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Electronic alternatives (James Huesmann) Marcia Tuttle 08 Jul 1996 20:28 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 15:05:37 -0600
From: James Huesmann <huesmanj@LHL.LIB.MO.US>
Subject: Electronic alternatives

>>James Huesmann <> writes:
>>        The scholarly communication process is in the midst of a
>>transformation unseen within our lifetimes.  Reminding us of the
>>advantages of the preceding (and still current, for most fields) models is
>>useful, since many valuable lessons and features of that model need to be
>>retained. However, insistence on returning to the old model completely and
>>shutting off all progress does not work, neither in 17th century Japan nor
>>in the 21st century information age.  The question "Does your library
>>collection enable or limit their opportunities?", I submit, is no longer a
>>valid one. The _valid_ question is, "Does your library enable or limit
>>their opportunities?"  Sorry Al, but a library is far more than the
>>in-house collection, and that is becoming more and more true with every
>>passing day.
>Al Henderson <70244.1532@COMPUSERVE.COM> writes:
>Yes, but this is only the latest excuse in 50 years of cutting library
>collection growth that was interrupted briefly by the Sputnik thing.
>Research publications have doubled three times in that period while major
>library collections have doubled only twice. Library growth has been
>substantially slower than it was before World War II.

Didn't the "Sputnik thing" happen after World War II?

>The ARL projected in
>1992 that if current rates of decline in purchasing continue, by 2007
>members would purchase no books and by 2017 would purchase no serials
>either. They would "access" everything. PW quoted a librarian as
>commenting that you can't borrow if no one owns it.

        Al, you couldn't be more right and wrong at the same time.  The idea
isn't (and wasn't) that everyone would own nothing.  It was that no one
could afford to buy everything!  Access depends on someone owning it.  The
key is that libraries would focus their comprehensive purchasing on their
special areas of interest.  The real problem, which you've alluded to, is
that some folks are beginning to get to the point where there is only those
areas of interest left at a comprehensive level.

>There is also a mountain of material that is not available by ILL,
>document delivery or electronically.  What you call progress is too often
>the subway or a carpool to a better site. I have been sent away from many
>libraries in this way. The main progress in this area is a union list

Yes, there are such materials.  However, that sounds more like the domain of
rare and special collections than scholarly research journals!  Even there,
electronic access is providing ways to view materials over the 'net, instead
of via subway, carpool, or airplane.  For example, the Papyrus Archive at
Duke, over 1,000 images, are accessible over the Internet to anyone.  Can
you imagine your sixth grader going to Duke to look at a particular papyrus?

>For many researchers, myself included, electronic browsing options
>cannot hold a candle to standing in the stacks of a good collection. It's
>pretty sad when a scientist is unable to prepare a review article in his
>specialty because the library has cancelled subscriptions to 'essential'
>journals. It may also mean he cannot prepare research proposals either.

Do you really mean to suggest that research proposals and review articles
are only possible via browsing?  Does the university where that scientist
work support the scientist's preparation of research articles?  In an era of
greatly expanding research publication, anyone who really expects to browse
all the literature of his or her own field is fooling only themselves, and
undoubtably missing quite a bit of writing.  Or, that researcher has waay
too much time on their hands!!

>think that suggestions to replace well developed, up-to-date collections
>with the electronic solution have been thoughtless and premature, often
>articulated by people with no real personal experience with either
>research or publishing. Studies such as PROJECT ELVYN and the experience
>of the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL LETTERS have not been encouraging in terms of
>cost savings or user enthusiasm. I am more inclined to believe Crawford
>and Gorman's analysis of what's useful in FUTURE LIBRARIES than the advice
>of theorists and promoters:  technovandals and enemies of the library.

Hmm... Ever heard of Paul Ginsparg, and the Physics E-Print archive at Los
Alamos?  Started out in high-energy physics, and now serves over 30,000
users worldwide and more than 50,000 electronic transations per day, in
several areas of physics.  It includes the traditional peer review process
in a very open way.

Ever heard of Stevan Harnad's _Subversive Proposal_?

Ever heard of Project MUSE at John Hopkins?

>Because libraries have experienced such expensive preservation problems, I
>also think that investing in fragile magnetic media (life 10 years) and
>predictably obsolete software should be out of the question until the huge
>and comparatively wealthy entertainment industry had shaken out the bugs.
>It is likely that the options available today will be replaced as quickly
>as they were introduced. WHY is the tiny academic enterprise gambling its
>very scarce resources like a drunken sailor?

Because we can't afford not to try out options that are possible.  We're in
too much of a fix not to review possible options.  The publishing community
has been very slow to do so, although there are several who are quickly
shaking the dust off their boots.  Finally, the technology is finally
getting up to the level that supports our needs.  Saying that "Many local
telephone lines barely support 2400 baud communications" is at the same
level as a publisher at the most recent NASIG that claimed a PDF file took
14.5 hours to print - It is so ludicrous that it makes me wonder why you
even state it.

>Obviously, I have embraced new technologies where they make sense or we
>would not be engaged in this dialogue. But the elecronic stuff is extra,
>not a replacement for most printed books, journals and vertical files. I
>would not have replaced HEA Title II-A (college library materials) with
>funding for technology; both are important.

Replacement for books? unlikely.  Replacement for journals? possible, if it
becomes feasible, practicle, AND the long-term preservation problems are
solved.  Replacement for verticle files?  What are they?  ;-}  Remember,
several years ago this sort of discussion would have taken place as letters
to the editor of a print journal.......

James Huesmann
Head, Technical and Automated Services
Linda Hall Library
5109 Cherry St.
Kansas City, MO 64110-2498
voice: (816) 926-8704
fax: (816) 926-8790