Re: Invoking Cloture (Again) on "Serials Crisis = Library Underfunding -- Peter Picerno Stephen Clark 20 Sep 2002 18:33 UTC

-------- Original Message --------
From: "Peter Picerno" <>
Subject: RE: Invoking Cloture (Again) on "Serials Crisis = Library
        Underfunding -- Albert Henderson
Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2002 14:02:02 -0400

Mr. Henderson,

I'm afraid that some of your rebuttals seem to indicate a "casual
approach to information" to use your own words.
The statement:
         "I have been told repeatedly by faculty of public
         institutions that any part of the budget that is
         not spent goes back to the treasury. In these
         institutions, it appears that endowments and
         foundations are outside the university proper." would bear more
weight if you had been told this by the chief financial officers of
state universities rather than faculty members who, with all due
respect, may be relying on secondary sources for their information. If
you had actually seen balance sheets and had hard evidence to support
your statements, they might be more credible.
         "Nonetheless, it would not be unreasonable to
         challenge those universities that have cut
         their library spending from 6 per cent to 3
         in spite of endowments over $1 billion." Challenge them to
what?? Your intent here is very unclear.

Your statement:
         "The institutional conflicts of interest are major.
         In particular, how can the taxpayer trust agencies
         that award research grants? They are managed by
         individuals who expect research contractors to
         hire them once their tour in the public sector ends." Is
I'm not sure that, for example, the scientists who are working on a
clinical trial for a drug expect the NEA to hire them, but, again, your
data for this statement seems to be largely hypothetical. On another
tack, however, Is your statement not, philosophically, able to be
applied with equal effect to commercial publishers? A re-application
would read something like: "Institutional conflicts of interest are
major. How can a subscriber trust an agency which does its best to
acquire monopoly status of information, squelch its possible competition
in the field, and sell that information at grossly inflated prices while
at the same time trying to maintain exclusivity of intellectual content?
These institutions are managed by individuals who expect subscribers to
contribute information for free and then buy it back at exorbitant prices."
When you say:
         "As a result of the casual approach to information,
         the preparation of research proposals is shallow
         and peer review is ineffective -- as the death of
         a research subject at Johns Hopkins demonstrates.
         The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote: "In
         particular, the office noted that researchers had
         'failed to obtain published literature about the
         known association between hexamethonium and lung
         toxicity' and that the substance was not currently
         approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
         for use in humans."
         It seems to me that the services of a medical
         librarian would have saved that life." ... it seems logical
that the real intent implied here would be to hire and pay more
librarians greater salaries because they, after all, know how to use
what information tools are at hand and how to search for those tools
which are necessary for their information search. Note that the skill of
a librarian has nothing whatsoever to do with every library's having a
copy of everthing which was ever published. What is most important is
knowing what the resources are, knowing how to gain access to the
information contained within. HAVING all those resources means nothing
if there is no one who knows how to use them. So if it were a choice
between, say, a reference librarian or a database, the wiser choice
would be to hire the reference librarian, who will know of the existence
of that database as well as how to get access to the intellectual
content held therein.

When you say:
         "Yes they did! Publishers invested heavily in
         review series, translations, and new journals
         seeking to meet the needs of emerging specialties.
         The first electronic publishers were the
         information services in the sciences, many
         distributed by Lockheed Dialog. The citation
         index was developed by Eugene Garfield and
         sold as part of ISI a few years ago. The record
         is quite clear on all these points." ... you omit that these
tools also followed the pattern of being unaffordable by many
institutions (remember the costs of searching Dialog??), so I don't see
that the pattern of profiteering from selling information was changed in
any way. Investments were certainly made, but only for ultimate
profitable gain.

You betray your agenda when you say:
         "The function of libraries, selecting, conserving,
         and disseminating the work of publishers is
         also essential to productivity in research and
         education." ... The function of libraries IS NOT to act as the
agents of or showcases for publishers. Your statement makes it seem that
libraries are to be no more than non-retail bookstores in which to
display the wares of publishers. In reality, I think the scenario goes
more like this: publishers are the agencies through which scholarly
pursuits are and information are disseminated. Libraries select those
published works which support the curricula, constituents, and research
of their respective academic communities. Libraries will do this (i.e.,
selection, etc.) in the most expedient and cost-effective way. This
means that if a free electronic source meets the information needs of a
community it will be chosen over a prestigious peer-reviewed and costly
journal which has very little impact on the entirety of the academic
community. Again, libraries are charged with fulfilling the information
needs of a vast and varied community as well as maximizing their
budgetary and physical (i.e., space)resources. New technologies and new
publication models are, ironically, part of the continuum of
scholarship, thus one would expect academic libraries to be among the
first to explore new paradigms of publishing and disseminating
scholarly work. If publishers were able to work cooperatively with
academe to explore new models, the benefits to all could be maximized
(and there are some publishers who do this), however, when those who are
interested in pursuing new information dissemination models meet with
repressive resistance on the part of established persons or entities,
then in the name of progress, research, and scholarship they have no
other choice but to strike out on their own.
Two simple answers to:
        "Why would you oppose a demand for universities
         to spend 6 percent of their budgets on libraries
         as they once did?" Answer 1: I don't believe that more than a
small handfull of universities ever really allocated 6% of their budget
to their libraries. The 6% figure was a recommendation which the ACRL
arrived at, not one which reflected current practice. Answer 2: 6% of
*what* budget? The university's salary budget, the course support
budget, the budget which supports supplies and materials?? the budget
which supports the physical plant? the entire university's budget? And
6% of what university budget would support what aspect(s) of the library
budget? Acquisitions? Library materials, salaries, support of the
physical plant? All of the above? My point is that lobbing useless
figures and standards around serves no constructive purpose.


Peter V. Picerno