22:3 (2007:09) 22nd Conference (2007): Vision Session: Hurry up, Please

August 31, 2007 at 11:30 am | Posted in Conference Reports, Vision Sessions | Leave a comment


Hurry Up, Please. It’s Time – State of Emergency
Karen Schneider, ALA Techsource
Reported by Janet Arcand

Karen Schneider, librarian and noted writer at ALA Techsource and her own site, freerangelibrarian, gave a stimulating and thought-provoking presentation.   It was centered upon the contention that librarians have allowed outside entities from the commercial market to take over the traditional areas of responsibilities of librarians.  She likened the incremental trend of librarians ceding more and more of the selection and decision-making process to the vendors, through outsourcing of collection development and buying into package deals, as the “long slow boiling of the frog” so that it doesn’t know it’s being cooked.

Librarians have a public responsibility. They are in the profession of “memory work,” ensuring that the published historical record is not corrupted so that later selective memory can impose a more romantic or biased view of the past.  What might have seemed like a useful tool, for example, the Google Library project, really has drawbacks if you look at the fine print. The Google Library Project comes from a commercial company which is imposing user restrictions upon their library partners, forbidding them in some instances from performing what has been their traditional professional duty, making information available to members of the public.

Information is being “disappeared” when editions of a work can be changed or disappear from the Web (as has been seen in the case of some government documents).  Another alarming trend is for publishers not to allow post-cancellation access to online material for which the library paid in previous years. 

Small presses produce significant material which large corporate publishers are not interested in publishing, for a fairly nominal economic reward and with narrow profit margins. The continued existence of these presses is at risk since their profit margins are threatened by the impact of the proposed new postal rates.  Time-Warner’s clout has influenced postal rates to be less costly for the large corporate publishers, and more costly for small presses and anyone who uses the media material rate.  Librarians should be leading the effort to lobby against these discriminatory rates. 

There are some current projects which are designed from a librarian perspective, to ensure continued access to the public record.  OCA (Open Content Alliance) is a nonprofit group driven by librarians and creating an alternative to Google Book.   LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) and CLOCKSS (Controlled LOCKSS), for copyright-controlled content, are also librarian-grown initiatives designed to “ensure the long-term preservation of digitally published scholarly materials”.  The digital information cannot disappear, since it is not held at a single site.  Librarian participation and support of efforts such as these will put librarians back in the position of being stewards of the common librarian trust.


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