Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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Academic library directors have always paid considerable attention to journal subscriptions. Journal costs usually take most of the materials budget in science and technology libraries. Faculty often have strong feelings about particular titles which they do not hesitate to make known. Traditionally, the decision to subscribe to a new journal has required careful consideration because of the implication that the subscription is a long term commitment. For the last two decades, as prices escalated so dramatically, directors became increasingly involved in both advocating for additional funding to pay for journals and overseeing the time-consuming annual journal evaluation processes and cost-cutting measures. Electronic journals raise new issues that require the director's involvement to an even greater extent. Activities that are new or escalated for a director who makes a major commitment to electronic journals include:
communicating and obtaining institutional funding and support,
joining consortia and other "buying clubs,"
negotiating and reviewing contracts,
determining and revising strategies for e-resource acquisition,
building a library staff with the appropriate skills, and
managing the change in budget allocation.
Drexel created a new position, Electronic Resources Librarian (ERL), to provide a focal point for integrated development of all electronic resources. This position crosses the traditional departmental functions of management, systems, technical services and reference. The person in this position shares the responsibility of keeping up-to-date on the availability of new electronic resources with the Information Services (IS) librarians who do collection development. The ERL initiates contacts with vendors to negotiate favorable pricing and packaging and arranges trials for each new service considered for purchase. She also reviews licenses and contracts and negotiates appropriate amendments and corrections to these documents. For example, one of our goals is to provide remote access to content we make available to our users; some contracts do not allow this. The ERL also interacts with consortia for purchase of electronic resources and evaluates the cost/benefits of going with a particular group offer. Once the purchase decision is made, IP information is communicated to vendors and content changes are made on our web site. The ERL collaborates closely with the webmaster in designing and populating our e-journal database. Finally, gathering and organizing use statistics for electronic resources is a major aspect of her responsibilities. A recent ARL SPEC Kit (Blieler and Plum, 1999) describes these activities and the various ways large academic research libraries have structured themselves to deal with them.
It is always more difficult and time-consuming to manage change than to maintain the status quo. The amount of time spent managing and overseeing this transition is substantial, when one includes major ongoing efforts to restructure workflow and reorganize staff to respond to the migration to electronic journals.