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Re: Librarians who pay for nothing (Re: Economics of Green OA)

Rick has given us a good sense of the myriad of sometimes 
conflicting desiderata that influence librarians' decisionmaking, 
and it's a good lesson for publishers to keep in mind. The "free 
rider" problem has long been with us, of course, and I'm not so 
pessimistic as Rick that ways around it cannot be found. The 
transition from a market to a gift economy will not be easy, 
though, I agree. One promising approach, taken by the Stanford 
Encyclopedia of Philosophy that he mentions, is establishing an 
endowment, which is the surest way to guarantee long-term 
sustainability for any project.   Perhaps the supporters of arXiv 
can follow the SEP's lead in that regard.

Sandy Thatcher

At 10:18 PM -0400 8/22/11, Rick Anderson wrote:

>  > I believe that most librarians are very smart.  Because they
>>  are smart, they will not purchase things that they can get for
>>  free.
>Joe is stating an obviously true principle here, but of course
>the reality on the ground is a bit more complicated. Librarians
>don't have the luxury of simply making straightforward
>value-for-money decisions, because we're under pressure from a
>variety of different directions: from publishers (especially of
>science journals) who want to increase prices at rates that are
>patently unsustainable given library budgets; from researchers
>and students who insist that ongoing access to those journals is
>essential; from administrators who don't have a lot of money to
>give libraries and who expect strong ROI from the money they do
>give them; from institutional priorities that value some
>disciplines more than others; and from other librarians (some of
>them powerful) who expect everyone to join in the good fight for
>greater public access, especially to the published results of
>publicly-funded research.
>All of these factors play out in complicated ways when issues
>related to OA arise. One upshot is that librarians sometimes do,
>in fact, pay for things that we could get for free. One example
>is the arXiv, which is currently being supported by libraries
>that have nothing direct to gain from paying for it -- we pay
>because we believe that the arXiv is important and that investing
>some of our scarce resources in the project of keeping the arXiv
>open constitutes a wise use of those resources. Something similar
>happened with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
>One important question, I think, is what kind of future any
>publishing model can have if it relies on people ponying up for
>stuff that they could get for free. I tend not to be optimistic
>about the future prospects of such a model. As Joe pointed out,
>some models (Green OA, hybrid journals) complicate things by
>blending OA with non-OA content, so it's not always a binary
>question. But to the degree that stuff gets made available for
>free, and to the degree that budgets continue to contract or
>remain stagnant, it's hard to see how any system based on
>voluntary payments can survive in the long run. Even the arXiv is
>probably going to have to eventually find a different model. Here
>at the U of U, we're preparing for a $300,000 journal and
>database cut next year, with every expectation that we'll cut
>that much again the following year. I can easily foresee a future
>scenario in which we have to say "We love and believe in the
>arXiv, but we simply can't afford to support it anymore and will
>have to hope that others step up behind us as we drop out."
>Rick Anderson
>Assoc. Dir. For Scholarly Resources & Collections
>J. Willard Marriott Library
>University of Utah

Sanford G. Thatcher
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