AERI Institute 2009

Workshop C: A Costing Model for Archives Workshop

Friday, July 10

Chair:  Dr. Robert M. Hayes


Begins at 1:30 pm

Ends at 5:00 pm


A Costing Model (ACM) is a tool to assist managers and systems analysts in assessing the staffing and related costs to handle identified workloads on information management functions. Four categories of workloads are currently identified and dealt with in ACM:

(1)    Information User workloads
(2)    Information Materials workloads
(3)    Information Publishing workloads

For each type of workload, ACM identifies relevant information management functions, provides means for showing the distribution of workloads over those functions, and includes for each function a “workload factor” that measures the amount of staff time in minutes, on the average, for each category of staff (professional, clerical, and physical) required to handle a transaction for that function.

The respective workloads, distributions, and workload factors are represented in ACM by matrices, and the product of those matrices then provides the means to calculate the direct labor needed to handle the workloads. To that is then added indirect labor and general and administrative (i.e., overall management) labor, as percentages of the direct labor. Applying average costs for each category of labor then provides the means for calculating labor costs, to which are then added other appropriate direct and indirect costs.

The Workshop

The fundamental purpose of the workshop is to discuss means by which relevant data within ACM can be determined.  Specifically, how can one determine the following?

(1)    What are the types of users, materials, publications, and other workloads that should be identified for Archives?
(2)    How can the workloads in Archives associated with each be determined?
(3)    What are the information management functions associated with each type of workload in Archives?
(4)    How can the distribution of workloads over those functions be determined?
(5)    How can the workload factors for each information management function be determined?

The Excel Spreadsheet Version of ACM

To provide a frame of reference for the discussion of these issues, an Excel spreadsheet version of ACM will be presented. The matrices in it reflect application to university libraries in the United States. The values for workloads are those for a real institution, a moderate sized university but not a member of the ARL.

The values (called the “default values”) for distributions, for workload factors, and for parameters are based upon personal experience in examining scores of such libraries over literally decades. They generally provide results that match actual values within about 10% and that is about the maximum extent of accuracy one can expect, given the inherent variability among institutions, over workloads and over time.

For any user of ACM, the workloads and the default values can be changed to reflect the actual situation of concern, so ACM can be tailored to specific needs. But of course the user probably would prefer not to need to determine values that may represent general experience for Archives. The generic values can therefore serve as starting points for a given application.

Answering the Questions

Given the frame of reference, the Workshop participants should then consider each of the five questions listed above and identify means by which they can be answered.

The first question, concerning the types of workloads, is for obvious reasons the most important since it represents the fundamental objectives for Archives. And in the same vein the second question, concerning workloads, must be specific to the given context since it represents the actual facts.

For the remaining three questions, though, it would be desirable to have default values that represent experience for Archives in general.

The default values included in ACM as presented were determined by a combination of means. First, for some functions time and motion studies were undertaken. Second, for other functions data were gathered during site visits to institutions that represented actual workloads and staffing. Third, values were taken from nationally reported statistics (for the ARL, ACRL, and IPEDS). Ratios were calculated and compared with the default values as known to that time; if values were substantially different, adjustments would be made to the default values but otherwise the default value were regarded as further confirmed. The results converged quite rapidly to the current default values.

The question at hand of course is what can be done for dealing with answering these questions for Archives?


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