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Follow-up to Peter (Re: Response to Kennith (Re: Elsevier Web Editions license))

At the risk of sounding self-promoting, I delivered a paper at the 1998
Charleston Conference that addresses (somewhat more long-windedly) the
very point Peter makes in his first paragraph below. It was subsequently
published in LCATS (v.  23, no. 2, pp. 183-190) and I'd be happy to mail
or e-mail a copy to anyone who might be interested.  I think that
questions about the economics of information creation and distribution are
only going to become more important and contentious as time goes on.

Rick Anderson
On Tue,  1 Feb 2000 17:21:14 EST Peter Picerno 
<ppicerno@choctaw.astate.edu> wrote:

> 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