Re: Librarians and the Ginsparg model

From: Paul M. Gherman <Gherman_at_LIBRARY.VANDERBILT.EDU>
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000 10:14:19 -0600

"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.

My quote above has stirred several comments to the
contrary, and I am not suprised. I probably should have
stated the other side of my position.

Libraries general spend less than 50% of their total
budget on actually purchasing information and the rest on
staff, benefits, supplies etc. Buildings are generally not
part of any annual costs. I certainly have a goal for our
library to increase the % of our budget for information
while decreasing other costs. The higher our % toward
information, the better job we will be doing. I think Andrew
Oldyzko has made the made the point in his writing, that
libraries add a significant cost to the provision of
information to the user. If hospitals have been able to
wring cost out of their operation, libraries should be able
to also.

The "Productivity Paradox" mentioned by Henderson and
alluded to by Tennant has been true for computers and
productivity software up to now. But I think the publishing
revolution is different - this change is not in productivity
software, but in the nature of the product we purchase,
store, preserve etc and deliver to our users. The very
nature of our project and therefore our mission will
change. If you look at the entire chain of costs in
information delivery, the library is a signficant cost
segment. I think electronic content will allow us to
change our infrastructure and convert infrastructure
dollars to information.

We now subscribe to over 5,000 electronic journals -
many sit on our shelves in paper, there are check in
costs to the paper, reshelving costs, binding costs,
claiming costs, let alone the cost of the shelf itself.
These costs will eventuall go away, when we have the
courage to cancel the paper version.

But the storage and preservation cost will shift to another
agency, maybe a publisher, maybe another organization
like OCLC or CatchWord. Our information costs will rise
as these storage costs are bundeled into the over all
subscription costs.

Fewer individuals are entering the library to gain access
to our collections, as they can access them
electronically. Fewer individuals are approaching the
reference desk to ask questions. Well it is time to think
about how we staff those public service points and reduce
our costs of running them.

E-books are just about to hit. We just subscribed to over
14,000 of them from netLibrary. With this collection, there
were no individual title by title aquisitions costs, there will
be very low cataloging costs, no shelving costs, no
circulations cost or reshelving costs. We did not have to
upack them and we will never rebind them.

Now tell me why in this new environment why the
"productivity paradox" holds true.

Paul M. Gherman
University Librarian
611B General Library
419 21st Avenue South
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37240
Office: (615) 322-7120
Fax: (615) 343-8279
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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