Assessment of Undergraduate-Driven Acquisitions at a Small College Library Shows Both Costs and Benefits


  • Laura Costello Teachers College, Columbia University



academic librarianship, collaboration, demand-driven acquisition, interlibrary loan departments, purchase on demand


A Review of:
Waller, J. H. (2013). Undergrads as selectors: Assessing patron-driven acquisition at a liberal arts college. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve, 23(3), 127-148.


Objective – To examine the viability of an undergraduate-focused, patron-driven acquisitions strategy in a small college library and to evaluate the titles acquired through this program for collection appropriateness, patron satisfaction, and cost effectiveness.

Design – Case study.

Setting – A small, Catholic college in the Eastern United States with 1,850 undergraduate students.

Subjects – Acquisitions of 432 print monographs selected by students and 18,624 print monographs selected by librarians and faculty members.

Methods – The author compared purchases selected from a pool of undergraduate interlibrary loan requests acquired from 2004 to 2013 to purchases acquired during the same time period through traditional means, including collection development work by librarians and selections by academic departments. The author evaluated titles for use based on circulation figures, for suitability using overlap analysis with the collections of four peer libraries, for patron satisfaction based on turnaround time, and for cost compared to items obtained through interlibrary loan.

Main Results – Student selection had some advantages, including moderately increased circulation. Traditionally acquired titles were less likely to circulate initially and only 20.46% of these titles circulated two or more times compared to 24.77% of student-selected titles. Student selections were less likely to be acquired by peer libraries, and 63.66% of student-selected titles were unique, though they had a similar subject distribution to traditionally acquired titles. Compared to interlibrary loan, student-selected purchases had similar turnaround times and in the most recent three-year period had an average turnaround time that was one day faster than interlibrary loan. However, student acquisitions were far costlier than interlibrary loan. Items acquired through this program cost the library $39.70 on average while borrowing cost $6.18 on average.

Conclusion – The student selection process was found to be moderately successful, and the library will continue the program. Based on the analysis of peer library holdings, the author suggests more librarian intervention in the selection process. Instead of purchasing any requests that meet the criteria for student selection, the author recommends an intermediary selection step of evaluation by librarians. Student selection did not show the dramatic advantages represented in studies conducted in larger academic libraries, and this disparity could potentially be due to a difference in selection quality between the undergraduate students at this college and the graduate and research populations of larger institutions.


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Author Biography

Laura Costello, Teachers College, Columbia University

Head of Library Materials & Acquisitions




How to Cite

Costello, L. (2015). Assessment of Undergraduate-Driven Acquisitions at a Small College Library Shows Both Costs and Benefits. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 10(1), 92–94.



Evidence Summaries