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    Libraries serve a crucial economic role as intermediaries in the distribution of and access to information. Libraries serve as a point of collective demand for information products, providing access to information as a public good to patrons.

    The economic role of the library as an information intermediary is to estimate the collective demand of patrons and purchase and provide access to information goods. The collective value of any information product in a library is the sum of the value or benefit all patrons receive from it. This can be estimated by the number of times the information product is used multiplied by an estimate of the benefit from each use. If this collective value exceeds the purchase price then it is economically efficient for the library to purchase it and provide access to patrons. Additional access should be priced at zero to insure economic efficiency.

    For digital products there are two possible benefits to library patrons. If the library does not subscribe to the print or fiche copy of the information, then patrons benefit by accessing information previously not available. If patrons have access to the fiche or print original, and access to the digital copy is available over the Internet or campus network, then the benefit of digital access is equal to the value of time saved from using the digital copy from the home or office instead of the fiche or original at the library.