National Agricultural Library Shifting Toward Digital Collections
September 4, 2012
The National Agricultural Library (NAL) is changing how it develops its collection by shifting its emphasis to creating and acquiring digital items.
This deeper concentration on digital collections arises from a combination of evolving customer needs and fiscal realities. Library customers’ desire for fast online access to content and NAL’s goal of serving more customers nation-wide, coupled with declining use of print items, is charting a path toward digital items and away from print. Continued belt-tightening is also requiring the library to critically consider how best to spend its budget.
NAL is embracing an access model. The goal is to give researchers and scientists what they need more easily and more directly, explained NAL Director Dr. Simon Liu.
As part of this shift toward online access, the library has set a goal of licensing digital editions of scientific journals with permanent access rights for USDA employees and onsite customers. NAL is also working hard to expand digital access as much as possible for all potential patrons. NAL will continue to subscribe to print journals, but only to those titles not available in digital format that demonstrate high demand by patrons.
In addition, with the advent of the new fiscal year (FY 2013), the library will no longer purchase printed monographs. The exponentially increasing rate of scholarly publishing in agriculture and related sciences has challenged NAL’s ability to serve its customers well through print editions. Prioritizing digital content allows NAL’s collection dollars to better serve customers’ growing demand for immediate access to the latest research.
Acquiring rights to offer commercially available digital content is only part of this shift. Funds formerly spent on printed works will be re-directed to digitizing items in the library’s collection. This move will make an array of historical items and unique sources of information more widely available via the Internet, while allowing NAL to increase preservation of historic materials.
The change in emphasis does not mean that NAL will be reducing its current physical collection. The library remains committed to maintaining its large print collection and making that collection available to customers. NAL will also continue to accept gift and exchange items.
NAL, one of four national libraries, holds one of the world's largest collections devoted to agriculture and related sciences. It is part of the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and is located in Beltsville, Maryland.