American University Library moving quickly to electronic resources

American University Library, a leading academic library, is rapidly increasing its patrons access to electronic resources.  Electronic resources in fiscal year 2011 accounted for 74% of the American University Library’s collections expenditure.  That’s up from 59% two years ago.  Five years ago, the library’s journal collection was split 50-50 between print and electronic.  Now the journal collection is 99% electronic.  The journal collection offers access to about 85,000 e-journals.  Access to such a vast collection of journals simply would not have been possible in print.

While the average yearly cost per e-journal is less than $36, some electronic subscriptions are quite expensive.  American University Library’s access to Early English Books Online cost a $134,000 purchase fee plus $1,050 per year.  Early English Books Online contains electronic versions of every book published in English between 1485 and 1700.  That’s a wonderful resource and well worth the price paid.

Resources such as Early English Books Online could be much cheaper.  None of the books in that collection are under copyright.  If Google had scanned those books, Google would have been willing to make them freely available to everyone around the world.  Moreover, the ability to search and download Google Books is much better than the capabilities offered through many library e-book subscriptions.

Compared to traditional scholarly publishers, Google’s offerings better serve libraries’ mission, but require more changes in libraries’ normal patterns of activity.

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Statistics: American University Library’s electronic resources, fiscal years 2009-2011

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Source note: All the statistics above are either from the American University Library Annual Report 2010-2011, or calculated from data in that report.

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