CLIR Annual Report: 1999 – 2000


Economics of Information

The changes brought about by digital technology obligate librarians and university administrators alike to consider new economic models for providing information services. What does it take to create self-sustaining information services while honoring the ethics of the library profession and engaging all of the stakeholders, including publishers and information creators? This year, CLIR focused on economic models for managing the content of electronic journals.

Electronic Journal Usage Statistics

Librarians rely on usage statistics to inform a range of decisions, from acquisitions to storage. In the print environment, librarians developed methods for tracking collection use. With the advent of electronic publishing, however, usage data reside with the publishers, and fewer than half make such statistics available. Given the expense of implementing the statistical-analysis function, many publishers are slow to add this capability. What is available varies widely among publishers, and librarians are often unclear about what to ask for and how they will use the data. Guidelines are just emerging and are not widely adopted. There is a need to promote dialog between librarians and publishers on the issue of usage statistics to identify each side’s concerns, and to reach agreement on standards for compiling such statistics.

To provide a basis for dialog, CLIR commissioned Judy Luther, president of Informed Strategies, to develop a white paper on use statistics for electronic journals. Her findings will be based on extensive interviews with publishers and librarians. The paper, scheduled for completion in fall 2000, will offer practical suggestions for librarians and publishers on making available and using statistics that are not cumbersome or costly for either party.

Stanford University Study on Scholars’ Use of Electronic Journals

With support from CLIR, Stanford University designed a project to study the use of scholarly journals in electronic form. Stanford’s interest in usage is twofold. Because the university is a publisher (it runs HighWire Press), it hopes that the knowledge gathered will assist in the transition from the present, financially unstable condition of scholarly journal publishing to information products and services that meet the needs and interests of scholars. Stanford’s library is interested in making electronic journals available to users more quickly and economically. Stanford will use this design as the basis for a large-scale study, for which it will seek funding.

Economics of Digital Library Collections

Following earlier work in the economics of digital library collections, the University of Michigan held a conference on “Economics and Usage of Digital Library Collections” in March 2000 in Ann Arbor. Hosted by the university’s Program for Research on the Information Economy and its library, the conference was funded by CLIR, Elsevier Science, and John Wiley & Sons. The conference, which focused on the pricing of electronic publications and on cost and usage studies, presented data from a number of projects that served as a useful basis for discussion among librarians, publishers, and economists. The conference marked the end of the university’s three-year project in Pricing Electronic Access to Knowledge (PEAK).

Columbia University Press Study of Online Resources

Columbia University Press, which is developing two new online publications, was funded to bring together focus groups of scholars and teachers to discuss how these online curricular materials could be used in undergraduate teaching. This project reflects CLIR’s belief that a better understanding of how teachers view electronic materials will help publishers deliver higher-quality products to the university and college communities.

Responsibility for Digital Archiving

In October 1999, CLIR, the DLF, and CNI convened a group of publishers and librarians to discuss responsibility for archiving the content of electronic journals. The group was asked to consider what would be required to ensure access to electronic journals for 100 years. In December, CNI hosted a second meeting to pursue the same question with a larger group.

Much interest, but little activity, resulted from the two meetings. To stimulate progress, CLIR staff extracted minimum requirements for archival repositories from the Open Archival information System (OAiS) reference model and presented a document on the requirements for electronic journal archiving to a group of library directors. After incorporating the directors’ suggestions for improvements into the document, CLIR invited Karen Hunter of Elsevier Science to convene a group of commercial and nonprofit publishers to review the document. Finally, Ann Okerson, of Yale University, was asked to convene a group of licensing experts from the library and publishing communities to review the document and make suggestions about the language that needs to be used in negotiating license agreements that include responsibility for digital archiving. Now that input from these groups has been secured, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has issued a request for proposals from a select number of libraries that have agreed to work in collaboration with publishers to develop approaches to digital archiving.

CLIR will remain involved in the archival repositories project by gathering information about archival practices and costs, documenting processes and costs of the pilot projects funded by the Mellon Foundation, and disseminating information about the projects to the library and publishing communities.

Managing Cultural Assets from a Business Perspective

Libraries face the ongoing challenge of having to account in financial terms for the real value of their chief assets, their collections. The context for collection valuation and the method of accounting vary from library to library, depending on the institution’s mission and how its information resources are used to fulfill that mission; however, as information and its products become more important parts of the economy, there is a stronger push to view library holdings from a business perspective.

To address that need, CLIR published a report describing a business risk model for managing library collections. Written by Laura Price of KPMG LLP and Abby Smith of CLIR, the report was published in cooperation with the Library of Congress. It is a case study of the Library of Congress’s baseline risk assessment of its collections, a program that was developed several years ago and is now a permanent feature of the Library’s annual financial accounting procedure. The business risk model treats collections as core institutional assets and defines good stewardship as a dynamic process of identifying risk to the collections and instituting policies and procedures that mitigate the risks. This model is valuable to managers because it is designed not only to identify risk to library assets but also to determine which risks are least acceptable and what measures must be taken to reduce them. It guides management decisions about investments in collections and is grounded in the individual mission of each library.