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CPA Annual Report: 1997 – 1998

CPA Annual Report: 1997 – 1998

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The Economics of Information
Investment in Information

CLIR developed plans for a study to explore both the real costs to of providing information resources and the complexity of the choices institutions must make as they use their limited funds. There was a time when the library budget might have been identified with the information budget. But in an age of distributed access to information from multiple wired locations, that no longer is the case.

Academic information purchased or licensed through the library, through departments, and through institutes will be the study’s focus, even though institutions also purchase many other categories of information. The intent is to include all information used for research, teaching, and services.

It appears that universities will move toward unifying the management of all information resources on campuses. Though unification will take time to achieve because faculty members and academic units may be reluctant to cede control, universities meanwhile must gain a thorough understanding of their information budgets. The CLIR study will create models that universities can use to achieve that understanding. Administrators will learn about the new role libraries can play in information management.

An advisory committee of the CLIR Board is helping to shape the project. It devised three aspects of determining a university’s investment in information resources:

  • Collection creation costs. What are the costs of both people and equipment associated with creating knowledge databases either in academic departments or in libraries?
  • Access. Is access to a category of information open to all members of the academic community, or is it restricted? How should the university deal with information sources to which members of the community gain access individually or through institutions or departments?
  • Permanence. Is information added to the library as a permanent asset, or is it meant only to serve the temporary needs of specific individuals? Should those individuals be able to take that information when they move to other institutions? And if the information is temporary, should it be counted as information costs to the institution?

Three universities will take part in the study, two private and one public. One of the private institutions will have a centralized budgetary process, and the other a decentralized process. Besides the advisory committee, the project will involve two principal investigators—a provost and an economist interested in the economics of information. An auditing team will study the three universities under the direction of the principal investigators.

Small-Grants Program

CLIR ended its program of Small Grants in the Economics of Information, which had been funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Twelve proposals were funded, and the program concluded with grants to Northwestern University and to the University of Minnesota.

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