As of 22 April 2009 this website is 'frozen' in time — see the current IFLA websites
This old website and all of its content will stay on as archive –
In the early 1980’s the Getty Trust agreed to undertake the costs of operating the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals and the International Repertory of the Literature of Art/Répertoire International de Literature de l’Art (known as RILA). In 1989, RILA merged with the Répertoire d’Art et d’Archéologie (known as RAA) to form the Bibliography of the History of Art/Bi bliographie d'Histoire de l'Art (known as BHA) which is jointly operated with the Institute National de l’Information Scientifique et Technique (INIST). Together with the Provenance Documentation Collaborative, a consortium of libraries and archives in Europe and North America, AHIP’s current Research Database Program is producing seminal resources that support the study and practice o f architecture, art history, and associated disciplines. In partnership with affiliated institutions and individual researchers more than ten year's dedication to building these resources has brought them to maturity just as information networks have advanced to a state where they can exploit them.
Today, our continued investment in and commitment to the resource databases is taking advantage of increased inter-connectivity not only in shaping user access to the resources but in creating decentralized and participatory mechanisms for adding to those resources. In the future, these resources may be created in cooperation with their users. They will contribute to the selection, description, and indexing of relevant research materials. Users will add links to related information that exist in the many and various digital libraries, archives, and museums. The role of the Research Database Program will be to orchestrate, coordinate, and edit information about our shared cultural heritage worldwide, and the research databases will appeal to a broad audience of specialists as well as the public.
In 1974 Columbia University became one of the founding members of the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN). The process of computerization, designed to enhance worldwide accessibility to the Index, had the immediate impact of slowing down the creation of records, on the one hand, and decreasing accessibility to the users of the Avery Library for whom the Index had originally been create d. To recover costs, RLIN charged its members for deriving a cataloging record from an original record contributed by another institution. It also levied a fee for searching the growing bibliographic database. When the special databases were created (the Avery Index being the first of these) it was known that no one was going to derive records from them. Thus the contributing institution, the Ave ry Library in this case, paid a fee for creating its own records in RLIN. A surcharge of 50% per connect hour was then charged to searchers to compensate the creators for the fees they paid for creation as well as for the intellectual effort of creating the analytic records. Online searching being what it was in those days, the income did not cover for the costs. Thus, as a result of computerizat ion, the creation of Avery Index records was costing Columbia more while it was serving its users less than before computerization.
In October 1983 the Index became an operating program at the J. Paul Getty Trust and in May 1984 it became one of the constituent activities of the newly created Art History Information Program. One of the first things the Getty Trust did was to lower the cost of searching the Avery Index online by eliminating the surcharge charged for searching it on RLIN. Thereafter users of the Avery Index online on RLIN paid only $60 per hour of connect time instead of the $90 they had been paying up to that time. Also, thanks to Getty support, the Avery was able to expand the indexing staff so that the accumulated backlog was eliminated, and the Index was able to be kept current. Finally, the Getty subsidized the preparation of camera-ready pages from the online database , so that G. K. Hall could print annual “supplements” to the Index and sell them to subscribers at an affordable price. The first computer-generated volumes were published in 1985 and titled The Fourth Supplement (1979-1982).
Then the costs of technology changed. The cost of computer storage decreased as the cost of telecommunications with dedicated lines increased, making it less cost-effective for RLIN members to create records on a central mainframe computer located in California, and more cost-effective to create records on local cataloging systems. This threatened to diminish the value of the central RLIN biblio graphic database as a source for “copy cataloging.” At the same time, the use of the RLIN bibliographic database for verification, reference, and interlibrary loan was increasing.
RLIN decided to change the cost-recovery formula and began charging on the basis of the number and kind of searches performed instead of on the number of connect hours. For example, a search by the record identification number (which is very efficient) cost half or a quarter as much as a search by any other field. To encourage institutions to contribute good quality records to the database, a sy stem of searching credits granted for the contribution of original records was devised. Lastly, the cost per search became lower when an institution purchased a block of searches in a year. But all of these pricing strategies were designed for a bibliographic service aimed at a professional market of libraries and librarians. The full implementation of local area networks with gateways to the Int ernet were just emerging.
In 1987, the Avery conducted an end user pilot study to assess the feasibility of providing users direct access to the Index without the intervention of a librarian, much as they had had when the Index existed only in card form. The project was advertised to faculty and students in the Department of Art History and the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University and flyers were posted throughout the Avery Library to capture potential alumni users. The flyer offered a week of free access to the database if users agreed to come for a two- hour training session, to have their transactions recorded, and to answer a questionnaire. Of a potential user population estimated to be 800 students and faculty, only 14 applied to participate in the pilot project. Half of these received ins truction and access information, including a password, but only three continued with the project by actually logging in search time from their home or office.
In spite of the small population of this study, the Avery was able to learn some useful things, reported fully by Janice Woo in the “Final Report” . Perhaps the most significant findings were that the transaction logs showed successful searching whether the user had received the two-hour training or just the written instructions, and that all three were willing to pay for access from home or office -- but no more than $10.00 per hour.
However, it was not until 1992 that two important developments enabled enhanced direct user-access to the Avery Index online: RLIN designed a more user-friendly interface, named “Eureka,” and the Avery Index moved from the special database environment to a new service entitled “CitaDel.” This is a subscription service where an institution pays an annual subscription fee for wide ac cess through their campus or local area network. The subscription charge was initially based on the total number of potential users, but was changed to the current formula based on the number of simultaneous users.
Columbia University keeps statistics on the use of the various databases offered on its Clio Plus campus network bibliographic system. The Avery Index receives an average of 4,000 searches per month. It is unknown how many searches are performed at other institutions, but at least 60 are offering such access (through RLIN) to their faculty and students throughout the world.
The Research Libraries Group (RLG) is a non-profit consortium that has to recover the costs of the services it provides. RLG has made creative use of pricing policies to encourage certain behaviors while discouraging others. It is clear that for arts and humanities databases (among which Avery is counted) are not commercially viable, let alone profitable. The Avery Index exists because first Col umbia University, and then the Getty AHIP have subsidized the creation of the information it contains. Access to this information has traditionally been purchased by institutions for the free use of their selected users: first through the purchase of the printed books, and more recently through the purchase of either the CD-ROM version or subscription to online access through RLIN. Never has the individual user paid directly for such information and those who were asked did not volunteer to pay a large fee.
The statements of research questions by the scholars in the Getty project has been particularly valuable in documenting differences in the search behavior of humanities researchers compared to the search behavior in other disciplines. As illustrated in figure 1 approximately half of the humanities search questions included personal names, a quarter geographical terminology, a quarter “dis cipline” terms, and a sixth contained chronological terminology. (Note that the total percentages are greater than 100 because search question statements may have included more than one type of search term). Discipline terms are the names of disciplines such as “art history” or “rhetoric.” These observations confirm that scientists and social scientists largely search by common subject terminolog y, while humanists make extensive use of formal names.
Figure 1 - Comparison of types of terms in statements of research questions.
Table not available, please contact Author
While humanists use different conceptual models in formulating their research questions, the principles of databases design and of on-line search services such as Dialog are specific to the needs of users in the bio-medical and technological disciplines. Dr. Bates reports that --
These results do not diverge significantly from other research into studies of end user on-line searching behavior regardless of discipline.
The most interesting of Dr. Bates’ papers is no. 4 . In it she speculates on the intrinsic nature of humanities research, how it differs from other disciplines in terms of, for example, the objects of study and the relationship between research and the literature which documents it. She observes from the interviews conducted with scholars who participated in the Getty Project that the value of on-line (or manual) searching for these scholars was to identify publications that were outside their normal research areas. Finally, she discusses what database services might be of interest to humanists, how databases might be designed to address the specific needs of humanists, and search interface and functional design considerations for this special class of end users.
Taken together, the reports of the Getty Project provide many insights into the potential for on-line searching in the humanities. They also provide a comprehensive justification of AHIP’s research database program and a road map for its improvement in the future.
From the beginning, the costs of collecting, editing, and publishing high quality research information has far outstripped the revenues generated from their use. Supporting these costs has amounted to a huge subsidy to the institutions who purchase and provide access to the products. While AHIP has always assumed that success could only be measured in terms of our effectiveness in reaching the u ltimate beneficiaries of these resources, the researchers; it is very difficult to measure the actual number of users of a printed index or CD-ROM, or the number of actual end users of an on-line search service. While some have argued that the information would reach the most users by simply giving it away at no charge, the inability to measure the real end user audience has been an obstacle to m aking this argument. Like other organizations, the Getty requires accountability from its projects, and as everywhere else there is competition for funds. The research databases have experienced level funding for the past five years, and the Getty would like the operating costs in some cases to decrease substantially.
There are relative merits and opportunities associated with the various methods for distributing research databases. The following model suggests some of the factors to be considered in measuring their relative value.
Each of these factors has been given an approximate value (from low to high) in figure 2 below. This subjective analysis indicates that the non-profit distribution method provides the best mode of overall access. AHIP concluded an agreement with the Research Libraries Group in March to foster broader information access and contribution by the international cultural heritage community. Whi le this analysis supports this decision, we will monitor the results of the AHIP/RLG partnership to determine how best to extend access to research databases in the future.
Figure 2 - Comparison of Distribution Models.
Table not available, please contact Author.