Year in Review: Diverse and Accessible E-Resources

Online library resources are increasingly the quickest, most accessible options for students, faculty, and staff, with more than half a million e-books, nearly 60,000 digital periodical titles, and more than 300 research databases available to the LMU community. The pandemic made online resources not only convenient but a necessity for students and faculty doing research all over the world. We have been fortunate to have vigorous university support and careful library stewardship focused on collecting e-resources for years; the pandemic and expanding online education have made this even more important. We are focused on helping to reduce textbook costs for students and strengthening the diversity of library electronic resources by addressing gaps in the collection and regularly evaluating course needs in partnership with faculty.

Increasing Collection Diversity

student on laptopIn 2017, LMU awarded an Inclusive Excellence Grant to a group of librarians to assess whether our e-resource collections were aligned with the institution’s vision and the needs of its diverse campus population. Library student employees conducted searches in about 200 databases with keywords relating to disability, religion, people of color, women’s studies, and LGBTQ+ topics. This assessment found weaknesses in our collection, in particular around LGBTQ+ and disability research topics.

Unlike print books, which can be purchased individually to fill specific subject gaps, research databases are often distributed to libraries as packages or bundles. LMU librarian Glenn Johnson-Grau and Amy Pham of the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium discussed this issue at the 2022 Acquisitions Institute at Timberline Lodge in a presentation that compared two major e-book collections marketed as “diverse.” Libraries often aim to address historical inequalities in publishing and scholarship by adding collections like these, but it can be difficult to purchase one collection and expect it to solve a wide variety of gaps. Looking critically at what makes these e-book collections diverse can help us determine the extent to which they will fill gaps in an existing collection. We can share those findings to help other libraries make similar decisions.

Since our 2017 databases assessment project, the demand from libraries for LGBTQ+ and disability primary source databases has encouraged vendors to create these collections, which we can purchase to fill the gaps in our existing resources. We continually collect materials focusing on Indigenous history, particularly of the Southwest, as they become available. Some of these research databases, especially around disability issues, are interdisciplinary resources that will be valuable for a variety of courses at LMU.

Strategic Approaches to Resource Costs

Online courses and programs continue to expand. As students become more accustomed to digital resources for the bulk of their research, they will require research databases and electronic resources to meet emerging demands. Library access to e-resources can be a challenge — electronic resources can vary widely in cost and value. Books and media that are freely available and inexpensive to individual consumers may be costly or completely unavailable to libraries. Many anti-racist books written for a popular audience, for example, are often available for very limited one-user licenses or not available at all to academic libraries using our typical vendors. Films that were once available on DVD relatively cheaply will be available through more expensive streaming platforms or unavailable for streaming. We continue to adjust our processes to account for these challenges with the least impact to students and faculty.

Our Open and Affordable Textbook Initiative aims to address some of these concerns by increasing the use of online textbooks and open access course materials, thus reducing course materials costs for our students. LMU faculty have adopted more than 900 e-books for their courses over the past few years. Additionally, we have continued to provide grants and workshops for faculty to make it easier to locate and create open access course materials.

This year, we plan to roll out Pressbooks: a new publishing platform for our faculty. Pressbooks is an easy-to-use e-book authoring tool that can be used to write and publish openly licensed books for Loyola Marymount University courses. Stay tuned!