A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Assessing Your eContent

by on October 16, 2013

As we public librarians continue to stretch those acquisitions dollars for the ever expanding range of eContent, evaluation is a must. Are we getting enough bang for our buck from those pricey digital libraries? Is it a sound investment of our limited financial resources? While there’s no cut-and-dried formula for all libraries, here are some factors to consider:

Evaluate Usage
Of course, you evaluated the platform when you first selected this digital resource, but now you’ve got more information to assess it further. Is it user friendly and intuitive? How much staff time have you spent assisting patrons with issues? When is the next generation of the platform available? Do you have the ability to customize any aspects of it? The annual platform fee can’t be written off as a necessary expense. It’s part of the eContent package and should be enhancing the reading experience for our customers.A good platform invites the patron to explore and discover new content – just as our physical space does.

Return on Investment
Equally important, though maybe more difficult to calculate, is the return on investment of the eContent product.Be it eBooks, eMagazines, or eAudio, it’s critical to determine the direct expense of the product to the library. Since the cost can vary drastically depending on business model and publisher, this estimation can get sticky. One approach is to average out an amount: take the amount spent on eContent and divide it by the number of items available. Then look at circulation statistics to work out cost per use at your library.

Availability, Accessibility, and Longevity
Since the digital world evolves at a frantic rush, some of these criteria could have changed drastically from the time you originally purchased the service. Have new publishers been added? Has accessibility been improved?Are you confident in the longevity of the product?

What are some other factors to consider? Leave your thoughts in the comments.