Library Periodicals Expenses: Comparison of Nonsubscription Costs of Print and Electronic Formats on a Life-Cycle Basis
by Roger C. Schonfeld and Eileen Gifford Fenton
Library Periodicals Expenses:
Comparison of Nonsubscription Costs of Print and Electronic Formats on a Life-Cycle Basis
MANY ACADEMIC AND research libraries are in the midst of transforming their journals collections from print to electronic format. At all but the largest of these libraries, collection sizes in the electronic format are much larger than they ever were for print, and this shift has practical implications for library operations. Notably different activities are required to manage an electronic collection, and staff-compensation profiles for the formats vary as well. As collections and staff are increasingly focused on the electronic portion of the collections, other issues arise. These include establishing workflows and staff positions to maintain the efficient handling of e-resources, developing appropriate outreach methods, and, perhaps most important from a system-wide perspective, addressing the absence of an electronic archiving solution.
To better understand how the transition to e-resources may change libraries’ costs and, more specifically, the effects of this transition on library operations and associated nonsubscription expenditures, in 2003 the Electronic-Archiving Initiative1 sponsored a study of 11 academic libraries. Grouped roughly by size, the libraries studied were Bryn Mawr, Franklin & Marshall, Suffolk, and Williams (small); Drexel, George Mason, and Western Carolina (medium); and Cornell, New York University, Pittsburgh, and Yale (large). In addition to the authors of this article, the research team included Ann Okerson, Donald King, and Kevin Guthrie.
This article offers an overview of the research findings. A more detailed version of the findings recently appeared in D-LIB Magazine,2 and the full version of the study will be published in June by the Council on Library and Information Resources.3
The number of print periodicals to which the 11 schools subscribe ranged from just over 100 to about 23,000; in electronic format, the number ranged between 5,000 and 20,000. The responding institutions spend from $250,000 to $2.5 million annually on the nonsubscription costs under examination. The share of this amount currently devoted to the electronic format ranges from about 15 percent to more than 80 percent.
The research team used a life-cycle approach to analyze these data. They calculated the implicit long-term financial commitment made at the point of acquisitions for a given year of a given periodical title. By making this calculation separately for the print and the electronic formats, they were able to compare over time the nonsubscription cost implications of the choice of format.
The team found that the long-term financial commitment associated with accessioning one year of a periodical title for the electronic format was lower than that for print at every library in the study. The potential per-title savings were most pronounced at the smaller institutions.
The authors modeled the effects of these per-title cost differentials under a variety of assumptions in order to determine their likely implications on individual libraries. While many of the cost implications will depend on local initiatives and management practices, the likely outcome of a shift to electronic format for many libraries is reduced nonsubscription costs for periodicals. In the long run, some libraries may benefit significantly, although there are significant short-term management challenges to be considered.
Before it would be possible to conclude with any certainty that a given library could expect to benefit from cost differentials on this scale, one would need to know whether the collection size of that library would grow significantly during the transition from print to electronic. The evidence from several of the libraries in this study—in particular, the small and medium libraries—suggests that far more electronic titles are being received than was ever the case with print. For these libraries, lower per-title costs may therefore be offset, at least partially, by a higher total number of titles.
Although the potential savings do not reach the scale that some enthusiasts have imagined, it appears, on balance, that decreases in total nonsubscription costs present the most likely scenario for the future, as libraries move increasingly to electronic periodicals. That said, any dollar-for-dollar comparison of the two formats is complicated by several shifts in system-wide costs. Some costs that are borne by libraries or by publishers for the print format may be borne by the other party in the electronic format. The cost of storing the information resource is one example: Publishers, rather than libraries, generally provide for the server storage of electronic periodicals. In addition, some costs borne by libraries for the print format are not borne by either party for the electronic format. The costs of archiving are the most outstanding example. Because there is as yet no archiving solution for electronic periodicals, it is impossible to calculate its costs or to determine who will bear them.
The absence of an archiving solution has clearly hindered the transition to electronic journals. The cost advantages documented by this study may constitute the most likely source of library funding for this purpose and, therefore, present an opportunity for the library community to shape the archiving solutions that eventually emerge. If these advantages can be realized by individual libraries—and there are any number of hurdles that may prevent this outcome—they might be used to stimulate the implementation of archiving solutions. This, in turn, could help bring about more rapidly electronic access to appropriate resources and the accompanying advantages to scholarship.
Will the cost differentials be sufficient to fund a generally acceptable archiving solution, or will archiving be funded in some other way? Will the absence of an archiving solution retard the transition to the electronic format? Or will archiving be left by the wayside as the transition continues to accelerate? These are but some of the questions that this study poses for the scholarly community.
1 The Electronic Archiving Initiative was launched by JSTOR in 2003 and is currently being incubated by Ithaka. Its purpose is to develop the organizational and technical infrastructure needed to ensure the long-term preservation of and access to electronic scholarly resources. See http://www.ithaka.org for more information.
2 Schonfeld, Roger C., Donald W. King, Ann Okerson, and Eileen Gifford Fenton. 2004. Library Periodicals Expenses: Comparison of Nonsubscription Costs of Print and Electronic Formats on a Life-Cycle Basis. D-Lib Magazine 10(1). Available at http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january04/schonfeld/01schonfeld.html.
3 Schonfeld, Roger C., Donald W. King, Ann Okerson, and Eileen Gifford Fenton. 2004 forthcoming. The Nonsubscription Side of Periodicals: Changes in Library Operations and Costs between Print and Electronic Formats. Washington D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources.
THE FIRST INSTITUTIONS of higher education were organized around the principle of scarcity. Information and teachers were scarce, so learners came to one place to take advantage of these resources. This model has persisted, despite the fact that information is now abundant, is no longer bound physically, and is technically easy to distribute. If we were to start from scratch and design a structure for higher education today, what would it look like? Would it have a library? If so, what would be its role?
Technological change allows us to envision radically different approaches to education, but it is not technology alone that has changed. The demographics of learners and the needs of information users have changed too. If we design tomorrow’s libraries on the basis of today’s pedagogies, by the time these reconfigured libraries are operating, they will be obsolete. What are trends in learning, and what are their implications for the future of the library in terms of its space and services?
With these questions, CLIR Interim President Richard Detweiler opened CLIR’s fourth annual Sponsors’ Symposium in Washington, D.C., on April 13. The symposium featured seven speakers from the world of research and education.
Yale University Librarian Emeritus Scott Bennett underscored the conservative nature of library planning. His 2003 survey of more than 400 institutions revealed that library design today is being informed by the same kind of thinking that informed it a generation ago. Planning tends to center around library operations rather than around what is needed to support changes in pedagogy and information technology. Among the few exceptions, Bennett noted, are the Johns Hopkins University Welch Medical Library, where most of the holdings are in electronic form and librarians work outside the library as teachers and advisors. He asserted that it is time to make learning the critical function of the library.
Patricia Iannuzzi, associate university librarian at the University of California-Berkeley, focused on the shift in organizational culture that is needed to transform the library from being a collection-centered to a learning-centered resource. At UC-Berkeley, she helps library staff understand the importance of serving as partners in information creation and use. She has instituted “concierge teams” of staff from information technology, assessment, and libraries who work with faculty on redesigning teaching materials. In this way, the library becomes a type of laboratory, supporting the learning processes of inquiry, discovery, analysis, and reflection. She and her staff are also helping to create services and structures that support the attainment of information-literacy standards. For example, rather than working behind desks, reference librarians circulate on the floor, helping students define and articulate their information needs. They coach students in working through reference queries, rather than do it for them. The library has also created a research consultation room, where students can go for help in developing research plans.
The growth of original sources online is significantly changing the way courses are taught. Crandall Shifflett, professor of history at Virginia Tech and creator of Virtual Jamestown, noted that “digital history archives are providing more democratic access to the historical record in its original form, so that viewers can interpret the information for themselves.” This allows students to better understand the forces of contingency, immediacy, and uncertainty of outcome that are evident to participants in history but are not necessarily conveyed in textbooks. In digital history archives such as Virtual Jamestown, hyperlinking allows learners to carve “pathways of exploration” as they draw on a broad range of resources: textual, visual, spatial, and graphic. In response to concerns from librarians in the audience that self-contained Web sites do not encourage students to acquire the research skills they need to find information themselves, Shifflett responded that such sites could easily be designed to require students to cast their nets wider for related information.
“Serious games”—computer simulations and games that are built upon real knowledge and include complex interactions—take interactive learning a step further, said Joel Foreman, associate professor of English at George Mason University. Many students are now using game technology for play and social interaction, and this is how the next generation will learn. Game-based learning builds knowledge actively, rather than passively, and helps players build concepts, he said. It is customized to the needs of the learner and provides feedback. Most important, it is something that most students want to engage in. “Credible interactive simulations”—those that mimic real experiences—foster “deep-roots learning” and changes in the neural network by allowing students to work through a set of learning objectives or contingencies. In predicting the impact of this development on libraries, Foreman said that more information is being conveyed visually than in text. Libraries need to think about how they will support this shift in learning.
Increasingly, today’s learners are of mixed ages; many are pursuing their education while holding full-time jobs. With earlier retirements, some people are earning degrees later in life. For these learners, distance education is a good alternative to residential learning programs. Indeed, at Western Governors University (WGU), a virtual university, the average student is 42 years old. Marti Garlett, WGU’s founding dean, concluded the symposium’s morning session with a discussion of this institution’s program. Based in Utah, WGU is served by the University of New Mexico Library, and faculty members are borrowed from numerous other institutions. To support its students, WGU has instituted an “electronic reference shelf.” The staff has found that it has not been hard to provide library services virtually; the greatest challenge is getting students to use the library at all.
In the afternoon session, Robert Martin, director of the Institute for Museum and Library Services, continued the theme of nontraditional learning. “There are conspicuous challenges to the basic assumption of schooling,” he said. “Learning is ubiquitous: We learn not only in school but also in the workplace and at home and in the community.” Traditional sources of information are operating in new ways. Broadcasters, for example, are now behaving more like museums and libraries. He cited the example of TIVO, which allows a user to manipulate a broadcast. What does this portend for libraries? Libraries are critical agencies in an evolving “seamless learning infrastructure” of social agencies—an infrastructure that also includes schools, museums, and archives—that facilitate learning. To support this infrastructure, we need consistent and reliable mechanisms for accessing digital resources. We must break down the institutional silos of libraries and museums. We need to repurpose learning materials. We need systems that support customized learning experiences and portals that will enable learners to locate the resources they need. Finally, we have to think about how we prepare professionals for practice.
The last speaker, Roger Schonfeld, coordinator of research at Ithaka, discussed trends in faculty use of digital resources. His remarks were based on a survey of more than 7,000 faculty members at a broad range of institutions. Overall, only 14 percent of respondents said that they currently begin their research work in a library building; 86 percent use electronic resources such as the online catalog, search engines, or discipline-specific electronic databases. Responses varied somewhat by discipline: 10 percent of scientists, compared with 18 percent of humanists, begin their research in the library building. Overall, faculty members who reported that their primary role is teaching use electronic resources less often (about 60 times per year) than do those whose primary role is research (more than 200 times per year). Similarly, scientists use electronic resources about twice as often (more than 200 times per year) than do members of other disciplines. When the authors of this study compared these findings with those of a similar study conducted in 2000, they found that the rate of change toward the use of electronic resources was faster than they had anticipated.
Overall, the presentations suggested that the world of learning is changing rapidly, as is the world of libraries, and that to think about making changes in libraries on the basis of today’s pedagogies would be a mistake. It is essential to think about where current changes in pedagogy are leading and to carry out library planning in ways that will allow a library to be effective within the context of an uncertain future.
ELEVEN RECENT PH.D.s in the humanities have been awarded fellowships in a new program designed to build linkages among disciplinary scholarship, libraries, and evolving digital tools. CLIR developed the program—called the Postdoctoral Fellowship in Scholarly Information Resources for Humanists—in collaboration with several U.S. colleges and universities as a means of recruiting new talent into the library profession. The program grew from a shared belief in the need to educate young scholars about the challenges and opportunities created by new forms of scholarly research and the information resources, both traditional and digital, that support them.
Participants will spend their fellowship tenure at an academic research library, where they will gain hands-on experience relating to the issues facing scholars at research libraries in today’s rapidly changing information landscape. Participants will attend a two-week preparatory seminar at Bryn Mawr College.
It is expected that the fellowship will help participants
- be positioned to pursue new career paths in the academy and to find challenging positions in campus libraries and research institutions;
- broaden expertise in the professions that support the creation, management, and dissemination of scholarly resources;
- gain skills and creativity in the management of scholarly resources; and
- bring more subject-based expertise into the development and service of scholarly resources that will meet the rapidly changing needs of scholars for research and learning.
|2004-2005 Fellows in Scholarly Information Resources|
|Fellow||Discipline/Where Ph.D. Earned||Fellowship Host Institution|
|Sigrid Anderson Cordell||English Literature, University of Virginia||Princeton University|
|Amanda French||English, University of Virginia||North Carolina State University|
|Patricia Hswe||Slavic Languages and Literatures, Yale University||University of Illinois|
|Ben Huang||Comparative Literature, University of California-Irvine||University of Southern California|
|Megan Norcia||Victorian Children’s Literature, University of Florida||Lehigh University|
|Allyson Polsky||Human Sciences, George Washington University||Johns Hopkins University|
|Daphnee Rentfrow||Comparative Literature, Brown University||Yale University|
|Dawn Schmitz||Communication, University of Pittsburgh||University of Illinois|
|Rachel Shuttlesworth||Applied Linguistics, University of Alabama||University of Alabama|
|Amanda Watson||English Language and Literature, University of Michigan||University of Virginia|
|Christa Williford||Theater History, Literature and Criticism, Indiana University||Bryn Mawr College|
JOAN A. SMITH has been named the recipient of the 2004 A. R. Zipf Fellowship in Information Management. A doctoral student in computer science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, she is the eighth recipient of the Zipf Fellowship, which was established in 1997 to recognize a graduate student who shows exceptional promise for leadership and technical achievement in information management.
For more than 12 years, Ms. Smith worked in information management for private industry on such issues as migrating information systems from older to new technologies, automating systems from pen-and-paper to digital formats, and rescuing data from near loss caused by system obsolescence. While working for INRI at Northrop Grumman, she received the President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement on three occasions.
Ms. Smith began her doctoral studies at Old Dominion in 2002. She holds an M.A. degree in computer education from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, and a B.A. degree in natural science from the University of the State of New York in Albany. Her current research focuses on preservation of digital library resources for future access. “How can we keep our knowledge safe? We have so many issues to address in this arena, from intellectual property rights to future accessibility of information, and the problem is growing,” said Ms. Smith.
A. R. Zipf was a pioneer in information management systems and a guiding force in many of the dramatic technological changes that occurred in the banking industry over the course of his 40-year career with the Bank of America. Mr. Zipf was also a great friend and advisor to libraries.
JULIUS BIANCHI, ASSOCIATE provost for information services at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, has been awarded the 2004 Patricia Battin Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded each year to one or two participants in the Frye Leadership Institute
Mr. Bianchi has worked in information systems and services at California Lutheran University since 1990, when he joined the staff as director of academic computing. Among his priorities is to help create an environment that better supports student research and learning. He hopes to use his Institute experience to conceive and develop partnerships with other colleges, universities, businesses, and organizations in program planning and implementation.
The Patricia Battin Scholarship fund was established in 1999 by friends and family of Patricia Battin, former president of the Commission on Preservation and Access. The scholarship provides financial assistance for participants in the Frye Institute whose institutions cannot afford to support their attendance. It covers the cost of room and board, tuition, and airfare to and from the Institute.
This year’s Institute will be held June 6Ð18 at Emory University in Atlanta.
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The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) grew out of the 1997 merger of the Commission on Preservation and Access and the Council on Library Resources. CLIR identifies the critical issues that affect the welfare and prospects of libraries and archives and the constituencies they serve, convenes individuals and organizations in the best position to engage these issues and respond to them, and encourages institutions to work collaboratively to achieve and manage change.