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V I I I . 4 E x p l o i t a t i o n o f l i b ra r y s e r v i c e s
Libraries have a mission and essential role to act as information "hubs" that serve key
functions for the scholarly and educational sector as well as for the general public.With
regard to exploitation, (some) libraries can draw on special collections (e.g. licensing to
publishers), addressed in a previous chapter. As highlighted there, a workable business model
in exploiting special collections is not easily found, an observation that is confirmed by an
expert from a leading American public library with remarkable special collections:
"When I first came to the library we spent 3 years working with a global publishing
company to see if there was a way in which we could benefit from the exploitation of
libraries' collections and everybody wanted to see this happening but no one could come
up with a business plan that was going to be successful. - So I think it is naive basically to
believe that great commercial value resigns in the use of library collections. No one has
been able to make money out of library collections so far.You know the British Library had
an RFP a couple of years ago, they tried to privatise their digital library. It was not a success,
our efforts were not a success and I do not know if any library will have a success in
meaningful dollar claims." (Paul LeClerc, New York Public Library; DigiCULT Interview,
June 8, 2001)
Besides licensing digital surrogates from special collections, libraries might offer informa-
tion services that are value-added and therefore subject to subscriptions or fees.The latter
approach does not fit well with the "provide everything (almost) for free ethos" of libraries.
But, if a value-added subscription or fee based service clearly is in the interest of scholars
and students, and is generally affordable for all users,"exploitation" activities seem
It is not the intention of this chapter to provide an exhaustive overview of online
services that were or are currently being developed in the library community, because for
most of them "commerce" is not a project target.The main focus of this chapter will be to
point to the rise of conflict areas and competition between libraries and commercial
aggregators of content. Some of them are noted generally in the chapter on organisational
changes, while here issues will be addressed which are directly related to exploitation
ventures, albeit not of the libraries, but the commercial companies.The competition is a
general one, namely for the future face of "the library", and whether the established libraries
will in the long term be the places to go to for relevant e-material.
Custom research services: Generating revenues from library expertise
and skills
Libraries usually have a strong service ideal and are inclined to offer their services free of
charge.Yet, if they offer services that clearly demand more than "standard efforts" charging is
eligible. One such area of activities is custom research services for patrons.These services
draw on the human capital of library personnel, their expertise and skills in using databases
and other library resources to create customised information packages. Such services can
include much more than the traditional information searches, which libraries have provided
for. If the necessary competencies are strategically built up in-house, this can for example
include information on companies, markets or industry trends, as well as patents or
trademarks. An illustrative example for an elaborated custom research service is
"IntelliSearch", a service offered by the Toronto Public Library.