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Re: Interlibrary loan and electronic journals

Scott Wicks asks a not so stupid question which I have been thinking 
about for some time. 

> I have never worked directly with any interlibrary loan people or performed
> such activities.  What I am about to ask may very well display my
> incomplete understanding of the issues of interlibrary loan.  Nonetheless,
> the questions below do come to my mind when reviewing license agreements
> and have been plaguing me for several months.  Perhaps I am not alone with
> these questions.
> The stupid question:
> Should we still care about interlibrary loan for electronic products?

Assume that the day comes when many of our journals come to us in
electronic format. Interlibrary loan for the lending library will
become much more efficient and less costly since it will simple be
click, print and mail operation if the other library is not
connected to the Internet. If they are connected, then is will
simply be a click and send operation. I am sure the publishers have
thought of this and fear the ILL could become too easy and cost
effective for their own good. This is why they insist on not letting
libraries send electronic Ill's. 

But this assumes the same ownership system that the lending library 
owns the subscription. What about the day when a library can 
subscribe to a finite number of articles from any journal a publisher 
publishes without regard to the journal title, (I actually think the 
journal as we know it is at the end of its useful life.) I am hopeful 
of the day when my library can subscribe to say 25,000 articles from 
Elsevier for X dollars regardless of which journal they come from. In 
this scenario, each article my library sends out on ILL will count 
toward one of the 25,000 articles the library has purchased. Sending 
that article may well cost less than the current ILL cost of pulling 
the journal for the shelf, photocopying it, and mailing it. Should 
Elsevier care if I give it away or use it? Their profit remains the 
same. Right. But will my mind-set change? Will I still give away an 
article ment for my students and faculty. How many articles will I be 
willing to "lend" in this environment? I think Scott's question is 
beginning to question the mind-set of lending libraries in a new age 
where ownership may no longer apply.  

Now many may say that buying articles by the drink will never happen, 
but I think the day may come then buying articles by the drink may 
cost less than buying them as we have been, when you add in the 
infrastucture costs of our current libraries. 

Paul M. Gherman
University Librarian
611B General Library
419 21st Avenue South
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37240
Office: (615) 322-7120
Fax: (615) 343-8279
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