February 17, 2018

Apples v. Oranges, Why Citations are Needed, and more Feedback

“[Comparisons of libraries to sports teams] may be fun, but they are so ridiculously apples-to-oranges that they may discredit the speakers and undermine their positions”

Convincing but less fun

I cringe when libraries are compared in popularity to sports teams, as recently done for Colorado libraries in Jim Duncan’s letter (“More than the Broncos!” Feedback, LJ 9/15/14, p. 9). Such claims may be fun, but they are so ridiculously apples-to-oranges that they may discredit the speakers and undermine their positions. Regarding the Colorado comparison, library attendance is free, while Broncos home game tickets begin at $50 or so and run into the hundreds of dollars—when tickets are available at all. What would attendance be if it cost $50 to enter a library? Broncos attendance if it were free (and there was space)?

NFL football is primarily a television audience event, and Broncos games can draw 25 million or more viewers. Assuming five million average viewers for 16 games per year (excludes playoffs) over Duncan’s 12-year span produces a Bronco audience of one billion. How does the cited Colorado library attendance compare to that? Also, it’s likely that the billion Broncos viewers spend more time (e.g., three hours) in front of each TV game than library users spend during each visit. A Google News search on “Colorado libraries” (using quotes) produces three results, while “Denver Broncos” produces 74,100 results. Which topic is more ­popular?

There are more convincing (if less fun) ways to demonstrate the enormous value of libraries!

—John Roth, Southfield, MI

Graphic inspiration

I still haven’t read past page 8 of the October 1 issue of LJ. Rebecca Miller’s editorial (“Online Learners & Libraries”) got me immediately inspired to make up a graphic/leaflet that I put on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Now I can read the rest of the issue, because it’s done (twitter.com/seblib). As Miller wrote, “We provide space…and a human interface.” Our ace in the hole!

—Daniel Cooper Clark, Lib. Computer Specialist, North Indian River Cty. Lib., Sebastian, FL

How authors get paid

Comparing what traditionally published authors receive from their publisher with what Amazon pays self-published authors mixes apples and oranges (James LaRue, “The Next Wave of Tech Change,” Self-Publishing & Libraries, LJ 10/1/14, p. 47). The publisher pays for editing, production, and marketing. But all of those costs have to be paid out of the percentage that Amazon pays a self-published author. The calculation of greater reward is not simple at all.

Furthermore, to say “author contracts with publishers vary from eight percent to 15 percent of revenues, generally” is to paint with an opaquely broad brush. Some authors are paid a percentage of net revenues, some are paid a percentage of list price per unit sold. The percentage may rise with the number of copies sold. Revenue from the sale of physical books may be based on a percentage of list price, while revenue from ­ebooks is based on a percentage of net revenue; subsidiary rights income (film rights, translations) earns a different percentage of net revenue. Capitalism is not simple. Neither is the future of literature…or of libraries.

—Dean Blobaum, Oak Park, IL

Citation detail

In “Citation Fixation” (Office Hours, LJ 9/15/14, p. 32), Michael Stephens makes a useful point, but he somehow fails to see serious flaws in what he says. People’s needs for citation detail are not necessarily the same. To some, inclusion of the series or identification of the publisher or indication that the work is a reprint can be of significant interest. In other words, simply enough information to get hold of the source may not cut it. The reader may have no interest in accessing the source, provided the citation is not too bare bones.

Another flaw is the assumption that what is “enough information” to find the source today will be sufficient years hence. Students and others can be put off by inadequate citation in many 19th- and early 20th-century scholarly works…. Back then the citations may well have been sufficient. “Everybody” at least within a given nation or discipline “knew” who so-and-so was or what an abbreviation meant.

Stephens seems unconcerned about standards and different citation needs among disciplines. A work’s publication date may be critical in psychology so the citation format moves it “up front,” whereas in religion the year a work appeared may be much less significant. Stephens parenthetically notes “link rot,” but he understates such issues and…assumes that the ISBN alone will do for works not online….

Much of what drives Stephens and “Citation Fixation” comes clear in the final paragraph. He thinks bare-bones (e.g., an ISBN) citations will not turn people off but that “complex” ones will, supposedly just as “precision” does when it comes to “MARC records or shelving systems.” Some people may be turned off by the effort of needing to be precise, but everyone will be turned off by the inability to identify a source and locate it when desired.

—James C. Pakala, Manchester, MO

Cultural shift

I couldn’t agree more, Rebecca (Rebecca T. Miller, “Online Learners & Libraries,” Editorial, LJ 10/1/14, p. 8). OCLC’s entry to the Knight News Challenge puts forward some ideas for just how we might “be central to this major cultural shift.” Please stop by to give us your feedback (http://ow.ly/CKSx4).

—Chrystie Hill, OCLC, Dublin, OH

This article was published in Library Journal's November 1, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.