Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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The availability of electronic information continues to increase. Based on a study at University of California, Berkeley, the world's total annual production of information amounts to about 250 megabytes for each man, woman and child on earth. The challenge will be to learn how to navigate in this sea of endless information. Information is also becoming more accessible each year as more people are acquiring personal computers. Based on 1997 statistics there were 407 computers for each 1000 people in the United States, the highest computer-per-persons ratio in the world. 42.1 percent, almost half of the households in the United States, have a computer. In 1998 higher education spending on computer hardware including personal computers reached $1.4 billion, and this is expected to increase seven percent annually. The growth of the Internet and related Web information during the past several years has likewise been phenomenal and continues to increase at a rapid pace. For example, the sale of electronic books (e-books) was $40 million in the year 2000. The marked increase in Internet and Web use has caused analysts to project that e-book sales will surge to $2.3 billion in 2005. This growth projection is based on convenience in updating data and information, especially as related to college textbook and reference books. As people access and use the Internet and the Web their expectations for finding information quickly and conveniently are growing rapidly, especially in the higher education environment, and academic libraries increasingly experience the effects of these growing information expectations.
In the current information and technology environment academic library users, students, professors, and researchers have a variety of expectations. They continue to need and want print, monographs, serials, documents, manuscripts, maps, photographs, archives, and related items for teaching, learning, and research. They also want multi-media formats for learning and curriculum support such as films, slides, videos, digital videodisks (DVD), compact disks, tapes, and microforms. Ultimately, academic library users want and need information electronically. It must be available anytime, anywhere, for multipurpose uses, quickly, conveniently, and in a portable and easy-to-use form. Library users not only want to locate the information quickly, they also want to be able to take it with them either by printing it, copying it, sending it by e-mail to their personal computer, or by downloading it unto a disk.
Librarians must ensure that they are capable of satisfying their users' diverse information needs. In cooperation with the faculty, and based on the curriculum and research needs, academic librarians must continue to build appropriate print and multimedia collections. They must offer convenient access, preferably Web-based, to a large array of electronic information resources including books, documents, journals, and other digitized information, all in full text. They must also provide adequate computer workstations, strong and supportive networks, and printing and downloading capabilities. Finally, they must ensure that their users have or learn the skills to find, access, evaluate, organize, and use electronic information appropriately and responsibly.
In the 1999-2000 academic year 1,787 academic libraries spent almost $56 million, or 4.7%, of $1.2 in billion acquisition expenditures on electronic resources. To accommodate their users' increasing demands for efficient access to and use of electronic information, most academic libraries have had to update their technologies as well as their infrastructures at substantial cost and effort.
Users want up-to-date computing, and they need good training and instruction. Academic librarians have begun to rethink their operations and services in terms of the electronic information environment and their users' needs and demands for electronic information access. They have had to gain expertise in evaluating electronic information and appropriate access mechanisms, as well as gain the technical expertise to handle the networking and computer infrastructure. While in many academic institutions use of the physical library and of print resources has begun to decrease slightly in recent years, the use of electronic information sources has increased rapidly. Although national and international standards in reporting statistical data related to electronic information use have not yet been, developed substantial amounts of data on electronic information use is being accumulated.
Librarians are slowly beginning to understand information-seeking behavior in the electronic information environment and how users search for online information. They are starting to work with vendors and aggregators of electronic information to produce better designs for electronic product use and adequate methods to collect appropriate use statistics for electronic information formats.