when good librarians go bad, genuine options in librarianship

I upgraded WordPress this week. Please let me know if anything is wonky.

This is an exchange from facebook with names changed to protect the innocent. It highlights something I find happening to me in the library world all the time — having to balance solving the problem with following the rules. The person posting the update needed an article. The rules said they had to pay $31.50 for an article. This didn’t pass the sanity check ["$30 for one article from a journal, that's crazy!"] and the librarian was grousing. They’re also grousing to a huge network of librarians, many of whom had free [or, paid for by their institution] access to the same content. I saw Nicole speak in Florida this past week and one of the quotes she repeats again and again is “With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” meaning that a particular coding problem that might vex one or two programmers is unlikely to vex, say, a thousand programmers.

My Jessamyn corollary to this is “With enough libraries, all content is free.” That is to say… if the world was one big library and we all had interlibrary loan at that library, we could lend anything to anyone. The funding structures of libraries currently mean that in many cases we’re duplicating [and paying for] content that we could be sharing. This is at the heart of a lot of the copyright battles of today and, to my mind, what’s really behind the EBSCO/Gale/vendors. Time Magazine is losing money and not having a good plan for keeping their income level up, decides to offer exclusive contracts to vendors and allows them to bid. EBSCO wins, Gale loses. Any library not using EBSCO loses. Patrons lose and don’t even know they’ve lost.

When I was blogging for BoingBoing I often came across content that I didn’t have access to. I was also confronted with, in many cases, unreasonable fees requested [$9.95 for 100 words, really?]. Me being me, I could always find a librarian with access to, say the Times Online archive, or old articles in JSTOR. But I also felt it was cheating. But I was also annoyed that being resourceful is also somehow cheating. And I knew that many of my patrons with fewer resources would just pony up. Where do we draw the line between enforcing other people’s rules and solving problems with our patrons? Now that we’re getting more and more networked, this whole idea of local content works for some things [historical photos, town history] and not for others [journal articles that are held in thousands of libraries worldwide]. Do we have a plan for moving forward?

Journal Data: Price, Impact, and Use

I was doing my generalized clicking around this afternoon and saw this FriendFeed comment (originally via Twitter) “How much does an annual library subscription to the top 20 closed-access journals cost? Lets start a virtual library for non-scientists.” I was all set to comment “Hey there aren’t really individual prces for a lot of those journals because of bundling and bla bla bla” but then realized someone else had gotten there before me and included a link to just such a list.

I had not seen the University of California’s Office of Scholarly Communication price list before but there it is in all its resplendent glory. Bill Hooker ran some analysis on these numbers back in March (start here if you are truly a numbercrunching fanbrarian) and draws some interesting conclusions. If you really like this sort of thing, you really should put Open Reading Frame in your feed reader.

in case you needed another reason to raise an eyebrow at Elsevier

I sometimes get a case of schadenfreude reading about bad things that happen to big companies that have a hand in library businesses. This latest mess involves Elsevier publishing what can charitably called a “sponsored journal” and what can uncharitably be called a fake scam journal, sponsored by Merck and internded solely to be cited in support of their drug Fosamax. If anyone has ongoing dealings with Elsevier and would like to get across to them how uncool this is, I’d appreciate it. Original article published at TheScientist.com available here with free registration. [nowthis]

Elsevier acknowledged that Merck had sponsored the publication, but did not disclose the amount the drug company paid. In a statement emailed to The Scientist, Elsevier said that the company “does not today consider a compilation of reprinted articles a ‘Journal’.”

“Elsevier acknowledges the concern that the journals in question didn’t have the appropriate disclosures,” the statement continued. “It is worth noting that project in question was produced 6 years ago and disclosure protocols have evolved since 2003. Elsevier’s current disclosure policies meet the rigor and requirements of the current publishing environment.”

The Elsevier spokesperson said the company wasn’t aware of how many copies of the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine were produced or how the publication was distributed in Australia, but noted that “the common practice for sponsored journals is that doctors receive them complimentary.” The spokesperson added that Elsevier had no plans to look further into the matter.

directory of open access journals

The Directory of Open Access Journals. Free. Full text. Scholarly and quality controlled. Multilingual. Of particular note to librarians are the 49 journals in library and information science. Which ones are on my reading list for today? IT&Society’s issues about the Digital Divide including A Multifaceted Model of the Digital Divide and An Overview: Approaches for ther Development of Basic IT Skills from The Journal of Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology.