Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why should students pay for the expensive library spending?

Whether it be my under-grad college or IIM, I noticed that the book requisition/periodicials/knowledge resource acquisition process is largely in the hands of faculty, while it is student fees which pays for that. Even in colleges(like IIM-A) where students can suggest books which are usually approved upto a certain monetary limit, I've noticed expenditure on niche books/novels/out dated resources. Now, one may argue that faculty/research scholars may need these books, and that restricting these purchases would infringe on their academic autonomy. But, I've wandered long enough between the library shelves to note the large number of books which have been issued barely 1-2 times, and then left to rot in the shelves. While I do not state that all books/resources must be used, it does seem a waste to me when resources are underutilized, and still spent for

Even when it comes to online resources, the story is similar. Many of the resources are accessible only from the few library computer terminals, which are barely occupied. The few users of them would rank in single digit. Even counting the students who do research projects etc, the number would not cross 30. And yet, millions are spent in providing access so that MBA rankings, MHRD inspections etc can award bonus points for spending on knowledge resources!

Nothing wrong in spending money, but should it be so woefully under utilized? One cannot blame the students for this because they hardly have the time/inclination to read/use those resources. Perhaps, if digital resources were accessible from student personal computing devices AND in user friendly format, the use of the periodicals/resources would improve. When the rest of the world has shifted from input based budgeting to outcome based metrics, it is time for libraries to do the same. Useful metrics would be
  • Average number of books issued per student(split as per year/program)
  • Books turnover(my hunch is this will be a long tail not a normal distribution) stats
  • Hours spent accessing online resources under IIMA login
  • Number of research projects done/year
My main point is that academic libraries do seem broke and should be fixed ASAP.