I’ve been kind of immersed in workflows recently. Our workflow consultants delivered their much-anticipated, much-talked-about, and much-feared reports yesterday. And today I’m musing about a few of their recommendations. Some I don’t think will fly at our library, or at least not to the extent they propose, but that’s a topic for another day or another lifetime. Tonight I’m mostly interested in the question of the relative workload of a print collection vs. an electronic collection. (Notice, I’m not talking access, relative value, or any of that. Just workflow and time commitment.)
I’m all for e-access. I love love love e-access to journals. Nothing makes me happier than to click our link resolver button and find that I don’t have to walk the 100 feet or so to our print journal collection. And I’m cautiously in favor or transitioning to e-access where ever that is warranted.
But… when I hear that we should consider reducing our print periodical holdings at every opportunity, I worry a little bit that only one part of our workflow would see a benefit while other areas might see increased time commitment. Granted, print periodicals take up a lot of space, a lot of packing and unpacking, a lot of binding, and countless other processes. But what might the process be in an e-only or e-mostly environment?
- Acquisition decisions will take more time because suddenly we’ll be deciding on costly bundles of journals rather than single journals. We’ll have to think even more carefully about the benefit of groups of journals because we may not want every journal in the collection, and it’s a hefty chunk of change.
- How much time will it take for ILL and eReserves staff to wade through license agreements to see what they can lend or copy from an e-collection rather than relying on more standardized (though not necessarily easier) copyright law? (I’ve talked about the other possible effects of e-resources on ILL before.)
- Keeping up with links and holdings and access issues and changes in subscriptions won’t go away any time soon.
- And there may be other unforeseen processes that we don’t know about because we’re still learning what an e-mostly world would feel like at our library.
I don’t know if these increased time commitments would or wouldn’t be worth the savings in the periodicals department of technical services, but these and other repercussions should be taken into account if efficiency is the name of the game.
And I haven’t mentioned archiving. It goes without saying that this is an important issue that has to be considered every time we cancel print subscriptions. But everyone knows that, and it’s not up for debate at the moment.