Subject sets are some of EBSCO eBooks™ most popular collections and offer convenient, pre-packaged collections of frontlist e-books on popular, high-interest topics chosen specifically to meet the needs of libraries, faculty and researchers. We talk to one of our collection development librarians, Ivy Weir, about the process of developing and building these biannual, ready-made collections that save librarians time while ensuring quality e-book content meets departmental requirements.

Where does your experience come from for selecting e-books for academic libraries?

The librarians on EBSCO’s collection development team have previously worked in a variety of different libraries and many of us were responsible for selecting or recommending library purchases. I personally have experience in public libraries selecting both adult and youth materials, have worked in a fine arts library, and even interned in the archives of a historical medical museum! We all have different specialties from our education and professional backgrounds, and creating subject sets gives us a chance to source our experience and work on a variety of subjects.

As librarians, can you speak to the benefits and value that subject sets offer librarians?

As librarians trying to identify the best e-books in a field, we know it can be a struggle to find the right e-books. We know that academic librarians don’t have time to read each and every e-book they plan to purchase and while faculty recommendations are extremely helpful, librarians still need to make collection decisions to make sure that the needs of the entire library are addressed. With thousands of best-of and bestsellers lists available, it can be hard for selectors to identify trustworthy, quality e-books in a way that is easily accessible and fits into existing workflows. This is where subject sets come in; my teammates and I create these reputable collections that can be quickly viewed, easily purchased and accessible to students in minutes while assuring quality coverage of important subject areas.

How is the collection development process for subject sets different than creating other e-book collections?

Subject sets are the most highly curated EBSCO eBook collections. While creating these collections, the team gets the chance to do extensive research on specific subjects, which gives us the opportunity to closely examine each e-book we include.

We also apply specific rules for subject sets that aren’t required for other collections. E-books included in the subject sets may not appear in any previous subjects set, because we ensure no duplication of e-books across all of them. E-books must be frontlist, written in English (unless the entire collection is in another language) and priced at under $250 — unless the e-book is a seminal work or if the subject tends to have particularly high prices. These rules were created based on customer input, and they were written because the sets were originally created to be purchased as a whole, almost like an opening day collection. Since e-books have become more ubiquitous and many libraries are now adding incrementally to their collections rather than creating the collections from scratch, many customers now choose to select e-books from these collections rather than purchasing the entire collection. However, we have maintained these rules based on customer feedback as many customers return to buy their favorite subjects year after year.

Subject sets are the most highly curated EBSCO eBook collections. While creating these collections, the team gets the chance to do extensive research on specific subjects, which gives us the opportunity to closely examine each e-book we include.

With 1.8 million e-books and more than 275,000 frontlist e-books, how do you narrow it down to individual e-book selections for your sets?

We rely heavily on awards and reviews to choose e-books of the highest academic quality. We also leverage value-added metadata created by GOBI® bibliographers, particularly their Select Profiling status, which indicates audience level and whether an e-book is essential, recommended, specialized, or supplementary. Additionally, we have a wealth of internal metrics such as sales and usage statistics which help us determine the popularity of subject areas, and of individual e-books.

Are there certain subjects that tend to have the most usage?

The Nursing, Education, and Leadership and Management subject sets top our list of most purchased and used topic collections and we have numerous customers who anticipate the release of these subject sets each year. Typically, we repeat a core set of subjects that we know are in high demand and expected from our returning customers. We also take usage into consideration, as well as sales data, customer recommendations, and trending academic interests as we plan for new subjects.

What is your favorite part of the process?

Part of the reason I became a librarian is because I love to do exactly this type of deep-dive research on a topic and really dig in and find the best and most compelling titles. Since my undergraduate studies were in fine arts and photography, I especially love working on the Fine Arts & Music collection, because it gives me a chance to revisit a subject that I’m personally passionate about and share that passion with our customers.

What new subject sets has your team created and what factors influence the creation of a new subject set?

Some of the recent subject sets we’ve created include Library Science, Disability Studies, and Epidemiology. We keep sales data, customer requests, and current trends in mind when deciding which new subject sets to create.

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