Friday, June 10, 2005

British Library Direct Sells Research Content from Major Aggregators

Google may be searching for a business model as it digitizes library content, but leave it to the increasingly savvy British Library to launch its new British Library Direct service that gives fee-based access to top journals from around the world, including content from major suppliers such as Elsevier and Springer. The online service makes a la carte purchases available through a single-line standard search interface with pop-up article abstracts and easy click-through ordering. This month BL also debuts the delivery of targeted content collection licensing and delivery to its clients for both journal content and other content found in its Electronic Table of Contents (ETOC) collection, with daily FTP updates available. The British Library is an unusual institution of its kind given its aggressiveness and effectiveness in making both its own content and other content in its collections available commercially, but an important paradigm for other library services providers to consider. Meeting patrons' needs need not be a purely altruistic function: if there's commercial value in content, then meet your patrons' needs head-on where the value can be compensated by commercially motivated patrons. Anyone can collect content these days, so the onus is on library services providers to leverage their core strengths in as many directions as possible, serving the public on a free access basis where it is possible and makes sense and learning how to leverage commercial value from key local strengths where that too will serve the overall public interest. While few libraries have the BL's powerful position, all libraries need to look at the commercial landscape for content as well as traditional outlets to consider how best to service their patrons' needs.
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