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    IV. Building and Using Digital Libraries IV. Building and Using Digital Libraries > 19. The Impact of Digital Collections on Library Use: The Manager's Perspective

    19. The Impact of Digital Collections on Library Use: The Manager's Perspective

    This paper focuses on the impact of digital collections on library use based on three years of experience in a metropolitan research university. Through statistics and observations it will be demonstrated that an academic library can become user-centered in the electronic environment. It will also be demonstrated that new educational initiatives from the state government and the university administration can help the library gain a more central place within the academic enterprise. Various education initiatives in Kentucky from 1997 to the present will be used as a case study for this paper to demonstrate that the electronic information environment can lend itself to improve learning and teaching outcomes for a educationally underdeveloped population. Information will be presented on cooperative and consortia-based initiatives to contain costs and to expand access to electronic databases.

    19.1 Introduction

    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.[1] 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.[2] In 1998 higher education spending on computer hardware including personal computers reached $1.4 billion, and this is expected to increase seven percent annually.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.

    19.2 Electronic Information Environment — Kentucky

    Kentucky's population is undereducated for the challenges they will face in the 21st century information environment. The average income per person falls in the lower third for the United States. The majority of Kentucky citizens do not have a college degree and Kentucky's full-time enrollment in higher education is one of the lowest in the United States.

    Under the leadership of Kentucky Governor Paul Patton, the Legislature and leaders in education have worked together to upgrade the state's total education system. In 1997 the Governor collaborated with the leaders in higher education to increase the percentage of Kentucky's population who have access to higher education. He allocated more than $167 million in additional resources to higher education during the 1998-2000 biennium to improve research initiatives, technology, development of the workforce, physical facilities and to increase financial aid for students.

    Governor Patton supported the creation of a new governing structure for higher education by creating the Council of Post-Secondary Education and gave them responsibility for technical schools, community colleges, comprehensive and research universities and, most recently, continuing education and the newly created Kentucky Virtual University. The Kentucky Virtual University was created in 1998 to help address the problem of access to higher education for Kentucky's citizens living in remote rural areas. The goal of the virtual university is to provide Kentucky's citizens with access to higher education both undergraduate and graduate, no matter where they reside, through electronic learning and online educational support. Utilizing any type of library, school, community center, or other computer, with on-line access, any citizen can have access to information and to instruction.

    The Kentucky Virtual Library (KYVL, at www.kyvl.org ) is a library consortium including all types of libraries. KYVL is funded jointly by the Council of Postsecondary Education and all participating libraries. One of the consortium's initial major initiatives was to ensure that all state universities and community colleges utilize the same client-server library system, Endeavor, to provide common electronic access to these collections. The Kentucky Virtual Library is accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, from any Internet-connected computer and provides access to a variety of commercial, state and local databases for all citizens of Kentucky. Online tutorials help citizens learn valuable information skills. Timely document delivery, online reference services, cooperative digitizing projects and a common interface assist all citizens to have equitable access to information, including access to such databases as OCLC's First Search and EBSCO.

    19.3 University of Louisville — Libraries

    The University of Louisville (U of L) is the second largest metropolitan research institution in Kentucky with more than 21,000 students. With close to 12 percent of its student body belonging to minorities, U of L has the highest percentage of minority students in the state. Most students, 85.3 percent, are from Kentucky, while the other 14.7 percent are from other states and other countries. The University is a Research I institution with 1,350 faculty, and featuring 163 degree programs including 30 doctoral programs. There are seven libraries including a medical library located on the health sciences campus, a music library, an art library, a science and engineering library, and a law library, as well as Ekstrom Library, the main library. In addition to serving the university community, the libraries are a net lender of library materials for the state of Kentucky. The libraries possess more than 1.8 million volumes, 16,000 current print serial subscriptions and diversified special collections and other media. Access to several hundred databases and more than 25,000 electronic full-text journals is provided.

    At the U of L expenditures for electronic resources during the past five years have more than tripled from 6.7 percent to 15.3 percent, or from $301,000 to $1,259,000 of the acquisitions budget. That trend is continuing. It is noteworthy that U of L's expenditure for electronic information is more than three times that of Kentucky's average and three times that of the national average. To support the growing expenditures for electronic information resources at the U of L, $2.5 million was spent during the past three years on a new client-server system and to update both the technological infrastructure and library computers for staff and the public. The libraries went from a mainframe computer system to a state-of-the art client-server system, from no network to an Internet network featuring 100-megabit connections and a wireless computer environment, from no servers to seven servers, and from fifty "dumb" terminals to 550 state-of-the art computer workstations. Through major rethinking and reallocation the libraries' technology department grew from four to seven full-time staff and gained a support structure of a ten-member technology team. The libraries have several state-of-the-art interactive computer classrooms utilized for more than 900 class sessions with 11,000 students a year to teach curriculum-related information skills. A state-of-the-art computer laboratory is used by more than 75,000 persons during one year.

    19.4 Library Use — Statistics and Observations

    From 1997 to 2002 overall library use increased by forty percent. This use statistic included use of reference services, circulation, including in-house use, reserve and interlibrary loan.

    Approximately 1.8 million users enter the libraries physically each year and use library services including electronic information. The number of persons coming to the libraries has steadily increased each of the last five years. Based on annual assessment data, collected by the Library Assessment Team using student and faculty surveys and focus groups, it has been found that people like the services provided for them because they are based on their information needs. The campus community also appreciates the state-of-the-art electronic information environment in the libraries and last but not least they enjoy such amenities as the computer lab and e-mail facilities.

    In 1998-99 more than seven million electronic uses of the online catalog, web sites and electronic journals were registered; in 1999-2000 such electronic use went up to eleven million, a fifty-seven percent increase. In 1999-2000, only 38 percent of total use of electronic materials came from inside the U of L libraries. External accesses outnumbered internal at nearly a three-to-one ratio. Close partnerships with the faculty have resulted in teaching information skills to more than 8,000 students a year while beginning to integrate information literacy throughout the curriculum.

    The U of L libraries feature eighteen distinct web sites including 1,158 pages and more than 54,000 links. These web sites are updated and increased on a regular basis. Last year alone seven million uses of the electronic catalog and web sites were recorded, an increase of 350 percent over the previous year. It must be noted that the libraries are only at the very beginning of collecting use statistics related to electronic information and the Web. Much more has to be learned to ensure that these statistics are truly meaningful in measuring use.

    The U of L libraries are beginning to allocate significant resources for, and to rethink services related to electronic information. In 2002-20031 access to library users to 270 electronic databases has been made available, as compared to forty-two databases in 1996-97, an increase of over 600 percent. Among these new resources are large databases and services with access to abstracts and full-text articles, such as ABI/Inform, First Search, EBSCO, Biological Abstracts, Beilstein, INSPEC, Medline, Science Direct, Lexis-Nexis, and Web of Science. Databases in almost all subject areas and covering a variety of sources, such as reference books, theses, encyclopedias and biographies, are available.

    The U of L libraries, similar to other academic and research libraries, have been forming partnerships and cooperative agreements with one another to ensure preservation and cost containment for electronic and scholarly publications. The U of L libraries subscribe to several of these, such as SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition; MUSE, a consortium of more than twenty-six journals from University Presses and Scholarly Societies; JSTOR, a consortium of over 1,000 academic libraries and preserver of online back files; and IDEAL (International Digital Electronic Access Library), a publisher consortium for online journal subscriptions.

    Access to and utilization to many electronic journals is achieved through a variety of interfaces and search engines such as OVID, a search engine for psychology and health sciences databases. Users prefer this search engine since it allows them options to use and understand complex databases. The OVID search engine enjoys heavy use among health sciences and science students and faculty. Use of this search engine continues to increase dramatically, for example in 1999 43,000 uses were recorded, compared to 89,036 in 2000.

    Another example of user preferences is Web of Science, a citation database for sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities that covers thousands of research journals across many disciplines and offers searchable author abstracts as well as citations to support research. In 1998 access to all components of the Web of Science and its substantial back files was offered for the first time at U of L libraries. Use statistics indicate increasing use of this database. In 1999 37,378 searches were recorded compared to 44,221 in 2000. [6]

    19.5 Electronic Information Use in Distance Education

    Access to the multitude of electronic information resources has had a major impact on library users in distance education. The University of Louisville has been offering a variety of distance education programs both within the United States and in other countries. At this time programs are offered in several countries, including Greece, Egypt, Panama, Czech Republic and Germany. Approximately 3,500 course enrollments per year are registered in distance education offered through the University and each of the participants receives timely and individualized information support.

    During the past nine years the libraries have developed a special program in support of distance education programs. Included in the library support program are document delivery in all types of formats, reference services and instruction in information skills. In 1998 a library distance education office was created with two staff, a library faculty and a technological support person, and with state-of-the-art technology including a proxy server to keep track of students and faculty involved in these programs. The libraries have installed Ariel software in various locations outside of the United States to facilitate document delivery activities. They work with teaching faculty to create appropriate Web pages for the teaching of the courses and including appropriate library and information support. Based on five years of experience the librarians have also developed cost data for library support to distance education students and faculty.[7]

    19.6 Assessment of Library Users

    Assessment of library users takes several forms. During the past two years the libraries' assessment team has completed several surveys of students and faculty. Last year the University, including the libraries, contracted with an assessment firm, Dey Systems, Inc. to develop instruments for measuring students' educational outcomes. In addition, librarians hold meetings and focus groups with graduate students, undergraduate students and faculty to assess information needs and concerns of these groups. Suggestion forms are available throughout the libraries and on the Web sites and help the library staff address library and information needs and concerns.

    The libraries have utilized information obtained from the student and faculty surveys in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 to improve library services and document delivery. Users indicated a need for more computers, more electronic information, more books, more journals, better photocopying, quicker interlibrary loans and additional hours. In response, the libraries have regularly added to and improved library holdings and access to electronic information.The libraries have extended library hours, updated and added computers, and instituted a state-of-the art photocopying service. The libraries also began loaning wireless laptops to people for use in the libraries.

    The trends in user needs and utilization of the libraries during the past three years show an increase in the use of all library services, but especially in reference, the online catalog and electronic databases.

    19.7 Future

    Experience at the University of Louisville during the past several years indicates that users want access to electronic information wherever and whenever possible. They need state-of-the-art computing equipment and strong, supportive networks to make this possible. They also need much training and professional advice to be successful information users. These findings based on library surveys and interviews conducted at U of L are similar to information presented at library conferences and discussions with colleagues around the country. Computers and software products can make information use difficult. Librarians need to provide assistance and make information more usable. Librarians already provide value-added services such as instructional tools, teaching sessions and reference assistance to create a layer of intervention between the user and the products. Librarians are concerned with user needs and provide a user-centered environment. As librarians build good web sites it will help them provide more user-centered information by providing attractive, easy-to-use sites, intuitive navigation, currency and appropriate text links. Librarians facilitate information retrieval, helping users avoid aimless information surfing.

    Librarians have been utilizing the Web and electronic information while working with vendors for several years now to provide their users with the best possible access to online information. They need to work with vendors and providers of electronic information to ensure consistency, and user control. They must also work with electronic information providers to utilize feedback from users. Vendors of electronic information and databases should work with librarians to create better common interfaces to electronic databases, and consistent statistical reporting. Such statistical reports should include number of logons, number of actual searches of a particular database, number of actual users of full text articles, type of subject searches completed, and how many users were unsuccessful. Such data will enable librarians to assess actual use of particular databases and specific journal articles so they can make electronic material selection decisions based on actual user needs.

    Librarians need to assess the use of digital collections in terms of comparisons to print use; previously underserved populations; change in usage patterns; value of the collections for campus information support; change in and preservation of scholarly communication; and finally, the effect on overall expenditures.

    Furthermore librarians need to regularly assess the impact of electronic information on library operations and services. Already operations have been and are in the process of changing, especially in terms of cataloguing, processing and collection building. More outsourcing of processing to obtain shelf-ready monographs is becoming the norm. Use of approval plans is increasing. Networking in cataloguing facilitates faster and less expensive cataloguing.

    Services are similarly changing in terms of electronic information provision, reference, instruction, reserves and document delivery. Academic libraries have been implementing electronic reserves to facilitate access and faster document delivery. They have been implanting software packages such as Ariel and Illiad to improve interlibrary loan processes. Academic librarians have energetically made electronic information available through their libraries and they are beginning to rethink reference in an electronic environment.

    User studies are beginning to indicate that the following factors statistically influence the use of electronic information: form of access; available technology; available guidance and instruction; full text availability. Librarians need to work closely with teaching faculty to assess the impact of digital information in terms of learning outcomes for students and with researchers to assess the effect of electronic information on research results.


    1. Lyman, Peter and Hal R. Varian, How Much Information? 2000. Retrieved from http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info/summary.html on 24 July 2003.return to text

    2. Statistical abstracts of the United States. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1999.return to text

    3. U.S. industry & trade outlook. New York : DRI/McGraw-Hill : Standard & Poor's. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of Commerce/International Trade Administration, 2000.return to text

    4. Standard & Poor's Corporation. Standard & Poor's industry surveys. New York: Standard & Poor's Corp., 2000, p. 6.return to text

    5. Although there are 4,723 academic libraries in the United States, only 1,787 report information on their acquisition expenditures nationally and the above statistics originated from these 1,787 libraries. The Bowker annual library and book trade almanac. New York : Margaret M. Spier, R.R. Bowker, 2000, pp. 420-421.return to text

    6. More cooperation is needed from vendors to ensure that such statistics are recorded and that they measure different types of usage. return to text

    7. Edge, S. M. (2000). Faculty-librarian collaboration in online course development. In S. Reisman (Ed.), Electronic Learning Communities - Issues and Practices (pp. 135-185). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, Inc.return to text