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Cost data from telefacsimile pilot projects in libraries

Library Systems Newsletter [June 1985]

Several brief (two to six months) pilot telefacsimile projects have been undertaken in the past year, primarily by academic and special libraries. The data from these projects indicate that costs per page were generally higher than the average $.30 to $.50 per page incurred in business applications. This is to be expected because the density of information on typeset pages is more than double that of the average business letter so transmission takes longer. What is notable, is the wide range of costs reported. A group of special libraries using equipment shared with other departments of the organization achieved a cost of $.54 per page. One academic library achieved costs of $.68 per page and another $.73 per page, but similar academic libraries incurred costs as high as $1.40 per page. A consortium of different types of libraries reported a staggering cost of $7.12 per page.

Lower costs were associated with higher volume of usage and vice versa. The special libraries reporting the lowest costs transmitted more than 1,500 pages per month per machine. The academic library reporting the lowest cost averaged 1,297 pages per month on its machine and the consortium reporting $7.12 per page averaged only 56 pages per month per machine.

One of the most significant components factored into the calculations was cost of telecommunications. The time of transmission, distances and carrier varied considerably among the 12 institutions for which costs became available. The special libraries achieving the lowest cost made all transmissions between 11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.; the academic library reporting the lowest cost used a discount telephone service. Those libraries incurring the highest costs had made a number of transmissions over regular telephone lines during the daytime. An interesting illustration of the importance of controlling telecommunications costs was furnished by the experiences of two similar libraries participating in one of the pilot projects. One of these libraries transmitted 50 percent more pages than the other yet incurred a telecommunications bill substantially less than half that of the library with the lower volume--a difference which could only partly explained the differences in destinations of the materials sent. Telecommunications costs as a percentage of the total cost ranged from under 25 percent to over 70 percent.

Labor costs also varied dramatically, reflecting both care in record keeping and reluctance on the part of some libraries to leave equipment unattended. If the institutions reporting virtually no labor costs are ignored, the remainder incurred labor costs as low as $.03 per copy and as high as $.27 per copy. Is it necessary to attend the equipment? Many librarians think so. In the case of some institutions the number of pages requiring retransmission exceeded 10 percent, but on average, the percentage was closer to 5 percent and some institutions experienced much lower rates.

There is not yet sufficient experience with a well managed, fully operational system to determine whether libraries can bring their costs down to a level near $.50 per page. It is clear that costs can quickly get out of hand if the use of the technology is not carefully controlled.

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Publication Year:1985
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Systems Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 5 Number 06
Issue:June 1985
Page(s):42-43
Publisher:American Library Association
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Notes:Howard S. White, Editor-in-Chief; Richard W. Boss and Judy McQueen, Contributing Editors
Subject: Fax -- library use
ISSN:0277-0288
Record Number:4131
Last Update:2022-08-07 02:04:22
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00
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