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Re: PubScience Diane M Lewis 20 Aug 2002 16:13 UTC

This was posted on the ERIL listserve today and may be of interest to some
of you.
Diane M. Lewis

by Marylaine Block

I generally try to avoid anything smacking of political opinion
in this publication, but in view of a pattern of government
actions against the public's right to know, which makes it
difficult for librarians to conduct their business, I need to
talk about what this administration and this congress is doing --
and I would do the same no matter which party was doing it.

The most recent instance is the Department of Energy's
announcement that it is shutting down PubScience, the
government's free indexing/abstracting service for science
articles, because it competes with perfectly good commercial
products.  The fact that those commercial products have a track
record of being outrageously expensive and unaffordable to many
libraries and colleges is of no interest to the Department of
Energy, which houses the product.

Earlier this year the Department of Energy and the House of
Representatives tried to de-fund PubScience (see my previous
article,  "Messing with Cash Cows" at ), though that
language apparently has not made it into the final
appropriations bill as yet (if there has been a final
appropriations bill -- as best I can tell Congress has not yet
completed appropriations for a single government agency).

Now, while Congress is out of town, the Department of Energy has
staged a sneak attack on its own product.  It has announced its
intention to close  PubScience -- see -- pending a measly 30-day
comment period.

The message I sent was this:

You state that "Provider systems such as Scirus and Infotrieve
have progressively increased the availability of freely
searchable citations, and this trend is anticipated to
continue."  Nonetheless, much of their service is not free, nor
do I expect it to remain so once the indexing industry achieves
its goal of shutting down PubScience.

In case you're unaware of it, the indexing industry has a track
record of pricing products out of the reach of most small
libraries and colleges, with prices jumping annually by hundreds,
or even thousands of dollars.  What's more, the publishers are
fully aware of this, because they know how many customers they've
lost, as small libraries like the one I worked for, faced with
the choice between subscribing to the indexes or to the journals
themselves because they're unable to afford both, have canceled
expensive index subscriptions over the years.

Your elimination of PubScience is a disservice not just to those
libraries, but to science and knowledge itself, which builds on
the ideas of those who've gone before.  If you want invention to
thrive in this country, you don't shove it into  a high-priced
enclave few can afford to enter.

Furthermore, PubScience is just one juicy target for the indexing
industry.  If they can shut it down, don't you think their next
profit opportunity will be shutting down the venerable MEDLINE
and ERIC  databases researchers have relied on for forty years,
so they can force researchers to use expensive commercial indexes

This action is one more proof, among many, that this
administration lacks any interest in serving the general public
and the general welfare when it could serve industry instead.

Marylaine Block
Writer and Internet Trainer, Retired Librarian, Researcher and
user of all information products, commercial and con-commercial.

But that's not even the worst of the recent government attacks on
public information.  In fact, there are so many that it's hard to
know where to start.

*  Early on, the President announced that he would not obey the
Presidential Records Act which requires the release of
presidential papers after twelve years.  He unilaterally claimed
that a former or sitting president could  block the release of

*  The Vice President has refused to turn over the names of those
he consulted with in the framing of the Energy bill.

*  The Attorney-General on October 12, 2001 authorized federal
agencies to stall on Freedom of Information Act requests until a
"full and deliberate consideration" of the security implications
could be conducted, reversing the previous policy under which
agencies were required to justify any refusals.

*  The Director of the OMB told government agencies that they
need no longer use the Government Printing Office and should make
their own printing arrangements.  Since the GPO is the one agency
that insures that federal depository libraries receive copies of
government documents, such a directive guarantees that more
documents will be issued, in print or electronically, without
being made available to the public by way of depository

*  the PATRIOT act does many disservices to public information,
including allowing federal agents to demand  records of what
library patrons borrow and what web sites they visit; to add
insult to injury, they won't even allow libraries to tell anyone
that this has happened.  That's not as bad, of course, as what
has happened to people under suspicion of terrorist acts, whose
names and suspected crimes the government will not disclose, and
who may be held in detention indefinitely without legal
assistance and without charges being filed.

*  Congress, of course, not content with yanking works out of the
public domain back into copyright protection, is also threatening
to restrict our traditional right to do whatever we want with
books, recordings, software and videos we have legally purchased.

By walking all over most of the first ten amendments to the
Constitution, this congress and this administration have
guaranteed virtual lifetime employment to ALA's lawyers, not to
mention those of the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
and other organizations dedicated to preserving civil liberties
and the public's right to know.

But we can't leave this entirely up to lawyers and the courts.
We need to speak up to our legislators individually, and let them
know that we will fight -- and vote -- to defend our rights.  The
Government Documents Roundtable Legislation Committee web site -- will keep you
updated on these and other government actions and show you how
to register your opinion.

I don't know about you, but I want my country back.

* * *

The point of a library's existence is not persuasion or
evangelism, but knowledge.  It is irrelevant to the good library
whether, as an institution, it shares or promotes your core
values or mine, or the  Attorney General's or Saddam Hussein's.
The library is always an instrument of choice, and the choice is
always yours, not your elected or designated leaders.

Robert Hughes.  "Free Libraries, Free Society."  American
Libraries, August, 2002.

* * *
You are welcome  to copy and distribute or e-mail any of my own
articles for noncommercial purposes (but not those by my guest
writers) as long as  you retain this copyright statement:
Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information
Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2002.
[Publishers may license the content for a reasonable fee.]