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Re: Response to Kennith (Re: Elsevier Web Editions license)

I have to jump in at this point to second Rick's sentiments, and to point
out that herein lies the problem which libraries have faced for the last
several years and which librarians have been quite ostrich-like about.
Information is a priced commodity -- even the so-called "society" journals
such as JAMA and the ACS journals exhibit this phemonenon. Information has
*always* been a priced commodity -- which is why only the elite in the
Renaissance (and the monasteries in the Medieval ages) could acquire
information (i.e., books and MSS). Libraries, given our history, are
charitable organizations in that we provide access to information for
free. However, the nature of libraries has been that we have had some
funding source in order to make our free access possible. As the business
(and I use the term advisedly) of education becomes more venal, libraries
are becoming more and more subject to the same "management scrutiny" that
"non-productive" departments are ... with the result that we no longer
have the unquestioned luxury to stock our shelves with whatever
faculty/students/librarians percieve to be their information needs. Hence
the conflict. 

If administrators (the same MBA-types who are responsible for HMOs, I
might point out) require libraries to be more "productive" in terms of use
and value-for-the-dollar, they are only doing their job as administrators.
Granted educating administrators as to the purpose of the library in
academia could be a diatribe which would consume endless bytes of
information! But, we, as librarians, because of our unique position of
being committed to free access to information, and working within the
confines of the charitable organization which relies upon profit-making
organizations (i.e., publishers) to supply our wares, have -- by the
nature of the pressures put upon us -- been making demands of our
suppliers which don't exist in other fields. How many restauranteurs
demand unreasonably low prices from their vendors so that they can
discount or give away their fare??

While I am not, at this time, proposing any silver-bullet solution to the
problem, I am trying to point out that we, as information professionals,
are in the middle of a capitalist conundrum ... trying to reconcile
profit-making organizations with charitable organizations. I think that
there are many many possibilities for many types of solutions, so perhaps
we ought, as a profession, turn ourselves towards the *reasonable*
resolution of this conflict rather than whining about our position ... it
will make us look less foolish and might actually give us a stake in
shaping the information world to come! (End of sermon ... for the
concluding hymn turn to page ........... )

Peter Picerno


>>It is not that publishers do not appreciate how electronic information is
>>used. They simply do not want to interrupt the flow of money from the
>>library's pocket to their's. As long as we try to find logic in the
>>behavior of businessmen and attempt to be 'nice' about this, they will
>>always attempt to take advantage of us. It is genetic.
> I'm sorry, but I have to respond to this.  What exactly is it that we're
> supposed to stop being "nice" about -- the fact that businesses are
> "genetically" attracted to cash flow?  Seems to me that it makes no more
> sense to criticize publishers for being businesses than it does to
> criticize libraries for using taxpayers' hard-earned money.  I'm not
> suggesting that we should lie down and accept whatever vendors offer under
> whatever terms they offer it (any of you publishers who have dealt with me
> on the phone know that I'd never suggest that), but at the same time let's
> quit acting like the desire to stay in business makes vendors venal by
> definition.  Personally, I wish that Yankee Book Peddler and Academic Book
> Center had been a lot more profitable than they were -- then maybe we'd
> still have them with us.
> Of course, I used to work for a vendor, so I'm probably biased.  But that
> doesn't mean I'm wrong.  ;-)
> ----------------------
> Rick Anderson
> Head Acquisitions Librarian
> Jackson Library
> UNC Greensboro
> 1000 Spring Garden St.
> Greensboro, NC 27402-6175
> PH (336) 334-5281
> FX (336) 334-5399
> rick_anderson@uncg.edu
> http://www.uncg.edu/~r_anders
> Choose knowledge over knowingness.