Learning from Library Users
by Deanna B. Marcum
New Study Examines Preservation in Academic Libraries
by Kathlin Smith
The Future of Shared Repositories
by Abby Smith
IN MID-OCTOBER, CLIR and the Digital Library Federation (DLF) posted to the Web a summary of Dimensions and Use of the Scholarly Information Environment, a survey of information users conducted by Outsell, Inc. The summary includes 158 of the more than 600 tables that Outsell compiled from data collected in telephone interviews with 3,234 faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduates from liberal arts colleges and universities. The interviews took place in late 2001 and early 2002.
The data can be used to answer myriad questions. For example:
- Do undergraduate students use only electronic resources for their research?
- Do faculty members consult electronic sources before they consult other sources? To what extent do they rely on paper-based resources?
- Are there differences among disciplines in the use of electronic resources?
- Do students perceive electronic resources to be as authoritative as paper-based resources?
- Do information seekers validate electronic resources before using them? If so, how?
- Are there differences in information use between men and women? Among users of different ages?
- Do information seekers realize that many of the resources they find on the Web are there courtesy of their local university library?
- When do students go to the physical library? How do they use its collections and services?
We hope that many individuals and organizations will use the data (available at www.clir.org) to conduct their own analyses. We also hope that these users will share the results of their analyses with CLIR and DLF so that we can disseminate them to others. Every institution needs to better understand how usage patterns are changing.
The Outsell study is one of several user surveys that have been completed recently or are under way. The Association of Research Libraries is deeply engaged in studies of how users perceive library services. JSTOR has recently concluded a comprehensive study of faculty in all types of academic institutions. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has funded several institutions to conduct studies of their users’ response to electronic resources. The Research Libraries Group and OCLC have conducted studies of their user groups as well. The responses to these studies vary somewhat, largely because the surveys have asked slightly different questions. In the aggregate, however, the studies supply data that should enable us to better answer a wide range of questions.
The overarching message emerging from these studies, moreover, is remarkably similar: Although nearly all users expect to rely more on digital information in the future, they are not completely discarding the old and adopting the new. Users greatly prefer the ease of access made possible by the technology to the traditional, time-intensive research methods. Users often go to electronic resources first to find out what is available; however, they also rely on print materials. Many journalists of the popular presses like to write about “paradigm shifts” or radical breaks from the past, but deep analysis of what users tell us does not fully support the journalists’ views.
Librarians interested in creating libraries for the twenty-first century will find important revelations in the responses of information users. Some of these findings may be discouraging. For example, librarians will be dismayed to see the extent to which users do not distinguish between Web resources that are available because the library has licensed them for use and those that are placed there by individuals or organizations without attention to accuracy or validity. Librarians may also be discouraged to learn that users cite “more time” as their most critical need.
The Outsell study, along with the others, will be important for librarians and administrators as they wrestle with the question of how their libraries should be structured in the future. Knowing that users now have many choices for meeting their information needs, librarians today recognize that libraries must learn more about how individuals do their work and the kinds of support they need. What librarians learn from these studies will inform decisions about how to design facilities, what services to offer, when on-site support is needed, and when desktop delivery is preferred. These decisions must, of course, also be based on policy, intellectual, and financial implications.
The most important question for librarians to answer is what relationship exists between legacy print collections and the new digital collections. Users sense that the two have not been integrated. Are our organizational structures reinforcing this separation? Can we ourselves answer questions about what we are collecting, for whom, and for what purpose? Are publishers’ financial incentives more important to us than the content made available through their deals? Are we developing new services that help faculty and the less technically able students make a successful transition to the digital environment? Are we seriously studying which of the traditional services will be dropped so that more responsive programs can be implemented in a robust and economically feasible way?
We should be asking ourselves these questions and more. Responses to our questions in user surveys will encourage us to work harder on educating our users. Our more serious and important work, however, is to use the responses to these surveys to engage users in meaningful conversation about how we, together, will create the library of the future.
A RECENT STUDY of large and small academic libraries provides new data on the state of preservation activity today and suggests how professional organizations, consortia, and funding agencies can help academic libraries improve their preservation capabilities.
The study’s methodology, findings, and recommendations are described in a forthcoming report from CLIR entitled The State of Preservation Programs in American College and Research Libraries: Building a Common Understanding and Action Agenda, written by Anne R. Kenney and Deirdre C. Stam. CLIR undertook the study in cooperation with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the University Libraries Group (ULG), and the Regional Alliance for Preservation. The Institute for Museum and Library Services funded the study.
Data for the study were collected by means of a survey and on-site interviews. The survey was conducted in 116 libraries, including 22 midsize universities belonging to the ULG, 20 major non-ARL land grant institutions (LG), and 75 liberal arts colleges belonging to what is known informally as the “Oberlin Group” (OG). The survey was designed to secure documentation from the ULG, OC, and LG libraries that was comparable to information on ARL members that appears in the ARL Preservation Statistics for 20002001.
After conducting the survey, project staff members made site visits to 20 institutions representing ARL, ULG, LG, and OG. The purpose of the visits was to collect qualitative information on attitudes, opinions, and emotions relating to the topic of preservation that would supplement the quantitative survey data.
The Status of Preservation
Not surprisingly, the survey found fairly consistent relationships between number of professional staff within a library, the size of its holdings, and its expenditures. ARL institutions, with the largest collections and budgets, also had the largest professional staffs; OG libraries, with the smallest collections and budgets, fell at the opposite end of the spectrum. Preservation expenditures as a percentage of the total library budget were below 3 percent for all institutional groups and below 2 percent for the LG and OG libraries. (The authors caution that these figures may represent underreporting of preservation expenditures, especially in LG libraries.)
Staffing is the largest category of expense, accounting for about half of all preservation expenditures. When one compares the number of full-time preservation staff with the number of total staff, ARL libraries show the strongest support for preservation (4.5 percent); OG libraries, at 3.9 percent, are not far behind. At LG institutions, preservation staff members represent only 1.4 percent of full-time staff.
The site visits yielded the following information about the state of preservation activity:
- Assumptions about the nature and scope of preservation vary widely, even within a single library.
- Although staff members report being fully familiar with functions traditionally associated with preservation, the relationship of these functions to an overall preservation strategy is not always apparent to those engaged in the work.
- Preservation is seldom central to the process of strategic planning in libraries.
- Although library staff find ways to obtain resources for preservation activity through existing funding structures, dedicated funding lines are difficult to establish in some libraries.
- There is strong interest in training library staff in preservation, although resources for this activity are severely limited.
Supporting Preservation Work
Preservation staff members were asked what would be needed to sustain effective preservation work. They noted the importance of funding, but not only in terms of expanding funding sources. It will also be necessary to improve accounting methods and planning, and to cooperate with funding agencies to rethink assumptions about the utility of preservation programs.
The following additional needs were noted:
- To secure adequate support for preservation, awareness of the importance of preservation must extend beyond the library to college and university administrators, custodial staff, the institutional community, and the public.
- Staff members need help in clarifying and communicating authoritative opinion and reliable data relating to preservation.
- Some preservation information, however authoritative, is difficult to use. Information must be processed and packaged in ways that are practical, efficient, and effective for local training and other applications.
- More information and training are needed in all aspects of the environmental setting, with particular focus on heating and air-conditioning systems, water damage, storage conditions, and the effects of deferred maintenance.
- Services, institutions, methods, standards, and cooperative projects are needed for preserving non-book materials, such as audiovisual materials and photographs.
- There is a need for practical, cost-effective preservation training programs and materials for use in structured teaching situations as well as in one-on-one approaches.
Drawing on the findings of the survey and site visits, the project’s advisory committee developed six recommendations, along with a list of ways in which concerned parties can act on this guidance. The committee acknowledged that some of the recommended actions do not yet have an organizational champion, and they suggested a stakeholder review process as a next step.
1. Encourage a common and more inclusive understanding of preservation to support program development. When preservation is viewed narrowly, it gets separated from mainstream functions, becomes identified as someone else’s domain, and is considered a luxury. The message must be clear that preservation is everyone’s job and that it cuts across all library operations. Encouraging the development of a common understanding of what constitutes preservation would improve communication among those involved in its functions. Helping library staff members appreciate their roles in preservation would enable the library to better meet its preservation objectives.
2. Focus attention on pragmatic and measurable approaches. There is a general hunger for practical advice and help based on proven approaches. Greater emphasis must be placed on providing such assistance and services, as well as on establishing goals that can be realized and on delivering information in useful forms. The focus on the pragmatic should include advice on what not to attempt and when to seek outside help.
3. Tailor knowledge and techniques to targeted audiences. The delivery of information should respect differences among and be tailored for various institutions. The study revealed some of the distinctions between different institutional types that should influence how and when material is presented and what is emphasized.
4. Address the digital preservation challenge at the local level. Staff members in academic libraries understand the general problem, but most do not know how to address it. At the institutional level, responding to this need requires recognition of joint responsibilities with related units, such as information technology. On a broader scale, it entails creation of consortial opportunities.
5. Explore collaborative solutions that demonstrably benefit the home front. Interinstitutional collaboration has been underused in preservation. It deserves further exploration and, where appropriate, adoption. Making the case for such cooperation will depend on how effectively it can be tied to institutional interests as well as overall goals.
6. Secure sustainable funding for preservation. Most academic libraries participating in the study considered their own institutional resources for preservation to be woefully lacking. Adequate preservation resources typically are not built into general operating budgets, and programs in many institutions have developed only with outside grants. Until preservation is given higher priority as a programmatic objective, it will not secure adequate resources.
The survey is the first in a series of activities, including a conference in 2003 and additional publications, that CLIR will undertake to examine preservation in the twenty-first century.
AT ITS NOVEMBER 2002 Board meeting, CLIR said goodbye to long-time member Sidney Verba and welcomed new member Edward Ayers.
Mr. Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library at Harvard, joined the Board of the Council on Library Resources in 1989. He also served on the Commission on Preservation and Access Board throughout its existence. He agreed to continue as a CLIR Board member when it was formed in 1997. As a CLIR Board member, Mr. Verba’s greatest contribution has been his ability to link the concerns of the library and the world of scholarship.
Historian Edward Ayers is Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is the director of the Valley of the Shadow project, which presents on the Web and CD-ROM the histories of two communities in the American Civil War. The project won the E-Lincoln Prize in 2001. Among his publications are The Oxford Book of the American South: Testimony, Memory, and Fiction and The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction. The Virginia Social Studies Association named Mr. Ayers Virginia Social Science Educator of the Year in 2001.
LIBRARIES HAVE COOPERATED on collection storage for decades. Shared repositories for monographs, journals, and other library materials have drawn much attention lately, however, because the solutions to many collection-management problems are rooted in the practices of good stewardship. Campus libraries, already severely constrained, are facing enormous pressures from rapidly expanding hard-copy collections, users’ growing preference for online versions of current and retrospective serials, increased attention to the value of artifactual collections and their stewardship, and concerns about improving storage conditions. Administrators, preservationists, and faculty members from academic libraries are discussing the merits, demerits, and promises of shared repositories for important but rarely used collections. Some library managers are working hard to reimagine the construction, uses, and shared governance of repositories in order to offer users more titles in better physical condition and in a greater number of formats.
To help librarians, faculty members, and funding agencies consider the promises of collaborating on repositories in today’s new hybrid information landscape, CLIR has commissioned the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) to conduct a survey of current and planned shared repositories. The repositories will range from institutions that serve mainly as secondary storage to those that house collections of archival status under optimal conditions. CRL will investigate and document such issues as the costs of building and maintaining facilities, the agreements and administrative structures that govern shared facilities, the process by which materials are selected for inclusion in shared repositories, and the purposes that repositories serve. CRL will also examine a set of repositories, both in this country and abroad, that serve as “repositories of last resort” to ensure the long-term integrity of the historical record.
CLIR will issue a report in spring 2003 that presents the survey findings and draws out their implications for improved service and, most important, for a national preservation strategy. For decades, librarians have advocated developing such a strategy. Last year, in a report entitled The Evidence at Hand, CLIR’s Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections proposed several models for shared repositories for the twenty-first century and called on the research community to consider those models in the context of a national preservation strategy. CLIR hopes that the data from the CRL study will shed light on the feasibility of these models. CLIR also hopes the report will inform the tough decisions that libraries and their supporters are making about the future of print collections in a digital service environment by allowing them not only to see what their peers have accomplished to date but also to envision efficient and cost-effective ways of serving their onsite and remote patrons.
WHEN LIBRARIES ACQUIRE electronic resources from publishers or vendors, they must understand, record, transmit, and inform others about the many financial, legal, interrelational, and access aspects of these arrangements. The acquisitions and licensing processes are complex, publishers transmit this information to libraries in a variety of paper and electronic formats, and the number of licensed electronic products libraries are collecting is increasing rapidly. Such situations tend to spawn local, ad hoc fixes; what is needed, by contrast, is an industry-wide, standardized solution. The Electronic Resources Management Initiative (ERMI), a new project of the Digital Library Federation (DLF), proposes to offer such a solution.
ERMI grew out of research that Tim Jewell at the University of Washington conducted for a report on the selection and presentation of commercially available electronic resources.1 During the course of this research, he became aware of the many databases and local practices libraries use to manage their licenses and associated information. Jewell and Adam Chandler, of Cornell University, exchanged information about these systems and established a Web hub2 to foster communication among interested librarians. They also formed a steering group for the initiative. Its members worked with Pat Harris and Priscilla Caplan of NISO and with Dan Greenstein, then director of the DLF, to organize and conduct a workshop in May 2002 on standards for electronic resource management. The range of attendees at this workshop demonstrated the extent of interest in electronic resource management. In addition to 40 librarians, the group included representatives from EBSCO, Endeavor, ExLibris, Fretwell Downing, Innovative Interfaces, SIRSI, and Serials Solutions.
Librarians, publishers, and vendors are now coming together under DLF sponsorship to create some standards for electronic resource management. In the coming year, ERMI will develop common specifications and an XML schema for recording the details of a license agreement and for managing related descriptive metadata and administrative information associated with collections of licensed electronic resources. A common XML format will make it easier to share information and thus minimize duplication of effort. It will also give publishers and vendors a standardized format in which to deliver license information to customers and information management systems.
1 Jewell, Timothy. 2001. Selection and Presentation of Commercially Available Electronic Resources: Issues and Practices. Washington, D.C.: Digital Library Federation and Council on Library and Information Resources.
2 The Web hub can be found at http://www.library.cornell.edu/cts/elicensestudy/home.html.
CLIR’s annual sponsors’ symposium will take place at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 28, 2003. The symposium will focus on what we are learning about library use from studies of users. Invitations will be issued in January.
CLIR HAS APPOINTED the selection committee for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award for 2003. The award is given annually to a library, library agency, or comparable organization outside the United States that has been innovative in providing free public access to information. The selection committee will review applications and choose the award recipient. The award will be presented at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) meeting in Berlin in August 2003.
Applications for this year’s award must be postmarked by February 28, 2003. Information about the award and application forms can be found at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/gates/gates.html.
Members of the 2003 selection committee are as follows:
Directorate of Libraries, Archives and Museums
Marianna Tax Choldin
Mortenson Center for International Library Programs
Senior Program Officer
International Library Program
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Zentral-und Landesbibliothek Berlin
Deanna Marcum (chair)
Council on Library and Information Resources
International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications
Oxford, United Kingdom
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
The University of Texas at Austin
The Queens Borough Public Library
Manager for Central and Eastern Europe
Information Technology Supply Ltd.
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