Ceynowa, Klaus and Coners, André. (Eds.) Cost management for university libraries: with attached CD-ROM. In collaboration with R. Poll, P. te Boekhorst, B. Powels, and B. Rosenberger, translated from German by P. Nicholson. Munich: Saur, 2003. 177 p. (IFLA Publications ; 104). ISBN 3 598 21834 6. 78.00
This handbook on cost management for university libraries is the result of a project carried out by three German university libraries (Munster, Dusseldorf, and Paderborn). The goal of the project was to develop ways of cost accounting of university library services and output-oriented management purposes.
The first chapter explains the basic principles of cost accounting for academic libraries, the nature of services as a cost accounting objects, the main concept of activity-based costing and its application to library services. Further chapters provide step by step descriptions of activity-based costing from cost type acounting (chapter 2), through cost centre accounting (chapter 3), to assessment of costs, linking of sub-processes, and identification of cost drivers (chapter 4) for creative cost management (chapter 5). The final chapter (6) describes the use of the software package (LIBRARYMANAGER) created for activity-based costing procedures. The software itself can be installed from the attached CD-ROM. The licence prohibits the usage of the package for commercial gain (including sales of products created with the help of this software) and reverse engineering.
Despite the fact that my interest in cost accounting and management is of an academic and educational character, the potential of the suggested method for understanding the economic and financial background of library services has caught my attention and imagination. Though general emphasis is on the assessment of the costs and flexible manipulation of resources to create the most efficient processes for service provision, the method provides possibilities for strategic development of services. It also can help to evaluate the quality of service, and links higher quality with higher costs. The new types of services in the environment of virtual libraries are taken into account and the examples of their costing are provided. However, from my point of view the issue of the benefit and value of the rendered services is left outside the handbook's scope (except for "service demand" or intensity of the use of library products). Nevertheless, the method and the accompanying software product deserves attention from the library community, as it allows librarians to assess various aspects of expenditure and use of resources, and gives different perspectives on library activity. These different perspectives should be useful for decision making purposes (by the way, the method is characterised as a decision-oriented library cost accounting (p. 148).
The software package works as described in the manual. Despite the fact that many operations are performed automatically, I still have an impression that the application of the whole method requires a rather significant effort. But it should be tested by practising librarians and accountants in different countries. For them the 'Final observation' (chapter 7) and the warnings given by the authors about the expectations, goals and resources needed for implementation of the method will be of great value.
The handbook is equipped with an exemplary list of sub-processes for the university library. A glossary of the key-terms, and a literature (mainly German) list.
To my taste the text of the handbook is somewhat heavy in places - some of the sentences seem too long with too many parantheses and colons. But on the whole, the text is more readable than many accountancy texts and should not cause problems for library managers.
Dr Elena Macevičiūtė