There is very little in the library world that has not been touched by the Web revolution, and sometimes it is hard to tell what is good for us and what simply threatens to make us quaint. It is clear, however, that we must examine what we are, what we do, and the value we add to the Information Commons. We have a business model, however unnatural it is for us as a profession to acknowledge that. For the bulk of us, that business model is to make information look free. We know it isn’t, but we want our users to feel otherwise.
On the back side of that business model, we need to understand the cost structures of providing the services that we provide.
I had occasion to meet Peter McCracken of SerialsSolutions yesterday, at the Digital Futures Alliance meeting about which I posted earlier today. Later Peter sent me a note about a tool that they have just launched that helps explicate some of the cost structures associated with cataloging electronic resources. Now, I’m the last person you want doing your budget projections… OCLC Research is a cost center not a contribution-to-equity center (and I do my part to make it so!). I make no endorsement of this tool, its assumptions, or how it might fit into your library budget planning, but it strikes me as an example of the way we should be thinking about the cost structures that support our services.
The "MARC Cost Calculator" assumes that an individual is interested in cataloging all of their electronic resources in the OPAC. It allows a person to input data on how many electronic holdings they have, what percentage will be managed by students, by paraprofessionals, and by catalogers, and what the salary or wage is for each type of worker. The user also estimates the time it takes to input each type of record. The calculator then reports how much time and how many dollars it will take to get all that work done. I think some folks might be surprised to see how much time and money they'd invest if they tried to do it themselves. It's at
I had to chortle a bit writing this post, given what I said a couple days ago about not keeping my home page up to date. If you google Peter, the first entry is a home page he made and, it would appear, long since abandoned. At the bottom:
This document was last modified 1 May 1997 - the first time in over two years, so don't expect all of the links to work.
Amazingly, some of the links DO still work, though, sadly, not the one to
Archie McPhee, Seattle's "Outfitters of Popular Culture," and THE place to find plastic cockroaches, rubber chickens, glow-in-the dark Madonnas, and everything else the modern family needs.
Alone in Seattle, and no plastic cockroaches.