Re: Librarians and the Ginsparg model

From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000 07:42:59 -0400

"Paul M. Gherman" <Gherman_at_LIBRARY.VANDERBILT.EDU> said:

>I think with increased electronic information whether free
>or commercial, the eventual costly infrastructure of
>libraries as we know them today will decrease as will the
>current number of staff working in libraries.

The "Productivity Paradox" suggests otherwise. It was
probably documented first by William J. Baumol and Sue
Anne Batey Blackman in an article titled Electronics,
the cost disease, and the operation of libraries.
(Journal of the American Society for Information Science.
1983 34,3:181-191). They found that what they called
"the cost disease in libraries" was rooted in technology.
Computerization and the falling prices of computer
systems were expected to reduce the cost of libraries.
Yet the decline of prices increased the share of costly
labor-intensive activities.

Most readers of this article didn't believe it at the
time. The Productivity Paradox then materialized in
industry and government. Eventually the National Academy
of Sciences organized a panel to study it (without the
aid of an economist, for reasons that I will never

Instead of occuring naturally as a matter of operating
economies, reductions in library spending have been
handed down from above, justified by a vision of
photocopying efficiencies that never materialized. The
last ARL study reported that an interlibrary photocopy
took over two weeks to appear. I consider "two weeks"
to be "two weeks too late."

University managers and the science bureaucracy continue
to disregard the clear recommendations of information
scientists who have studied the information explosion. With
the continuing growth of R&D, real resources and library
research are required to connect researchers to findings.
Even Paul Ginsparg wrote, "There remains a pressing need
for organization of intellectual value-added, which by
definition cannot be automated even in principle, and
that leaves significant opportunities for any agency
willing to listen to what researchers want and need."
(1996 UNESCO paper)

Albert Henderson

Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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