Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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The picture would not be complete without discussing changes in individual user behavior and expectations. Several recent surveys report on the changing dimensions of user activity. The user base for libraries is expanding and the demand for instruction in use of library resources is also increasing. Yet there has been a downturn in circulation of physical collections and use of in-library reference services (Kyrillidou and Young, 2003). While the majority of students and faculty are using online library content, they report that they still desire a hybrid environment with both print and electronic collections (Friedlander, 2002). As the volume and complexity of electronic publications increase, users are also expressing a desire for greater personal control in managing access to electronic content (Cook et al., 2003).
Individual user preferences are strong forces for change, but do not represent the whole picture. Community practices and preferences within specific disciplines are also potent forces, and each discipline community has responded differently to these new opportunities for communicating and documenting research. Traweek's (1988) anthropological analysis of life among high energy physicists captures the culture and practices of this community and depicts the social conventions that enabled the early and extremely rapid adoption of e-prints. In economics, by contrast, the first significant non-commercial e-print site started in 1993, but of the 2500 papers submitted to date, nearly half were only submitted in the last two years. More recently behaviors among authors and editors within ecology have been analyzed to understand the decision processes that lead to publishing in electronic journals in that field (Hahn, 2001).
The changes associated with technology and community norms and values have been sufficiently radical that we should expect to see major transformations of the institution of the research library. Since institutions by nature do not adapt quickly, a period during which the foundations are so quickly transformed might be compared to an earthquake that causes cracks and damage as the institution responds to the quake. When a stable institution experiences increasing pressure to change rapidly, understanding the changes in the interactions between stakeholders is especially important.