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Christina's LIS Rant
Thursday, June 14, 2007
  huh... librarians as Elsevier's bouncers
Academic libraries, which in earlier days provided a service, have outsourced themselves as bouncers to publishers like Reed-Elsevier; their principal job, in the digital realm, is to prevent interested readers from gaining access to scholarly material.
Shirky responded to the Gorman post on the Britannica site. At first I was amazed at how much I agreed with him, until I got to the above quote near the end. My mind rebelled, but then I decided it deserved more thought. To a certain extent he's right. We dump money on publishers and then sign away a lot of rights in the licenses (we do this in life, too, particularly in the form of community association covenants, but that's another rant). We sign these licenses to provide access and are then responsible in part for preventing abuses and enforcing the licenses.

To be honest, I don't think we have real choices.

Of course to say that this is our "principal" job is messed up -- that goes without saying. In any case, "outsourced" is clearly the wrong word (maybe sold out?). It has never been our job to create the scholarly literature and selection decisions are ever more complicated.
 
Comments:
Karen Schneider has made a similar point in her talk she's been making at various places. Here's the video of the version she gave at Code4Lib 2007:

http://code4lib.org/2007/schneider

I would sum up her point as "libraries have effectively 'outsourced' most of their mission to vendors, and de-professionalized themselves."

I think it's worth thinking about. Not neccesarily in the sense of "What else could we have done but this, to get here?"--but more importantly--"Where do we go from here?" From my perspective, we have to figure out how to retake control of our professional responsibilities.

Jonathan Rochkind
 
Oh, here's Karen's speech as a powerpoint and as PDF too:

http://freerangelibrarian.com/2007/03/03/code4lib-keynote-again/
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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