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Title:Cost of Information Service
Author(s):Budington, William S.
Subject(s):Reference services (Libraries)
Abstract:Any survey of the literature concerning the cost of reference service reveals the fact that the subject is one which has been much discussed but without arriving at any very generally accepted conclusions. About 40 per cent of the writing on the topic is devoted to remarks on how ridiculous it is to think that reference and information service is measurable; about 30 per cent on how ridiculous the results are where it has been attempted; about 20 per cent on reporting results (with many apologies for doing so); and the remaining 10 per cent on straightforward statements of procedures, limitations, and valid interpretations. One of the great difficulties seems to be the confusion or misunderstanding of such terms as "measurement, " "cost, " and "value. " The suggestion that reference and information service can be measured is immediately drowned out with a recital of all the variables of personnel, clientele, physical layout, etc. These have nothing to do with actual "measurement. " They do have everything to do with the use to which the measurement is to be put. "Measurement" is only the comparison of a standard unit with some entity and does not include the comparison of one entity with another. Similarly, one hears the objection that the "value" of a reference answer bears no relation to the time spent in finding it, and therefore why try to do anything? The basis of the objection is valid, indeed; there is no relationship between value and cost. But the objection itself is invalid in its assumption that valuation is the purpose of cost analysis. A cost study attempts, purely and simply, to find out what something costs. What it is worth is something entirely different. Information service can be measured quantitatively and the costs determined but comparisons cannot be made with the data; or the "value" measured.
Issue Date:1957
Publisher:Graduate School of Library Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Citation Info:In R.B.Phelps and J.Phillips (eds). 1957. The library as a community information center; papers presented at an institute conducted by the University of Illinois Library School, September 29-October 2, 1957. Urbana, Il: Graduate School of Library Science: 51-66.
Series/Report:Allerton Park Institute (4th : 1957)
Genre:Conference Paper / Presentation
Publication Status:published or submitted for publication
Rights Information:Copyright owned by Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois 1957.
Date Available in IDEALS:2007-07-13

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