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portal: Libraries and the Academy 3.2 (2003) 349-350

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Electronic Collection Development: A Practical Guide, Stuart D. Lee. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2002. 147 p. $55 (ISBN 1-55570-440-9)

The assessment and purchase of electronic content has become a central focus in libraries concerned with providing increased access to content via the Internet. Academic libraries are writing policies and focusing on standards for electronic collection development. Stuart Lee's guide is "aimed at the librarian, collection developer, or student who is interested in looking at the range of electronic resources available, how they might be evaluated, and the whole process of purchasing titles" (p. 3). He is head of the Learning Technologies Group at Oxford University Computing Services and has experience working with datasets.

Lee's book focuses on what a dataset is, what the electronic resources landscape has to offer, different types of electronic content, and the assessment, acquisition, and delivery of electronic resources. The strongest parts are those that compare and contrast traditional and electronic collection development and the strongest message is that electronic resources should be considered alongside print resources and should be included as part of an overall collection development policy.

The first few chapters tend to focus on providing a background and introduction to electronic resources and will probably be useful to librarians who are new to collecting [End Page 349] in this area. It is Chapters Four and Five, however, that are of more use to the practicing collection developer. Chapter Four is particularly useful in describing a process focusing on formulation of policy, budgetary implications, assessment, trial, evaluation, and licensing of electronic content. Even librarians experienced in this area can benefit from a review of the stages outlined in this chapter. Lee provides a detailed evaluation checklist that takes into account the unique technical issues of providing access to electronic content, such as user interface, search speed, and hardware needs, but not to the exclusion of traditional collection development criteria.

In addition, Lee also provides a fairly comprehensive overview of licensing issues and the advantages and disadvantages of various electronic content pricing models. One area this reviewer would like to have seen in greater detail is the implications of purchasing bundled or aggregated content. The author does mention "umbrella products" and the potential problem of having to accept bundled content, when one would prefer to select individual titles, but he does not elaborate on issues that arise when required to purchase aggregated datasets, such as relevance of such content to the collection, duplication of content, and the inability of the purchaser to disaggregate content.

In Chapter Five, Lee provides a useful overview of the issues surrounding delivery of the dataset to users, as well as usage statistics and other factors to consider when deciding whether to renew a resource. All in all, this reviewer found the guide to be well written and successful in presenting the various stages of the electronic collection development cycle and in breaking the various stages into manageable pieces, while not losing focus on the overall workflow. While this book may be most useful as an introduction, it also contains significant sections that can be useful to the practicing electronic collection developer looking to review process and implementation. Another portal-reviewed title (v.1, n. 3) that provides effective guidance in electronic collection development is Vicki Gregory's Selecting and Managing Electronic Resources (Neal-Schuman, 2000).


Kathlene Hanson
California State University Monterey Bay



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pp. 349-350
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