

A week before ALA, ZSR was asked/invited to become a Beta test site for the new EBL administrative module. So I spent half an hour at the ProQuest booth with Alison Bobal of EBL, getting a sneak preview. The new module seems much easier to use, and includes some functionality that up until now could only be handled by contacting EBL support, so I’m excited to be an early adopter. I also appreciate the opportunity to help shape the product. We went live on the new admin module today!

At the Third Iron booth, I learned more about a new feature of BrowZine, a product we subscribed to last August that allows WFU users to create a personalized collection of library-subscribed journals on their mobile devices. BrowZine can now include journals from ProQuest, EBSCOhost, and Ovid aggregator databases (initially it only included journals on publisher websites). We have, of course, turned on this new feature.

I learned about a couple of new e-book providers, and also had one-on-one meetings with our sales reps from APA Publishing, SAGE, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Thomson, and Wiley.


Committee meetings

I am in my third year of serving on the ALCTS Transforming Collections Task Force. The Task Force manages an ALCTS microgrant program to fund projects in support of the ALCTS goal of transforming collections. The first year we received a good number of applications, but the second year (last year) we only got a few few, so a good portion of this committee meeting was spent discussing whether or not to continue the microgrants (we decided yes, for at least one more year) and how to drum up applications. We talked about the many different ways in which collections and collecting are being transformed (e.g. shared collections, DDA, digitized local collections, open-access journals, user-generated content, etc.) and brainstormed ways to promote the theme of transforming collections.

I am also a member of the newly-formed ALCTS Standards Committee. The purposes of the committee are to educate ALCTS members about and encourage their involvement in the development of relevant standards and to support ALA’s voting representative to NISO. As this was the committee’s first meeting, it was mostly about getting organized, discussing how to best fulfill the committee’s role.

At my previous ALA conferences, I have enjoyed attending presentations sponsored by the Publisher-Vendor-Library Relations Interest Group (PVLR). At last month’s conference, I had (or made) time available to attend the PVLR business meeting. The group is made up of 3 co-chairs and anybody else who wants to attend. There were about 15-20 people there, and the meeting was simply an open discussion of possible topics for future PVLR presentations. Ideas included security/hacking; data mining & analysis (how to explain legitimate uses to publishers, how to explain rights holders’ concerns to the end-user); self-publishing; hybrid Open Access; and the future of society publishing.



I did manage to attend a few presentations. In one, Rick Anderson, Associate Dean for Scholarly Resources & Collections at the University of Utah, discussed “predatory publishing,” and what makes a publisher “predatory.” Anderson admitted that there could be several kinds of predation, but he focused on two broad categories: misrepresentation (e.g. deliberately misleading journal titles, publisher name mimicking a legitimate-sounding organization, fictitious editorial board or real people’s names used without permission) and selling false prestige (e.g. false claims of peer review or impact factor). Anderson encouraged getting the word out to scholars about predatory publishers, but emphasized the need to do it delicately, lest we inadvertently send the message that all open-access third-world, small, or new publishers are bad. Following Anderson’s remarks, Regina Reynolds of the U.S. ISSN Center discussed how the ISSN network (U.S. and internationally) can and cannot help. Reynolds stressed that the ISSN is not a stamp of legitimacy, it’s just a “dumb number.” On the other hand, the ISSN network recognizes that they cannot be perceived to enable fraudulent publishing, so they have established some guidelines, such as no longer assigning an ISSN prior to the publication of the first issue, and being more careful about publishers requesting a large block of ISSNs.

In a session sponsored by ProQuest, Michael Levine-Clark presented results of his analysis of e-book usage over multiple years on the ebrary and EBL platforms. ProQuest had provided him with usage data from both providers, covering 4 years and 750,000 titles. It’s hard to pick out the salient points when there was so much information presented, but here’s my version of the highlights:

  • University press titles consistently got higher use (sessions, page views, printing, etc.) than the overall collection average. BUT this might simply be because university press titles are available in more libraries and therefore to more users. Levine-Clark was working with aggregate data, and did not have information about individual library usage or holdings.
  • Books in the Social Sciences seem to be used at a slightly higher rate than the Humanities or STM. BUT page views and printing per user session were highest in STM. In other words, even though a lower percentage of STM books got used, they seem to get used more intensely.
  • Question: Does more page views per session = more time in the book? or just rapidly “flipping” through? Levine-Clark did not have data regarding amount of time spent in the book.
  • Question: What constitutes a meaningful use of an e-book? Levine-Clark suggested that copying may be the best measure (indicates the user found something they wanted to save). Printing or time in the book might be other possibilities, though it is not uncommon for a user to print something just for offline reading.

The presentation slides are available at

One of the authors who spoke at the conference was David Baldacci. I credit Baldacci with getting me interested again in reading for pleasure, after I heard him speak back in 2002 or 2003, so of course I had to go hear him again. He only spoke for about 20 minutes, but made up for it with an unannounced book signing, signing proofs of his forthcoming young-adult fiction novel The Finisher.

4 Responses to “ALA Midwinter according to Derrik”

  1. This is a very interesting paradigm shift to explore. In the past we determined the “value” of a book to a user based on its use measured through circulations, but in fact all we could tell was that the user cared enough about it to check it out. Now we have to determine if someone “checks out” a book, but then spends little time in it, that it wasn’t valuable. The level of access into this information is intriguing and a bit worrisome.

  2. Agreed. My wife has long said that the nice thing about library books is that you can check out as many as you want and nobody checks to see if you read them. With e-books we seem to expect to know everything about how they’re used. It’s spooky to me that e-book suppliers can know how many pages someone has read, what page(s) they lingered on, what pages they returned to, etc.

  3. What a great report, Derrik, you obviously maximized your time on this trip. I heard MLC in Charleston giving the same report and it was equally hard to figure out the main points!

  4. Thanks for this – I love to hear the vendor news and the ebooks info is fascinating and a bit big brotherish all at once. On the one hand deeper understanding of how patrons use ebooks can help us build collections that will get used – on the other hand – YIKES!

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