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Better Content for Less Money: Beloit College Library Finds Success in Comprehensive Databases
Whether they’re doing research on economics or dance, Beloit students and faculty now have more choices
By Alison Roth
With a population of about 1,000 students, Beloit College is considered small by some higher-education standards. But the Beloit College library, which serves the entire student population on a lean staff, has a massive job.
Students at the Wisconsin-based liberal arts school have incredibly diverse research interests. Haley Lott, Student Success and Engagement Librarian, said that over the past year she has worked on requests from complete opposite ends of the research spectrum – from studies about devices for heart-failure patients to the history of cowboy clothing. (Yes, you read that right.)
“Our students’ requests are both fascinating and impressive, and they’re often overwhelmed with information,” said Lott in a virtual interview with ProQuest along with her colleagues Kelly Leahy, also a Student Success & Engagement Librarian, and Kallie Leonard, Collection Acquisition and Access Coordinator.
The library helps its users sort through this overload through a combination of one-on-one research appointments (both via Zoom and in-person) and information literacy sessions in the classroom. Over the past year, they’ve also changed their database strategy to provide broader information through larger, multiformat collections.
The Problem: Database Overload
Before the current staff – including Lott, Leahy and Leonard – came on board, most of the library’s resources were individually purchased journal titles, spanning more than 400 subscriptions. Not only was this incredibly expensive, but it also left content holes, both in content type and discipline. They recognized some obvious gaps – for example, said Lott, “we have a robust economics program, but didn’t have any business resources.”
Beloit asked ProQuest to run two free Curriculum Analysis and Holdings Reports to help figure out where the gaps were and how to fill them.
The Solution: Multiformat Collections
After the ProQuest analyses, Beloit found a simple way to provide content that covered the majority of what its faculty was currently teaching. “We found we could package most of what we were subscribing to without losing a lot of content,” said Lott. “In the event that we did lose any content, we could get access to it through interlibrary loans.”
Over the past year, Beloit has saved a significant amount of money by getting rid of hundreds of small, individual subscriptions in favor of large, multiformat collections like ProQuest One Academic – the largest academic collection of multidisciplinary ebooks, video, journals and dissertations – and ProQuest One Business, designed specifically for the needs of business students and faculty.
In fact, Beloit College was one of the first subscribers to ProQuest One Business, just launched in January 2021. “Beloit is focused on transitioning the liberal arts college experience into a career, so a lot of our students are very interested in entrepreneurship,” said Lott. “ProQuest One Business is robust enough that economics students can find niche information like industry reports,” she said. “Having the ability to look up those things in a small-budget liberal arts library has really changed the way some of our students do research. We’ve even gotten thank-you cards from faculty.”
In addition, Beloit recently added the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) ebook subscription through Ebook Central and a collection of ProQuest Primary Sources. They’re early adopters of many ProQuest products.
The Outcome: More Information for Less Money
In comparison to other institutions its size, the librarians say, Beloit is now in much better shape resource-wise. Students and faculty have become much more comfortable with ProQuest and other e-resources over the past year, and from an administrative perspective, it’s easier and more convenient to look after several large database packages than hundreds of smaller ones.
“We’re getting more full text, more primary resources, less turnaways, and an overall better user experience,” said Leahy. “This opens us up to be able to do the work that matters – collaborating with students and faculty. It also diversifies and future-proofs our collections.”
Sometimes large collections help in unexpected ways. ProQuest One Academic’s streaming video content, from Academic Video Online, has helped fulfill requests for everything from virtual dance classes to campus Pride Month events. And remember the unusual request for information on cowboy attire? That’s where content like dissertations comes in.
“It’s great for obscure and wacky research questions,” said Lott. “If you can find a dissertation that talks a little bit about an odd topic, that’s a great starting point.”
Lott, Leahy and Leonard all stress the need to continue to build a culture of support and community at Beloit College, and much of that starts in the library. “We want students to view the library as an extension of their dorm, a gathering place for sharing ideas,” said Leahy. “Making students feel like they have ownership of the library – that’s really important to us.”