Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Let’s talk about PDA (part one)

Posted by lpearle on 23 October 2011

I’m not talking about allowing Public Displays of Affection in one’s library. Nor am I talking about a Personal Digital Assistant. This post is about Patron Driven Acquisition, a topic that I’m hearing more and more about given the rise of e-readers and e-books in our collections. How do we adjust our existing policies to include PDA? Do we adjust our existing policies? What limitations, if any, do we put on PDA within our institutions? What about findability: do these items go into our catalogs, or not? How do we measure the success of a PDA program?

Some schools are allowing students to recommend (or purchase) books via their Kindle/Nook programs but this isn’t quite what PDA means. Barbara Fister has a good description of PDA in her Inside Higher Ed column:

This new way of building collections emphasizes speed and choice, things that are popular these days. No need to wait for interlibrary loan; just click on the title in a large shopping mall of e-books and you can have what you want right away. One model that’s popular is to enter the e-book options into the library’s catalog. Browsing for a short period of time is free; browsing for a longer period is treated as a rental and the library pays a fee; and if a book is “rented” four times, the library automatically purchases the book.

During the recent LJ/SLJ E-Book Summit, I “attended” the academic library thread to see how I could better prepare my K-12 students for their next academic experience and was surprised by the conversation that was had about PDA.

The librarians were all very much in the Pro-PDA camp, with findability being the major issue they faced. One university was actually creating its own app to assist students! What about privacy? Well, as danah boyd often points out, teens think of privacy differently than adults do and in the academic realm, it could be very helpful to know that when you’re researching the Boxer Rebellion or the environmental changes brought about by El Nino that previous researchers found certain books and articles to be helpful. On the other hand, it could also be argued that part of doing research is to do the search part on your own, to see what information you can find on the topic (and if you miss something critical because you didn’t search well, or hard enough, that’s part of the learning process). That conversation, of course, leads to questions of academic integrity and what role research should play in the educational process.

But back to PDA. Shortly after the Summit, Barbara Fister posted The Revolution Will Not Be Subscription-Based, in which she discusses the financial implications of this mode of acquisition. Having recently had the experience of spending over $500,000 in six months to replenish a K-12 print collection, I’m painfully aware of the financial discussions. There are a great number of books that were purchased that haven’t circulated, books that should have been purchased in digital format, and books that have (already) outlived their usefulness. While we have added books requested by patrons (teachers and students) as soon as we can, the immediacy of acquisition in the PDA programs at the panelist’s colleges hasn’t been there.

Would joining a consortium that offers hundreds of titles for potential immediate purchase be a good thing? What about the financial side and the DRM issues (see my upcoming part two)?

As AASL11 approaches, I look forward to having these conversations with my peers and colleagues.

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One Response to “Let’s talk about PDA (part one)”

  1. [...] Wendy « Let’s talk about PDA (part one) [...]

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