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Expanding access: An evaluation of Readcube as an interlibrary loan alternative




Grabowsky, Adelia


Objective: Readcube is a patron-driven, document delivery system which provides immediate access to articles from all journals owned by the Nature Publishing group. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of Readcube as an ILL (interlibrary loan) alternative for a segment of non-subscribed journals. Methods/Setting/Participants: Faculty, researchers, undergraduate and graduate students at a large, southeastern, research university which includes a School of Pharmacy and a School of Veterinary Medicine. Methodology: A questionnaire about Readcube use including satisfaction with, benefits realized, and challenges encountered was developed, approved by the institutional review board (IRB) and emailed to Readcube users. Results of the survey along with an analysis of ten month’s usage and costs are presented. Results: There were a total of 169 unique Readcube users from 3/1/2014 to 12/31/2014. These users accessed from 1 to 30 articles apiece, for a total of 420 articles and an average of 2.5 articles per user. The largest group of users were graduate students (42%, n=71), second was faculty (19%, n=32). Most requested journals were Nature Communications (n=81), Nature Protocols (n=65), Nature Climate Change (n=39) and Nature Methods (n=37). Readcube access resulted in the provision of over four times as many articles as the previous year’s access through interlibrary loan (n=91). However, cost for the 420 articles accessed through Readcube was only a few hundred dollars move than the 91 articles obtained through ILL from 3/1/2013 to 12/31/2013. Most survey respondents reported they were able to use Readcube successfully and that increased access was the most significant benefit of using Readcube. However, many respondents mentioned challenges including problems with printing and the clunkiness of the Readcube interface. In addition, some patrons resented the necessity of creating an account and logging in each time they wished to access an article through Readcube. Conclusions: Although Readcube costs were slightly higher than the prior year’s ILL costs, users accessed over four times as many articles. Patrons expressed some concerns about difficulties in using Readcube, particularly with printing, but still felt they benefited from increased and more immediate access. Auburn University Libraries has found Readcube to be an acceptable alternative to ILL for unsubscribed Nature journals and, at current levels of use and cost, consider Readcube to be financially sustainable.