Last week marked the change-over from Netlibrary eBooks to eBooks on EBSCO. Libraries have known about this change for quite a while, and therefore my library was prepared. I had made sure that our proxy server would recognize the new site. I had exported our recent statistics to ensure that we did not lose them. I had familiarized myself with how the new site would work. We were ready.
What I did not consider was whether or not to cut our losses and abandon NetLibrary. While the resources that we have dedicated to NetLibrary are a sunk cost, and what we have paid should not be considered, people generally feel compelled to “get their money’s worth” from a resource like this. Putting my personal feelings aside, and trying to consider the matter rationally, I made a list of some pros and some cons.
- Patrons will be less confused as we will only have one eBook service.
- This collection makes our library’s resources look dated (our latest books are 2 titles from 2009).
- We can save a small amount of money by not having to ensure that the resources are downloadable
- It is one fewer electronic resource to take up staff time and attention.
- There is a small handful of patrons who use it and would miss it.
- Removing the books from our catalog and/or website may monetarily devalue our overall collection.
- There are some books on NetLibrary that are not available through Overdrive.
- We would need to consider eliminating all of our NetLibrary MARC records from the catalog at a time when staff are already overwhelmed.
No final decision has been made at my library, but these kinds of questions are becoming increasingly important in a world where libraries have a variety of electronic resources that are out-of-date and not used by patrons. Often these resources have only nominal maintenance or hosting costs associated with them, but they cost our patrons by consuming their limited attention and time.
In the physical library space weeding is seen as a necessary step to ensure adequate space for new materials, but as many librarians know (myself, Holly Hibner, Mary Kelly, and many others included), weeding also helps patrons find the good materials that they’re looking. Not that patrons don’t love finding the old and rather humorous ones that have been left to mold on the shelf.
With electronic resources we no longer have to worry about a limited amount of physical space. And as many resources are not hosted at the library itself (a controversial notion in itself), there is no server space or staff costs to be concerned with.
So when do we weed resources like Netlibrary which take up no other significant resources than patron time and energy? My library has not made a decision on this particular issue as of yet, but it is an idea that is currently at the forefront of my thoughts.