Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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Much has been written about the economic impact of electronic publishing on publishers. There also has been considerable discussion of the cost of subscribing to electronic publications. This paper addresses another important organizational impact triggered by the migration to electronic journals that has heretofore received little attention in the literature: the changes in the library's operational costs associated with shifts in staffing, resources, materials, space and equipment.
In 1998 the W.W. Hagerty Library of Drexel University made migration to an electronic journal collection as quickly as possible a key component of its strategic plan. If a journal is available electronically, only the electronic version is purchased whenever possible. The sole exceptions are (1) when the electronic journal lacks an important feature of the print version (e.g., equivalent visuals) and (2) when the journal is part of the browsing collection (e.g., Scientific American and Newsweek). With the year 2000 renewals, Drexel's journal collection consisted of 800 print only subscriptions and 5,000 electronic journals; in 2001 the library will subscribe to about 300 print-only journals and over 6,000 electronic journals. A dramatic change in staff workload is the most immediate impact on library operations, but space, equipment, and even supply needs are affected. Some of the aspects of this transformation were obvious and predictable; others were not. This paper describes the changes experienced so far in the Drexel Library.
A common assumption is that converting library journals to digital format will ultimately improve library service and lower costs, but this is yet to be proven. Understanding the total costs associated with the library model for delivering digital information has now become a requirement for library survival since in the digital world, as opposed to print, the library has many viable competitors. Our goal is to develop a framework for assessing the shifts in personnel and costs that can be used for planning and budgeting at Drexel and provide guidance to other academic libraries who are not yet so far down this path.