10 June 2021 Blogs, Academic, Librarian

Meeting the Urgent Need for E Resources

How UC Berkeley adapted to an immediate demand for digital content – and supported an existing space reclamation project

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities were seeking ways to repurpose space in their libraries for specialty learning centers, maker spaces and study areas. This meant reclaiming thousands of square feet taken up by physical library materials by converting them to digital – a complex undertaking in the best of times.

This was the case at University of California, Berkeley’s James K. Moffitt Undergraduate Library. During a recent ProQuest/ACRL webinar, Meeting the Urgent Need for E Resources, Jesse Silva, scholarly resource strategist and federal government document librarian, described the scenario: in 2016, the Moffitt Library entered into phase II of a massive renovation project that included the creation of the Center for Connected Learning, an exciting new immersive learning space.

To make room for this new space, staff spaces were to relocate to the Charles M. Doe Memorial Library which houses many of the administrative offices for UC Berkeley librarians and well as faculty for some academic departments, and several collections. To make room in the Doe building, some space held by archived materials on microfilm and microfiche, as well as in print, needed to be repurposed.

But, as Silva and his colleagues realized, figuring out how to reduce physical collections – in this case 50,000 reels – can be a daunting process.

The challenges of converting microfilm materials to digital

The process started by gathering purchasing data of microfilm sets from vendors so see which collections could be replaced with online versions. That information was compared with holdings information in the library catalog. But as Silva pointed out, “Both data sets were messy.”

“If you are going to do this type of work, be prepared to do some data cleaning, especially if you are merging data from a number of sources and vendors,” he advised.

Some of the issues had to do with historical errors (dating back to the 1960s and ‘70s) and incomplete records in the catalog. “Messy data leads to messy results and we spent a lot of time trying to resolve this,” he said.

“As you can imagine,” Silva continued, “as with any microfilm to digital conversion, we also had to work out a budget to acquire titles we were going to convert. This was a long, complex and complicated process.”

Nearing the end of 2019, library staff only had about 20,000 reels of microfilm identified, “far from the estimated 50,000 we needed.”

The need to be flexible: revising the process

To meet their goal, Silva said they needed to shift gears and expand their focus from microfilm collections to include digitized newspaper titles online. Many of the library’s long-run newspapers stored on microfilm could be converted to digital, which would result in additional benefits, including improved multidisciplinary usage, the ability to search full-text, and better accessibility via screen readers and for remote library users.

After library staff identified the longest run newspapers to convert to digital, they further narrowed down titles by asking themselves such questions as: “What do we already own digitally with perpetual access?” “What is available digitally that we could acquire with perpetual access?” and “How does this work with our budget?”

“Including newspapers in this process proved advantageous,” Silva explained. “Within only a few additional months, we were able to reach our goal of 50,000 reels that we could potentially remove.”

By early March 2020, they were looking at 7 or 8 newspaper titles to purchase – and then “Covid-19 threw a big wrench into this process,” Silva said.

The library was again in the position of needing to expand their scope for physical materials to convert to digital.

The need to be flexible, part 2: Covid-19 and the urgent need for digital resources

With campus closed, demand for digital resources compounded exponentially. As library staff scrambled to figure out how to best serve students and faculty now working remotely, Silva said they were “grateful to all vendors and information providers who opened their e-collections for our users to access in support of distance teaching and learning.”

Purchase of physical materials was put on pause from March-August 2020, resulting in some extra funds for e-resources that would be immediately accessible to remote users during Covid-19 restrictions AND support the microfilm conversion project, as well as grow digital collections in other subject areas.

To prioritize digital purchases, collection managers were asked to quickly identify digital materials that could replace microfilm and printed materials, could be used by more than one discipline and had a vendor with an existing licensing agreement. This process resulted in the expedited decision to purchase 35 e-resources.

“Of the 35, we acquired three collections that contained some 20 newspapers including titles we didn’t own but would be of great use to our user community,” Silva said. Additional collections included ebooks, digitized primary sources and archival materials, and e-music scores through ProQuest’s E Now program.

“This acquisition process allowed us to increase our digital holdings for a number of disciplines and will allow us to move forward with the original project to replace microfilm with digital access,” he noted.

How TMF can simplify conversion from physical to electronic resources

Throughout this process, Silva and his colleagues took advantage of the proprietary, free Title Matching Fast (TMF) service offered by ProQuest. TMF reports and analysis help libraries:

  • Expand electronic access by matching physical books and historical periodicals to ebooks and databases available through ProQuest
  • Support space reclamation projects by matching titles from ProQuest collections
  • Fill gaps in collections from recommendations via free, no-obligation Curriculum Analysis reporting

Learn how E Now can help your library not only with e-resources like ebooks, digitized periodicals government documents, archival materials and music scores – but also move to streaming videos from DVDs and to quick and easy resource sharing via interlibrary loans.

Sign up for complimentary title matching fast and discover how E Now can help your library provide expanded digital access for remote and hybrid teaching, learning and research. Plus reclaim library space for other uses and social distancing.