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Re: A question of licences and Alumni members


If I seem to have the funny idea that AA's are separate from their home 
Universities, perhaps it's because, well, gee, they are! Here's why I 
think so:

Administrative separation: For instance, the AYA, according to its 
website, has its own Board of Governors, and indeed its own constitution. 
I couldn't determine for certain whether it was separately incorporated, 
but I suspect this is a common structure for alumni associations. These 
types of legal and operational distinctions at least raise a reasonable 
doubt as to whether they should expect to be automatically included under 
the University's license.

Separate missions: AA's have mission statements and purposes that are 
different from their University's. I note that the AYA describes 4 central 
purposes for itself, none of which is explicitly about lifelong education. 
I readily acknowledge, by the way, that their goals are both consistent 
with lifelong learning and noble in their own right. The point is that 
nothing about the structure or mission of the AA suggests to me that 
lifelong access to information products is a compelling or central goal or 
expectation for them. But it would, as I've noted, have an impact on the 
institution's cost of providing online information services.

Common practice or understanding: As you know, Science Online charges by 
FTE, and some other publishers also use this or some other proxy for size 
and/or expected usage levels. In my experience, no one ever automatically 
includes all their alumni when they 'count up' the FTEs or the size of the 
institution. This seems to support the idea that just about everyone does 
indeed think of their AA's as somehow importantly different or separate 
from the mother institution. All this can be true without anyone having to 
dismiss the value of the AA's or the importance of their integration into 
some aspects of campus life and administration.

I don't think anything that has been written here or in previous comments 
is inconsistent with the idea that AA's are often a "part of the campus 
life," or that alumni value the benefits and camaraderie their AA's offer. 
And anyway, you are making a point about the AA's integration into campus 
life - but that point seems mainly to have to do with physical presence. 
Hasn't this, in effect, already been conceded? Everyone seems to agree 
that any alumni that are physically on campus, hangin' out at the AA, 
could probably easily be incorporated into the license (and maybe already 
have been).  I believe the question raised was whether licenses for 
electronic resources can feasibly and should reasonably be extended to
include alumni, wherever they may be, all over the globe and throughout 
their lifetime.

Some of the earlier comments have suggested that providing alumni with 
lifelong access may be costly or inefficient. Let me try to spell out two 
'angles' on why I think that is so. The first has been mentioned already: 
the concern is that this will become an incentive for companies and other 
entities a person may become associated with after college to drop their 
corporate subscriptions, thus relying on the University to bear the burden 
of paying for the resources. This sort of movement would indeed be small 
at first, but probably would grow inexorably if many/most Universities 
took the position that they must supply content for life to their alumni. 
This reduces the size of the 'buying' market for publications, thus 
increasing the cost that the smaller group of paying entities must bear.

A second way to recognize the potential inefficiency of having the 
University assume the burden of supplying information access to alumni is 
to consider it from the point of view of the single user. Many people have 
more than one University affiliation (say undergrad and then one or two 
grad schools), while few people in fact read anywhere near as broadly as 
the library collection would permit. That means that more than one 
institution would have in theory paid for student X to receive access to 
essentially the same body of content, for life. So you would be paying to 
provide a vast resource to people who (for the most part) wouldn't use it. 
And, ironically, the ones who used any given portion of the resource will 
almost certainly be the ones who could easily afford to acquire for 
themselves the information they need later in life, or at minimum could 
reasonably expect their employer to provide it.

So, to recapitulate: I am NOT challenging the appropriateness of libraries 
wanting to provide this benefit to alumni (none of my business); nor am I 
challenging whether the benefit is consistent with Universities' greater 
mission to support lifelong education (it clearly is consistent). Instead 
I am asking: how central  is such a benefit to that mission; and 'what 
price glory'? I believe it is clear that this benefit would significantly 
increase costs to the University, and that it represents an inefficient 
sort of cost.

If there is indeed a lot of demand from the AA's or from university staff 
who wish to serve the alumni better, then fine - I'm sure most publishers 
will try to respond with some sort of price. But it does seem reasonable
to at least raise the question of how much such a service is worth, and 
how important it really is to the institution. I know for sure I don't 
expect any of my past university affiliations to provide me with free 
online content for life, and I might even consider it vaguely weird if 
they tried to portray it to me as some great benefit or critical part of 
their mission to do so. I might even think they had lost their way or 
wonder if they just had too darn much money sitting around. Have they 
really filled the needs of their students and faculty so thoroughly that 
they can cook up ways to give me  benefits I didn't pay for or ask for? 
Hmmm, it might inspire me to send my next donation to a different cause...

Mike Spinella


>>> aokerson@pantheon.yale.edu 07/18/00 11:14PM >>>

To John Cox and Mike Spinella:  It interests me that you separate the
Alumni Association from the University.  At my place the AYA is part of
the campus life and entity.  And all of us participate in various alumni
activities, publications, and so on.

As to the question of where the alumni information need comes from, I am
with Scott Wicks: there is definitely a demand; it is NOT
library-generated but it is directed toward the library because we are
generally thought of as the place on campus that finds ways to deliver
information of all sorts to our readers.  My guess is that for various
reasons, the connections between US universities and their alumni are much
more strong than in the UK or many other countries, and that this
tradition is possibly more strongly held in smaller American colleges and
the private universities than in the big state schools. But even the the
bigt schools, there is certainly a culture of ongoing contact with alumni,
lifelong learning, and all that goes with it.

Cheers, Ann Okerson