ERIC Identifier: ED341407
Publication Date: 1991-12-00
Author: Spitzer, Kathleen L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Fax for Library Services. ERIC Digest.
Although the proverb "Better late than never" may be applicable to many
situations, it rarely applies to library users' information needs. Most users
prefer timely access to information regardless of its location. In response to
this, libraries of all types are meeting users' information needs by installing
facsimile (or "telefacsimile," or "fax") machines to speed interlibrary loan
requests and document delivery service. And the number of libraries offering fax
services is rapidly increasing: the 1991 edition of the DIRECTORY OF
TELEFACSIMILE SITES IN LIBRARIES IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA lists 3,924
sites, up 63% over the previous year's edition and almost 800% over the 1986
edition. Boss (1990) reports that at least 1,000 new facsimile machines were
installed in libraries in 1989-- double the number installed in 1988.
Facsimile machines combine a scanner and a modem
to send and receive printed or graphic information across telephone lines. The
sending facsimile machine scans a document and converts it to a digital copy
consisting of a series of black and white dots (or half-tones, in the case of a
more sophisticated machine). This digital information is then converted to
analog signals that can be transmitted over telephone lines. The receiving
facsimile machine re-converts these analog signals to digital information and
prints a copy of the document on plain or thermal paper.
A more recent development in facsimile technology is the FAX BOARD which,
coupled with a computer and the appropriate software, allows the computer to
transmit information to other fax machines or computers with fax boards.
However, fax boards are limited to sending electronic information, which may be
a disadvantage for use in library applications. To enable a computer with a fax
board to send printed information, one must purchase and install a scanner to
convert print information to electronic form.
The International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee (CCITT) has
divided facsimile machines into four groups according to protocols and signals
exchanged between machines:
I: (almost obsolete) transmits a page in six minutes;
II: transmits a page in approximately three minutes;
III: (the current standard) transmits a page in less than a minute;
IV: uses high-speed and digital data networks (not yet widely available) to
transmit documents in three to four seconds.
HISTORY AND CURRENT USES
Libraries began experimenting with
facsimile usage in the 1960s. Many early projects, however, were impeded because
their Group I machines were incompatible and relatively expensive. With the
advent of compatibility standards and decreasing prices, facsimile usage has
become more widely implemented. As in the business world, libraries are using
facsimile machines for general communications. However, libraries predominantly
use facsimile to speed interlibrary loan materials and requests. Fax networks
involving combinations of academic, public, school, and special libraries have
been formed to share resources and expertise (Brown, 1989). For example,
Reference by GammaFax, an Illinois project funded by an LSCA III grant, is a
multitype fax network that shares access to CD-ROM databases and forwards
queries and search results via facsimile (Fitzwater & Fradkin, 1988). An
advantage of such networks is the ability to cooperatively develop collections
without impairing service--an important consideration in the face of rising
periodical costs and budgetary constraints.
CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING FACSIMILE POLICY
implementation of a facsimile service necessitates a number of policy decisions.
Following are some of the many questions that must be considered.
will facsimile services be integrated with the reference services policy?
the library provide reference services via fax?
should the facsimile machine be placed for optimal security?
the facsimile service be made available to the public for a fee? How much?
library employees be allowed to use the fax machine to send and receive personal
messages? If so, will there be a fee? How much?
will operate the fax machine?
INTERLIBRARY LOAN USAGE:
should a standard request contain and what format should it take?
there be a fee associated with document delivery? Will the fee be passed along
to the user?
turnaround time will be expected with the use of terms such as "rush" or
"urgent" on a request?
Libraries seeking support for decision-making may consult the "Guidelines and
Procedures for Telefacsimile Transmission of Interlibrary Loan Requests"
prepared by the Interlibrary Loan Committee, Reference and Adult Services
Division, American Library Association (see note below). These guidelines,
adopted by the Reference and Adult Services Division Board of Directors in June
1990, are intended to establish uniformity and supplement local policies.
Implementation efforts and examples of various forms are also detailed by
Jensen, Sabatine, Shorey, & Williams (1990) and Brander (1988).
The cost of a facsimile machine depends on
its features and whether it uses thermal or plain paper. Low-end machines cost
approximately $500, while high-end machines may cost more than $4,000. Machines
that use thermal paper are less expensive, but they present some disadvantages.
Thermal paper may be difficult to handle due to its tendency to curl, and it has
limited storage life. Also, it comes in rolls, so the pages must be cut apart
(for which a built-in paper cutter feature is highly recommended). Plain paper
machines are currently more expensive, but plain paper is easier to handle and
offers improved storage life.
Some features that libraries might consider include:
Reports: Provides a printed report of fax machine usage including the date and
time of transaction, telephone number of receiving machine, number of pages, and
time required to complete the transaction.
document feeder: Eliminates the need for an operator to feed in each sheet of a
redial: Redials the number of the receiving machine after a period of time if
the unit was unable to transmit due to a busy signal.
scales: Allows the transmission of half-tones representing different colors.
This is particularly useful if photographic information must often be sent. The
higher the gray scale number, the greater the reproduction ability.
of paper reception: Enables the storage of fax transmissions in memory if the
machine runs out of paper.
Allows a book to be placed flat on the scanner. This is a useful feature for
those who will be faxing from books since it eliminates the need to make a
photocopy of the book pages on a copier prior to faxing.
Enables the fax machine to dial up a series of other fax machines to collect
faxes that have been left waiting in those machines' document feeders.
dialing: Allows the storage of the most frequently called fax numbers in memory
for one or two key dialing.
NOTE: A copy of "Guidelines and Procedures for Telefacsimile Transmission of
Interlibrary Loan Requests" may be obtained by sending $1.00 and a
self-addressed, stamped envelope to: American Library Association, Reference and
Adult Services Division, 50 East Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.
REFERENCES AND ADDITIONAL READINGS:
Boss, Richard W.
(1990). Information technology. In Roger Parent (Ed.), THE ALA YEARBOOK OF
LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES (pp. 131-33), Chicago, IL: American Library
Boss, Richard W., & Espo, Hal. (1987, Spring). The use of telefacsimile
in libraries. LIBRARY HI TECH, 5(1), 33-42. EJ 354 472.
Brander, Linda L. (1988, Oct.). MONTANA FAXNET PROJECT. Final report. Helena,
MT: Montana State Law Library. ED 305 072.
Brown, Steven Allan. (1989, Winter). Telefacsimile in libraries: New deal in
the 1980s. LIBRARY TRENDS, 37(3), 343-356. EJ 399 385.
Buchanan, James H., & Byrnes, Jane (Eds.). (1990, July). THE
AUTHORITATIVE GUIDE TO THE USE OF TELEFACSIMILE IN LIBRARIES (2nd ED.).
Occasional Paper Series 3, No 1. Columbus, OH: The State Library of Ohio. ED 328
Buyers Laboratories, Inc. (1988, Sept./Oct.). Test reports on 19 facsimile
machines. LIBRARY TECHNOLOGY REPORTS, 24(5), 615-715.
Dewey, Patrick R. (1990). FAX FOR LIBRARIES. Westport, CT: Meckler. DIRECTORY OF TELEFACSIMILE SITES IN LIBRARIES IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA (6th ed.) (1991). Bethlehem, PA: CBR Consulting Services.
Fitzwater, Diana, & Fradkin, Bernard. (1988, May). CD-ROM + Fax = Shared
reference resources. AMERICAN LIBRARIES, 19(5), 385. EJ 373 754.
Jackson, Mary. (1988, May). Facsimile transmission: The next generation of
document delivery. WILSON LIBRARY BULLETIN, 62(9), 37-43. EJ 373 845.
Jensen, Jan; Sabatine, Alicia; Shorey, Denise; & Williams, Catherine.
(1990). GETTING THE FACTS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE THROUGH FAX. ED 328 272.
Piper, Michael. (1988, Sept.). Purchasing telefax equipment: How to begin.
WILSON LIBRARY BULLETIN, 63(1), 40-44. EJ 382 468.
Talab, R.S. (1989). COPYRIGHT AND INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES: A GUIDE TO FAIR USE AND PERMISSIONS, PROCEDURES (2nd ed.).
Washington, D.C.: Association for Educational Communications and Technology. ED