Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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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.