DIGITAL SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION IN ESTONIAN UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES – STATE FINANCING, EXPENDITURE AND USAGE
The use of online information resources is growing rapidly. The actual science information is electronic as a rule – practically all the journals of natural science and engineering have electronic versions and a certain number of them are available only electronically.
Scientific information is the basis for research and development, degree study and professional specialty, to a certain extent. Today, scientific information is also strategically important, insofar as it affects the economic and social development of the contemporary world. University libraries have an important place in mediating and preserving such information. For the purposes of this presentation, a “university library” is defined as an internationally recognized scientific library that supports the demands of its parent institution’s current programs of study and research.
Universities and their libraries have experienced in recent years an enormous growth in documents in electronic format. The number of publications, research data and results available via the Internet are growing continuously. In several important research fields, efficient research is no longer possible without network access and computers. This has intensified research and made global research networks a reality. The definition of the electronic library is still not exact, although it has become a household term in library literature. Several terms are used as synonyms or near-synonyms for this phenomenon, such as “virtual library,” “library without walls, “networked library,” “desktop library,” and “digital library” . The definition of an electronic library assumed in this presentation is an entity that is both a physical university library providing electronic access to a variety of materials of scientific information and a virtual provider of access to electronic publications via the university and library network. The successful future of libraries depends on the national support they receive, how successfully their parent universities can cooperate among themselves, and how well the libraries set their priorities and realize their main objectives.
The purpose of the paper is to analyze the essential data, details of the use of e-resources and the cost of electronic scientific information as well as the cost of the most important performance indicators related to the increasing usage and acquisition of electronic scientific information of the three largest university libraries of Estonia – University of Tartu Library, Tallinn University of Technology Library and Tallinn University Academic Library – during the period 2004-2010. These three libraries were chosen because the critical mass for fulfilling the tasks of academic and university libraries has historically accumulated in these libraries. The choice of the period 2004-2010 is justified by the fact that during the period mentioned, the libraries were made a substantial increase in the e-services as well as in expenditures to the electronic scientific information. This period also includes the financial crisis that hit Europe, especially the Baltic States, which unfortunately had an impact on Estonian university libraries.