After discussing ARL's role as the representative of the 119 largest research libraries in North America, Mr. Webster considered the factors that are transforming libraries today: volume of information, cost of information, and a shift in formats from paper to electronics. Presenting cost statistics for research libraries, Mr. Webster stated that in the past five years the cost of serials has risen 72 percent, the amount expended on serials has risen 70 percent, but the titles purchased have declined by two percent. Similarly, monograph costs increased 47 percent, monograph expenditures increased 25 percent, but holdings have declined 15 percent. The pattern has become one of spending more but getting less, so that the traditional role of the library to provide access to material has become, in Mr. Webster's view, severely strained. Declining ability to acquire and make information available in a traditional format has created a strong institutional interest in electronic, as well as other alternate forms.
With a growth in constituency and a decrease in holdings, research libraries are looking increasingly toward using other holdings as a way of satisfying institutional needs. Mr. Webster believed that shrinking resources mean the nation is facing an information dilemma for scholars. There is a growing consensus among institutions that interlibrary lending will replace purchasing of materials in an environment of cooperative resource sharing. In most instances this sharing is not in violation of copyright law since it is unusual for a subscriber to make more than six copies of a work in a given year. Nonetheless, when low use, expensive information is eliminated from research library collections, a smaller base of knowledge is available to scholars at individual institutions.
Pressure for libraries to move to electronic formats is gaining momentum. The movement in this direction faces several obstacles to overcome including adequate software support, electronic equipment investments, and computer skill requirements for user populations. College and research libraries are already using automated library catalogs, and full-text searching and retrieval systems. On-line data repositories are being discussed in several disciplines. In coming years, the eventual creation of a high-speed national information infrastructure will have a profound effect on the scholarly communication process. On the positive side, such a high-speed information infrastructure will make copying cheaper, the speed of copying quicker and the value of information greater, according to Mr. Webster. On the down side, electronic environments require extensive investment and may result in inequitable use. Parallel electronic and paper systems, in a time of diminishing institutional resources, increase tensions over funding, responsibility, and structure. Additionally, new questions of authorship, derivative works, privacy, security, permissions, royalties, and access are sure to surface.
Research libraries are committed to developing the most efficient, effective, broad-based information infrastructure they can, experimenting with telecommunications, electronic information resources, and shared collection development. To this end, ARL is concerned that a market will exist to assure the viability of publishers. ARL, EDUCOM and CAUSE have created the Coalition for Networked Information, a melding of technologists and librarians dedicated to finding a way to make effective use of emerging networks and technology. Similarly, the READI Program (Rights for Electronic Access to and Delivery of Information) looks to contract law, licenses, and related agreements between creators and users of published works to facilitate the flow of networked information.
Mr. Webster stated that the READI Program envisions payment of subscriptions through fees negotiated on a national rather than local scale. Presently, libraries and publishers who contract for access to on-line information focus on institutional parameters which limit access to members of academic institutions only. This narrow focus consequently results in stratification of national access to the detriment of society as a whole. The READI scheme will allow access--to individuals as well as institutional users.
Mr. Webster enumerated several goals for promoting greater on-line use. First, in a new information environment, there must be equitable access with different use, creator, equipment, and cost characteristics. Second, a national rather than localized market for electronic information must be built. Third, current short-term arrangements that meet today's needs must be rethought. Universities must rethink their role in the creation and dissemination of intellectual property. Creators and users must consider how to influence federal policy. And, informed, involved scholars must encourage experimentation in networked environments free from the constraints of legal codification.
As we move to a global, knowledge-based society, Mr. Webster asserted that the fair use doctrine insures that copyright does not become an undue obstacle to scholarship. In his opinion, Congress clearly intends for the fair use doctrine to apply to the products of new technology, sold or leased. Information must be viewed as a precious public asset to be leveraged for the benefit of society, as a whole, and not an exploitable economic commodity for the monetary gain of a few.