Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Monographs Acquisitions Time and Cost Studies: The Next Generation

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Monographs Acquisitions Time and Cost Studies: The Next Generation

Article excerpt

This article is based on time and cost studies conducted at Iowa State University between 1994/95 and 2000/01. It represents a continuation of previous analyses in which monographs acquisitions functions were evaluated and examined with a view toward using the results as a management tool. Continued decreases in time and cost factors were anticipated as the library migrated to more advanced technologies, but time reductions were mitigated by new initiatives that were added to the work processes. As a result of various factors, costs associated with the acquisition of monographs generally increased, but the value of the services provided by the Monographs Acquisitions Department was enhanced considerably.


Research in the field of time and cost studies is a very relevant tool for administrators and is useful for defining existing trends and predicting future directions for which the organization needs to prepare. This type of research can be especially valuable for libraries in the current environment where those who control the purse strings have an expectation that libraries will be able to prove the value and efficiency of the services they provide. Previous papers based on time and cost study data gathered at Iowa State University have proved of interest to the general library community in providing insight into operational structure and planning. This article is based on more current data, gathered at a time when the library was undergoing a series of changes in processes and organization designed to provide improved service to patrons. This represents a next generation of analysis, based upon statistics that covered the period when library acquisitions operations entered the next phase of technological advancement.

Organizations of all types, all around the world and throughout history, have frequently attempted to measure their effectiveness in relation to their particular stated mission. One of the ways that these organizations accomplish this is to examine variables generated by the actions or outputs of their operations. Two of the most important variables that can be measured by any organization are time, the amount of chronological units expended by employees in accomplishing their tasks in service of the organization's goals, and cost, the amount of financial units expended in the same way.

The goal of this endeavor is to increase the organization's effectiveness by examining and measuring what expendable resources (such as time, money, and other items) are being utilized and how they are being utilized. By doing this, managers and administrators are able to better comprehend how their organization functions, how it is meeting its stated (and unstated) goals, and how that performance could be improved. To this end, between 1987 and 2001, the Iowa State University Library helped to create and implement an exhaustive time and cost study that examined these factors within the library's Technical Services Department. This article continues previous examinations of this study published in 1992 and 1996 and will cover the time period from when these papers ended their coverage (1994) until the study's completion in 2001.

This article largely follows the pattern established by two previously published papers that were based on the Iowa State University (ISU) time and cost study data. The study was begun in April 1987 and was suspended at ISU after 2001.

The Purpose of Cost Studies

This cost study was instituted in 1987 and, at the time, its primary goal was to examine how the increased use of automation in the library was affecting the services that it provided and products that it produced, all of which, in turn, affected the end users of the institution. When cost studies are produced, they are frequently motivated by various institutional factors. Principal among these are the institution's increased expectations of fiscal accountability and declining budgets, which force an examination of how to use institutional resources more efficiently and effectively and where to make cutbacks, if necessary. …

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