October 20, 2014

Peer to Peer Review

Regular LJ Academic Newswire column rotation including Barbara Fister, Dorothea Salo, Wayne Bivens-Tatum, Kevin L. Smith, and Rick Anderson.

Redefining What Discovery Means | Peer to Peer Review

Barbara Fister

A recent Ithaka report by Roger Schonfeld asks “Does Discovery Still Happen in the Library?” My immediate thought was “did it ever?” quickly followed by “why do we assume it should?

Lessons from Swets: Libraries Need Subscription Security | Peer to Peer Review

Kevin L. Smith

I participated in a series of meetings last week to determine how the Duke Libraries would respond to the bankruptcy filing made by subscription agent Swets. We have been through this before, when Faxon/RoweCom failed, and many libraries lost a lot of money. Unfortunately, more money is going to be lost this time around. Perhaps it is time for us to think about how we got into this situation——and how to make sure we never end up back here again.

The Mess of Ebooks | Peer to Peer Review

Wayne Biven-Tatum

I’ve run into a few problems with library ebooks lately that have made me even more skeptical of them as complete replacements for print books in libraries. Since skeptics of library ebooks are sometimes considered luddites or reactionaries, I should go ahead and add the disclaimer that I really like ebooks that I don’t acquire from the library. I did a quick calculation of the books I’ve read since mid-January and of those 33 books, 27 were ebooks. Some of them were several hundred pages long, but reading them on a good ereader was generally a pleasant experience.

Ego Non Te Absolvo: Lifelong Learning Isn’t Only for Other People | Peer to Peer Review

Dorothea Salo

I found myself drawn into odd conversations with librarians, archivists, and other information professionals soon after I started teaching library school. Not the conversations about how terrible I am and how bad I am at what I do and how whatever I’m doing in the classroom is automatically the wrong thing—those conversations are standard, and I am as inured to that angry dismissiveness as anyone can be. No, the odd conversations I landed in over and over again went something like this:

Frenemies: The Perfect and the Good | Peer to Peer Review

Rick Anderson

We’ve all heard—and many of us have probably invoked ourselves—the admonition “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” It’s a concept that has kind of a fraught history in library discourse, because it embodies a tension that exists between two conflicting aspects of library culture: on the one hand, we place a lot of value on accuracy, completeness, and quality in the work that we do; on the other hand, we are painfully aware of the limited resources we have to work with.

Collective Wisdom in an Age of Algorithms | Peer to Peer Review

Barbara Fister

Changes to platforms we use regularly are always slightly traumatic, as we invariably discover when we roll out a new library website and the complaints begin, or we find out a database interface has changed radically the day we’re introducing it to students. Platform changes are even more distressing when they are sites to which we contribute content. By creating social circles and sharing information on websites, we often forget they belong to other people who have values and motivations different from ours.

Hard Cases Make Bad Law | Peer to Peer Review

Kevin L. Smith

The legal adage that hard cases make bad law apparently has deep roots in English common law, and it was cited in a Supreme Court decision by no less a Justice than Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Its applicability has been disputed over the years, but in recent weeks we have seen the truth of the maxim illustrated in some copyright debates. Colleagues have recently sent me two different stories where the extremes of copyright law are in play—hard cases, I suppose. Both offer confirmation that when the facts are really well outside the realm of normal expectations, people can draw very bad legal conclusions. But both also offer opportunities to remind ourselves of fundamental truths about law, journalism, and copyright.

Theory of Change: Foiling Librarianship’s Underpants Gnomes | Peer to Peer Review

Dorothea Salo

The animated television show South Park made a business of touching nerves, but even its creators reportedly did not expect the furor that roared forth over their Underpants Gnomes episode satirizing common workplace beliefs and practices. The Underpants Gnomes’ business plan lives on (slightly altered) in web culture as a shorthand for inadequate, failure-prone product or service planning. I spent my entire library career wallowing in Step 2.

Asserting Rights We Don’t Have: Libraries and “Permission To Publish” | Peer to Peer Review

Rick Anderson

In late June, a minor brouhaha erupted when the library at the University of Arkansas suspended reporters from the Washington Free Beacon, an online newspaper, from using its special collections. The reason given by library administrators was that on multiple occasions the newspaper’s reporters had published content from those collections without asking permission, as library policy requires. Much has been made in the right-wing press about the politics supposedly surrounding this conflict. I want to focus on a different issue: the practice of making patrons request library permission before republishing content drawn from documents in our special collections.

More on the Damage Done | Peer to Peer Review

Wayne Biven-Tatum

Last year, Walt Crawford self-published a book entitled The Big Deal and the Damage Done (which I wrote about here). In it, he analyzed statistics for academic library budgets and showed that Big Deals for serials were gradually taking over many library budgets as serial expenditures rose significantly more than inflation and the inflexibility of the subscription packages led libraries to cut expenditures for books and other materials. This year, Crawford published a revised and expanded report on the topic as the May/June volume of the ALA Library Technology Reports: “Big-Deal Serial Purchasing: Tracking the Damage,” in which he analyzes the “Academic Library Data Files” from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.