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Networked Information Resources: Not Just a Library Challenge Copyright 1992 CAUSE From _CAUSE/EFFECT_ Volume 15, Number

3, Fall 1992. Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage, the CAUSE copyright and its date appear,and notice is given that copying is by permission of CAUSE, the association for managing and using information resources in higher education. To disseminate otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission.For further information, contact CAUSE, 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301, 303-449-4430, e-mail info@CAUSE.colorado.edu NETWORKED INFORMATION RESOURCES: NOT JUST A LIBRARY CHALLENGE by Bil Stahl ************************************************************************ Bil Stahl has recently been appointed Director of Information Technology Planning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he was previously Library Director. He has been extensively involved in library automation since 1976 and for the past ten years has been heavily involved in telecommunications, including data networking and interactive video networks. ************************************************************************ ABSTRACT: The issues surrounding the interrelationship between libraries, networks, and electronic information are often viewed as being "library issues," when in fact they are campus issues. Libraries should not be expected to resolve these issues independently, but should be included in campus efforts to address them. Libraries are generally seen as one of the first and most obvious users of telecommunications networks when networking is discussed today. Being able to remotely retrieve library-held information is a worthy goal. Accessing the library catalogs and bibliographic databases via networks is possible today. However, often implied in the goal of access to bibliographic databases is the expectation that libraries will be the intermediaries for access to most, if not all, information resources on the network. It is the definition of who has what role in supporting network information resource use that is the most problematic. Current status While many "outsiders" may see libraries as being tradition-bound, many of these traditions are held because of the expectations of library users. Libraries have an expected mission of acquiring and retaining information, as well as teaching users how to find information. There is immense pressure to continue to build collections and to keep up with an ever increasing amount of published material from both the campus community and from academic program accreditation agencies. Virtually all information technologies that have been adopted by libraries over the past several decades have been additive, that is, they did not replace other materials. Libraries are expected to retain acquired information resources as long as they are useful. This would be

somewhat analogous to computing centers having to currently maintain all of the hardware and operating systems they have used--from IBM 1401s and CPM to the present systems. The range of "non-print" media maintained in many libraries ranges from 16mm film and LP records to CD-I, and is growing steadily. Libraries are experiencing great difficulties in keeping up with user demand for even the "traditional" resources. Also, financial resources have not kept pace with the increasing prices of books and journals. Demands for library service continue to grow. It is probably not uncommon for libraries to handle several idiosyncratic reference (not simply directional) questions for every student, faculty, and staff member on campus. This does not include class presentations (bibliographic instruction), mediated online searches, and a host of other activities. The new information technologies are making the situation worse. Most of a library's clientele is not technologically sophisticated, and therefore depend on the library staff even more for assistance in using these new technologies. Many libraries have reported that it is taking an average of 20 minutes of the librarian's time per user of the CD-ROM based indexes. Challenges libraries face in adopting the "new paradigm" Libraries have to redefine what types of information they will be responsible for providing within the scope of their financial resources. This definition will need to be widely understood and accepted on each campus. Everything that appears on a network is not library information, anymore than everything that was ever put on microfiche (e.g., personnel records) belongs in a library's collection. This will often require new types of interactions between the library and the rest of the campus to determine what resources the library should support. Given the funding outlook for many institutions, the support for network resources will generally come at the expense of support for other library resources. Library funding will need to shift from a capital-intensive base to one of guaranteed operating cost funding. The primary mode of operation for libraries has been to invest in a series of one-time capital investments. A book was purchased once (hopefully). Once a book was purchased, it was available year after year, even if the library got no money to buy anymore books. Shelving was bought once, as were the old oak card catalog cabinets, and expected to last forever. While the management of digital information will require capital expenditures, the emphasis will need to be on ongoing funding just to keep access to information the library had before. These ongoing costs relate to equipment, telecommunications, and database access. The rate of equipment obsolescence is often requiring equipment to be replaced in 35 years in order to be usable for accessing new information services. Online bibliographic retrieval services and document delivery services are usually priced on a usage basis. Librarians have two major concerns about becoming dependent on electronic information. The first concern is depending on an "outside" supplier to continue providing information at a reasonable and predictable cost. A sudden increase in cost for access could have the same effect as permanently removing books from the shelf. The second concern is one of long-term availability of electronic information. Books remain on the shelf long after the publishers have gone out of business. If a vendor of electronic information goes out of business or decides a particular product is no longer profitable, that information suddenly becomes unavailable. Few libraries are anxious to completely

adopt the "information Darwinism" that dependency on electronic information providers implies. Training of the general populace to use electronic information resources has been a hotly debated topic among librarians and computing professionals. Computer literacy training of the general campus populace and development of truly intuitive system interfaces is a process that libraries should be a participant in, but cannot be expected to carry out on their own. Before network technologies can be provided as library services, the tools and interfaces must be truly easy to use by the library clientele and must be relatively uniform from resource to resource. Computing and data communications staff have historically only dealt with a limited, technically sophisticated clientele. As more network resources become of general use to the community at large, more effort will have to go into the interface design, etc. Because of their long history of working with the "general public" to meet their information needs, librarians can play a major role in the design of these interfaces and tools. However, the actual design implementation will need to be done by the computer center's staff. The training of library staff will become an increasingly important issue. As the information resources multiply, the time the library staff will need to spend on learning what they are, where they are, and how to use them will increase. This will necessitate either an increase in the number of library staff or a general decrease in the level of service provided. Facilities modification to accommodate network access in libraries will be another major issue each campus will have to address. It is not sufficient to say that people will not have to go to libraries anymore. Many of the network resources will be used in conjunction with resources located in the library. Library buildings were designed primarily as open spaces, and are often not easily renovated to accommodate installation of electrical and data lines in public spaces. Not only will libraries need to modify their facilities, but they will need to have substantial network access and have it early in the network implementation. Given the experiences with the libraries' online catalogs and other technology-based information resources, and assuming a general dependency on network resources, it may not be excessive for an institution of 15,000 students to need several hundred network connections in the library alone! If libraries are to be a primary support service for network access, they need to be one of the first buildings "wired" for network access. This has not been the case on many campuses. Summary The issues surrounding the interrelationship between libraries, networks, and electronic information are often viewed as being "library issues," when in fact they are campus issues. The priorities and activities of libraries are intimately tied to the broad array of instructional and research activities of colleges and universities. This is not always fully understood by campus administrators, and libraries are often viewed as being more autonomous than they actually are. As campuses find ways to grapple with the issues raised by networks and electronic information, they must include librarians in these efforts to deal with the issues and not expect libraries to independently resolve them as "library issues."