I was sad to learn last week that Southampton University had sold its robotic book scanner in 2009, as about a decade ago I played a part in its original purchase. There’s actually quite a lot online about the reasons for the decision, in case studies and the like, although I haven’t been able to find out who bought the scanner from Southampton.
I’ll concentrate on one of the reasons for the decision, the cost of servicing and repairs to the scanner, which were said to be running at £25,000 a year. This must have been quite a burden on the university and the library, but it does sound a large sum for one piece of equipment. It raised the following questions in my mind:
- was most of this spent on servicing? (in which case I wonder whether the servicing company charged over the odds)
- or was most of it spent on repairs? (in which case perhaps the machine was basically defective)
- how much are others with comparable scanners paying on servicing and repairs?
- in particular, how much did whoever bought the scanner have to spend on servicing and repairing it?
Beyond this, there is a further issue of how well our funding models suit the purchase of equipment which is useful to the UK university domain as a whole, but costly to maintain and for which there is insufficient demand within any single institution. Are UK universities to manage without such equipment because no one institution wants the problems of housing it?