Everyone is screaming for electronic resources
these days; the convenience of having information at your desktop
is irresistible, indeed. Libraries are adding electronic journals,
databases, and indexing tools at incredible rates to their collections.
Some libraries are even considering discontinuing their print subscriptions
in favor of full text access. However, we must ask ourselves if
this logic is sound. Libraries must consider the pros and cons of
both print and electronic resources when deciding how to develop
Today print resources are not as heavily used as they once were.
Library users prefer the electronic indexing tools and full text
databases. Electronic tools are convenient and easy to search. Library
users can retrieve specific information far more efficiently in
electronic indexes. Electronic resources take up very little space,
and multiple individuals can often use an electronic tool simultaneously.
However, having the print copy of a journal makes for easy browsing.
Browsing journals in electronic databases is difficult, if not impossible,
and the results of searches in electronic indexes will retrieve
results not always held by the library.
Once the decision is made to add electronic resources to the library's
collection, certain needs must be met. The library must provide
enough computers to ensure that the electronic resources are useable.
Proxy servers may be needed for remote use. In addition, technically
skilled library staff must maintain access to the electronic resources.
There are other problems with electronic tools, as well. Articles
in the databases often aren't purchased outright by the library;
the information is leased. Access to the materials may be guaranteed
only as long as the bill is paid and the information offered by
the vendor is of "commercial" importance. If the library
ceases subscribing to an electronic resource, or if the vendor ceases
providing the information, the information contained in that resource
may be lost to the library and its users. If there is no print counterpart
held in the library's collection, the library could face a serious
blow to the value of the collection for research purposes, as well
as rising interlibrary loan costs and frustrated users.
Print and electronic each have pros and cons, and the most important
issue regarding both in libraries is the access vs ownership issue.
Do we pay to have access? Or do we pay to have ownership? Ideally
a library can incorporate access via electronic resources with the
ownership of print library materials. Library users generally feel
that owning a print copy, especially in the areas most heavily studied
and researched, is vital. This ensures that the library will not
suffer information loss at the hands of a database vendor or serious
budget cuts. Many users see electronic access to full text databases
as an excellent supplement to library collections, but they believe
print materials need to be the foundation of the collection in order
to ensure permanent access to major research areas.
So questions remain. Can libraries function as an archive for print
materials and as a gateway to the vast network of electronic information
available? Should they? The decisions are not easy, and their ramifications
are seldom clear in today's rapidly evolving world of information.
Hawbaker, A. Craig and Wagner, Cynthia K., 1996. "Periodical
Ownership Versus Fulltext Online Access: A Cost-Benefit Analysis".
Journal of Academic Librarianship 22:105-109
White, Gary W. and Crawford, Gregory A., 1998. "Cost-Benefit
Analysis of Electronic Information: A Case Study". College
& Research Libraries 59(6):503-510
Miller, Ruth H., 2000. "Electronic Resources and Academic
Libraries, 1980-2000: A Historical Perspective". Library
Metz, Paul, 2000. "Principles of Selection for Electronic
Resources". Library Trends 48(4):711-728.
Jaguszewski, Janice M., and Probst, Laura K., 2000. "The Impact
of Electronic Resources on Serial Cancellations and Remote Storage
Decisions in Academic Research Libraries". Library Trends
Jezmynne Amergin, Honnold/Mudd