Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Managing Licensed Networked Electronic Resources in a University Library

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Managing Licensed Networked Electronic Resources in a University Library

Article excerpt

The issues faced in delivering licensed networked electronic information resources to users have received much attention in university libraries and in the library literature in recent years. Management of those resources has been addressed on many individual topics as well. In key areas such as licensing, access, consortia, and cataloging, for example, issues have been and continue to be explored in some depth. This article presents a holistic view of the management of licensed networked information resources in a university library and suggests areas for further consideration.

Managing information resources so that they may be discovered and used by university students, faculty, researchers, and staff is at the core of the mission of a university library. Traditionally, this management has included the processes of selection, acquisition, cataloging and classification, labeling and other physical processing, storage, circulation, and preservation of books, journals, videos, and many other kinds of physical materials that constituted the packages containing the information. Because the outcomes of these processes were not always sufficient to allow users to find the information they needed, libraries also have provided reference and information assistance and more and more user education. Libraries have acquired complex bibliographic searching tools such as indexes and bibliographies, and librarians invented interlibrary loan to acquire materials that users needed but which their libraries did not own.

From the beginning, libraries were leaders in the utilization of information technologies. Today's printed book is a splendidly successful and long-lived information technology, and libraries have long used binding to gather, preserve, and make more accessible the less sturdy, soft-covered magazine and journal. In fact, libraries have been in the forefront of society's adoption of new information technologies. Microfilm, film, video, other audiovisual formats, and public photocopying were all embraced by libraries. Before Kinko's and Hollywood Video, there was the library.

Digital computing technology is no exception. The obvious benefit of library automation to society was clear to many--non-librarians as well as librarians--very early in the development of computing, and the rest, as they say, is history. Library automation was so successful that until very recently, libraries were probably unique in having standards for both their computer records (MARC) and for the data in those records (the cataloging rules and classification schedules). In short, libraries not only have a long and honored tradition of managing information, they "have significant experience with managing technology" and not being managed by it.[1]

The extremely rapid development of the global networked environment, however, has forced librarians to scramble---in almost the military sense of that word--to prevent the loss of their ability to manage networked information resources for the good of their current and future users. Is it irony or only coincidence that the first article in the June 1998 issue of ARL: A Bimonthly Newsletter of Research Library Issues and Actions summarizes one of the most recent attacks on that ability, and the second, some of the most recent counterattacks?[2]

The first article concerns a proposed update to the Uniform Commercial Code that "is poised to shape the legal landscape for transactions in information products, including copyrighted works, databases, and computer software. It is therefore likely to impact the operations of all libraries and academic institutions." Perhaps the most direct outcome would be to legitimize the shrink-wrap license and open its application to any form of intellectual property including books. Break the seal, and a library would be wrapped in the license, strongly suggesting the need for a new profession to serve us all in our despair: the Library Shrink. …

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