Although the Libraries already had an extensive collection of electronic books and streaming films, when the pandemic hit and classes went remote, we significantly expanded our electronic purchases.

In response to requests from faculty and students, we licensed many titles individually on our regular ebook platforms, Ebook Central, EBSCOhost, and JSTOR Books. But we also found that books from trade rather than academic publishers were being requested and that these were usually not available on our existing platforms, so we added OverDrive to expand our offerings to titles like The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett, Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson, Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethaway, and an audio version of So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Unlike academic ebook platforms, OverDrive is designed for sustained reading, so it’s easy for users to “borrow” a book and download it onto OverDrive’s Libby app, a Kindle, or any device that reads the EPUB format. For now our OverDrive collection is still very small, but we plan to expand it as demand requires, including if regular users of our Browsing collection decide they would prefer to have access to new general interest fiction and non-fiction electronically rather than in paper. A “recommend” feature allows users to suggest both ebooks and audiobooks that they would like us to purchase on OverDrive.

For those searching for ebooks on a topic rather than searching for a particular title, we added a subscription to EBSCOHost Ebook Collection, a package of almost 300,000 ebooks, most of them academic in nature. This supplements our other large ebook package, Ebook Central, another extensive collection of academic ebooks spanning a variety of disciplines.

Information about ebooks from OverDrive, EBSCOHost, and all of our other ebook vendors are available in the Library Catalog. We have a list of some of our most highly used collections of ebooks as well as a guide to accessing ebooks linked from the library home page and our remote services page, which provides instructions on how to limit catalog searches to just electronic books.

With our streaming film collection, we were already in the midst of making a transition from the Films on Demand collection for educational films to a similar but much less expensive collection, Academic Video Online (AVON), when the pandemic hit. The money that we saved from this switch helped us respond to the large increase in the number of individual feature film titles requested by faculty for classes. We continued to rely on our existing film services, AVON, Kanopy, and Swank, but our spending increased dramatically. Since AVON is subscription-based, our cost there was stable, but Kanopy and Swank charge based upon use, which had major implications for our film budget. In a typical year, for example, we might have licensed ten streaming films from Swank and relied on our DVD collection to meet the remaining demand for films for the classroom. From March to September this year, we licensed over 80 titles from Swank, with each 12-month license costing about $100.

At this writing, plans have not yet been announced for remote or on-campus teaching for the spring semester, but the Libraries remain committed to providing faculty and students with access to the materials that they need in whatever format is most appropriate. Faculty who already know what books and films they want their students to be able to access for spring courses may send the information at any time to Terese Heidenwolf, Director of Research & Instructional Services at heidenwt@lafayette.edu.