Home 9 Uncategorized 9 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and eBooks:  Two Seismic Shifts in Academic Monograph Acquisition

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and eBooks:  Two Seismic Shifts in Academic Monograph Acquisition

by | Nov 22, 2023 | 1 comment


By Jon Elwell  (Senior Vice President of Books, EBSCO Information Services) 

V35#5 Against the Grain

The traditional approaches to acquiring academic monographs have been significantly disrupted by two tremendous shifts in the past few years, leaving libraries and publishers navigating an increasingly complex landscape as they seek to adapt to the evolving needs and preferences of the academic community.  The first shift is driven by the rapid advancement of digital books.  Secondly, with the growing recognition of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in academia, there is a pressing need to identify and disseminate content that reflects these principles.  Libraries are increasingly focusing on expanding their collections to include a wide range of perspectives and voices, ensuring that the academic literature available to students and researchers represents the diverse fabric of society.  This article delves into the paradigm shift from print books to digital formats and explores the growing emphasis on identifying and disseminating content that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion within academic literature.  Through an examination of the role played by GOBI Library Solutions in this evolving ecosystem, we uncover the implications of these transformations and the challenges they present for stakeholders.

Academic libraries have long played a critical role in supporting research and education by curating comprehensive collections of books.  Traditionally, print materials constituted the backbone of library monograph holdings.  Even recently, print works accounted for more than 70% of libraries’ monograph acquisitions annually.  However, in recent years, a noticeable shift has occurred inverting that trend, with academic libraries increasingly spending 65-70% of their monograph budgets on digital content. 

Several factors have contributed to the shift in academic libraries’ book purchasing habits.  Primarily, the rapid advancement of digital technologies and the ubiquity of online access have changed the way information is consumed and shared.  Digital resources offer numerous advantages, including instant access, remote availability, and enhanced searchability, which cater to the evolving needs of users.  Staffing and support constraints, as well as limited physical space, have led libraries to adopt digital alternatives, as eBooks have little to no maintenance cost and are more space-efficient than their print counterparts.  Lastly, acquisition models such as Demand Driven Acquisition (DDA) and Evidence Based Acquisition (EBA), which leverage usage information, are allowing libraries to make more data and outcome driven decisions than ever before. 

The benefits of the shift to digital come with some downsides.  The average digital book costs around $100 for a 1-user version, with multi and unlimited user versions typically costing 1.25-2.5 times that price.  Print books on the other hand cost libraries closer to $50 per title on average.  Libraries are often facing a decision between the utility of the more expensive digital monograph versus the ability to acquire more unique less-expensive print monographs.  Another issue with digital books is availability.  Looking at the roughly 70,000 or so titles GOBI profiles annually, which we consider the corpus of English language academic content, only 75% are available for acquisition as a digital book through library channels, including aggregator or publisher-direct platforms.  Finally, there are restrictions and vagaries around digital books that libraries do not face with print books such as limits around interlibrary loan, preservation, and perpetual ownership. 

In recent years there has been an increased awareness regarding the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, leading academic libraries to increase their focus on creating more inclusive collections.  This has highlighted a new series of challenges around how this content is identified by academic libraries for acquisition.  Some of the greatest challenges GOBI faces as we look to meet the needs of libraries are: 

• how do we, through profiling, help libraries identify the right content and what practices need to be updated, revamped, or created;  

• what forms of scholarship are now seeing new life as they are viewed through this DEI lens; 

• and lastly, what new publishers need to be identified and pulled into existing acquisition workflows like GOBI. 

At GOBI, a team of expert profilers describe approximately 70,000 books per year, providing metadata, such as interdisciplinary tags that describe the focus of a book, that allows libraries to make more-informed acquisition decisions.  Tagging is crucial for efficient content discovery and acquisition for academic libraries using GOBI.  However, the multifaced nature of DEI content and subjective nature of description necessitates careful consideration and innovative approaches to create meaningful profiling tags.  The goal of GOBI profilers is to take complex and evolving areas of acquisition and use definitions created in close collaboration with our partner libraries to assign tagging in an objective and comprehensive manner.  To achieve this, GOBI profilers are focused on the process of book profiling with the guiding principle to describe a book based on what it is clearly and compellingly about.  By remaining laser focused on the process of description, using the profiling tags and definitions created in conjunction with our library partners, we can ensure the outcomes needed to make DEI content more discoverable and acquirable. 

To achieve this goal, GOBI profiling team has been focused on three areas:

Collaboration with Academic Libraries:  GOBI book profilers recognized the importance of collaboration with academic libraries in enhancing DEI-friendly metadata tagging.  Through extensive consultations and partnerships, they actively engaged with librarians to update definitions and guidelines.  This collaborative process ensured that the perspectives of diverse communities were incorporated, resulting in more accurate and comprehensive metadata tags that reflect the diverse nature of academic content.

Addressing Inconsistent Tag Use:  One of the challenges with DEI-descriptive metadata tagging was inconsistent tag use.  GOBI book profilers recognized this issue and implemented measures to identify and reduce inconsistencies.  They conducted comprehensive reviews of existing tags and engaged in discussions with subject matter experts to establish clearer guidelines for tag application.  This proactive approach has resulted in more consistent and standardized metadata tags, facilitating efficient and meaningful access to DEI-related content.

Reducing Individual Profiler Subjectivity:  Metadata tagging can be influenced by individual profilers’ subjectivity, which may unintentionally introduce biases and hinder DEI representation.  To overcome this, GOBI book profilers have implemented strategies to minimize individual subjectivity in tagging processes.  By providing comprehensive training on DEI principles and fostering a culture of critical awareness, profilers are equipped to make objective decisions when assigning metadata tags, promoting a more inclusive and accurate representation of content.

The enhanced approach to profiling is increasingly important as we see evolving forms of scholarship.  Traditionally, academic works and classrooms placed a strong emphasis on objectivity and detached analysis, distancing personal narratives from scholarly discourse.  However, contemporary scholars are increasingly acknowledging that personal experiences can contribute valuable insights and foster a deeper understanding of complex topics.  For example, personal book narratives offer a unique perspective, illuminating the lived realities, emotions, and cultural nuances that can enhance scholarly discourse.

The inclusion of personal book narratives in academic works expands the breadth of available knowledge and fosters interdisciplinary engagement.  By embracing personal narratives, scholars challenge dominant narratives, explore marginalized perspectives, and uncover hidden truths.  This shift in scholarly discourse enables a more nuanced and holistic understanding of social, cultural, and historical phenomena.  Moreover, personal narratives can bridge the gap between academia and wider audiences, making scholarly works more relatable, approachable, and engaging.  The integration of personal book narratives in classrooms has transformative implications for pedagogy.  By incorporating personal narratives into lectures, readings, and discussions, educators can create a more inclusive and participatory learning environment.  Personal narratives empower students to connect with the subject matter on a personal level, fostering empathy, critical thinking, and self-reflection.  This approach not only enriches students’ educational experiences but also equips them with the tools to navigate complex societal issues.

Finally, as libraries seek to develop collections that are more diverse and inclusive, they are seeking content that is coming from a wide range of channels and publishers outside of the existing academic workflows.  Working in collaboration with libraries and subject matter experts, GOBI is trying to provide more visibility and discoverability for these nontraditional academic publishers.  Presses like Mukana Press, BLF Press and Agate Bolden are recent additions to our enhanced metadata profiling process.  This process will allow works from these and other like presses to be more discoverable by academic libraries and to be acquired in automated and streamlined workflows. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of academic content acquisition, the one constant is that content is king.  No matter the format, technology, acquisition type, source, or a combination thereof, what an academic library and its patrons need is to have support across a diverse spectrum of content in an easily discoverable manner.  As a major source providing academic monograph content to top academic libraries, it is critical for GOBI to offer content and associated services as ubiquitous as the researchers’ needs.  This article discussed two of the significant changes we have witnessed with academic monograph acquisition in the past few years, but there are numerous others either here or quickly coming in the form of OA books, Digital Interlibrary Loan, Digital Textbooks, AI-generated books, ubiquitous workflow integration and a host of others.  It is a pleasure and a privilege to work in such an evolving ecosystem with such lovely partners and we look forward to what the next years shall bring.  

1 Comment

  1. David Parker

    At Lived Places Publishing we believe tagging and metadata that seeks to describe the intersectional identity of authors can only reliably come from authors. With this in mind we are developing, with our author and editor community, author identity metadata. We are conducting a first round survey of the global publishing, teaching, student, and librarian community and seek responses to our anonymous survey as we design our new subject fields: https://livedplacespublishing.com/blog/aim-survey

    We believe tagging will only be 100% correct when it comes directly from the author and the publisher and is continuously available for updating by the author as identity shifts.

    Each of our course reading titles is a discussion of the intersection of identity and place developed and written by subject matter experts.


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