Capital assets in libraries are of three basic types: buildings, collections, and equipment. Expenditures for the most costly of these assets, buildings, are typically not a part of library budgets and therefore are not generally considered by librarians in their discussions of library costs. This paper will not attempt to discuss capital costs for library buildings in any depth except to cite several relevant studies. In the late 1980s Cooper estimated the construction cost per volume housed in an on-campus open-stack library to range from $4.33 for compact shelving to $15.84 for traditional open stacks; he calculated the construction cost per volume of a remote regional storage facility to be $2.78. Bowen uses Cooper's construction costs, adjusted for inflation, and Malcolm Getz's life cycle estimates to calculate an annual storage cost of $3.07 per volume. Lemberg's research substantiates Bowen's premises regarding the capital cost that might be avoided through digitization of high-use materials. He demonstrates that, even considering the capital costs of technology necessary to realize a digital document access system, research libraries as a system could accrue substantial savings over time if documents are stored and delivered electronically rather than in print form.
Extrapolating from Bowen's estimate of an annual storage cost of $3.07 per volume, a research library subscribing to 50,000 journal titles per year, each of which constitutes one volume, accrues $153,000 in new storage costs each year.
Over 10 years the cumulative cost to house the volumes received through the 50,000 subscriptions would exceed $8 million.
The growing dependence on information technologies to deliver scholarly information requires that universities make new investments in capital equipment and allocate recurring operations resources to the maintenance of that equipment and the network infrastructure. Although universities have invested heavily in network technologies, the true costs are still inadequately understood, and it is clear that increasing dependence on digital, rather than print, scholarly information will require that reliable funding for technology be developed. While capital costs for print libraries entail buildings, whose construction costs fall within known ranges and whose life cycle is long, and collections, the long-term costs of which can be rather reliably estimated, capital costs for the digital library are distributed across the campus and indeed the world. As yet, there is no clear formula to indicate how much initial capital investment in technology might be required to deliver a given number of digital documents to a given size academic community. Moreover, the life cycle for capital assets relating to delivery of digital library content is typically very short, perhaps shorter than five years. Thus funding allocations must be made frequently and regularly to ensure continued access to digital information. The Berkeley library, for example, estimates that annual equipment replacement costs for the existing installed base of equipment would be approximately $650,000, assuming a five-year life cycle. But the library has never had an explicit budget to support that expense, so investments in computer equipment, networking, and equipment replacement have been made through periodic redirection of the operating budget. Similar technology funding and renewal problems exist across the campus. Berkeley's situation is not unusual, and further work needs to be done to understand more fully the capital cost differentials between the physical plant investments required for print collections and the network investments required to make digital information available to the campus community.M
It is possible that if libraries and their parent institutions, universities, could avoid some of the capital and operations costs associated with print-based dissemination of scholarly publications, these resources could be reallocated to capital investments in technology, provision of additional information resources available to the academic community, service improvements within libraries, and restoration of control of the system of scholarly publishing to universities and scholarly societies rather than the commercial sector.