Top Five Misconceptions About Approval Plans - Debunked

Workflow | November 15, 2017

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There are many misconceptions about approval plans, but ultimately approval plans are a discovery mechanism that help you find the right books for your library.

While many academic librarians have experience with and have found success working with an approval plan to bring books into their libraries, others may find the concept intimidating. How does it work? Will I get the books students and researchers at my library need? Will an approval plan fit within my budget? Here we debunk five misconceptions about approval plans.  

1. Approval plans are just another acquisition model.

When looking at acquisition models, the same terms come up: firm orders, standing orders, Demand Driven Acquisition (DDA), e-collections, approval plans, etc. An approval plan cannot be compared to other much-discussed acquisition models. Instead, it should be looked at as a discovery mechanism that can accommodate various acquisition models. For example, acquisition models like DDA and e-collections can be part of your library’s approval plan; the details and criteria within an approval plan profile are the elements that feed and run an acquisition model.

The No Shelf Required article, “The Approval Plan: A Sorting Hat That Discovers the Right Books for the Right Libraries,” states that “a more appropriate way of understanding its relationship to DDA is to think of the Approval Plan as the primary support tool for DDA. In fact, it is likely that without vendors having included DDA, DDA would probably have become a significantly more challenging model for academic libraries.” An approval plan is essentially a discovery tool that acts as the primary filter between the vast number of books published each year and the delivery of those books to you, no matter which acquisition model you choose. 

An approval plan is essentially a discovery tool that acts as the primary filter between the vast number of books published each year and the delivery of those books to you, no matter which acquisition model you choose.  

2. Approval plans are only for print books.

There are many ways to structure an approval plan: print book preferred, e-book preferred and e-book only. They are fully customizable, and duplication control is assured no matter which format you choose. In fact, No Shelf Required describes other added benefits to using an e-book preferred approval plan, including “the ability to see which e-books had the highest usage and make further decisions based on those statistics.” The benefits and efficiencies that libraries find with e-books extend to e-books ordered through an approval plan.

3. Approval plans drain your budget.

There is a misconception that by setting up an approval plan, you’re agreeing to truckloads of books automatically shipped and invoiced to you. But approval plans are customizable in every way.  You can set price limits for titles, and you can choose to either have books automatically shipped to you or receive “slips,” which are lists of books for review before making the final buying decision. An approval plan essentially provides recommendations for books that would be a good fit for your library, and you have the power to decide how and if you want to add any of those books to your collection, helping to manage your budget.

An approval plan essentially provides recommendations for books that would be a good fit for your library, and you have the power to decide how and if you want to add any of those books to your collection, helping to manage your budget.

4. Approval plans will bring books into your library that might not fit your needs. 

Again, approval plans are completely customizable, and there are several specific subject parameters and non-subject parameters that go into creating your library’s profile. Since GOBI Library Solutions has the best bibliographic metadata in the industry feeding our approval plans, libraries know they’re getting the books that match their profiles. The work GOBI Library Solutions does behind the scenes to match books to libraries is “multifaceted and comprises a small army of experts employed by the vendor — among them bibliographers, book profilers, and collection development managers — who, working together with librarians, create approval plans that can easily run up to 150 pages-worth of metadata (No Shelf Required)." It’s remarkable to see how precise the approval plan can be when this detailed bibliographic data is matched up against the library’s very specific profile. In fact, in some instances the approval plan will surface books you didn’t even know you needed for your library.

5. Approval plans aren’t relevant for libraries today.

Approval plans were designed to accommodate the changing needs of libraries, which is what makes approval plans stand the test of time. Because of how they’re designed — to accommodate any acquisition model, current or future — approval plans will continue to remain relevant, no matter what changes occur in the print book or e-book acquisition landscape. Perhaps approval plans are now more relevant than ever.

Eric Wedig, Coordinator for Scholarly Resources for the Social Sciences at Tulane University in New Orleans, is quoted in No Shelf Required saying, “Without our approval plans, many important resources would not be in our library. Further, they remain vital to collection development because they allow the library to build collections that do not include random materials. If collection development is relegated to ‘just in time’ and does not take into account the future research needs of scholars, the resources will appear random and incomplete.” Approval plans help you build a collection to meet your users’ needs today and far into the future.

Want to learn more about the history of approval plans? Read the article from No Shelf Required, “The Approval Plan: A Sorting Hat That Discovers the Right Books for the Right Libraries,” or view the Library Journal webinar, “What’s the Right Mix? A Holistic Approach to Collection Development,” to see how approval plans fit into a balanced collection development strategy.

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