Critical online library services?
What seems like many years ago (it was 2004), a science librarian colleague said that if we had to pull the plug on online library services for lack of funds, the link resolver should go last. This flew at the time in the face of conventional wisdom, which would have placed the public catalog at the top of the pile.
It’s 2011, and I wonder how many librarians would still rank the catalog first. I know many would, having had such conversations in recent months.
Here’s the question: if one were to toss four common online services into the mix, specifically:
- public catalog
- link resolver
- digital collections (of locally digitized materials – not IR files)
- proxy solution (remote access; most commonly EZproxy)
how would one prioritize this list? Without hesitation I would put EZproxy at the top, followed very closely by the link resolver (the latter is largely useless without the former for most users). The catalog is a ways behind, while digital collections vary wildly by institution. At the library I just left, they are utterly inconsequential, while at my present employer more than just the odd librarian would notice if they went dark.
What gives me pause are the expenses associated with these various tools. Granted, it’s not fair to compare EZproxy straight up with the catalog, not least since the latter is just part of an ILS behemoth. But–and this is the crux–should we begin retooling/staffing our libraries to reflect user priorities rather than our internal priorities? Many people talk around this point, but show me the library that treats EZproxy with nearly the attention they spend on, say, whether to display some random MARC field in the public catalog. Yet, EZproxy is the gatekeeper to an increasingly large portion of our collections (i.e.- all licensed materials), which represent collectively an annual investment in the millions. Outages are like lost productivity in a factory.
Would appreciate hearing your comments and/or your rankings.