"Director's Watch"By Joe Lucia
The cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words is surely a sound one, as reflected in the ability of graphs and charts to make some facts far more comprehensible than verbal presentations can. In earlier “Director’s Watch” columns I have written about the the digital revolution's impact on library services and resources. In this space I am going to present a few compelling pictures that demonstrate the reality of this change as we are experiencing it at Villanova University.
The two graphs below identify a major transition occurring in Falvey Memorial Library, namely the shift in balance between the purchasing of print materials and the licensing of digital resources (databases, journals, e-books, etc.). As we go forward, we expect to see a continuation of this trend that places the greater percentage of expenditures on the digital side. The major factor accounting for this change is the transition of scholarly journal publishing in many disciplines to primarily online formats. The bar chart on “Print vs. Digital Expenditures” shows proportions of expenditure. The line graph shows “Expenditure Trends” by type of expense. In fiscal year 2004-05 we saw for the first time rough parity between these two expenditure categories.
The shifting patterns of investment noted above represent the input side of a broader process of acquisition and use. The next three charts provide views of physical and electronic collection usage trends.
The following bar graph describing “Physical Collection Use” demonstrates that usage of print books has reached a moment of relative stability. If that chart were extended further back in time, a significant decline in print book usage would be evident through the second half of the 1990s into the first year of the new millennium. One possible interpretation of this change is that we have reached a point in the digital transition at which those information needs that can best be served online have migrated to that environment and those that require printed book collections in the new era can be seen as diminished in number relative to past numbers. Recently, however, library patrons' demand for printed book collections has remained constant.
Journal Usage by Format
One final point merits comment. The sheer accessibility of digital resources has driven the cost per use dramatically downward. In 2004-05, at the coarsest level of analysis, database searches and journal articles cost about $1.32 per use. In 1995, when the library periodicals budget covered only print items, the cost per use of a journal article was $10.30.
Joe Lucia is University librarian and director of Falvey Memorial Library.