The joys and pains of breadth

We recently (in the last 2 years) moved in a bigger way toward ebooks, and we are contemplating further new initiatives. Amongst our many challenges as librarians is the struggle to find ebooks in packages that have good user interfaces and good content and good policies and fair pricing.

Most of that is vendor-library politics, negotiations, and support… but the content bit. The content bit is the bit about which librarians need to be and stay experts. So I just gave a quick look to the past year’s use of the Springer ebook package we bought.

  1. Contemporary Leadership Theories
  2. The London Lupus Centre, Book of Lupus: A Patients’ Guide
  3. Globalization, Education and Social Justice
  4. Creating Brain-Like Intelligence
  5. Introduction to Circuit Analysis and Design
  6. Intangible Heritage Embodied
  7. Chernobyl — Catastrophe and Consequences
  8. Martens and Fishers ( Martes ) in Human-Altered Environments
  9. Nuclear Power and Energy Security
  10. Practical Common Lisp
  11. Galois Theory
  12. Argumentation and Education
  13. Fundamentals of Thermodynamics and Applications
  14. 1000 Solved Problems in Modern Physics
  15. Evolutionary Theory and the Creation Controversy
  16. Genital Autonomy:
  17. Classical Mechanics
  18. Fundamentals of Magnetism
  19. New Perspectives on Human Sacrifice and Ritual Body Treatments in Ancient Maya Society
  20. An Historical Analysis of Skin Color Discrimination in America

The part of my professional brain that still wishes I were a collection development manager looks at that list and thinks, “Huh.” I mean, yeah, there are trends in that Springer publishes certain kinds of content, so those kinds of content are represented, but there are also… not really any trends, there. It’s all over the board. Environmental Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics, Anthropology, Education… lots of stuff.

Which is about collection breadth. The rest of the data, if I dug in more deeply, would likely tell us a story about depth as well, but on this light touch of the data, it’s clear we don’t have one type of user, one subject area, or one collection type that we should be focusing on. And so while it’s truly great that we’re seeing broad uptake on ebooks, it’s also a bit discouraging that we’re seeing a broad uptake on ebooks. That means ebooks are becoming a good thing for our community, but we don’t have an easy or obvious path to follow — we need to keep hitting on all subject areas. That’s harder. We prefer easier.

But if harder is right, we’ll do harder. Just… darn. And yay.


  1. Is it possible that the reason there are no obvious trends is that the comfort level with ebooks is still not high enough among college students for such trends to develop? Maybe these stats are indicative of people comfortable with the format spread across various fields of interest.


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