Re: Disappearing microform titles (Dan Lester) Dan Lester 19 Sep 2001 14:07 UTC

Tuesday, September 18, 2001, 1:59:10 PM, Albert Henderson wrote:
>> you could be interpreted as expecting that academia be held accountable to
>> the publishing industry for something. I'm sure, however, that in your
>> experience and wisdom, you know that the scholarly publishing industry is a
>> service industry. It arose as a convenient mechanism for disseminating
>> information for the use of others and for expediting scholarly
>> communication. As such, the publishing industry has no place, right, or
>> privilege to have expectations or to make demands of academia -- the very
>> institution which the industry serves. It does have the right to make a
>> profit and to sustain its profit-making activity so long as its product is
>> of use to academia.

AH>         My point was not clear. Uuniversity managers have made
AH>         "publishing" a tactical battleground in their war
AH>         against faculty.

Since most "university managers" ARE faculty, with tenured faculty
appointments in a teaching department, why would they be warring on
themselves.  Almost all deans, VPs, and Presidents end up back in the
faculty ranks after some period of time in the hot seats.

AH> Tenure, the influence of individual
AH>         researchers and their associations, and the financial
AH>         power of associations are all tied to publishing.

Tenure is an antiquated, archaic, and unnecessary device in the
twenty-first century, but that's a different debate.  As far as
administrators trying to get rid of tenure, I've never noticed such
activity in the universities I've worked in.

AH>         By cutting library spending, university managers add to
AH>         profitability while undermining faculty authorship,
AH>         influence, "shared governance," and the finances of
AH>         faculty associations.

Faculty have plenty of opportunities to publish, it is just the
changing nature of those opportunities that is the burr under your
saddle.  I don't see any clear relationship between library spending
and "shared governance" or faculty associations.  If I'm napping
through something, I'm sure you'll awaken me to the situation.

>> to be very carefully scrutinized as to their value and their usefulness. It
>> is even possible that some enterprising libraries might go so far as to pay
>> departments or individuals in departments to subscribe as individuals rather
>> than to burden the library with an inordinately expensive institutional
>> subscription.

AH>         The libraries that tried that trick in the 1970s wound up
AH>         with staggering claims problems -- chasing faculty rather
AH>         than publishers. Moreover, many associations' membership
AH>         agreements require their members to not cooperate.

For once I agree with Mr. Henderson.  The scam of getting faculty to
subscribe on behalf of the library has been tried and has failed for a
multitude of reasons, including those he states.

AH>         I am also encouraging US WORLD REPORT etc. to look more
AH>         closely at the collection failure quotient of library
AH>         collections. That's the ratio of interlibrary borrowing
AH>         to collection size. I would think any student wanting an
AH>         excellent education would like to have access to materials
AH>         without waiting two or more weeks.

First, those who put any significant stock in those various ratings
schemes get what they deserve.  They're worth about as much as what
they pay for them: a few bucks for the issue of the magazine. In
addition, a number of major institutions refuse to participate in
those silly exercises.

As far as your "collection failure quotient" goes, I'd be interested
in seeing the table of data that you have prepared on this.  My
experience is that some of the largest universities with the largest
libraries do the most borrowing.  After all, they have the most
advanced and specialized programs, and we're all aware that no library
can have all things for all people.

In addition, interlibrary loans don't take two weeks any more.  One
week is more like it, particularly with systems like Ariel and ILLiad
to facilitate electronic transmission and delivery of articles. Also,
many libraries now have consortial courier arrangements and/or are
willing to spend the money on delivery that is more rapid than
"library rate".

AH>         Why? The page charges in question were supported by
AH>         Federal research grants. It was not the authors
AH>         but the university managers who decided to withhold
AH>         payment. [Koch, H. W. Physics Today. 21,12:126-127 1968]

If they were all supported by federal grants, then the ones who were
hurt by the withholding of page charges were the publishers. No wonder
you're unhappy about it.

AH>         Moreover, page charges have been offered as the financial
AH>         salvation for the 'free' electronic journals that you
AH>         like so much.

There is no question that there are no "completely free" publications.
Someone has to pay for the hardware and software, net connections,
printing, mailing, and whatever other charges that may relate to
particular forms of publication.  However, page charges differ little
than the fees that authors pay to the despised book publishers
commonly called "vanity presses" (which of course these days include
Kinkos and other such quick publishing outfits).

AH>         The National Enquiry on Scholarly Communications, which
AH>         noted the deline in library spending -- and called
AH>         inadequate collections the most serious problem facing
AH>         scholars -- suggested production grants might save the
AH>         monograph. (1979)

In other words, vanity presses.

AH>         famous Bible ... The oldest university presses came only
AH>         after 100 years of commercial publishing.

And most university presses, like most association publishing
organizations, are businesses that need to turn a profit.  Just try to
find a way for a member of the ACS or ALA to successfully influence
the publishing arm of the organization.  Even in cases where they're
not separate corporations, they have a life of their own and are
little influenced by members.

AH>         Moreover, the university presses are clearly another set of
AH>         victims of the war against faculty -- casualties of
AH>         "friendly fire."

As noted, they need to make a profit.  In most academic arenas the
various "auxiliary enterprises" must each survive on their own,
whether they're a press, a bookstore, the athletic teams, the food
service, or anything else.

I'm still interested in seeing these great stashes of money that are
floating around our campuses.  You've shown small numbers of dollars
that are no more than sensible reserves, the same reserves that I'm
sure each of us tries to keep in our personal finances and that any
publisher would also try to keep available for unforseen business


Dan Lester, Data Wrangler
3577 East Pecan, Boise, Idaho  83716-7115 USA  Stop Global Whining!