Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Spring 1997

Conferences and Workshops

Flora Shrode, Editor

Publisher Vendor Relations Discussion Group at ALA Midwinter in Washington

Rob McGeachin, Discussion Leader
West Campus Library
Texas A&M University

Moving to World Wide Web-based publications, databases, and products formed the focus of this forum. The session enjoyed the largest attendance ever, with academic librarians and vendors in the group, with academic librarians and vendors in the group. Librarians presented problems and success stories and made suggestions for improvements to products.

Specific topics discussed:

  1. Announcement of changes to electronic products
    Public service librarians often receive no advance warning about changes in electronic products, and they are, therefore, unfamiliar with the changes and feel unprepared when users need help. New product and change announcement literature often is sent only to the library acquisitions units that deal with subscriptions but does not reach those in other areas who need to know in a timely manner. The suggestion was made that publishers and vendors develop e-mail lists of public service librarians who need to receive announcements of changes and new product feature announcements.
  2. Slow server response
    Products delivered via the Internet can become unusable when vendors' servers are overloaded, regional or campus network traffic is heavy, or other traffic demand problems arise. Someone used the "World Wide Wait" name for this situation. Some vendors offer a solution in the form of establishing dedicated lines for their services. Another suggested solution is using Java-based interfaces to send compressed pages.
  3. Frustration with free trial period for electronic services
    Some library users and librarians report frustration with free trial period services. Apparently many users miss the notification that they are using a time limited trial service and then suddenly miss it when no longer available, especially in cases of very short or very long duration trial periods. One suggestion was to only allow librarians access to trials to evaluate products and only make them available to users as subscribed products that will not go away.
  4. Archival access to Internet-based electronic products
    Reliability and plans for long-term, archival access to electronic titles and the impact on cancellations of print copies were discussed. Many smaller academic libraries can not afford both print and electronic versions of materials and presently purchase only print. The larger libraries and consortia that can afford both print and electronic versions tend to acquire both for an average of 125% of the cost of print alone. Most libraries that are canceling print journals are replacing them with electronic document delivery services for articles requested by their users from the canceled titles. Some vendors replied they are guaranteeing access in perpetuity but can not specify the future electronic means since it will change with technology over time. Other vendors said they offer CD-ROMS or tape copies as archival backups for the library to own.

The Publisher Vendor Relations Discussion Group meeting planned for ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco will be a joint program titled, "Selection of Full-Text Online Resources: What You Need to Know," scheduled for 9:30 to 11:00a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 1997. The Reference and User Services Association, Collection Development and Evaluation Section, Computer-Based Methods and Resources Committee will co-sponsor the event which will feature a panel of speakers on electronic journal collections, reference and document collections, and indexing services with links to full-text. Open discussion will follow the panel session.

Heads of Science and Technology Libraries Discussion Group at ALA Midwinter in Washington

Barton Lessin, Discussion Leader
Science and Engineering Library
Wayne State University

Forty librarians attended the Heads of Science and Technology Libraries Discussion Group on Sunday evening, February 16, 1997, to hear and talk about budget allocations for science and technology libraries. The theme of this discussion was how academic librarians get, maintain, and advocate for their budgets. Librarians, perhaps more than many, recognize that change is assured in the higher education environment, and the current situation makes budget planning processes challenging.

Three librarians facilitated the discussion; they represented different types of science and technology libraries. Penny Russman (Wesleyan University, CN) offered her perspective from a smaller institution, Carol Fleishauer (MIT, MA) shared her experiences with budgets in a medium-sized institution, and Bonnie MacEwan (Penn State University, PA) spoke to the issue from her perspective at a large academic institution. Each facilitator described her institution and the science library which she represents and described the collections budget(s), characterizing their development and current significant influences.

The Wesleyan science collection serials spending is split 48% for domestic titles and 52% for foreign titles. Allocations for collections are based on historical precedent, and the split for serials vs. firm-orders is 60%/40%. This university currently receives four electronic serials and has no separate budget for this category of collections. The library provides free Interlibrary Loan or document delivery for anyone at the university. Penny Russman mentioned that providing funding for new faculty is one goal.

An analysis of MIT in 1978 (part of the ARL/OMS initiative) resulted in fund allocations by specific subjects. Allocations have changed over the years, but the process have not been overhauled. MIT has nearly banned purchase of duplicate titles. Serials represent 73% of the MIT budget, and the percentage continues to grow. Focus on MIT is the bottom line and not individual funds. Collections staff can see the whole budget, but MIT has not distributed the collections budget beyond the libraries. MIT does a serials review and cancellation project about every three years.

Penn State's approach to collection development is based on a services model with no strong bibliographer model in place. Selection is based largely on subject expertise at University Park. While faculty are encouraged to participate in collection development, this activity is the responsibility of the PSU libraries and selectors. PSU has determined to set aside 10% of its budget for electronic resources. The selection of electronic resources is "largely opportunistic." PSU has a target of a 70%/30% serials to monographs ratio overall with three years allowed to make a change to the funding model if required. PSU has implemented about 15% in serials cuts over fifteen years. Most of the savings were transferred to electronic resources and maintenance of the collections. Half of the total budget is spent by science selectors. Historical precedent plays a large part in the development of the PSU collections budgets, and no formula is used to derive allocations. The library has made a strong commitment to share information about the collections budgets with library constituents.

These three organizational views revealed both expected differences and some similarities. Selection at Wesleyan is done largely by the faculty with librarians choosing abstracts and indexes, while at MIT and Penn State, librarians do most of the selection. This distribution has direct implications for the development of the budgets. Each of the libraries has been able to maintain control over serials growth and targets a ratio between serials and monographs which is appropriate to the discipline and/or the library. Budgeting for information resources for new faculty was one challenge mentioned. Another was budgeting for electronic resources. Similar to many libraries, these three used budget allocations which are based on historical precedent and have been tweaked over the years to reflect changes in required buying patterns. Sharing information about the collections budgets differed among these three with PSU being the most aggressive in trying to make the budgets available, in complete detail, to those who have interest in collections spending.

Ideas and requests were solicited for the discussion which will be held at the ALA Annual Meeting. STS members are encouraged to submit additional ideas for discussion topics via STS-L.

STS General Discussion Group: Collection Trends in the Sciences

Julia Gelfand, Discussion Leader
Science and Engineering Library
University of California, Irvine

A. Scholarly communication in the sciences > digital future = all varies due to institution specific situation - always want to exercise greatest flexibility and achieve most credibility
B. Electronic vs print reference sources - databases vs internet access

C. Role of WWW in collection development - for reference functions, internal operations, homepage indexes, personal pages by bibliographers, create & maintain links to obvious partners & liaison assignments, publishers, etc.

D. Acquiring and Mounting of electronic journals
all these issues frustrate librarian and force new issues in service
E. Future of the Book in Science - all new scenario
F. Economics of information
G. Serials
H. Role of Gov't info in science collections - divided vs unified in Gov Pubs

I. Special Science materials
K. Acquisition of materials
constantly changing and perceived as guinea pigs for cost reductions in total discount in approval programs but also as targets for reducing high overheads and cost containment

L. Changes in Higher Education - corporate culture in science
M. Conclusions - Science has it tough in this economic reality - publishing is changing - electronic methods of dissemination and storage are forcing a rethinking of searching and delivering information.

We welcome your comments. Please send e-mail to the editor for possible inclusion in a future issue.


HTML 3.2