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OCLC Research The tale of the library long tail: space, collections, and the network Brian Lavoie Consulting Research Scientist OCLC Space: The Final Frontier.

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Presentation on theme: "OCLC Research The tale of the library long tail: space, collections, and the network Brian Lavoie Consulting Research Scientist OCLC Space: The Final Frontier."— Presentation transcript:

1 OCLC Research The tale of the library long tail: space, collections, and the network Brian Lavoie Consulting Research Scientist OCLC Space: The Final Frontier ACRL/NEC Annual Conference Waltham, MA June 1, 2007

2 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 2 Libraries and the network The Long Tail and libraries A brief tour of the library Long Tail Space, collections, and the Long Tail

3 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 3 A model of the library (Lorcan Dempsey) Users build their workflows around the library Aggregate resources & services at a physical location to serve local demand SPACE SYSTEMS/ SERVICES EXPERTISE COLLECTIONS

4 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 4 Moving to the network Digital/networked spaces proliferate Web, course management systems, collaboration tools, social spaces … Users build their workflows on the network Access to wide variety of resources & services Many non-library alternatives Libraries need to expose resources & services on the network Available at point of need (in users workflows) Libraries need to go where the users are

5 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 5 The de-coupled library Collections Space Services Expertise C S E

6 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 6 The shrinking width of the border Networks make it easier to move across library boundaries …

7 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 7 Network creates opportunities for aggregation As physical boundaries between collections, services, expertise are removed … Aggregate Collections Shift in focus to resources of system Expose the aggregate library resource Extending over multiple collections Shared discovery Deeper resource sharing Networks of collaboration/coordination Decisions taken in inter-institutional context Shared print repositories Collaborative collection development Aggregate Services Aggregate Context

8 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 8

9 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 9

10 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 10 Supply & demand for library materials Shift from old model … Local collections/services serving local users … to new model Networked resources/services exposed to networked users Environment of aggregation Aggregated collections, services, expertise, space (network) Less emphasis on fragmented local print inventories More emphasis on cooperative care of collective print collection, managed to optimize system-wide supply/demand New patterns of supply and demand emerge Summarized by Long Tail

11 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 11 The secret of Amazon, iTunes, and NetFlix …

12 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 12 The Long Tail Number of Uses Items ranked by frequency of use (highest to lowest) Head Long Tail Also known as: 80/20 rule or Hits matter General model for collection usage: Books Songs Movies Retailers Libraries General model for collection usage: Books Songs Movies Retailers Libraries

13 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 13 Long tail economics Traditional models of supply and demand: Consumers face limited choice because physical distribution channels have limited capacity Shelf space, theater screens, broadcast spectrum, etc. Physical locations serve limited pool of customers Culture of hits: items widely available are those popular enough to justify allocation of scarce distribution channel space Long Tail: economics of expanded choice Digital/network technologies overcome limitations of physical distribution channels Virtual inventory delivered over the network Cost of inventory management/distribution drops Makes it economical to: Offer wide range of items Serve network audience

14 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 14 Long tail and libraries As model of collection usage, long tail familiar to libraries … E.g., ~10% of collection accounts for ~90% of usage ILL accounts for less than 2% of total circulation But long tail economics (new patterns of supply and demand) offers opportunities to libraries: Complements trend for collections and other library services to become decoupled from space (moving to network) Opportunity to aggregate supply (offer expanded choice) Opportunity to aggregate demand (present aggregate library resource to network audience) Lorcan Dempsey (D-Lib, 2006): Librarians and the Long Tail: Some Thoughts about Libraries in the Networked Age Libraries collectively manage a long tail of research, learning, and cultural materials. However, we need to do more work to make sure that this long tail is directly available to improve the work and lives of our users. Books, after all, are for use.

15 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 15 A glimpse of the library long tail Attach empirical context to library long tail discussions e.g., mass digitization and the OCLC Research G5 study Question: what does system-wide library long tail look like? How can it be represented; what are its characteristics? To construct a long tail, we need: List of items in the collection Some metric of popularity WorldCat (July 2006): ~70 million materials held by libraries worldwide (proxy for aggregate library resource) More than 1 billion holdings: Represents selection choices by libraries on behalf of users Aggregated at system-wide level Rough measure of system-wide popularity

16 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 16 The Library Long Tail (using holdings as measure of popularity) Note: All statistics are preliminary and subject to change. Final report forthcoming soon. Number of Holdings Items ranked by system-wide popularity HEAD: Top 10% of WorldCat records (ranked by holdings) account for 80% of total WorldCat holdings LONG TAIL: Bottom 90% of WorldCat records (ranked by holdings) account for 20% of total WorldCat holdings Long Tail in this form represents concentration of collecting activity in library system Usage = selection of item HEAD: Small proportion of items represent lions share of collecting activity Closest convergence among library collections From collection development standpoint, these are hits of library world Rest of aggregate collection spread out over Long Tail of diffuse collecting activity Convergence in selection decisions found in increasingly smaller groups of libraries Trails off into uniquely held materials

17 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 17 Collecting activity Approximately 26,000 institutions represented in WorldCat holdings ARL, academic, public, special, … North America and beyond Approximately 26,000 institutions represented in WorldCat holdings ARL, academic, public, special, … North America and beyond Percent of institutions represented in: The Head: 98% The Tail: 72% Percent of institutions represented in: The Head: 98% The Tail: 72% Most institutions contribute to feeding the tail Aggregating collections = expanded choice

18 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 18 Other characteristics of the library long tail AGE Published pre-1923: Published in 1990 or later: Head: 8 percent Head: 36 percent Tail: 16 percentTail: 27 percent LANGUAGE Number of languages identified: Head: 300 Tail: 476 SUBJECT Number of NATC categories identified: (books with LC class # assigned) Head: 610 Tail: 626

19 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 19 Subjects: a closer look NATC subject category: Chinese Language and Literature Head: 4,106 titles Rank in segment (by size): 224 th Tail: 97,388 titles Rank in segment (by size): 5 th NATC subject category: Chinese Language and Literature Head: 4,106 titles Rank in segment (by size): 224 th Tail: 97,388 titles Rank in segment (by size): 5 th Libraries serve a wide range of niches, even in the head of the library long tail Differ from bricks & mortar retailers in this regard The tail contains deep pool of resources in each niche, far beyond what the user is likely to find locally

20 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 20 ILL and the Long Tail ( FY 2005 OCLC ILL transactions) Number of Holdings Items ranked by system-wide popularity ~75% of ILL requests were directed at the Head ~25% of ILL requests were directed at the Long Tail By comparison, Chris Anderson (The Long Tail, 2006) reports: Amazon: ~ 25% of sales from the long tail Netflix: ~ 20% of sales from the long tail * Question: are current ILL systems adequately supporting demand for the library long tail?

21 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 21 Why is the Long Tail important for libraries? Long Tail is a useful framework Long Tail is old wine in new bottles; does not reveal new issues Organize issues, place in shared context, think through implications, and devise solutions E.g., implications of collections & services decoupled from physical space Long Tail leverages uniqueness across library collections Rareness is common: low degree of overlap across collections increases potential benefit of Long Tail Aggregation of supply creates collective collection with many more choices vis-à-vis any local collection Long Tail is all about expanded choice Long Tail suggests expanded usage of library materials Untapped system-wide demand for low-use local materials? No systematic evidence yet; but some anecdotal evidence

22 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 22 Space, collections, and the network Long Tail emerges from confluence of several emerging trends Opportunity cost of print collections rising Interest in new strategies for managing print collections, e.g.: Mass digitization: improve accessibility, permit new forms of scholarship, weave collections into general Web environment Cooperative collection management (print storage, collection dev.) Free up shelf space, remove redundancy, exploit cheaper storage Suggests shift from fragmented local inventories of print materials, to cooperative care of collective print collection Aggregate library resource emerges (physically or virtually) Expose aggregate library resource in many network spaces (point of need) Aggregate supply and demand: essential ingredients of Long Tail Spillover effects: Expose library Long Tail to wider audience Increase usage of library materials on system-wide basis Optimize management/reduce cost of collective print collection Release on-site space to libraries for higher value uses

23 OCLC Research The tail of the library long tail ACRL/NEC Annual Conference 23 Summing up … Collections & services moving to the network: Physical location of less importance Surface resources in emerging workflows Network cultivates environments of aggregation: Collections, services, expertise, context, space New patterns of supply and demand emerge Aggregate supply, aggregate demand: Long Tail economics Opportunities to expose, better serve demand for Long Tail Space, collections, and the network: Value of physical space transcends print collections & services Optimize use of space across range of new/emerging uses Leverage the network: comforting similarities, useful differences


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