Re: Institutional versus personal subscriptions Ian Woodward 06 Jun 2006 13:13 UTC

Mr. Henderson,

    If the pattern of expenditure were such that we were short-changing
our faculty, we would see the following:

1.  No slack: which is to say no dead inventory in our accreting serial

2.  Frequent inter-library loan requests and document delivery orders
for certain titles;

3.  A backlog of unfulfilled subscription requests.

The third is the least valid measure as the propensity of the faculty to
request subscriptions is a function of their sense that you might
seriously consider buying them, so this number will be depressed in
certain circumstances, demand remaining unexpressed.

Back when we relied on print subscriptions almost exclusively, we had
about 2,300 periodical titles in the collection.  We likely could have
cleared the backlog of requests from patrons and purchases indicated by
what was sought from inter-library loan and subscription services by
making additions and cancellations that would have implicated 1% or so
of the titles in our subscription portfolio in any given year.  There
simply was not a great deal of unfulfilled demand that our constituents
were willing to express.  And, like all other libraries, we have been
known to purchase material which our customers then ignored.
Expenditures on monographs are a sunk cost, bar the opportunity cost
incurred by the space they take up.  If your constituency leaves them on
the shelf, too bad.  Expenditures on serials are otherwise.  You do not
have to continue paying for them.   If your purchases are properly
rank-ordered, each additional dollar of expenditure enhances the
institution's utility less than the previous dollar.  There comes a
point when you buy things that take up space and have no other effect,
positive or negative, on the welfare of your constituency.  Tracking the
ratio of the library budget to the institutional budget or the ratio of
library expenditures to R & D expenditures is not going to tell you at
what point your expenditures hits that particular wall  (much less
passes  the antecedent milestones which suggest that you replace a
subscription with access via document delivery or inter-library


I.  Woodward
Serials Office
Colgate University Libraries
201L McGregory Hall
13 Oak Drive
Hamilton, N.Y. 13346
Ph.:   315-228-7306
Fax:   315-228-7029

-----Original Message-----
From: SERIALST: Serials in Libraries Discussion Forum
Sent: Monday, June 05, 2006 1:15 PM
Subject: Re: [SERIALST] Institutional versus personal subscriptions

on 2 Jun 2006 Ian Woodward <iwoodward@MAIL.COLGATE.EDU> wrote:

> > "I think the question should be: Why are science libraries not
> > recognized in the nation's growing 	science R&D spending?"


> Your description of colleges and universities chronically
> short-changing the purchase of scientific and technical literature
> reference to a state-of-the-world I do not recognize.  If you look at
> the distribution of use across our print and electronic resources, the
> pattern of requests for items via inter-library loan and document
> delivery, and the portfolio of unfulfilled subscription requests from
> science faculty, you just do not see that picture.  Resources could be
> more optimally deployed (any failures with regard to which are not the
> associate provost's fault), but the utility of pegging library
> expenditures to an index derived from nominal R & D spending or total
> institutional spending is a dubious one.

	It was certainly taken seriously when the reality
	of Sputnik made Western science and education look
	very bad. Politicans and scientists took a look at
	our situation and found that information is the key
	to scientific productivity. For over a decade (until
	we landed a man on the Moon), spending on libraries
	at research universities kept pace with academic R&D
	and its production of articles. After the Moon landing,
	universities began paring budgets from 6 percent to
	less than 3 percent. The ACRL eventually took hard
	numbers out of its accreditation standards. The
	goverment ignored provisions of the Science Policy
	Act calling for an expert in dissemination to advise
	the President. NSF abandoned its annual review of
	DISSEMINATION. I even received a letter from head of
	the National Science Board that misspelled the word
	"dissemination!" [see my article in LOGOS 15.2 2004].

	The NSF/National Science Board's biennial statistical
	volume does not address the subject of dissemination
	very well, even though the NSF was established "to
	foster the interchange of scientific and engineering
	information." Comparing growth of input and output
	(separate tables of dollars spent and articles recognized)
	it is clear that there is a significant loss of

	Meanwhile, Department of Education statistics reveal
	a doubling of profitability, roughly equal to the
	overall reduction in library spending.

	This information is all in the public record, by the
	way, and easily compiled by anyone as I did. I would
	be happy to share my bibliography. See particularly
	my article, "Undermining Peer Review" SOCIETY J/F 2001:

	Best wishes,


Albert Henderson