Email list hosting service & mailing list manager

Trouble with usage studies (Dan Lester) Marcia Tuttle 05 Jul 1996 17:43 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 1996 11:11:12 -0600
Subject: Trouble with usage studies (Albert Henderson) -Reply

From: Albert Henderson <70244.1532@COMPUSERVE.COM>

If I had tenure at LSU I would have been looking for a job at an
institution that would support its research and education programs with an
up-to-date library. Is this how you would deal with the rules of tenure?

If you were happy with LSU otherwise, and if Chuck and friends in the
library could SATISFY YOUR NEEDS despite holding the serials budget
constant, why would you leave? The secret is to get the information you isn't, or shouldn't be, the business or concern of the
researchers as to HOW the librarians get the information needs satisfied
for the faculty. I regularly have patrons who tell us where to get the
item they want (they've checked holdings, which is fine), but I remind
them we'll get it from the fastest and most reliable place, not
necessarily the place THEY think it should come from.  Our ILL people know
where to get the items, and the patron needn't worry about it.

I've always believed that if we leave running the Physics Department to
the Physicists, they can leave the running of the library to the

If I were on a Federal grants review panel, I would look twice at
proposals from an organization that does not have an up-to-date library

I've been on a number of federal grants review panels over the years, and
my concern is simply whether or not the reseracher's needs will be met,
and NOT how they are met. I'm not advocating a zero size local collection,
but I also hear daily about how my wife's special library meets the needs
of over 500 researchers in a Fortune 50 electronics company here, yet only
has a hundred journal subscriptions (none retained over 3 years) and less
than three thousand books. The patrons rave continually about her service.
She meets their needs, and meets them much more quickly than is typical in
an university environment. That is what matters, not how many books are in
the collection. She doesn't tell them how to develop new hardware and
software, and they don't tell her how to get the information they need.

Inadequate preparation is the primary cause of unproductive research.

No argument. However, that is usually because folks are writing their
grant proposals the night before they have to be faxed off, not because
they didn't have TIME to do research. Of course they are working the same
way they worked in grad school and undergrad school.  o-)

You have been squeezed by university managers whose first priority has
been to get research grant money, whose secondary priority has been to
expand the bureaucracy, and whose last priority has been to provide
adequate library collections for research and education.

Well, whether the above is totally true or not (and I'll only accept it in
part), librarians have bosses, just as do all other employees. And we
don't always like the limitations placed on us or our organizations. But,
we also lack the ability to change those limitations in most cases, since
they often come from statewide economic conditions, the folks who were
elected to public office, etc. Sure, we can vote and protest and so on,
but that doesn't mean that what we want to happen will happen.

The academy has never asked for support appropriate for the use of its
library collections -- which are heavily relied on by government, industry
and other off-campus researchers.

This is nonsense. The librarians have fought for this for decades. Some
higher administrators have supported us, and some have not. Such is life.

Library collections are essential for the preparation and review of
proposals, articles, etc. The "library" factor approved for the indirect
costs of research has never been tailored to the role and use of library
collections by researchers; I would be surprised if any library ever saw
any of it.

Also true that the library rarely sees direct income from research
funding. I've fought for it. Others have fought for it. In one institution
I made a strong case, supported by the faculty senate, for some of the
research overhead funding to go to the library. Five percent of the
overhead at that time and place was just over a million dollars a year.
The VP for Finance of the university told me he'd give us the million a
year, but that he'd also cut our budget from other sources by a million a
year. Basically, we could have a RELATIVELY stable income of the million
from the other sources (appropriations) or we could have the MUCH more
variable income from research. Since research funding varied by up to 30
percent a year, we decided to stay with the slightly more secure and
stable source of funding. You might have decided differently. So it goes.

A few years ago, a dozen big universities were cancelling journals all
over the place while they claimed indirect costs for parties, decorations,
real estate ventures, etc., etc. Millions of dollars that should have been
used to maintain collections were refunded to the Treasury! Please tell me
who demanded this money for library collections and was turned down.

We can all read about such scandals in the Chronicle or elsewhere, but
since they've never happened at any of the seven universities I've been
employed at, I can't relate to them. Remember, these headline making
stories make headlines for one reason: they are rare. They are also
irrelevant to the vast majority of the readers of this list, since most of
us don't work at the handful of places those things happened, and wouldn't
support them if we did. Just because some poobah wasted money doesn't mean
that the library would have seen the money if the bigshot didn't waste it,
even if the librarian knew about it. Basically, this is just more smoke
being blown up our skirts.



Dan Lester, Network Information Coordinator
Boise State University Library, Boise, Idaho, 83725
voice: 208-385-1235   fax:  208-385-1394     OR
Cyclops' Internet Toolbox:
"How can one fool make another wise?"   Kansas,