Email list hosting service & mailing list manager

Re: Institutional versus personal subscriptions ALBERT HENDERSON 07 Jun 2006 10:16 UTC

on 6 Jun 2006 Ian Woodward <iwoodward@MAIL.COLGATE.EDU> wrote:

>     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
> runs;
> 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.

	I have not seen any study producing all these
	conclusions. In fact, the studies suggest the

	H.S. White reported that researchers resorted
	to grant funds and other sources to replace
	journals that had been cut from library budgets.
	LIBRARY QUARTERLY 1980. Dr. Varmus, as head of
	NIH, later complained of this to a Congressional
	committee. Librarians would not see this activity.
	Worse, library users would not have access to grant-
	paid subscriptions mailed directly to researchers.

	Michael Buckland reported, "Since a user considers
	that the library is unlikely to hold a given item,
	then he may not bother to seek it in the library ...
	failure caused by the collection being inadequate or
	irrelevant is likely to be underestimated." BOOK

	Confirming this, in effect, a Columbia professor
	wrote a bitter article complaining that university
	collections had been decimated by budget cuts. He
	had been forced to travel to many other institutions
	in search of materials. He referred to a survey
	report that ninety percent of Columbia's faculty
	no longer set foot in the library.


> 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
> borrowing).

	When libraries at a research university are
	guided by principles that would cut the "petite
	ladies" department because it wasn't as busy as
	some other, I think we should seek a regime change.

	Not that financial considerations are unimportant,
	but private universities seem to be rolling in
	excess wealth. Endowments raked in billions over
	the last few years. Even "public" universities
	run surpluses overall, according to Department
	of Education statistics (you have to do the math).

	Information is the key to productivity in research
	and education. The greatest cost of research is
	time. As costs go, library spending ranks at the
	bottom of any list. Several generations of
	researchers have been trained to figure out work-
	arounds or go without rather than fight city hall.

	As long as profitability, rather than knowledge,
	is management's priority, researchers will continue
	wasting resources. Policymakers seem not to care
	as long as they are "doing science" and science
	is profitable. President Eisenhower warned of this
	in his farewell address. Newt Gingrich observed it
	years later when addressing the nation's lack of a
	coherent science policy.

	Of a total around $45 billion spent on academic R&D,
	our Federal taxes contribute $30 billion. Of the
	latter, $10 billion goes to overhead and the bottom
	line. The 2 points or so "library allocation" is
	generally applied to overhead based on a formula
	that has nothing to do with science researchers'
	needs or behavior.

	It's not as if the science budget could not afford to
	embrace science libraries as it did when politicians
	were embarrassed by Soviet progress.

	But why isn't increase in knowlege equally important
	now?? There are well-known frontiers in every field.

	Thanks for your comment.


Albert Henderson