Archive for the 'faculty liaison' category

Why are librarians hesitant to CANCEL ALL THE JOURNALS?

There's lots of discussion out there right now in the twitter and blog world concerning Bjorn Brembs' call to librarians to jumpstart the mass migration to Open Access by essentially unilaterally cancelling all the journals they subscribe to. This act would force the hands of all the various players in the ecosystem to immediately figure out how to make Open Access work.

Which is a great idea. I actually kind of mused about this sort of scenario a while back in a post called An Open Access thought experiment. Except what I wasn't smart enough or brave enough to do was imagine a scenario where it was librarians themselves who up and cancelled all the journals rather than it just happening.

Why would that be? Well, I think it's safe to say that librarians don't feel they have the power to unilaterally cancel all their institution's subscriptions without some fearsome retribution either from within the institution itself or from elements of the publishing world.

Recently the University of Montreal's library cancelled a big deal and seem to have gotten good support internally. So that's hopeful. By the same token, the SUNY Potsdam library's cancellation of the American Chemical Society a few years back seems to have had strong support internally. It was externally that the blowback happened. So that's both good news and bad news.

Most recently the situation at Brock University in Ontario is an interesting example of what librarians fear will be the outcome of any large-scale cancellation exercise. The Brock library cancelled the Wiley big deal package, with what they thought was internal support. But a firestorm ensued with ultimately the Brock Faculty Association filing an internal grievance to force the administration to fund the library at the level necessary to subscribe to the journals. The grievance has since been dropped, leaving it to the Senate to pick up the pieces, but the implication is clear.

Librarians: Act boldly at your own risk.

Of course, it's not that simple. As a species librarians are rather risk-averse. Institutionally, academic librarians are rarely the most powerful constituency on campus and maintaining the influence we do have is a tricky dance at best. This is not to mention that many librarians are quite happy with the subscription status quo as it more-or-less is. Handling journal subscriptions is a clearly defined role, one that makes us feel important. If that importance is often more in the cynical eyes of the publishers who flatter us than in the eyes of the local communities whom we actually build those collections for, well, that's nothing new.

Barbara Fister has much more on this issue here, Determining our Tech, and in the comments of the post:

Recently Björn Brems suggested that librarians should simply cancel all subscriptions to fix this problem. On Twitter Mike Taylor predicted that things would sort themselves out within three months of the mass die-off of subscription journals. Of course, that ignores the likely fallout: librarians would be fired and possibly arraigned on charges of collusion, the budgets they had devoted to subscriptions would not be reallocated to supporting institutional repositories or any other way of sharing information, and the many scholars who email colleagues for the PDFs they no longer could access would find out their colleagues couldn’t access them, either. Three months for the establishment of a new and better system seems a bit optimistic and based on some serious misconceptions, such as that the scholarly record Is safely preserved in LOCKSS and that somehow the copyrights publishers hold to that material will suddenly be irrelevant as publishers implode. Remember that the majority of books published in the 20th century live in copyright limbo? Yeah. Canceling subscriptions en masse won’t fix that problem.

The Library Loon suggests some ways those on the research/publishing side could perhaps better understand the pressures and constraints that librarians work under:

Kent Anderson works for a scholarly publisher. So does Peter Binfield.

Phil Davis is a researcher. So is Martin Eve.

Why is it so hard for certain portions of the open-access movement to assimilate that libraries and librarians are not monolithic with respect to open access (or, indeed, much of anything else) either?

To be sure, some of the answer to that question is “unconsidered privilege.” Librarianship is a feminized profession; that has profound social consequences vis-à-vis voice and silencing as well as political capital and lack of same. It is hardly coincidence that the loudest voices either spouting absolute nonsense about libraries and scholarly communication or erasing libraries’ contributions to open access altogether have been—universally, as best the Loon can tell—white men.

The Loon can name names if need be. Per her usual practice, she would vastly prefer not to.

Anyone can learn, however. To that end, some suggestions for places to learn about the complex world of libraries, electronic-resource management (as libraries term it), and open access.

Both Barbara and The Loon's posts are well worth reading in their entirety (The Loon refers to me as indefatigable in the post, BTW. I blush.). I couldn't agree with them more.

The paper The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era and Tim Gowers' Elsevier journals — some facts are also both good supplements to this conversation.

To end, I'll compile below as much of the documented history of the Brock case as I could find in a few quick searches online. Thanks to Ian Gibson of Brock University for some insight into their situation. Any misunderstandings remain mine, of course.

I welcome any additions or corrections from colleagues with respect to how I've described what's happened at Brock.

The Brock Library Open Access page is here.

Brock University Senate Meetings & Minutes are here.

As usual, please let me know about any errors or omissions in the list.

Update 2015.06.29. Thanks to input from a colleague at Brock, I have struck out ", with what they thought was internal support".

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Reading Diary: Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design by Lisa Welchman

What is digital governance in the first place?
Digital governance is a discipline that focuses on establishing clear accountability for digital strategy, policy, and standards. A digital governance framework, when effectively designed and implemented, helps to streamline digital development and dampen debates around digital channel “ownership.”
-- From the Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design website.

Universities
Intellectual autonomy and stubbornness of staff
-- From the index, Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, p. 229

Time to take a little medicine! All those digital projects, all those digital projects teams, all those digital projects strategies. Libraries, academic libraries, we know them well, don't we.

Chaos is a good word. Lots of stakeholders, limited resources, competing priorities. Governance is a good word too, for libraries, as it tends to imply less a top-down, less hierarchical, more collegial way of making decisions. And when it comes to deciding how an organization should make decisions about their digital presence, finding a way to makes those decisions more effectively is very important.

Which is exactly what Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design by Lisa Welchman is about -- how to set up internal structures that will help organizations make decisions about digital strategies, policies and standards. Note that the book isn't about what decisions to make or even really how to organize the decision-making process. It's about what structures can facilitate and inform and govern a decision-making process that results in strategies, policies and standards.

It's that twice-removed aspect that is both the book's greatest strength and the source of some frustrations as well.

It's a strength because it provides a level of abstraction between the content of the decisions and the process of deciding that can take a bit of heat out of the whole thing. Frustrating because the occasional lack of grounding in reality of all the talk of policies and whatnot make it hard to see how it all ties back to reality. The endless talk of process this and committee that is sometimes like grasping at smoke. There are fairly detailed case studies at the end, but perhaps some of that content should have been distributed a little better up front -- or at least some more real world examples.

Building a governance structure where none existed before or overlaying one on an existing chaotic situation are challenging tasks to say the least. Basically it requires defining the appropriate structures and then figuring out how to overlay those bureaucratic structures on an organization that needs it but may not realize or recognize it needs it.

And Welchman does a terrific job of going through how to define those processes and even how to talk about implementing them. She's very deliberate and patient, setting everything out in words and charts, step by step, how to figure out who defines, who has input, who has final authority. And the things we're talking about deciding about (see how circular and vague and smokey this gets...)?

Digital strategies, digital policies, digital standards. And not in any concrete way, of course, but as those higher-level abstractions that will be different for every industry or sector and which will be different for each organization within those industries.

And yes, higher education is one of the sectors that get a case study at the end. The example is a university's central web team in charge of managing and integrating the school's web presence across all the various units. (The case studies are anonymized versions of experiences in her own consulting practice.)

Governance can be a good word for higher education, of course. But the challenge in the modern higher education landscape is distinguishing between governance and "governance" or governance-washing. Setting up a digital governance strategy for institutions that are as decentralized and multi-faceted as universities is doubly challenging. What's being governed in digital strategy anyways? Just marketing and communication? Data and scholarship resources? MOOCs and online education? Faculty and departmental web-presences? To what degree is the marketing and communications tail wagging the educational and research mission dog? Someone has to keep an eye on what universities are really for -- teaching and research. And not marketing. We don't have universities so we can market them -- as the tail sometimes seems to think.

Welchman trods this fine line not always successfully in the higher ed case study. Too much emphasis on top down from the senior admin and provost and not enough grassroots bottom up from faculty, staff and -- yes -- students. For governance to be legitimate in a higher education environment, the decision-making needs to flow upward, not downward, as inconvenient and frustrating as that can seem sometimes on the inside. The digital part of the university serves the teaching and research mission of the university, not the other way around. Autonomy and stubbornness are virtues, not inconveniences to getting input on long, tortuous processes.

Overall, this is a very good book, if a little dry and disruption business web hallelujah jargony at times. The digital/web teams are perhaps too often portrayed as the misunderstood heroes of the various tales rather than part of complex organizational ecosystems where heroes and villains don't really exist. References to "disruption" and "digital natives" and "digital campus" don't necessarily inspire complete confidence, but there is also an incredible amount of wisdom here when it comes to creating collegial governance. Your mileage may vary, but it's hard to imagine that anyone involved in digital projects at any level won't find something here to help them navigate creating better processes at their institutions.

This book belongs in any library/information science, technology or business library collection in academia. Probably only quite large public library systems would find an audience for this book, but branches in technology hub neighbourhoods should probably put a copy in their window display. Also, buy a copy for everyone on your digital team, up and down the hierarchy all the way to the CIO.

Welchman, Lisa. Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media, 2015. 248pp. ISBN-13: 978-1933820880

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Reading Diary: The Machiavellian Librarian: Winning Allies, Combating Budget Cuts, and influencing Stakeholders edited by Melissa K. Aho and Erika Bennet

Melissa K. Aho and Erika Bennet's anthology The Machiavellian Librarian: Winning Allies, Combating Budget Cuts, and influencing Stakeholders is pretty good for what it is, in some ways better than I expected. It's a guide for maneuvering office politics and advancing your agenda, big and small, with the stakeholders and influencers that matters in your environment. Sadly, this book fails for what it isn't: a book that tackles the issues and trends where librarians really need to advance our agendas and make ourselves key "thought leaders" and "influencers."

The book is a collection of 25 chapters, each presenting the authors experiences and views on applying the principles of Machiavellianism to the library world. Of course, a quick trip through Wikipedia (sorry...) gets me up to speed on Niccolò Machiavelli and some of the thoughts and philosophies in his most famous work, The Prince. Machiavellianism seems to be mostly about "the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct." Some further poking around gets me to the psychological concept of the Dark Triad with its three basic personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. The Machiavellian trait is defined as "by manipulation and exploitation of others, a cynical disregard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and deception."

Heavy stuff for librarians, I guess, but on the other hand I guess we live in a world where you have to Machiavelliate or be Machiavelliated.

But let's get back to the book. To get a sense of where they take it, here's a few chapter titles:

  • One Machiavellian librarian's path toward leadership
  • Weasels and honey badgers: networking for librarians
  • Influence without authority: making fierce allies
  • Prince or plebe: success at all levels of the library hierarchy
  • Mixed monarchies: expanding the library's sphere of influence to help student-athletes
  • Breading the mold: winning allies via self-discovery
  • Slybrarianship: building alliances through user engagement and outreach

You get the idea. While mostly focused on academic libraries other setting are featured and most of the advice and recommendations are broadly applicable. Generally, the individual articles are pretty good: lots of serious thought and effort went into them without a doubt.

And that thought certainly shines through in what's good about this book: practical real world advice on how to work the system and make things happen, mostly through outreach, hard work, gentle and not-so gentle persuasion. For the most part, the individual articles are well written and make compelling cases, either in a general way or connected to a particular real-world experience of the authors. A couple of them might make good Harvard-style case studies in fact, the kinds of things that could be analysed and dissected in library management or marketing classes. The focus on assessment and self-study, while a bit unhinged at times and not always applied critically, is also a positive. Many of the articles try to make sure the maneuvering is grounded in some sort of data or community research. Gathering information, looking inward as well as outward, are fairly common strategies for the Machiavellian planning process.

And a lot of being in the right place at the right time, especially in the sense that we should always keep a keen eye on making sure we're in the right place at the right time. In a sense, this is a book that doesn't believe in luck so much as making your own luck. It's all in the title. It's about winning, combating and influencing. Making sure the library is there to fight, influence and come out on top when tough decisions have to be make. And you, the librarian, you can be the hero of this story, the one that plants the library flag on the hilltop, that vanquishes the enemy.

So yes, this is a bit of a book on how to weasel your way into becoming the hero librarian of your institution's story. And while "weasel" is a tough word to use, part of making sure you're there when the deeds get done requires being a bit pushy and perhaps a bit sneaky. Something the book doesn't shy away from at all -- weasel is in one of the article titles after all.

Because at the end of the day, many of these articles are little more that "just-so" stories of "how I did good winning the day against the forces of evil." Which is a grand tradition in the library literature to be sure, but a little unsatisfying in the end. Because sometimes that end seems to justify the means. These tales of librarian heroism may be "just-so" but they are also the winners' version of their particular history. Not surprisingly, we don't get the version of history written by the colleagues, community-members and most of all the employees who were the subject of these experiments. No one wants to be "that person" in an employment setting, but some of these stories seem to be encouraging a kind of uncritical zeal for success.

None of which come easy for the stereotypical librarian, of course. One of the areas touched upon but not explored as fully in the book as it needed to be were some of the gendered aspects of the kinds of power dynamics involved in being sneaky and pushy and Machiavellian. Power dynamics generally could have been explored much more critically.

But perhaps where the book comes most short, as I imply way back at the beginning of the review, is again all about what isn't explored.

Have you heard me mention scholarly communications? Open access? Publishers? Recalcitrant faculty? Author rights? I searched through the text of the book -- the advantage of ebook copies for reviewers -- and my initial reading impressions were correct. These concepts are almost completely absent. In my humble opinion, for academic libraries these issues are at least as important as any other when it comes to using our powers of persuasion and manipulation. American Chemical Society vs. SUNY Potsdam? The Research Works Act? Big Deal journal pricing deals? Ebook licensing insanity? Encouraging, implementing and enforcing institutional and national open access mandates? These are some oft the issues that I would really have wanted to see attacked and persuaded. And I'm sure librarians in other contexts, such as public, institutional or corporate librarian may have also wanted to see a few different case studies explored too

Wait a sec...oh yes. Now I recall. The publisher of the book is Chandos, a imprint of Elsevier. It all makes sense now. They certainly don't want librarians to train our Machiavellian powers back on them. Blowback, as it were.

Now the scholarly communications issues are just the ones that are nearest and dearest to my heart. There's a much larger world out there in which librarians can have an important impact. How about larger social issues like climate change or vaccination denialism, the digital divide, economic and gender inequality, ubiquitous government surveillance? All of these are issues that are pretty well ignored in the book. The explicit focus of Machiavellian Librarian is library stakeholders, so perhaps these are issues for another book, but I couldn't help but notice their near complete absence.

I will cautiously recommend this book for LIS collections, both at library schools and libraries which support their staff of librarians librarians. There's enough good for educational use and it'll spark some ideas and conversations among practitioners. Individual librarians may want to pick this up and flip through it for ideas, but there are likely better leadership and entrepreneurship books out there.

Aho, Melissa K. and Erika Bennet, editors. The Machiavellian Librarian: Winning Allies, Combating Budget Cuts, and influencing Stakeholders. Oxford: Chandos, 2014. 340pp. ISBN-13: 978-1843347552

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Friday Fun: Six open access myths put to rest

It's been kind of a crazy week for me, so I haven't really had much of a chance to contribute to or even read a lot of the Open Access Week calls to arms out there right now.

So I thought I would kind of commandeer my Friday Fun silly lists habit and redirect that energy to open access.

So here it is, from Peter Suber:

Open access: six myths to put to rest

  1. The only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals
  2. All or most open access journals charge publication fees
  3. Most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves
  4. Publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access
  5. Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality
  6. Open access mandates infringe academic freedom

    This is true for gold open access but not for green. But if you believe that all open access is gold, then this myth follows as a lemma. Because only about one-third of peer-reviewed journals are open access, requiring researchers to submit new work to open access journals would severely limit their freedom to submit work to the journals of their choice. By contrast, green open access is compatible with publishing in non-open access journals, which means that green open access mandates can respect author freedom to publish where they please. That is why literally all university open access mandates are green, not gold. It's also why the green/gold distinction is significant, not fussy, and why myths suppressing recognition of green open access are harmful, not merely false.

Of course, read Suber's original article to get the detailed explanations of all the myths. And please do share the list widely with all your friends, relatives, contacts, faculty, librarians, and legislators.

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Reading Diary: The innovative university: Changing the DNA of higher education from the inside out by Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring

Sep 18 2013 Published by under acad lib future, academia, book review, faculty liaison

It took me a long time to get through The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out, something like eighteen months to finally wade through it. And it's not that it was even that bad. It a lot of ways, it was better than I expected. Part of it is the fact that it came out just before the MOOC craze hit and it seemed odd for a "future of higher education" book to sort of miss that boat. Part of it is the fact that Christensen and Eyring's book is very deeply rooted in the US experience so maybe parts of it weren't so relevant to my experience in Canada. But mostly I think it was me. Partly the logical breaks in the book made it easy to put down. Part of it was needing to digest what's been discussed. Part of it is that this book is not exactly a barn burner.

So, Clayton Christensen, he of disruptive innovation fame and fortune. Apply that theory to higher education and what do you get? Well, like I implied above, for something that came just before the more seriously touted disruptive innovation of MOOCs, something that ends up seeming strangely restrained. A nice history of Harvard opens the book, and at several chapters perhaps taking up a bit too much of it. The rest of the book uses the Mormon institution Ricks College as a case study in how higher education would serve students better if every institution didn't all blindly strive to be more like Harvard.

Sure, the "disruptive" innovations Christensen and Eyring promote most strongly like top-down planning, fanatical assessment, online courses and cheap adjunct profs are not necessarily universally lauded, but they definitely aren't as doctrinaire as many recent disruptophiles. And there was lots of balance in terms of the strong role they see for faculty and for physical campuses. They also recognize that all these disruptions involve tough choices, even if they are a little cavalier about some of the consequences. Basically, the message is that it's a bad thing if every single university strives to exactly emulate the Harvard model of research intensity and curricular planning. Different school can serve different student profiles in different ways.

If perhaps in need of an editor to chop 100 pages and nudge it away from an chummy old-boys-club feel, this is overall a decent if unexciting book. It is one that has much to disagree with in execution but much food for thought in terms of ultimate goal. I certainly didn't agree with most of their prescriptions but they definitely weren't as radical or as destructive as one might have assumed and ultimately the book served as a useful intellectual sounding board.

Any library serving a higher education patron base would benefit from this book as would most public library systems. Buy it for the prof in your life and watch the steam come out of her or his ears.

Christensen, Clayton M. and Eyring, Henry J. The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.

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Science and the New Media Ecosystem, a talk by Bora Zivkovic at York University, May 6, 2013

Apr 29 2013 Published by under academia, culture of science, faculty liaison, yorku

A note for my Toronto area friends, Blogfather Bora Zivkovic will be giving a talk at York University in Toronto on May 6, 2013 from 2:00 to 3:30 pm.

Here's the info:

Science and the New Media Ecosystem

Bora Zivkovic, Blog Editor at Scientific American

Monday, May 6, 2013, 2:00 – 3:30 pm
Paul Delaney Gallery, Room 320, Bethune College
York University, Toronto
Map

Abstract:
The whole media landscape is shifting and changing – newspapers on the decline with blogs, Twitter and YouTube on the rise.

Science is no different. Come listen to one of the pioneers of online science communication talk about how this new media landscape is shaping how science is done, evaluated and communicated in an increasingly connected world.

If you can't make the talk, there will be also be a ScienceOnline Toronto Tweetup at The Duke of York that evening starting at 7pm. Sign up at the Facebook page or just show up!

The talk is open to the public. If you'd like to attend but aren't sure about the logistics of getting to York, campus maps and directions are here. Subway construction has made getting to campus a bit complicated, so be aware of the various transit options on the map/directions page.

You can also just email me at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

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Scitech librarians take note: The Western Conference on Science Education

The biennial Western Conference on Science Education will be taking place this coming July 9–July 11, 2013.

I'm thinking very seriously of going and I think science/engineering librarians in general should consider doing so as well.

Here's how they describe it:

The biennial Western Conference for Science Education creates an ongoing organizational infrastructure that invites teaching and research faculty, librarians and other educational professionals, regardless of their experience level, to collaborate on the improvement of post-secondary Science education through the exchange of experience, innovation, ideas, and research in teaching and learning across disciplines.

Although situated in the context of Canadian higher education in Science, the Western Conference recognizes that fundamental issues in teaching and learning often transcend disciplinary, institutional, and national boundaries. Participation by colleagues working outside the country, or outside the traditional disciplines of Science, is welcome.

Specifically, the Western Conference for Science Education is designed to create and sustain an on-going organizational structure that:

  1. enhances a Science education community by enticing faculty and educational staff to venture out of their respective discipline-specific circles to meet, discuss, and collaborate with one another;
  2. promotes ongoing improvement in post-secondary Science education through support of a range of scholarly approaches to teaching and learning;
  3. contributes to the professional development of Science educators by providing access to educational leaders, resources, and training;
  4. promotes productive inter-relationships between educators and various private sector academic publishers, suppliers, technology providers etc;
  5. provides an avenue to share ideas, innovation, and research;
  6. ensures that Conference proceedings are archived and accessible.

Conferences are planned for every other year after 2013. On off-years, we encourage other colleagues, organizations and institutions to host synergistic events that benefit from, and in turn increase, the momentum created by the Western Conferences.

The call for proposals is here and the submission guidelines here.

The conference topic threads have a lot of scope for the kinds of work librarians do:

Thread A: Teaching and Learning Science
Thread B: Evaluation of Learning
Thread C: Curriculum
Thread D: Education Technologies and Innovative Resources
Thread E: Other

And the session formats leave a lot of leeway for interesting ways to pitch that work. In particular, the "Short & Tweet" format seems to have a lot of possibility for advocacy.

  • Workshops: Workshops are highly participatory hands-on 80 minute sessions allowing participants to come away with a product, tool, or skill.
  • Presentations: Presentations are 40 minute sessions providing the opportunity for presenters to engage with their peers in the form of a traditional paper, novel demonstration, provocative debate, or other creative formats. When appropriate, two complementary presentations will be paired.
  • Short and Tweets: This is an engaging 14.0 minute live presentation that will be summarized in 140 characters. Short and Tweets will be collected and presented in six-packs.
  • Posters: Posters are self-explanatory visual displays offered in a format that promotes informal dialogue between the poster’s author(s) and their peers. At least one of the poster's authors will be available for discussion during the Poster Session.

The Canadian Engineering Education Association annual conference (June 17-20) is another I'm considering for the spring/summer and I know that it's also a very good conference for engineering librarians.

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Publisher hits new low: Suing librarian for criticizing their books

So here's the rather strange story.

Way back in 2010, librarian Dale Askey, then of Kansas State University, wrote a blog post critical of the humanities monograph publisher Edwin Mellen. Basically, he stated that the publishers' low quality did not justify their high prices. No big deal, really, librarians have lots of opinions about publishers and share them all the time around the water cooler, at conferences and online. But perhaps foreshadowing what was coming, Askey remarked in his post: "Given how closely Mellen guards its reputation against all critics, perhaps I should just put on my flameproof suit now."

Fast forward to 2012, with Askey now Associate University Librarian at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario:

Edwin Mellen Press, an academic publisher with offices in upstate New York and Britain, filed two lawsuits in June in Ontario’s Superior Court. The first implicates Askey and McMaster, his current employer and employer for some of the time the blog post was live, as "vicariously liable" for his statements, and claims libel and exemplary damages in the amount of $3.5 million. A second suit, filed against Askey alone, claims more than $1 million in similar damages (the individual suit names Herbert Richardson, press founder, as plaintiff and alleges additional, defamatory remarks directed against him personally on the blog).

Whoa.

Suing a librarian for being critical about your products is clearly a massive overreaction. There are better ways to respond, surely.

But here we are. Academic librarians have academic freedom in their positions to protect us from just this sort of undue influence on the exercise of our judgement while doing our jobs. This intimidation is unacceptable.

So what are next steps? First of all, we should all keep up the pressure on blogs and twitter and other places online. It would be great to see more faculty blogging and tweeting about this, and faculty all across the disciplinary map too. Librarians work for the interests of their entire campus constituency and I'd hate to think this could set any sort of precedent.

Sign the petition, if you're so inclined. I have. And most of all, we should continue to air our honest opinions about publishers and their products, both in person and online.

As is my occasionally obsessive practive, I've gathered the various commentaries I've seen around the web below.

General:

 
 

The story chronologically:

If I've made any errors in the above list or missed any other relevant items, please let me know in the comments or at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

(Academic librarianship is a small world. I've met Dale Askey once or twice at conferences.)

Update 2013.02.10. Added a bunch I missed.
Update 2013.02.11. Added another bunch, some new and some I missed.
Update 2013.02.13. More added, mostly new with a few stragglers.
Update 2013.02.13. Added MUALA statement.
Update 2013.02.13. Added OCULA statement.
Update 2013.02.14. More added, mostly new and a few older ones.
Update 2013.02.15. More added.
Update 2013.02.20. Fairly sizable update, including a couple of more historical background items at the end of the General section.
Update 2013.02.27. More added, all from February 19th on.
Update 2013.03.17. Big update with 60ish items added.
Update 2013.03.30. Update mostly about threatening letter to The Scholarly Kitchen. The withdrawn posts are here and here
Update 2014.02.24. Big update, long delayed. Prompted by Dale Askey being awarded the 2014 Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada and the Progressive Librarians Guild Toronto Area Chapter being awarded the Les Fowlie Intellectual Freedom Award. Both are richly deserved. Since it's been so long since I've updated, there's probably a greater than average chance I've missed stuff. Please let me know in the comments or at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

23 responses so far

Getting Your Science Online: Presentation at Brock University Physics Department

It seems that Brock University in St. Catherine's, Ontario really likes me. Two years ago, the Library kindly invited me to speak during their Open Access Week festivities. And this year the Physics Department has also very kindly invited me to be part of their Seminar Series, also to talk about Getting Your Science Online, this time during OA Week mostly by happy coincidence.

It's tomorrow, Tuesday October 23, 2012 in room H313 at 12:30.

Here's the abstract I've provided:

Physicist and Reinventing Discovery author Michael Nielsen has said that due to the World Wide Web, “[t]he process of scientific discovery – how we do science – will change more over the next 20 years than in the past 300 years.” Given the cornucopian nature of the Web, there’s a tool or strategy that will help most everyone with concrete goals in their research program. In this session we’ll take a look at some of the incredible opportunities the Web has opened up for scientists, from Open Access publishing, Open Notebooks and Open Data on the one hand, to blogs, Twitter and Google+ on the other.

It looks to be great fun! I'd like to thank Thad Haroun and the Brock Physics Department for kindly inviting me. I'll post the slides on the blog later this week.

The rest of this post is what I guess would count as "supplemental materials" for the presentation. The first chunk is a bunch of links on the main topics of the presentation, all the various "Open Whatever" topics. The rest is a long list of readings on blogs, Twitter and general social media for academics that I've assembled over the years and at least somewhat digested into the presentation, mostly based on a post from last year but will some extra and more recent items added.
 
Open Access

 
Open Access Mandates & policies

 
Open Access Repositories

 

Open Data

 
Open Notebook Science

 
Blogging networks

 

Blog Aggregators

 
Some physics & math blogs

 
And here are the blogs/twitter/social media resources I promised.

Feel free to add any suggestions in the comments.

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The American Chemical Society: Paving paradise to put up a parking lot

Why do people go into science? Why do people go to work at scholarly societies? Why do people choose scholarly publishing as a career? Why do people choose a career at the intersection of those three vocations?

There are cynical answers to those questions, for sure, and even the non-cynical need to put food on the table. But I truly don't believe people start out their path in life based on cynicism. Rather I believe most people start their careers based on hope.

I can only hope that for a person to pursue a career in scholarly publishing at a scientific society, their goal in life is to try and make the world a better place, to advance science, to serve society, to help the researchers of today stand on the shoulders of giants.

And the ACS Vision and Mission statements seem to support this (bolding is mine):

Our Mission and Vision

We are dynamic and visionary, committed to “Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.”

This vision ─ developed and adopted by the ACS Board of Directors after broad consultation with the membership ─ fully complements the ACS Mission statement, which is “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.” Together, these two statements represent our ultimate reason for being and provide a strategic framework for our efforts.

Alas, the theory here doesn't seem to be translating into practice.

Our story of woe begins with Jenica Rogers, Library Director at SUNY Potsdam, declaring that her library will be cancelling their American Chemical Society subscriptions:

tl;dr: SUNY Potsdam will not be subscribing to an American Chemical Society online journal package for 2013. We will instead be using a combination of the Royal Society of Chemistry content, ACS single title subscriptions, the ACS backfile, and ScienceDirect from Elsevier** to meet our chemical information needs. We’re doing this because the ACS pricing model is unsustainable for our institution and we were unable to find common ground with the sales team from the ACS. Instead, we explored other options and exercised them. You could do the same if you find yourself in a position similar to ours as ACS standardizes their pricing, and maybe together we can make enough choices to make our voices heard in meaningful ways.

Not surprisingly, this is big news. And Jennifer Howard's article in The Chronicle has this ACS reaction:

A spokesman for the American Chemical Society said that the group would not offer a response to Ms. Rogers's blog post or the conversation that's sprung up around it. "We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance, and common courtesy are not practiced and observed," Glenn S. Ruskin, the group's director of public affairs, said in an e-mail message. "As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution."

Which is rude, condescending and dismissive of both librarians and bloggers.

And, of course, no one on the Internet can leave well enough alone. There's more PR disaster on the cheminfo-l mailing list:

I respect and appreciate responsible bloggers, those that thoughtfully engage on those blogs as well as those that utilize listservs. No insult was intended, and apologies to those that interpreted the comment that way. These outlets provide important avenues to further dialogue and collaboration and are valuable assets in the ever evolving digital age.

The individual responsible for the above cited blog certainly has the right to her opinion, but that does not excuse rude behavior or her use of profanity and vulgarity in addressing ACS or its employees. While not evident in the most recent postings, I won’t repeat what she has posted in the past. But I think you would agree that vulgarity and profanity postings do not lend themselves to meaningful, productive and civil discourse, thus our decision not to engage any further with her on this topic.

Which is even worse, of course. Shutting down, haranguing, insulting and attempting to intimidate critics is a time-worn tactic.

Thankfully, Rogers will have none of that.

For all of you who won't take the time to search (nor do I think you should have to), let me share all of my public posts about the ACS. There are several over several years. I really don't think that I was guilty of "rude behavior or her use of profanity and vulgarity in addressing ACS or its employees." I don't appreciate the accusations, Mr. Ruskin, and none of what you've accused me of changes the fact that you DID insult bloggers and listserv participants. Apologizing by insulting me does you no credit.

And again.

Librarians and faculty did not price the ACS content out of our ability to pay for it.

Librarians and faculty did not insist, repeatedly, for seven hours of face-to-face ‘negotiations’, that any compromise was outside the established pricing model.

Librarians and faculty did not insist that there should be only private discussion of the matter, and no public debate.

And, to take it bigger picture, librarians and faculty did not reduce State funding for New York’s institutions of higher education.

So I repeat: We are not the ones who should feel guilty. We are not the ones failing to prioritize teaching and learning. And speaking out about that conflict, that injustice, and that frustration does not mean we don’t value those things. It means we do.

Which brings us to today.

American Chemical Society, you need to rethink what you're all about, how you treat your customers and your members and the true constituency of your society -- society as a whole.

Given your status as a scholarly society, you should price your products fairly so you need to work with librarians and others to build a sustainable business model that works for a broad range of institutions.

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And of course, this issue is spreading like wildfire and the full range of commentary is kind of hard to compress into a reasonably short post.

Here's a list of all the relevant posts I've been able to find up until now. It's heartening to note a nice mix between posts from both the librarian and chemist side. Please feel free to chime in with ones I've missed.

Update 2012.10.01: A more complete and chronologically ordered list of relevant posts is here: Around the Web: SUNY Potsdam vs. American Chemical Society in chronological order – Confessions of a Science Librarian

(If this thing ends up having legs, I'll probably get around to putting the posts in chronological order. See Above.)

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