Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Library Is My Hobby

One of the most talked about issues in Library Science is the controversy over the benefits of ownership of databases/information versus the access to databases/information. Because of the amount of literature on the subject, coupled with my interest, I wanted to gain more information about the severity of the subject. In doing so, I would like to look at a few examples of the extent that database usage/acquisition to information and provide some economic reasoning for this phenomenon.

Due to globalization, access to information has become easier. Entities that manipulate information have been able to profit the most from this trend. At a conference organized by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Association for Research Libraries presented the 'Scholarly Communication and Technology Project'. This delineates the fact that even though the entities that control information will continue to profit from globalization, they also squelch out that those profits will be made on the backs of the consumer. In doing so, the project also gives economic reasoning for the escalating rate of profitability to be had by owners of information. In a nutshell, the project relays that fact that globalization and technological advancements have reduced the need of materials to be 'physical', similar to the traditional journal. This, combined with the ever-changing rules of the process of transactions of acquiring information in the electronic arena, is both reasons why information owners (i.e. publishers of scholarly journals and libraries) could profit greatly.

Annual reports are written for every major corporation in the world. This is the place for a company to state is accomplishments over the previous year. Another function of an annual report is to speculate about the progress that they foresee. Each one of the companies on Forbes' Fortune 500 list has an annual report. This concept of reporting financial prowess and speculated growth is not lost in the library community. In review of two libraries annual reports, we find that the present trend in acquisitions of journals/information and other media is to move towards access to them instead of ownership of them.

This trend of moving towards access to information as opposed to ownership was present as far back as twelve years ago. In reading The University of Wisconsin's Murphy Library's 1994 annual report, we find that the preparer mentions that its library's access to GPO, which offers online access to the Congressional Record and the Code of Federal Regulations, was one of their accomplishments in the previous fiscal year. They also state that their Inter-Library loan department was increasing their efforts in obtaining access to materials currently not owned by Murphy Library. The annual report goes on to convey the fact that OCLC FirstSearch, an online service that gives library professionals and end users access to a rich collection of reference databases, continues to have heavy usage, numerating over 3,000 searches, stating that the increase searches have not cost the library more money because the cost per search has decreased from $.70 per search to $.50.

Murphy Library also planed to continue its evaluation and comparison of print and electronic material in efforts for continued analysis in the upcoming fiscal year. In Victoria College's 2003-2004 Annual Report, they give example of Murphy Library's prediction of moving towards access to information rather than ownership of it. In this report, the following is reported:-CD ROM networks are 'dead' technology.-They provide off campus access to over 80 electronic databases and over 35,000 electronic books.-1/2 of library database usage comes from off campus locations-Electronic databases give users access to over 22,000 magazine journals. This annual report goes on to relay the message that they not only provide access to many different resources, they also allow access of the material that they own. Jon Dahlstrom, Director of Libraries at Victoria College and University of Houston-Victoria states, "...wealth of online full-text resources that have become available over the past ten years, we have truly made a shift from owning journals to providing access to them through online subscriptions. Publishers of journals (information) also benefit from libraries' purchases of their wares via electronic medium. We take a look at John Franks' Impact of Electronic Publication of Scholarly Journals, where he begins by stating that electronic publishing will first come to research conducted in a scholarly manner before it makes its way into any other type of publication. He gives reasoning for this by saying that scholars are much more connected to electronic resources (the internet) than other sects of the population and gives light to the fact that libraries are always in search of new ways to save money due to their extreme financial pressure. As stated above, one of the most talked about issues in Library Science is the controversy over the benefits ownership of databases/information versus the access of databases/information. We have seen evidence that the ever striating economic balance of access to information and ownership of information will not end anytime soon without specified rules of practice. If this continues, the haves will continue to have more will the have not's will continue to have none.

Sources: Franks, John. "The Impact of Electronic Publication." Cause/Effect 17Meyer, Richard. "Consortial Access Versus Ownership." Scholarly Communication and Technology. Atlanta, GA. 04/24/1997.Murphy Library , "Annual Report 1994." University of Wisconsin. 22 Aug 2006University of Houston at Victoria, "Annual Report 2003-2004." 22 Aug 2006

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