Prepared by Tricia Rey, Library Services Manager, Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, East Grinstead. Patricia.rey@nhs.net

The paper for discussion is Daly, A., Harrison, S., Reed, A. and Yates, D. (2021) Integrating e-collections following the merger of two specialist hospital libraries: a case study, Health Information and Libraries Journal, 38 (1), pp. 32-38. doi: 10.1111/hir.12305

Also free on PubMed Central.

This paper outlines the practical steps taken by two newly-merged specialist libraries, over a period of four months, to integrate their electronic collections. Their aim was to provide access to the same e-collection across both sites, prioritising ‘information need, equity of access and best value’.

A five-stage audit was carried out, involving all LKS staff ‘to ensure understanding, engagement and shared responsibilities’. Some journals were cancelled having been judged as giving poor value for money and licences were renegotiated with suppliers. This resulted in cost savings. The outcome was a shared collection of e-resources available across both sites and the creation of a single OpenAthens organisation to provide access to this.

Strengths

  • This article fills a gap in the literature. The authors identified only six articles of relevance, with a date range of 1987-2015. All of these articles related to North America.
  • The audit was carried out systematically and the steps taken were logical.
  • The collections were merged successfully.

Weaknesses

  • The title of the article mentions ‘integrating e-collections’ and, presumably, the database mentioned was one that contained both electronic journals and books. However, the article focuses on e-journals almost exclusively. Possibly the book element could have been mentioned in the introduction and then discounted as outside the scope of the study and the title changed to reflect more closely the content.
  • There is no detail regarding the time period considered for the calculation of cost per download.
  • There is no detail on how the cost of LKS staff time was calculated.
  • User consultation was briefly mentioned only when referring to reviewing usage data to inform ‘promotion or cancellation of a title’.
  • No indication was given on the document supply partners used, whether they were free (eg provided by other NHS libraries) or paid for (eg British Library).
  • The stated aim was to merge the e-collections but emphasis appears to be on the cost savings. Perhaps the savings could have been put to good use by procuring additional titles.

Conclusion

This paper fills a gap in the literature and provides a helpful framework which could be adapted by others who need to go through a similar course of action to rationalise their holdings and provide equitable cross-site access. Although I found the article interesting and of potential future use, I also found that it left me with many unanswered questions.

Points for discussion

  1. How many years of download data (eg COUNTER statistics) would you feel it appropriate to consider?
  2. Would you have included more about e-books?
  3. There is mention of a future piece of work on print journals but could further savings have been identified where there was an overlap between print and e-journal subscriptions?
  4. Can you think of other ways in which the authors could have identified departmental subscriptions? They mention emails and, in the future, possible work with finance and procurement departments.
  5. Are there other steps you would have included in the audit?
  6. Does ‘value’ relate only to cost per download or are there other aspects to consider?
  7. User-consultation is mentioned only briefly. As one stated aim was to prioritise value, increased consultation might have resulted in the suggestion of titles to add to the collection. What would you have done?