Access and Information Equity

La Biblioteca Electrónica: Acceso International y
Equidad en la Información

Richard J. Goodram

The Memex Research Institute, Pacific
Tasmania, Australia

Brett Butler

The Memex Research Institute
Roseville, CA 95678, USA

Keywords: Electronic Library, Information Access, Information Delivery System, International Information Network, V-Library, Virtual Library, Bond University, Demand Collection Pilot Project, Information Economy.

Abstract: During the past two hundred years the development of the industrial nations has seen not only a concentration of economic, military, and political power within these industrially advanced nations but also a growing concentration of information resources within the same countries. These information resources include the infrastructures to produce new information as well as the very large repositories of the records of the world's intellectual achievements. The national, academic, and research libraries of the industrial nations of the world represent a vast capital resource which is becoming more difficult to replicate with each passing year. It has been estimated that it now costs in excess of $250,000,000 to purchase the materials for a major research collection. This level of expenditure is out of the reach of even relatively wealthy countries and quite beyond the budgets of small, developing countries.

At a time when the cost of supplying scholars and researchers with traditional informa-tion resources is becoming prohibitively expensive, the need for these people to have effective access to these resources is becoming of critical importance to the economic welfare of their countries. The "information wealthy" become wealthier and the "information poor" become poorer.

We have seen many political/economic programs that attempt to correct this trend but their success rate is low and their rate of success is slow. This paper examines the potential for technology to supply a solution that is effective and affordable. The authors argue that the E-Library technology, when used to implement the V-Library strategy, can achieve the slogan coined by the authors: "World Wide Access, Desk Top Delivery", and in doing so can make "information equality" a reality.

The products that will form the core of the E-Library, and enable the V-Library concept to be implemented are presently under development within the R&D programs of MemRI (The Memex Research Institute) located at the California State University, Chico. The first of these products will be operational by the third quarter of 1990. In addition to these hardware and software products there is a need for librarian, libraries, and their national and international associations to: 1) Develop new standards to facilitate document access and delivery, 2) Negotiate new relationships with each other to facilitate collection access and document delivery, 3) Provide initiatives for the publishers and suppliers of information to develop new techniques of information production and distribution, 4) To work with these groups to ensure that copyright laws are a tool for, rather than an obstacle to the provision of information to an information hungry world.

Resumen: Este trabajo sintetiza la problemática de la distribución desbalanceada de los recursos informativos entre los paises industrializados vis a vis los paises en via de industrialización. Identifica los costos y el capital necesarios para proveer la informa-ción para el desarrollo equitativo del conocimiento a nivel mundial. Presenta las investigaciones y los productos del Memex Research Institute como una alternativa hacia la equidad en la distribución de información mediante el uso de las nuevas tecnologías para la información disponibles actualmente y su viabilidad para los paises en desarrollo.


Librarians have found it difficult to agree about many things but on two issues appear to be united: that "a large book is a large evil", but that a large collection is essential. For thousands of years, scholarly research has been centered on the campuses with the largest library collections. During the late twentieth century, the pace of the "knowledge explosion" has placed an additional burden of currency on research library collection development. All these trends have disadvan-taged countries without the truly massive collections and networks which have developed in the United States and Europe.

Even though bibliometric studies have shown for some time that most holdings in most research libraries go largely unused (Goodram and Butler, 1989), the reaction of library manage-ment to the growth of collections has not been to analyze the purpose of the growth trend, but rather to concentrate on techniques for controlling the rate of growth.

To date, the introduction of library automation and information technology has not provided libraries answers to the collection-growth and budget problems, because it was not possible to change acquisitions patterns from growth based on poorly understood potential user demand to collections delivered in response to needs.

With the development of very powerful personal computers, widespread academic networks, and image processing systems, the authors have designed over the past two years an electronic library system (E-Library™) based on small, core print collections supplemented by on-demand electronic collections.

With modifications for suitable international technology, the E-Library strategy offers libraries in countries with developing economies the opportunity to obtain needed research data and publications as needed without the massive capital and collection investments which have characterized American academic libraries in the past four decades.

This paper discusses ongoing research, development, pilot programs, and standards efforts necessary to establish the E-Library as an effective information resource to support the national research and development programs of countries outside the US and Europe.


The Memex Research Institute (MemRI) is a nonprofit cooperative research and development organization which is attempting to provide information tools and experience necessary to create personal information systems as envisioned by Vannevar Bush in 1945, who coined the term memex to describe a computer system which functions as " extended, intimate supplement to one's memory" (Bush, 1945). After an intense experience in Australia in developing the informa-tion technology and service infrastructure for an new university, a small group of librarians and associates started the Memex Research Institute in 1989. MemRI is presently funded by member-ships and cooperative program Sponsorships.

These efforts have now led to an ongoing cooperative research and development program, the Electronic Library Program, which has three components: development of a Strategic Plan for Electronic Library Service for a small but varied group of library Sponsors; creation of four pilot or prototype programs to test the information platform dubbed the E-Library™; and coordination of an initiative to develop an Electronic Library Communications Format to support what the net-working community calls "interoperability" of developing electronic library collections. These efforts have important implications for the international pooling of information resources the potential advantages of which can be envisioned from a description of the E-Library strategy.


Based on initial planning at Bond University (Brownrigg et al., 1988), we developed a more general technical plan (Goodram and Butler, 1989b), which basically provides in electronic form the analogue of the classic functions of the print library. The group of technology resources now called the E-Library consists of:

Online free, public access to the world's literature in one or more areas of user interest, notably including periodical literature at the article level, but also providing enhanced indexing for complex books

Online delivery of the documents themselves in an image form preserving the form and content of the original printed publications

As necessary, networked location and conversion facilities (analogous to union catalogs and interlibrary loan, but tightly linked to the user level) to obtain remotely what is not yet available locally.

The economic arguments for an E-Library were totally clear and powerful in a startup envi-ronment where costs can be measured against the cost of new buildings and research collection acquisition. Similar economic arguments can, however, be made for existing libraries where acquisition budgets are under extreme pressure and building extensions become more expensive. The benefits to existing research libraries make participation in an international E-Library project feasible for most libraries other than the very large and the very small.

Basically, the E-Library strategy of the smaller collection is to establish an operating agree-ment with a larger collection from which materials can be converted on demand, forwarded electronically to the requesting library, and preserved in electronic form as a substitute for acqui-sition of print materials.

The economic strategy of investment in an E-Library depends on the general observations, well documented in the information and library science literature, that it is very difficult to predict demand for collections, and extremely expensive to hold the material which is not used (Goodram and Butler, 1989a). Building E-Library collections, then, should be based on a mix of two cost-effective strategies, on-demand conversion and selective expert collection development.

In the international environment, the E-Library strategy will lean heavily to on-demand con-version rather than investment in local electronic collections. Nonetheless, each deserves consi-deration.

1) Demand Conversion -- What people request that is not yet in the collection is the most likely predictor of future use and hence the best investment in collection development. Current ILL service throws out the baby with the copy delivered to the user; the E-Library preserves it for future local or remote use.

2) Core or Expert Collection Development -- Many measures of demand, use, and value are available to the selective library regarding retrospective materials, for example: reserve book room requests, citation analyses of specific disciplines, circulation and other mea-sures of journal use. The E-Library can take advantage of this collection analysis to convert only more-used materials.

Many libraries will not hold electronic collections locally, but may contribute their converted materials to a central national E-Library, from which materials can be distributed in electronic for-mat and as needed to other libraries.


For libraries to implement the E-Library technology and to effectively access and share infor-mation resources they must develop the formal set of agreements and arrangements which will enable the technology to be applied. This set of agreements and arrangements we have termed the V-Library (Virtual Library).

The motivations (both economic and social) to share electronically become substantial, tech-nically, once an E-Library is created, it can be shared at very low marginal cost to the library or organization building the collection.

In the U.S., the present Internet is increasingly recognized as the way through which infor-mation resources are going to be shared among academic (and, we hope, other) institutions. And electronic library resources are an explicit goal of such organizations such as the Coalition for Networked Information, which has been set up to work toward the proposed $400 million National Research and Education Network, and whose initial press release states,

"...These efforts [the NREN legislative action] are inspired by a vision of a future in which researchers will use computers and networks to access a vast array of information resources which will function as a "virtual library"....It is no longer possible for any one library to build a comprehensive collection. ( It is remarkable that this is a document coming from a group whose library component is the Association of Research Libraries ,the other two members being EDUCOM and CAUSE). Cooperative resource sharing among libraries - enhanced by use of the NREN - will provide researchers with access to a comprehensive collection." (Association of Research Libraries, 1990) All this will happen when a number of E-Libraries are created on a technically compatible basis and can be shared across the NREN or other networks. When this happens, each participant can enjoy some remarkable savings and service benefits. The vision requires hooking E-Library collections together in a compatible manner. MemRI has defined the Virtual Library (a V-Library™)as being two or more E-Libraries which are connected by a management network sharing protocol agreement. This dual network, dubbed a V-Library Network, enables the sharing of collections as the Library of Congress and OCLC enabled the sharing of cataloging.

The authors perceive the creation of libraries' E-Libraries, and their networking into V-Libraries, as the new strategic direction for collection development which will enable libraries to break out of the downward service spiral currently being forced by reduced acquisition budgets. The libraries engaged will establish strategic partnerships, which MemRI is prepared to coordinate, which will be based on mutual interests and analyses of local collections and service potentials. They will then employ the common MemRI E-Library technical platform to convert needed print materials to electronic form for cost effective sharing.


There are three presently active academic library E-Library Pilot Programs, each of which is establishing V-Library protocols. We expect that a fourth, public library, Pilot project covering several E-Library collections will become active in 1991.

5.1. Demand Collection: RMIT and UMCP

Through the coordination of the Memex Research Institute (MemRI), an international project has been developed to link electronically the collections of the University of Maryland College Park in the United States to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia to create a demand-based electronic library at RMIT employing the E-Library technology platform being developed by MemRI.

The Demand Collection Pilot Project will initially focus in the area of toxicology, but will provide a model to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of electronic collection development across an international network. The system will employ both the Internet in the U.S. and the Australian AARNET communications networks.

The E-Library created will be made available on the RMIT campus on a test basis to a limited number of researchers, and will be comprised of text indexing and abstracting integrated with bit-map images of journal articles, reports, and other works. The researchers will be able to query the database and receive immediate electronic document delivery on their workstations for materials previously requested.

For material not available in paper or electronic form on the RMIT campus, the MemRI E-Library system will request materials from College Park, where they will be converted for transmission to Australia. Demand document conversion and intellectual property management (copyright payments) will be provided to the project under an agreement with Information on Demand of McLean, Virginia, the largest private sector document provider.

5.2. E-LiR: the Electronic Library of International Relations

The Library of International Relations at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago Kent College of Law, is a unique collection and an information resource of national and international value. The E-LiR Pilot Project has as its primary goal the exploration of the feasibility of converting the LIR collection to image form, providing electronic access to it at Kent for internal and outside users, distributing electronic documents over KentNet and outside networks, and providing desktop service to faculty, students, and others.

A primary public E-LiR workstation will be established in the library reference area, from which any user can search the Pilot E-LiR collection and print desired pages. In addition, Kent campus workstations equipped with suitable image processing software will be able to receive documents remotely over the LAN; a limited number of faculty and department test sites will be established.

It is not anticipated that a significant level of direct-user access will be provided during the Pilot project, but experience will be gained with the resources needed to provide such service on a regular basis.

5.3. CABusiness: Corporate Annual Reports

This E-Library Pilot project is intended to establish an initial E-Library collection and a developing California Business electronic document image database within and among several campuses of the California State University system. The project will be jointly managed by MemRI and the University Library, California State University, San Diego.

The Pilot Project collection will initially cover Annual Reports of California corporations. These materials will be organized, converted to image database form, and shared among the participant CSU libraries and their users. These reports are of both current and permanent value, but are difficult to obtain and organize in research libraries. It is estimated that there are 3,000 California corporations with income over $1 million. Additional materials related to California businesses may be added after initial testing of the Pilot project database on the CSU campuses.

The CABusiness database will be created on a distributed basis, with materials collected regionally by three to five participating CSU libraries. The central image database will be main-tained on the SDSU campus, with the option of regional E-library collections residing locally on each campus for the regional collection captured managed by that library.

These projects illustrate the diversity of applications which can develop from the common E-Library platform. As each is developed, it will be able to be connected to other collections to form a V-Library network. Moreover, other libraries will be able to request and receive electronic docu-ments via Internet or facsimile networks.

MemRI expects to manage and develop a limited number of additional E-Library projects during 1991 and 1992, while working on needed international standards required for participation of publishers and information technology firms.


In the long term, many libraries may have a substantial portion of their current and used collections stored as electronic images and ASCII coded text. But the E-Library does not assume this is a dominant situation: Paper will continue to be on our shelves well into the next century, even in the toughest of high-technology societies.

The E-Library is a collection, not a paperless library. It complements and extends present printed collections as supports extended, distributed service to researchers rather than passive, archival warehouse operations. It also makes possible a more cost effective collection development policy by providing timely access and delivery of only those fringe materials required by an institution's researchers; thus avoiding the need to acquire and store the 80-90% of these materials which would not be used.

In particular, it is necessary to note that the present technology does not well support the electronic image conversion of lengthy works (book-size) because of storage costs; of color or large-format works, both because of cost and limits in input and display devices; or of the new multi-media works because of lack of standards.


At this point in an discussion of the E-Library - particularly as we begin to describe sharing journal articles over the Internet - at least one group member has an irresistible need to inquire, "But what about the copyright problem?" A primary strategic decision of the E-Library and V-Library Network approaches is that the intellectual property holder should be better accommodated and protected in the electronic environment we envision than is true in the print-based scholarly communications system of today.

Fundamentally, the author, publisher, or other creator of intellectual property will be able to receive full reporting of the conversion, use, distribution, and demand for the image documents created within an E-Library collection.

To track this activity requires a complex of software management, attached to each E-Library, which MemRI has described with the acronym SHARER. This software will be made available as a management tool to MemRI Sponsors developing E-Library projects, and MemRI will cumulate SHARER auditing and transaction reporting in order to provide management and intellectual pro-perty reports.

The SHARER software will provide the following control and audit functions for each work captured in an E-Library:

Query Receipt

Password or Security Control

Query Routing to E-Library

Transaction Analysis and Tracking

Contract and Royalty Management

Shipping and Receipt Supervision

MemRI will not dictate the terms of agreement among the creating, holding, and using organizations which will have an interest in an E-Library or V-Library network. But the SHARER functions will enable all parties to negotiate and deal on the basis of fact, knowledge, and actual demand - all scarce commodities in the past debates among authors, publishers, libraries, universities, and scholars.

We also anticipate, in contrast to publishers who will require various electronic rights agree-ments, that many scholars and authors who hold copyright on their own works will submit articles to an E-Library database with a release of liability for use or copyright payments, particularly for use in developing countries.


One of the roles of the Memex Research Institute is to develop, on a cooperative basis, infor-mation technology tools which will help support the development of such visions as the E-Library. The SHARER software tool was discussed above, and will be made available as a management tool to each E-Library being developed with the MemRI platform and facility management.

8.1. The E-Library SCANner

To convert documents to image form, standard image scanning equipment and personal computers can be utilized. However, software has not been available which combines standard image scanning and CCITT compression with bibliographic control and identification of the work scanned. MemRI is therefore developing MS-DOS software to provide a standard platform for these functions. The SCANner™ software will be made available as "shareware" to MemRI mem-bers and Sponsors. In the U.S., it will also be provided with network communications functions, and MemRI hopes to provide a future release operating on a - UNIX software platform.

8.2. Personal MemRI and Library MemRI

MemRI also is making available on a "shareware" basis to its members a personal informa-tion tool, Personal MemRI™, which provides a faculty member all needed facilities of an online catalog for his personal collection. Personal MemRI operates on a MS-DOS computer as small as an IBM XT or clone, requiring only a hard disc for effective performance. Our primary goal is to make it available on a campus-wide basis for anyone wanting a personal-level tool to deal with electronic data coming from the library or remote networks.

In the U.S., for MemRI Sponsor institutions, the campus site license can be as inexpensive as $ 20 per copy (for students), thus enabling a new level of "library automation" for individuals.

Internationally, Personal MemRI is being made available through an Affiliate relationship with an individual institution in each country. The first such Affiliate agreement has recently been established in Australia, with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

MemRI is also providing Affiliates with an extended release, Library MemRI™, which incorporates all major functions (acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation, and OPAC) of an integrated library system, and which will be expanded in the future to include E-Library image storage and networking capabilities.


In the U.S., Europe, and Australia, an E-Library will operate in a technological environment which includes very high-speed broadband telecommuncations networks, totally "wired" campus local-area networks, a wide availability on faculty desks of image-capable workstations, and widely available online public catalogs with associated journal literature indexes for free public use.

This environment is totally uncharacteristic of the rest of the world, but the principles of the E-Library can be applied with much more modest information technology investments. Tools available include CD-ROM, facsimile, offline media storage, and packet radio.

CD-ROM Index and Access Publications

CD-ROM is the obvious information technology to provide index access to very large collec-tions: over 60,000 journal titles are indexed by the major 60 abstracting and indexing societies, and the majority of these are readily found in major U.S. libraries through various union catalogs. In developing countries without extensive telecommunications systems, the use of international online vendors or networked OPAC systems with index data is not feasible. CD-ROM allows for a limited degree of use by students and faculty at relatively low cost, and each institution can sub-scribe to the particular indexes needed.

Packet Radio

Network communications which are either subsidized or expensive in the United States and Australia could be reduced in cost considerably if new technologies were allocated bandwidth for educational purposes. A paper by our colleague Dr. Edwin Brownrigg (Brownrigg, 1990), discusses the use of packet radio, a low-cost network technology, in countries where such band-width might be obtained if seen as a goal of public policy.

Offline Storage

While the E-Libraries described above will be held online, on optical image storage "juke- box" equipment, much less expensive options are available for the library not requiring that speed of service and convenience. Rather than keeping online kiosks in the library or networking electronic images to the faculty's desks, the library can provide "in-time" delivery of information from inexpensive offline storage.

Depending on the local economy and investment available, this storage could be in the form of magnetic tape, replaceable WORM discs, digital audio tape (DAT), or other media. The delivery to the user would then likely be a laser-printer output.

Facsimile Delivery

The least expensive way to delivery page images worldwide is, of course, the facsimile machine; additionally, it is very simple to use and quite reliable. The problem with facsimile for research libraries and and other organizations has been that the while the user obtains the informa-tion, the institution loses it. With an E-Library supply agreement, the user or library can receive the information rapidly and at low cost through direct facsimile delivery -- but the institution can save an E-Library "copy" at very little cost against future local or network demand.


The American research library's preoccupation - driven by its faculty and administration -- with large collections as a resource is now discredited in the United States, and libraries are reach-ing toward effective resource-sharing solutions. It is difficult, however, to withdraw collections already in place, or to reduce the current serials holdings from yesterday's levels. Libraries in other countries have an ideal opportunity to move from a collection development oriented mode to an information access and delivery oriented operation based on actual demand -- and thus avoid the expensive research collection building in which American libraries have already invested.


Association of Research Libraries. Coalition for Networked Information. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, March 1990.

Brownrigg, Edwin, "The Personal Network: International Access and Information Equality," in Proceedings of the Third International Conference on New Information Technology, Guadalajara, Mexico, November 26-28, 1990, edited by Ching-chih Chen. W. Newton: MicroUse Information, 1990.

Brownrigg, Edwin, Strategic Planning for Computing, Information, and Technology at Bond University. CIT Task Force Report #1. Queensland, Australia: Bond University, May 1988.

Bush, Vannevar, "As We May Think," Atlantic Monthly, 1945.

Brett Butler and Richard Goodram, "The Electronic Library and Information Science: A Working Solution for the Research Library," in Communicating in the Information Age, Proceedings, 5th Biennial Conference, Victorian Association for Library Automation, November 1989, Melbourne, Australia. (1989a)

Butler, Brett and Richard Goodram, "Toward the Electronic Library: A Functional Model," in Proceedings of the Second Pacific Conference on New Information Technology, Singapore, May 1989 edited by Ching-chih Chen and David I. Raitt. MicroUse Information, West Newton, MA, 1989. pp. 21-26. (1989b)

Goodram, Richard and Brett Butler, "The Electronic Library and Information Science," in Proceedings of the 5th Biennial Conference of Victorian Association for Library Automation, Melbourne, Australia, 1989.