So the dream of universal access opposed to narrow ownership is at least as old as the printing press, and perhaps as old as the scriptorium. First access was multiplied by scribbling monks and then more efficiently by more movable types. Ownership was similarly multiplied, promiscuously enough to require the invention of the inhibiting laws of copyright. The princely libraries before the age of print were owned by abbots and aristocrats, who hoarded these artifacts and the ideas they sheltered. Access was controlled to protect papers and skin from the potential pollution of grubby fingers, and minds from the potential pollution of grubby ideas. But ideas, once set down by their authors or by the authorities who commissioned them, have always been co-owned by anyone with access and the ability to understand words committed to the parchment, paper or pixel page.
Public libraries opened up the books and gave the reader the dilemmas we now face as librarians. Do I want to add this book to my own library? Can I afford to buy it? Is there enough space on my shelves? Can I afford the inconvenience of visiting the library to use a book which does not circulate? Can I afford the time to wait for a book which has been loaned to someone else? These dilemmas now belong not just to every reader but to every librarian, confronted by the overwhelming growth in the numbers of ideas and their artifacts, their accelerated distribution and mass consumption, and the acquisitiveness and endless proliferation of scholars and centers of scholarship. They were the central problems of bibliographers long before the recent electronic transformations made access to new ideas potentially ubiquitous and the even more recent fiscal recession made ownership of everything of value increasingly implausible.
If I seem even more didactic on the subject of geography than I was in my brief history lesson it's because geography was my academic training. I spent seven years atop the Earth Sciences building at Berkeley, overlooking the tree-screened Beaux Arts facade of the Doe Library. The present grander landscape now includes an ersatz sheep pasture which hides the throbbing heart of the UCB collections made more accessible than ever to Berkeley clientele. Is this the Aldine library without walls? Not really. Each year those collections are getting less accessible to me and my fellow slugs. They're still the same 75 miles away, give or take a seismic shrug. But it now takes at least 75 minutes longer to make the round trip than it did seventeen years ago, when first I moved through much lighter traffic from one bay area to another.
Another impediment to access is selective availability. If I'm a scholar researching the Garifuna of Belize, I find 24 books at UC -- not bad, only one at UCSC -- not good, most at UCB -- not bad, most of them in the cloistered Bancroft Library -- very bad! Because now I have to join that other deluge on Interstate 880, to get to the Fremont BART station, the closest reliable parking to the Berkeley campus!
Why not try the WWWeb? There are 10 hits on Garifuna (is there a word so obscure that it doesn't web something?), none scholarly, most personal chats on trips to Guatemala and the Carib coast, some like Janet Planet's beautifully woven African Music page so well connected as to be almost impossible to escape. The wonderful WWWeb is free for all and a free for all. It costs nothing but the price of admission, your mind, which could be working on more productive professional pursuits. Free of bibliographic control and editorial oversight, it still has less in common with a virtual library or virtual classroom than a virtual flea market or call-in show.
Shared collection and purchase (SCAP) programs allowed us to pool our resources to buy expensive items. This used to mean primary research materials, often microform. Now most SCAP funds, over a million dollars, are devoted to the central acquisition or consortial licensing of about thirty electronic databases, equitably accessible throughout the system. They include: indexes and abstracts; the full text of about a thousand periodicals; and the OCLC and RLIN union catalogs, which reveal the growing number of resources that UC can no longer afford to own. There are dozens of other databases which, if loaded or licensed centrally, could save us lots of local time and clumsy network infrastructure, but which we are also regrettably beyond our collective means.
MINISCAP funds are less formally and predictably budgeted. They are negotiated annually by the UC CDOs on the UC CDC (the nine Collection Development Officers serving on the Collection Development Committee). The annual MINISCAP kitty adds up to about $100,000. Campus contributions are based on shares in the total UC collections budget. This modest enterprise affords unequal benefits to the campus where the shared resource is located.
The databases used to be loaded centrally in Oakland. With the application of Z39.50 protocols this central loading is increasingly uncommon. We're content to let OCLC and RLG own the data which we lease, along with enough ports, for our hundreds of thousands of potential users. How many is "enough" for this multitude? Remarkably, about 20 ports seem adequate, since only a small percentage of our users want to use World Cat at the same time. There are some turnaways. We have to tolerate them, just as we tolerate holds as virtual queues for our print collections and literal queues at the reference desk, because we can't afford to provide instant service at the busiest times.
The OCLC suite is about to be expanded, by MLA, Sociofile, a music index and an index for nurses. Most of these are locally owned in print format. Most are also held electronically in the form of CD-ROMs significantly more expensive, more flexibly retrievable, but still confined to single stations or clumsy LANs with more costly licensing fees. Every campus, big and small, has paid roughly the same for the same resource. This pricing pattern puts a disproportionate burden on the smaller campuses, a burden which can be redistributed more equitably by UC-wide licensing agreements with cost shares related to the size of the collection budgets. This new structure promises equal access to every member of the larger UC community however large or small its campus constituency, the price no longer related to artifacts but now a function of potential market size.
Thirty years ago, when UC increased by 50 % the number of its campuses, it invented the core collections of 75,000 volumes called Books for College Libraries, the minimum needed for the new general libraries at Irvine, Santa Cruz and San Diego. A ten-year plan for library development prescribed 3 million volumes each for the two great research libraries in Berkeley and Los Angeles, half a million each for the second tier at Davis Riverside and Santa Barbara, and 75,000 each for the three new general campuses. This hierarchy has shifted, as the libraries have grown at different rates. Even Santa Cruz, the smallest general library in the system has well over a million volumes. Our growth was informed by a generously endowed appreciation of local academic, cultural and regional distinctiveness. We acquired about 40,000 volumes a year, new serials whenever they were needed, even purchased a few manuscript collections whenever they caught the fancy of our fanciful head of special collections. Now we acquire about 30,000 volumes annually, add no new serials, and cancel many, some with continuous runs back to the last century. For distinctiveness we rely on occasional adventitious gifts.
At campuses big and small, both ownership and access have been profoundly compromized during the last decade, and our coping strategies have been modest at best. Unable to afford the constructive work of true collection development, we have had to spend more time than ever on the desperate work of collection defense, grimly pruning our approval plans and protecting the rare and endangered species on our serials lists. This puts a heavy burden on the old, large campuses. Almost no endangered serials are in the small collections. The larger the collection the longer the list of uniquely held titles, obscure underused resources which would be top cancellation candidates in the absence of systemwide consortial commitments to protect them. And large libraries are at least as eager as their small dependents to protect the core collections on which their primary constituencies depend.
We slugs are shamelessly dependent on our sister campuses and embarrassingly incapable of contributing much uniqueness to the commonwealth, although our modest size actually allows relatively nimble performance: more probable availability and fewer delivery delays (UCSC is a net lender to most of its sister campuses). We can cancel serials because our northern neighbors keep them, but when Berkeley slashes its serials list, we grumble about the loss of standards at the so-called flagship campus.
Let me conclude with an elaboration of this pessisimism. However we cope with the current crisis, comparing cost per use for printed artifacts with cost per items delivered electronically or physically from Berkeley or Denver or Philadelphia, we still need more funds from our sponsors the electorate, and more flexibility from our faculty friends who preserve the empires of Elsevier and Academic Press by continuing to send manuscripts to the most expensive journals and then demanding that we buy them back. Without more funds and flexibility, neither access nor ownership is within our means, and the Aldine library without walls conceived by Erasmus in 1508 will remain a dream deferred into the third millenium.
Alan Ritch, McHenry Library, UC Santa Cruz
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