Developing and evaluating an electronic 'short loan' collection in a university library

The issues involved in developing and evaluating an electronic 'short loan' collection of high-demand articles are discussed with reference to the experience of Project ACORN (Access to Course Readings via Networks), an eLib (Electronic Libraries) project. The project gathered information on the traditional short loan collection as a point of comparison with the electronic service, and on the attitudes of academic staff to the traditional collection. Findings indicated the need for close liaison with academic staff to identify items for an electronic col­ lection, and the need to recognise the wide range of students' IT skills and abilities when planning training. Users' experiences of the traditional short loan collection confirmed that an electronic service could overcome some of the difficulties. Statistics on the size and scope of Loughborough and Leicester universities' short loan collections indicated that an electronic service is unlikely to replace the traditional service. The project's experience with gaining copyright permissions from publisher’s shows that the timescales required for clearance and the uncertainty posed by refusals and differing scales of charges make it difficult for a library to plan for this type of service. Digitisation proved to be costly and the project only managed to convert 50% of its material to text files, the other 50% remaining as image files. The electronic system developed to deliver articles to end-users was designed to interact with the TalisWeb OPAC, and it proved reliable in operation. The system provides for detailed tracking of usage and the provision of detailed reports on usage to publishers. Experiences of training users are described and the need for hands­ on practice is emphasised. Finally users’ experiences of the system are briefly outlined, both positive and negative, and some usage data is presented. The conclusion points to the electronic service providing added value for users, but draws attention to the difficulties of copy­ right clearance, the costs of digitisation and the difficulty of timescales for identifying and making material available electronically.

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0