The Johns Hopkins University Press

In Converstion

Jean Blackburn
Collections Librarian, Vancouver Island University Library,British Columbia

Vancouver Island University is a long-time Project MUSE journal subscriber and was one of the first institutions to purchase the entire collection of UPCC Books on MUSE. Tashina Gunning of Project MUSE spoke with VIU’s Collections Librarian Jean Blackburn recently about her library’s acquisition of the UPCC Book Collections.

What were some of the primary reasons that VIU chose to purchase the entire collection of UPCC Books on Project MUSE?

VIU was eagerly anticipating the launch of books on Project MUSE months before they were being sold. We were very excited about the prospect of accessing books on a reliable and proven academic platform. The Project MUSE offer came at a very convenient time when our library had some one-time funding ready to be invested. Two of the major selling points for us were perpetual access rights and the lack of DRM (Digital Rights Management). Additionally, the UPCC Book Collections were a great value for VIU because they were bundled together in affordable packages. Previously, many of the digital books offered by other vendors were priced and packaged in a way that was simply financially unattainable for us. Beyond the economics, another aspect of bundled content that VIU especially appreciates is that it increases opportunities for interdisciplinary discovery. Project MUSE provides an abundant and rich information environment for users, offering them opportunities to pursue numerous paths of inquiry and countless research possibilities. We were also attracted by the nature of the UPCC Books’ content, particularly the coverage of niche research areas, regional topics and cross-disciplinary perspectives. We saw, with the UPCC Book Collections, an opportunity to expand and diversify our existing collection. This spring, I had the opportunity to participate in a course at VIU on the literature of the American South. The UPCC Book Collections provided a wealth of relevant scholarship in this subject area and greatly improved our collection’s ability to support the student’s research work. The professor and students alike were thrilled about the amount of Southern

U.S. Literature content readily available to them, even all the way up here in our corner of the Pacific Northwest.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of digital resources over print?

Faculty and students at VIU have been asking for digital books for a very long time. They do as much, if not more, work off-campus as they do on. So for them to be able to perform research remotely is a wonderful aspect of digital books. We have also benefited from new digital acquisitions models such as subscription e-book collections, patron-driven acquisitions, and low cost-per-title package purchases like the UPCC Book Collections. Using these models, VIU has made great progress in recent years increasing the number and diversity of scholarly monographs available to our students and faculty, to a level that simply would not have been possible with traditional print acquisitions, despite frequent budget cuts and dwindling resources. Currently, our students and faculty have access to more digital books than they do print, at a ratio of about 59% to 41%.

What are some of the challenges presented by digital resources?

The top issues that come to mind are perpetual access rights and the uncertainty of preservation over the long term. Initiatives like Portico and CLOCKSS are addressing these concerns, but to a great extent, perpetual access to digital content remains untested and theoretical. Other challenges include restrictions on printing, downloading, and accessing e-books by simultaneous multiple users. Fortunately, the above problems are not issues with Project MUSE, as it provides libraries with very flexible and user-friendly terms.

What type of feedback have you gotten from your users since acquiring the UPCC Book Collections?

Feedback has been very positive overall. We have the occasional student or faculty member expressing a general dislike for e-books, but the overwhelming majority of our users appreciate the access, choice, and flexibility they get with this content.