Re: Invoking Cloture (Again) on "Serials Crisis = Library Underfunding -- Dan Lester Stephen Clark 24 Sep 2002 18:50 UTC

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 11:47:46 -0600
From: Dan Lester <>
Subject: Re[2]: Invoking Cloture (Again) on "Serials Crisis = Library
            Underfunding -- Albert Henderson

Tuesday, September 24, 2002, 6:52:28 AM, you wrote:

SC> From: Albert Henderson <>
SC> Subject: Re: Invoking Cloture (Again) on "Serials Crisis = Library
SC>    Underfunding -- Dan Lester

SC>  > Absolutely.  And we continue to do that to the best of our ability
SC>  > with the resources that we're given.  We DO continue to fight for
SC>  > resources.  When you come up with the magic method for getting
SC>  > legislators to give us more money, let me know.  We'll jointly patent
SC>  > it and we'll both retire fat and sassy, and have plenty of money to
SC>  > give to our favorite libraries.

SC>         Well, it's not magic. Physicists, biologists,
SC>         and and others fight for more money successfully.

Of course they do.  They are doing "important" things like shooting
down enemy missiles, developing new strains of crops to better feed
the world, inventing new materials to improve our lives, and so forth.
Librarians are the "handmaidens of scholarship", to dredge up an old
chestnut, and even though not many of us have our hair up in buns, we
don't have a lot of luck with the campus powers when they know that
"everything you need to know is free on the internet".  The library is
like the computer center or the physical plant: they're all part of
the infrastructure that everyone takes for granted.  Yes, we all whine
when the network is congested, when our floors aren't cleaned often,
or when we can't get the books we want.  However, we're also not
willing to cut our departmental budgets for the benefit of all,

Most important, in most states you have to convince some sort of
elected or politically appointed board, and ultimately the legislature
and governor, that education is good for the state, that it helps the
economy, and so forth.  Most of those people can't see past the next
budget year and will put the money into things that produce immediate
results, such as a new road, a new prison, tax incentives for a
company that will hire a thousand people in the next year, and so
forth.  It may be that this is a general condition in the country
these days, as most are more interested in their current finances
(such as whether or not they can remodel the house or buy a new car)
rather than their long term financial well being.  If it is true among
the taxpayers, it isn't surprising that it is the case with those they
elect.  People always want to know "what have you done for me lately",
not "what are you doing for me that will benefit me in the next decade
or two".

SC>         That may well be the last time the word
SC>         "dissemination" was used in the science policy
SC>         bureaucracy.

And may well be the last time it will ever be used in that

SC>         Like physicists, librarians would be well served
SC>         by parity with other research spending. Do
SC>         librarians have a "science policy" advocacy? Is
SC>         there even a science policy statement?

If the answer to either of those questions is positive, I don't know
of such a policy or statement.  I'd be glad to be informed to the
contrary, of course.

SC>  > SC>         Why would you oppose a demand for universities
SC>  > SC>         to spend 6 percent of their budgets on libraries
SC>  > SC>         as they once did?
SC>  >
SC>  > I certainly don't oppose fighting for more money.  However, going to
SC>  > an administrator or legislator and asking for a doubled budget would
SC>  > get me laughed out of his office.

SC>         But if you said you knew how to cut library spending
SC>         in half, you would have their full attention.

Of course you would.  There aren't many things that people are willing
to spend more money on than absolutely necessary unless it is
something that they personally want.  You'll spend more to get the
fastest or fanciest car because you WANT it, not because a cheaper one
won't get you to work.  You can pick innumerable examples from your
own private life. It seems tha tno matter how we try to market the
library to the university or governmental administrations they don't
WANT it for themselves, and there aren't enough of their constituents
who want them to want it. Perhaps it is like money spent on many other
things by government: we want good police, good highways, enough
prisons, and so forth, but none of it want it to come from OUR

SC>         Advising legislators on these matters would be
SC>         the job of ACRL, ALA, ARL, SLA, MLA, and so on.
SC>         ALA/ACRL has a special office in Washington DC.
SC>         SLA is in Washington. ARL, which has an office in
SC>         Washington, collected data on the declining budget
SC>         allocations for libraries since 1980. What did
SC>         it do about it?

I know that ALA, ACRL, and ARL have lobbied in Washington, and have
spent significant numbers of dollars (including those from my 35
consecutive years of membership fees) on these things.  Like so many
things, it is hard to know if you're successful.  Maybe we'd be worse
off if they'd not lobbied.  Maybe they've done a lousy job.  Maybe it
is an impossible job.  I don't know.

SC> What has any of them done to
SC>         promote recognition of science libraries as
SC>         essential members of R&D efforts (therefore
SC>         spending)? Like Nero, library leadership has
SC>         fiddled while library spending was consumed by
SC>         every other interest group.

As noted above, I don't think it has been fiddling.  We've been
busting our collective asses on this, even when we don't know if it
has done us any good or not.

SC>         Until "spending parity" is on the associations'
SC>         official agendas, libraries and the career positions
SC>         of academic librarians will continue to deteriorate.

"Spending parity" with whom or what?  If you don't think we've come
a long way, check out the view from 1947.  It takes only ten minutes.

Dan Lester, Data Wrangler 208-283-7711
3577 East Pecan, Boise, Idaho  83716-7115 USA  Stop Global Whining!