Looking back, the irony is so heavy-handed that it seems contrived. As my colleagues and I were preparing for our MOOC on Copyright for Educators and Librarians, which launched for the first time last week, the only resource that we wanted to use but could not successfully negotiate the permission for was Susan Bielstein’s book about negotiating permissions. It would have been great for us and, I am convinced, for the Press if we could have offered a single chapter of it for our over 8,000 MOOC participants to read. In the event, however, we rediscovered the fear and lack of sound business sense that grips the publishing industry, but also discovered the richness of the free resources that were available to us.
Last month I enjoyed the distinct privilege of keynoting the Conference for Law School Computing (also known as “CALIcon”), a gathering of legal educators, law librarians, and IT professionals in law put together by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). I can’t say enough in praise of the ever-present spirit of sly spirited fun at this conference.
In our latest In-Depth Interview with Library Journal Movers & Shakers from academic libraries, sponsored by SAGE, we spoke to Stephanie Davis-Kahl, the scholarly communication librarian at Illinois Wesleyan University. In building an institutional repository for the college, Davis-Kahl and her colleagues wanted to showcase not only the work of the Illinois Wesleyan faculty, but also their students. She has helped to find several student-run journals homes at Illinois Wesleyan, and serves as faculty coeditor on the student led journal Undergraduate Economic Review. She spoke about the challenges of hosting student-led journals, the luxuries of doing so at a small school, and offered a few tips for librarians looking to enter this rapidly growing field.
In response to my column a few months ago on ebooks and the demise of ILL, I received a depressing email from an independent scholar noting the numerous obstacles he faces because of the increasing restrictions on access to ejournals and now ebooks. He wrote that he lives near a major public university in the southeast and has been using the university library for years. Despite being publicly funded (at least as much as any state university is publicly funded these days), the library has restricted access to all the databases only to university affiliates with IDs, which means most of the journals are inaccessible to guests. And with the increasing licensing of ebooks, more and more books are inaccessible as well.
Most academic librarians are familiar with the ‘big deal’ bundles offered by large academic publishers, which grant access to a large number of journals from a particular publisher at a discounted rate. And many will also be familiar with the opacity surrounding those deals, which are often negotiated on a school-by-school basis with confidentiality clauses in place. A new study of the economics of these bundle deals suggests that variations in how these bundles are priced for different institutions mean that they are a better deal for some schools than others.
Harvard historian Jill Lepore’s takedown of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation in The New Yorker has been getting a lot of attention. Twitter subsequently presented me with a fascinating analysis of how this theory has influenced higher education. Essentially, individual entrepreneurs are considered valuable because they find cheaper ways to reach new markets. We don’t want smart and knowledgeable workers, because they will frustratingly improve things incrementally rather throw everything out in the race to cut costs and get ahead of entrepreneurial smash-a-thons.
At ALA 2014, academic librarians working as publishers gathered to discuss the state of their partnerships and what needs to happen to move the budding library publishing industry forward at the panel “Libraries in the Publishing Game: New Roles from Content to Access.” Melinda Dermody, head of access and sharing at Syracuse University libraries, moderated the panel, which included Catherine Mitchell, director of the Access & Publishing group at the California Digital Library (CDL), Rebecca Kennison Director of the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship at Columbia University, and Cyril Oberlander, library director at the State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo.