Library Access to Scholarship

I rarely mention here when Walt Crawford publishes a new issue of his very fine ejournal Cites & Insights, mostly because I sort of assume you all read it already.

Of course, that's probably not true so I'll remedy the situation partially with this post.

The most recent issue is completely (html) devoted to giving a selective overview of the last year or so's (mostly) blogospheric writing on open access -- think of it as a detailed review article from a volume of an annual review series. The emphasis is on covering important developments and interesting controversies. I was familiar with the vast majority of the material before and I still found an awful lot of value in this kind of after-the-fact big picture summary.

Given the way Walt intersperces his own commentary with extensive quotes from the posts and articles he's highlighting, it's not really possble to exerpt something short from the issue and have it still make sense. So, you'll have to trust me on how good it is. I can give a little of the flavour of it all by saying that in a weird sort of way, It's kind of like Stevan Harnad vs. Dorothea Salo with Peter Suber as special guest referee. Harnad, Salo and Suber being three of the most quoted in the issue.

In the conclusion, Walt discusses the possibility of dropping the section:

Why I'm considering dropping the section

Value added: I've never felt I could add much value to Peter Suber's commentaries or, for that matter, Dorothea Salo's (when she was focusing on these issues). I've given up engaging Stevan Harnad or directly discussing his monotone writing. Lately, I'm not sure my synthesis and commentary are adding much value to any of this.

Effectiveness: Most Cites & Insights readers are within the library field, I believe-and that's only reasonable, since that's my background and the focus of most topical areas. So I'm probably not reaching many scientists-or, if I am, I'm probably not doing much to convince them to do more about OA and access-related issues. As for librarians, I'd guess that my readers are mostly already convinced-that I'm neither educating nor convincing much of anybody who doesn't already get it. (I'd guess 1% to 3% of librarians read C&I, spiking to 25% or more for one particular issue. Those who need educating are mostly in the other 97%, I suspect.)

Futility: Given what I'm reading from scientists as to how they relate to libraries and librarians, and given what I'm reading as to how they make decisions on where to publish and where to exert pressure, I'm feeling pretty futile about the whole effort. Not necessarily about OA as such-but definitely about my ability to make a difference.

To these, I would respond that an annual summary seems about right. Also, that the value added is in the summary and the after-the-fact perspective, which is very effective to the 1-3% who benefit. As for the futility of reaching scientists about library issues, at some level that's probably not a realistic goal anyways so not acheiving it isn't really a "failure." Progress there, slow and halting when it happens, is in the trenches.

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