Paul Mosher: I first got to know Peter Lyman, who is
presently University Librarian and Professor in the
School of Information Management and Systems,
when he was working on the Tyro project at Stanford, which was
a project to introduce humanities professors to personal computers
and how they might be used. In a way, Peter's interests then evolved
increasingly from political science in which he has a Ph.D. from
Stanford, too, I think, into the sociology and anthropology of
information, as I understand it. And I hope that more and more
of us become interested in that. I might, to introduce him, simply
give you the names of a few of his recent publications: "Access
is the Killer Application", "What is a Digital Library:
Technology, Intellectual Property, and the Public Interest",
"What is the Place of Computer Literacy in Higher Education?",
and "Problem Solving as Skill and Social Relation".
Peter Lyman: My assignment was to talk about the economic
and operational implications of the digital library. It all reminds
me of my favorite line in "Star Trek: The Next Generation", in
which the starship enterprise is being pulled into a black hole,
there will be a virus raging through the crew, killing them, my
TV set will be flickering, and an engineer will turn to captain
Picard and say, "Well, all we have to do is reduce the polarity
of DNA," and Picard will say, "Make it so." And
that's my job. You guys decide, "Oh, Mike Lesk is right:
digital library. Make it so." So I'm going to describe
what happens when you say that.
As an ethnographer--and I have to look at economics from an ethnographer's
point of view because it's all I know--I study today not computers
and not information and not cyberspace; I study Cyberia. And
Cyberia -C-Y-B-E-R-I-A first of all, is a word ethnographers use to describe people's experience
of communication in the network. And it is, as we've heard from
all of the students today and from many of you, it's not an experience
interacting with a computer. You know, we wouldn't talk about
a child/toy relation or a musician/instrument relation, so I don't
know why we talk about human/computer interfaces. Our experiences
of these things is the experience of a place. A being and a place
and participating in a community. I have to admit that I don't
share that experience with the rest of you. I guess part of being
an ethnographer is you learn to watch and never quite get to join.
The second part of the concept of Cyberia, and there's a lovely
article on this by Arturo Escobar, an anthropologist at Smith
College, is that we're dealing not with technology in the traditional
sense of a means to an end, but with a technology, information
technology and biotechnology, that creates culture. It creates
different kinds of social relationships. And I'm going to try
and describe that because I think, what if I describe it in two
ways? First as a case study--I do have two hours, right Greg?
Lock the doors please!--first a case study of a problem I'm facing
as a librarian in the transition to the digital library. And
second, some other implications. But this is not talking about
a new means to the same end. The digital library is not the same
place that the print library is. And I'd like to explain why.
It's been fascinating listening to the discussions today. From
my point of view, they're an extended fantasy about technology.
It's an extended fantasy that a number of extremely highly subsidized
experiments can be scaled into a national infrastructure to provide
library services of high quality. And it's not a foolish fantasy
because it reflects one of our most important core values, which
is that we are a community. And one of the ways an academic community
is a community is it shares a gift of culture. That is, we exchange
information and knowledge freely, without economic constraints
with each other. And that's the way we build relationships to
each other. It's the way disciplines exist through gift exchange,
it's our relationships to each other as faculty and departments,
and it's our relationship to our students. And almost every description
of the communication that occurs in Cyberia today has been a gift
culture. But the digital library is not going to be a gift culture.
It's going to be a market culture. So let me describe the case
Within the next two years, three to five thousand science, technology,
medical, and business journals are going to be available on-line.
They are the best and most expensive journals that we buy. Perhaps
as much as 60% of our acquisitions budget is those 5,000 journals:
Elsevier, Springer-Verlag, John Wiley, Academic Press, Blackwell's.
The core fact about that information in science, technology,
medicine, and business is that the price of it has been increasing
at double digit rates every year for the last two decades, and
there's no reason to believe it isn't going to conintue. But
those publishers have offered us contracts now to place those
journals on-line. So I've gone through a series of thoughts about
that transition and how we at Berkeley make that transition.
First of all, each year for the last two years I go to the meeting
of the faculty senate library committee, and they, the faculty,
ask me questions like, "Why are you--how much money are you
spending on digital?" And I'll say, "Two and a half
percent of the budget." And they'll say, "Why are you
wasting our money?" I will go then directly to my budget
hearing with the chancellor, vice chancellor, and head of the
university budget system, and they'll say, "How much money
are you spending on print?" And I'll say, "97 1/2%"
And they'll say, "Why are you wasting our money?"
So the first problem I have is a major disconnect between the
faculty and the administration.
Now as I have told Stan, and he didn't get too annoyed with me,
from my point of view, technology is the drug of choice of administration
in higher education. Well, maybe that's why you're not speaking
to me. But will digital save money? Here's some of the thought
process. First of all, looking at national copyright policy and
intellectual property policy, there is no indication that the
Clinton and Gore administration has any interest in extending
the fair use provisions that apply to print that allow you and
your students to use copyrighted material for educational purposes
without a fee. There is no indication that those things will
apply to the use of digital information. In fact, the Green Paper
proposes the somewhat ridiculous and almost ineffable concept
that every time you make a copy, you should pay a copyright fee.
I think of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of copies
per second and I think of paying copyright fees, well, millions
of times per second. It's a wonderful thought. So first of all,
we do not live in a universe in which copyright will allow an
exception for educational uses of information, which is what fair
use is. So that's reality one.
Reality number two is we're not going to be offered these licenses
under copyright anyway. We're going to be offered them under
contract, and the terms of those contracts are going to completely
change our relationship to the use of information. And I don't
know what all they're going to say, but all I know is the evolution
of exceptions to copyright for print are not going to apply to
digital, and even if they did, we're not going to be offered this
on-line information within a copyright environment anyway. It's
going to be a contract. Probably--and some of you have probably
heard about shrink wrap licenses being applied not only to digital
things but to printed things. And many of us, in fact, are quite
worried that there'll be a reverse engineering of a very restrictive
use of information that applies to digital environments back onto
print, and we'll receive printed books with shrink wrap on them
that will not allow libraries, for example, to loan them--that
"is:" changes the whole relationship of higher education to the
use of information.
The second thought process is that contracts we're being offered
are digital journals at 90% the cost of print. And if you want
both, print and digital, it'll cost between 110 and 130%. And,
of course, it sounds like a good deal until we figure out, well,
who is going to tell the faculty that we're going to take it,
we're going to harvest, as Jim said, we're going to harvest the
savings of the digital library by canceling print the same day
we bring on-line the digital? I think that's your job, basically,
not the librarian's job.
Thirdly, a lot of what looks like a cost savings is a cost shift,
and it's a cost shift the more I look at it the more frightening
it becomes. First of all the trade off between library space
and network infrastructure, even the Berkeley stacks-which are
far more beautiful than your computer, Mike-even the Berkeley
stacks are a good deal compared to the network that you're going
to have to build to manage intellectual property. It is not the
network that you build as part of your ARPA or NFS grant. It
has special requirements, special requirements that look a lot
like a regulated marketplace. Authentication. Who are you, and
what right do you have to use this information? All of your interactions
in this network are going to be under surveillance, because your
use of information is of value to the publishers. It helps create
marketing information. At least at my Safeway, when I use my
debit card, the back of my little printout gives me free coupons
to buy things because everything I've used my credit card on has
been put into a database and I'm being marketed back things that
I'm likely to buy. It's always interesting to see what inferences
they make about my consumption. The same thing is going to happen.
The way you use information will not be private, but it will
be part of a marketing database. So we need authentication.
We need version control so all of the people
around Penn have the same kind of access. We need digital cash
and accounting because it's very possible this will be charged
for on a per use basis, certainly after we get through the transitional
period. We need information property management and all of those
things. If that's not frightening enough, we have to have Network
printing. The second--so we need--the Network is not the same Network
that scientists use to connect UNIX work stations into communities
of researchers and learners. This is a Network to keep your use
of information under surveillance so that you can pay.
Secondly, the software for this is going to have to replace the
functions of the library catalog, the technical services costs,
which after all only organize information in a logical way. With
these wonderful search engines, of course we don't need that anymore.
It's wonderful to have the best 20 million citations. I mean
it's so interesting that we talk about the information problem
as if it's hard to find information. And wonderful computers
can swamp you with information. Well, in my universe, people
don't have the problem of having too little information. They
have the problem of having too much information. So what is the
digital equivalent of the library catalog? Or, to speak of a
DNA system, of the librarian--what is the digital equivalent of
somebody who helps you focus upon what your question is, and helps
you answer the question of the quality of information?
Just to give you some hint of the way a social scientist looks
at your information behavior, UC California shares a union catalog
called "Melvyl". Why we name things after dead librarians,
I don't know, but it's part of our tradition. It has about 28
million citations in it. We had to ban some searches because
people would do searches like "United States" which
would produce 18 million records which would swamp the entire system you
see, ability to search is not part of a Kantian catalogical imperative.
It's not built into the structure of human thinking. Someone
has to teach you. And these are very primitive systems. I mean
any system that you give commands to and has control keys is something
I don't want to have to do with. So we're going to need software
that provides the kinds of information filtering that catalogs
do and that librarians do, and if you believe intelligent systems
are going to do that for you--well, I won't say that. I'm sure
Thirdly, this technology is only recently operational. I think
the problem of information quality, and information quality is
what we're talking about when we're talking about a library, the
problem is unsolved, I think the economic model is unsolved, and
I think there are unknown social consequences that we haven't
solved yet. The first of which is privacy and surveillance.
Privacy has been a core value of libraries, that what you do research
on is confidential, even from the FBI. But everything you do
on the Web is under surveillance, and that's a feature, not a
bug. Secondly, you have a conflict between the Net culture, if
that isn't an oxymoron, and local norms. I think you see that
already in court cases about pornography.
I think maybe the most interesting use of the technology is by
political and social movements in repressive regimes able
to organize underground information sources and cultures and coordinate
each other. But there's at least an issue of local culture and
the ability to govern local culture. And then there's the question
of social relationships. Sexual harassment on the Web is the
most obvious case. I wanted to mention there is a little bit
of research of this, and it's odd. For something that is so hyped,
there is so little research on the impact of these technologies
on social relationships. There is evidence that electronic mail
and teleconferencing are much more successful if the participants
have a face to face relationships. But the quality of communication
is--there's a complimentary impact of face to face relationships
and shared cultures and the use of the technology. And you tend
to get the most violent or aggressive kinds of interactions the
less face to face knowledge you have of each other. So there
is a kind of sociology of these communications.
I think, finally, on the economic model, just given the cost,
the increasing cost of high quality information, not the local
opinion on whether the earth goes around the sun or vice versa,
higher education faces two really difficult choices or alternatives.
On the one hand there is a world of limiting supply in which
you simply say that access will be on demand on a fee for service
basis. Ultimately the way to control the cost of information
and the cost rise in information is to pass the cost on to the
user And that gets to the other side which is educating demand.
We've always had a model of an infinite supply of information.
Now we're going to have to begin to think about the demand side.
One of the ways of moderating demand or giving people a sense
of information ecology is to have them share some part of the
cost, or at least be aware of what the cost is. When I started
working for the Stanford computer center a long time ago, at the
end of every session it would tell you how much this session cost.
And we weren't charged for it. We were just told. And I was
thinking how useful it would be if we had that with every library
interaction. You know, "This session just cost $700."
Simply to educate people about the costs of what they take for
On that score, in being faced with cutting library budgets, I
began a series of studies of the use of information, thinking:
I'll get even with these foreign capitalists who are driving up
the price of information; I'm going to find out how much this
stuff is used. And what I found, in the study of especially the
engineering library and some of the natural science laboratories
is the cost per use of the highest priced journals is the best
bargain in the entire library. That these things are priced fairly
on a per use basis, and as a matter of fact it's these mediaeval
historians who are so expensive. These publishers know something.
Audience Member: It's a lot of work!
Lyman: Well, you know when I was a faculty member, I used
to be thrilled to walk into a library and find, gee, the last
time anybody read this book was 1923. That was at Stanford.
They don't read too much at Stanford. Now as university librarian,
I hate that. So just on a per use basis, publishers know something
about the value of their information.
Well, I wanted to talk just a little bit about some of the impacts
on the system of scholarly communication. You don't change one
part of the system without changing all of it. And just on certification,
which Mike brought up and a lot of people have brought up, I want
to say three things about it. First of all, we had an emergency
meeting of the deans at Berkeley. One of the faculty members
had published an article, good article, on the Web. What should
we do? And, you know, we had a pretty good discussion of, well,
was it peer reviewed? Was the editorial board reputable? And
then one of the deans covered his head and said, "You know,
if this keeps up, we're going to have to read the faculty's work."
Only at Cal.
But there's two other suggestions on the table right now that
I wanted to mention just as a second way of making the points
that this is a cultural change, not just a technology change.
The first is the idea, and it's come up before today, the idea
of collaborative filtering. That maybe the way to evaluate scholarship
is not through authoritative filters before the fact, but by taking
a look at the use and impact of the information after it's published.
The citation indices have been used that way. One of the things
that the counting of the use of information on the Web allows
you to do is to take a look at the impact and use of information.
And maybe that's just as affective, and maybe even it's a better
way of understanding the quality if information than filtering
by editorial boards. It certainly is feasible technically.
The second is the discussion at Cal Tech recently by provosts-and
I know Stan was part of that and perhaps others here were as well-that
we can separate the certification process from the publication
process. That the AAU can set up a national system evaluating
the quality of scholarship through review boards that are really
separated from the publication process, and getting some sense
of the quality of information without having to publish it and
buy it back. I'm on the AAU task force that's pursuing that.
Generally I regard the idea of higher education organizing anything
on a national basis-I usually think of the NCAA as the example
of our organizational prowess, and I think the publishers must
laugh at us when we talk about organizing anything. Those two
suggestions are at least on the table, taking the advantage of
technology to solve the problem of certification by separating
it from the publication process itself.
Well, on the word information which Paul began, I'm probably
the last person in the United States to buy an OED on paper, and
I got a really good price on it, too. They couldn't believe anybody
wanted to buy it. And the word information goes back to religious
education, in fact in the middle ages, and it had to do with putting
form into the mind through the reading of books. And a number
of comments have been made, Mark among others, that this kind
of information also puts form into the mind. I think that's the
most interesting: the electronic publishing, the creation of
new genres of knowledge. That's really where the exciting revolution
is. I don't see digital as a replacement of print, except in
this transitional stage. That what the revolution, what the digital
revolution is is creating new genres, things like scientific visualization,
multi-media arts. Those are new libraries. They're not replacements
for print libraries.
Well, I was told to be controversial. I hope I succeeded.