Acquisition, integration and usage of Springer Nature's eBook collection at University of British Columbia

Arielle Lomness, University of British Columbia

Arielle Lomness is the Collections Librarian for the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Library, located on the smaller of the two campuses. As well as managing eBook collections for the campus, she’s also responsible for the acquisition of journals and databases, and co-chairs the university’s eBooks sub-committee.

UBC’s two campuses have separate library acquisition budgets but combine their resources to purchase eBook collections for the entire institution. The university made its first wholesale investment in eBooks back in 2008 when it purchased the Springer Nature collection as an institution-wide resource for its students, post-grads and academics.  As part of a series of interviews with librarians about the importance of eBooks at universities in 2019, we asked Arielle what observations she’s made about the uptake and use of Springer Nature’s collection at UBC over the past few years, and how it has impacted the institution more broadly.  

How long has UBC had access to Springer Nature’s eBook collection?

We’ve now gone through two cycles of a three-year eBook collection deal with Springer Nature, so all of our students, researchers and academics have had access to almost the entire frontlist for the last six years. What’s interesting is that we’re seeing Springer Nature start to diversify some of its subject collections to reflect new and emerging subject specialisms, and this is helping us to meet the evolving needs of our faculty and students.

What was your initial impression of take-up and usage of the collection in the first few years after purchase?

As a collection’s librarian, I’m continually monitoring usage of all our resources, and in particular analysing fluctuations in usage. There’s a direct application of eBooks in the classroom, so usage fluctuates seasonally and it’s unrealistic to expect that all subject packages will be used continuously throughout the year. We have not always delved as deeply into usage stats for the Springer Nature eBook collection in the way we do with some collections from some other publishers, because we regularly receive feedback from our users - including requests for titles we have already purchased and enquiries about whether we’ll be renewing the following year. As an institution, we value the benefits of the DRM-free publisher platform that Springer Nature provides and we know that the collection has a broad range of users actively downloading eBooks – from undergraduates, to grad students and academics. We also know that it’s not just one or two departments relying on the collection - demand is spread across our STEM and humanities departments, as well as across user demographics.

In 2015, we took a bit of a leap of faith and added Palgrave titles to the frontlist following Springer’s acquisition of the imprint, and since then we’ve seen strong usage of these titles. We were really pleased to see that 67% of all Springer Nature titles in our collection had 10 or more uses in 2018, which was up from 65% the previous year.

New Content Item

* Behavioral Science was superseded by Behavioral Science and Psychology Frontlist in 2016. **Energy contemporary collection purchase began in 2014.

How have you built exposure of your eBook collections at UBC?

Our library makes e-resource pages available for most major e-book collections, as well as platforms such as SpringerLink. In addition, subject liaison librarians often include links to relevant e-books on LibGuides. Our eBook records are also easy to search on our discovery layer, Summon, and in our OPAC. This helps to raise awareness of all collections, but in general we find that our users are more familiar with the Springer name. In fact, I often get academics asking me if we’re continuing our subscription to these titles as they worry about losing access. Our subject liaison librarians also promote specific subject packages through departmental newsletters, but one of the reasons we’re cautious about the over-promotion of eBook collections and subject packages is that sometimes certain imprints can get pulled and sold to other publishers. This often results in price increases and means that we can’t always continue access. Stability of access is really important and we don’t want to risk disappointing our users with the over-promotion of titles that might disappear.  

Have you been surprised by usage stats for parts of the collection? Have particular subjects proved more popular than others?

COUNTER 4 didn’t give us that level of granular data for subject areas, but the question of whether or not to renew our subscription to Springer Nature’s eBook collection is not usually a long discussion – the institution values the content, and we want to make sure it remains accessible. The Math department on the Okanagan campus is a great example of how integral the collection is to UBC’s curricula – they often tell us that the titles in this subject package reflect their course content for undergraduate and graduate students, so reliance on this material both from a teaching and a learning perspective is high. And as our courses evolve, with the addition of more specialist areas, the continued diversification of Springer Nature’s subject collections will be even more important. The addition of the new Intelligent Technologies  & Robotics collection in 2019 is a good example of a new specialist list with strong appeal for our Engineering faculty and students.  We also expect the move to COUNTER 5 to really help us in more closely tracking usage of individual titles and specialist subject areas.

New Content Item

* Behavioral Science was superseded by Behavioral Science and Psychology Frontlist in 2016. **Energy contemporary collection purchase began in 2014.

How do you feel end users have benefited from the implementation?

From my perspective, Springer Nature has made a lot of progress with eBook collections and has made the effort to ensure reliable ongoing access for our students and faculty. It’s a publisher that as a collections librarian I love, because pretty much 99% of the content is available through the frontlist. UBC as a whole really likes Springer Nature’s platform because students have the ability to choose between downloading the full book or chapter-by-chapter. The DRM-free option is preferred.

The other aspect of the collection that’s really valuable for our users, particularly students, is the accessibility of the content itself. The majority of titles are written in a way that is both accessible to students, but also informative enough for more experienced researchers. The quality of Springer Nature’s content is something that UBC values and the availability of low cost print copies for students through MyCopy is a very appreciated option. One other feature of the Springer Nature eBook collection that is very valuable to us as a multi-disciplinary institution is the breadth of content available as part of the collection – the addition of Palgrave titles in particular has made a big difference to our humanities and social sciences departments.

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