Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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18.4 Impact on Library Staffing and Other Costs
Here I discuss changes in each area of the library's operations with particular attention to the changes in staffing patterns and shifts in costs. Table 18.1 summarizes these operational effects. No functional area of the library has been left untouched. I describe the changes in each library department below.
|Function||Activity||Electronic Format||Print Format||Net Impact|
|Infrastructure Systems & Space||campus network||completely upgraded in last 2 years||—||↑ increased capital costs|
|computer hardware (servers and workstations)||100% replacement/upgrade of library computers||—||↑ increased equipment costs|
|computer systems maintenance||installing software, imaging (1.0 FTE)||—||↑ increased staffing|
|hardware, software maintenance||service contracts||—||↑ increased costs|
|setting up access||new activity, requires troubleshooting||—||↑ increased staffing|
|software purchase & development||new activity to manage more complex process||—||↑ increased staffing|
|printing||increased activity||—||↑ increased costs and revenue|
|space utilization||content stored remotely||fewer items added/extensive collection weeding||↓ reduced space needs|
|Administration/Management||negotiating contracts||new activity||—||↑ increased staffing|
|managing the change||closer oversight required||—||↑ increased staffing|
|attention to decisions||increased number of variables||—||↑ increased staffing|
|budgeting||greatly increased tracking and planning time||—||↑ increased staffing|
|subscription fees||titles added||titles reduced||↑ increased costs|
|Technical Services||print journal check-in||—||fewer items to check in||↓ reduced staffing|
|acquisitions||requires higher skill level||fewer items to purchase||↑ increased staffing|
|claiming||URL maintenance||fewer items to claim||? net impact unclear|
|bindary staffing effort and fees||—||fewer items; costs down||↓ reduced staffing & costs|
|cataloging new items||significant increase in number of items||significant decrease in number of items||↑ increased staffing|
|OCLC transactions||increased OCLC charges||decreased OCLC charges||↑ increased costs overall|
|catalog/e-journal list maintenance||significant level of new effort||expected decrease over time||↑ increased staffing|
|Circulation/Access||reshelving||—||fewer items to shelve||↓ reduced staffing|
|collecting use data||complex, requires higher skill level to organize||fewer items to count, takes less effort||↑ increased staffing|
|stack maintenance||—||fewer items out of place||↓ reduced staffing|
|user photocopying||—||fewer copies made; down 20%||↓ reduced use & revenue|
|Reserve||article file maintenance||—||fewer articles on reserve||↓ reduced staffing|
|article checkout||—||fewer items checked out||↓ reduced staffing|
|maintaining e-reserves||requires equipment, higher skill level||—||↑ increased staffing|
|Document Delivery||faculty copy service||copies from e-journals||copies from print journals||? net impact unclear|
|interlibrary loan-borrowing||—||slight decline in activity||↓ reduced vendor charges|
|interlibrary loan-borrowing||—||slight decline in fees||- all services expected to decline|
|Information Services||references at desk||fewer but some longer transactions||fewer transactions; down 15%||? net impact unclear|
|instruction/promotion||increased need||—||- expect increase|
|preparing documentation||increased number of items||greater level of review||↑ increased staffing|
|journal selection||more detailed evaluation process||—||↑ increased staffing|
Systems. While space is the most important requirement for the print format, networks, computer hardware/software and systems staff are required to provide access to electronic resources. These resources are rapidly becoming key components of a well-functioning operation in all academic institutions, as they are essential for so many other reasons. None of the library systems are used for electronic journals exclusively since we provide access to many other applications. The webmaster easily spent 30 percent of his time on electronic journal access during the start-up period. He maintains the entire library web site, which initially included over 200 static HTML pages listing e-journals by title and by subject. When it became clear that maintaining this many continually changing static HTML pages was a major burden, the webmaster developed an e-journal maintenance database using MySQL and PERL scripts to manage the lists and deliver them to the web dynamically.
Space Utilization. The chief impact of print journals on infrastructure is in the physical space for growth of the collection over time. The transition to electronic journals essentially eliminates space concerns—no more trimming the collection, converting it to microfilm, or moving it to a remote location to make space for new volumes. Eventually, because of retrospective conversion efforts like JSTOR, we will be able to reclaim journal storage space for other purposes. The cost savings, both on a capital and annual basis, are considerable. Estimating $100 per square foot (Fox, 1999), the minimum cost for library buildings in large urban centers, the 20,000-square-foot space currently occupied by the Drexel journal stacks would cost $2 million to construct. Estimating annual maintenance costs at $12 per square foot, the cost of maintaining the space occupied by the library's journal collection is approximately $240,000 per year.
Budget allocations reflect the decision to shift from print to electronic subscriptions. Purchase decisions are based on two processes. First, we undertake a major initiative to analyze our current print and electronic holdings prior to renewal of subscriptions for the coming year. Secondly, throughout the year we invest significant staff resources to keep current with all e-journal offerings from vendors, publishers and consortia within the scope of our collection and initiate negotiations for pricing and packages tailored to our needs. In particular, we seek out electronic equivalents of current print holdings and replace the print with the electronic version of the title unless the title meets the exception criteria. Eventually, we expect to have a browsing collection of fewer than 100 titles.
As a result of these efforts Drexel's total journal subscription costs will be approximately $636,000 for 2001. See Table 18.2 for the breakdown. Aggregator subscription costs are difficult to calculate since these resources are part database, part electronic journals. With a "best guess" allocation of the cost of these services, we are spending or expect to spend a total of $600,000 for electronic journals.
|Category||# of Titles||Amount|
|Print only subscriptions||300||$36,000|
|Aggregator/databases with full-text content**||3500||$45,000|
|Total E-Journals (Unique titles)||6300||$595,000|
On a raw per-title basis the e-journal subscription dollar has superior purchasing power when the aggregators' titles are included. Our print-only journal subscriptions now cost an average of $120 per title while e-journals are $95 per title. This difference is far greater when one considers that nearly all the electronic journals come, even when a subscription is first entered, with several years of backfiles. In addition, the electronic subscriptions include many titles that cost several thousand dollars in print. The 300 print journals consist mainly of humanities and social science publications, along with some popular titles, all of which are low cost historically. The increased value of electronic journals is even more evident when coupled with use statistics, since our figures show that electronic journals are used more heavily than their print counterparts (see Montgomery and Sparks, 2000).
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.
In the Technical Services department, the transition to e-journals has had a direct impact on the day-to-day work of each staff member. Changes in workflow and procedures are dramatic, with very large shifts in costs. It is clear that the significant reduction in print titles has directly decreased workload related to the print format. Less time is needed to check in print issues, claim non-arrivals, replace missing pages, and prepare and receive bindery shipments. Also, direct costs for cataloging new print titles and maintaining existing MARC records (OCLC charges) have been reduced. Bindery fees are also reduced accordingly.
Offsetting the decrease in activity levels and costs related to the print format is a large increased workload for both the serials acquisitions and cataloging functions related to providing access to electronic journals. Updating the e-journal maintenance database that now creates our e-journal lists is a major new task. The e-journal collection is much more volatile than a print collection: links break, coverage changes, and sometimes the electronic journals themselves are available through a new distributor. An advantage of electronic distribution that creates extra work is that we are not bound to calendar-year-only subscriptions, so journals are added continuously and sometimes discontinued during the year.
Another activity that has greatly affected Technical Services is an expanded review process for journal renewals that includes the IS librarians (each represents the various colleges in the University). During the past two years we have evaluated every journal title — print and electronic — before it is renewed. The coordination and tracking of the renewal decisions has increased significantly.
Not only has the format of materials shifted, but the volume of materials has increased more than three-fold. We are now managing over 6,000 journal titles as opposed to 1,700 titles two years ago. Unfortunately, we are not always able to switch existing staff to e-journal tasks. In the process of "re-engineering" the entire department, we upgraded two positions, added one temporary position, and replaced one position. We now require detail-oriented support staff who have advanced computer skills and who can adjust to continuous changes in procedures and methods as our environment evolves.
Staffing. Obviously, shelving decreases when journals are no longer physically stored in the library. Bound journal re-shelving has been reduced by 40 percent and re-shelving of current journal issues is down over 20 percent over the past two years. At Drexel, the collection of print journal re-shelving statistics is only partly automated. Shelvers track use by title as they shelve bound volumes and current issues. Fewer journals to shelve also translates to less time collecting print re-shelving statistics.
Electronic Use Statistics. In theory, it is easier to collect use statistics and richer, more accurate demographic and search information for electronic journal usage because data collection can be automated and expanded. In reality, at this time it is very difficult and labor intensive to obtain useful and comparable title-by-title use data for electronic journals and compile them in a way that is helpful for making management decisions. Activity measures and, in particular, comparable activity measures across journal vendor services are frustratingly difficult to come by. Mercer (2000) describes the problems encountered in trying to collect and analyze the vendor information to use it for service evaluation and decision-making. Among the statistics reported are session length, number of searches, journal title hits, page hits, types of pages hit, top XX titles accessed each month, "turnaways," form and type of articles downloaded, and number of unique IP addresses using a service or journal title.
Since the data for print volumes are not strictly comparable, they must be interpreted carefully. Our print statistics represent volumes or issues re-shelved rather than actual articles copied or read, while the e-journal statistics below represent articles accessed which may or may not have been read. The print use data is somewhat under-reported because, even when asked not to, users re-shelve journals after they look at them. Even so, from preliminary data we can say confidently that our users are accessing the electronic journals in numbers far exceeding our print collection.
Photocopying. Since our statistics have decreased so dramatically for print journal usage, it is only logical that photocopier use would also decrease since this is one of the primary uses of our library photocopiers. Photocopy use has decreased about 20 percent since electronic journals were introduced.
Circulation of reserve materials, which had been steady at about 30,000 items per year, dropped by 50 percent during the 1999/2000 academic year. What portion of the e-resources used are electronic journals and what are other e-resources is an open question. We do expect this trend to continue for the print reserve format, particularly when our electronic reserve module is fully functional later this year. It appears that not only are students using fewer reserve materials, but our faculty also are placing fewer items on reserve. With respect to staffing impact, we have reorganized some of the work assignments in this department due to the reduced workload, and upgraded the reserve room supervisor position in anticipation of the electronic reserves activity.
Document Delivery/Interlibrary Loan (DD/ILL)
Our expectation with the implementation of electronic journals was that we would see a significant decrease in user requests for journal articles via our DD/ILL services. In fact, "borrowing" photocopies of journal articles from other libraries increased by 16 percent in FY1999-2000. The library's document delivery service, which provides copies of articles from the Drexel Library collections free of charge to faculty and distance learners, delivered 1,122 articles from the electronic journal collection in this same time period. The majority of these articles are for faculty who presumably are not aware of the ready accessibility of e-journals, or who either cannot or choose not to retrieve the articles themselves. At the moment, it is not possible to measure the net impact of the electronic journals on the DD/ILL department volume because too many other factors are influencing use of the service. Research activity has grown dramatically at Drexel in the past two years, and the provision of over 100 web-based databases likely has increased demand for articles. Our prediction is that ultimately we will see a decrease in net requests for this service as our users become increasingly self-sufficient and as electronic content continues to expand.
Reference/Information Services (IS)
Reference services are nearly always affected by any significant change in library resources. At Drexel the Information Services/Reference staff are responsible for materials selection in addition to the usual functions of answering questions, teaching classes, and performing public relations functions such as promoting the availability of services. So they are involved in several stages of the "life cycle" of electronic journals at Drexel. They share responsibility for identifying e-journal candidates for purchase, evaluating potential purchases, helping students and faculty use the e-journals effectively, incorporating information about them in their classes, and helping publicize them to their constituencies.
Reference Service. Some interesting trends are occurring at the reference desk. Questions decreased in 1999/2000 by about eight percent although more of the transactions that do occur turn into "teaching opportunities" for those users who are less self-sufficient. Staff observe that, in particular, students using the web-enabled computers in the "hub" near the reference desk, are increasingly self-sufficient.
Instructional Program. Offsetting the decrease in reference questions is the amount of time IS staff are spending on instruction and outreach activities to make faculty and students aware of the library's resources and services. Workshops and teaching sessions have increased. Vendor presentations are more frequent. IS librarians are engaging in greatly expanded public relations by personal visits and presentations, email updates to departments, exhibits and other activities. Another effort that has also expanded is the preparation of both online and printed documentation to help users understand how to use electronic journals.
Staffing. The electronic journal option and new processes have most certainly increased the workload for selecting journals. We do expect that over time this increase will level off as the collections and offerings stabilize in the electronic environment. No new staff positions have been added in the IS department but there has been significant turnover and, again, we carefully screen new hires for expanded computer skills and experience using, selecting and promoting electronic resources. A lot of the increased journal evaluation work comes in the summer, a time when many of the other activities of the department are reduced. So far the staff have been able to handle the additional work at current staff levels.