The following are the criteria and questions to be considered when purchasing materials in electronic format. These same criteria should be used in evaluation for weeding as well:
As with any mediated (that is non-print) format (microform, electronic), equipment requirements will affect the decision to purchase. Reference materials will only be purchased in electronic format when the necessary equipment is already available in the Library or when a commitment to purchase, house, and maintain the necessary equipment is also made.
What are the hardware requirements?
What does it take to run the software? How much memory, etc.?
Where will this be loaded and used?
If product is Web-based, is Internet response time acceptable?
Is this product compatible with existing systems in the library or on campus?
How much does it cost?
Is that cost reasonable and is the product cost-efficient?
How does the cost compare with that of the print version or a print equivalent?
Is this a subscription (i.e., an ongoing expense)?
Would the Library own the software (e.g., in the case of a subscription)?
Are there start-up and maintenance costs that need to be considered?
Have vendor or consortial discounts been explored?
3. Ease of use The Library should insure that the software is fairly easy to use and that at least one (but preferably all) librarians can use it as well.
Is it well organized?
Is it easy to use? If not, is the inconvenience worth it?
Are there other comparable products that are more user-friendly?
How does it compare in ease of use with the print version?
What are the training implications for staff and patrons?
How much librarian mediation is necessary for use?
4. Access / Restrictions to use
Is accessibility achieved through the network or is this a stand-alone product?
Are the terms of the licensing agreement acceptable?
How many users can access the database simultaneously?
Are there restrictions on use (e.g., downloading, printing)?
Are there restrictions on access?
Is legitimate use in a license too restrictive when cost/benefit is addressed?
4a. Lease or License
Checklist (these should be identified and considered before lease or license agreement is effected)
terms of ownership, including description (if applicable) of what backfiles are being acquired and the ownership of the backfiles
how often updates are to be received
disposition of superseded files
definitions of users and/or uses of information
check definitions of "authorized user" or "remote access" (the publisher's definitions may not match the Library's understanding and may be too restrictive)
"Remote access" should include explicit access for distance learning students, remote campuses, and all members of the College community regardless of physical location.
all licensing, usage, or copyright restrictions
limits on the ability to transfer, resell, or reassign the product
restrictions on copying, printing, or downloading data from the database
can it be copied for archival purposes?
requirements for library's guarantee of limited access to database
restrictions on the number of simultaneous users, or the use of the product in local (LAN) and wide (WAN) area networks.
restrictions on the method of access, such as dial-access or Internet
note how "simultaneous use" is defined in relation to pricing (e.g., prefer number of "users" to number of "workstations" when measuring use rates)
who is responsible for maintenance if hardware is included
the terms of service (if the vendor provides hardware maintenance)
In all cases, documentation to support use of electronic reference materials should be supplied. Printed documentation is maintained as part of the Reference Collection.
Is the documentation clear and adequate?
Unless purchased as historical materials, electronic products should be current and kept up-to-date.
Is this a one-time publication or are there periodic updates?
If updated, what is the cost and are we willing to make the budgetary commitment to updating?
How frequently is it updated?
Is the update frequency adequate for the content?
Whenever possible, preference is given to those products produced by reputable vendors with known track records.
Is this produced by an established vendor?
Is this vendor known to produce products of high quality and accuracy?
Is the product designed for the appropriate intellectual level?
Is the content appropriate to our curricula and collection?
9. Value added of electronic format
Is there a print equivalent and is there significant value added in providing the eference work in electronic format?
Does it compliment or replace other print or automated sources?
Anticipated or proven usefulness will be one of the major criteria for purchasing and retaining electronic products.
How specialized is it?
What is its user group?
Will there be/is there significant use?
11. Environmental and spatial requirements for equipment, workstations, etc.