Many IT specialists take for granted the shift from paper to electronic documents as part of a digital revolution. National indicators of the growth of network usage support shifts to digital documents such as exponential increases in the number of Internet hosts, the number of electronic mail addresses and the number of World Wide Web sites. However, in our empirical studies we have found that academic administrators base their decisions on local indicators of demand such as the number of people who depend upon World Wide Web for their work, the demand for electronic mail accounts and number of information retrieval requests from bibliographic databases. Because university budgets are flat relative to inflation and the university management of information resources is dispersed at many levels, they are investing in a way that indicates a drift toward use of digital materials. Can whole industries drift into major IS investments without coherent strategies? Such a pattern is anathema in the literature about information systems as purposive strategic investments (Morton,1991). Even those who criticize the ways that organizations computerize tend to assume managerial rationality --albeit around values that they criticize (see, for example, Zuboff (1988) on automating versus informating). There has been an interesting setof studies of the ways that managerial rationality may backfire, and information systems may not be developed or used as intended (i.e., Zuboff, 1988; Kling and Iacono, 1989; Orlikowski, 1993). One interesting alternative to managerial rationality is bureaucratic drift, in which organizations (or clusters of them) develop tacit large-scale policies through balkanized management and managers playing semi- coordinated short-term games in their "organizational turf" (See Allison, 1971; Kling and Iacono, 1984). We know of no industry-scale studies that examine alternatives to managerial rationalism as the dominant logic behind IS developments. This study examines the organizational processes that are driving a specific form of computerization in a specific industry: the increasing investments in digital libraries in North American research universities. Our research questions include: How are university administrators making budgeting and policy decisions about information technology access for research? What are their choices? How do they pose outcomes? We do not claim that this industry or family of information systems typifies other industries. But the major research universities are highly competitive in some key terms: in attracting and retaining productivefaculty and promising students, in justifying fees (tuition) to parents and state legislatures, and in attracting research grants and gifts from public agencies, corporate donors, foundations, and individuals.
Covi, Lisa and Kling, Rob, "Digital Shift or Digital Drift? Dilemmas of Managing Digital Library Resources in North American Universities" (1995). AMCIS 1995 Proceedings. 70.