Posts Tagged state of the profession
My Twitter account continues to earn its keep, as that’s how I’ve learned of the Harper-Collins – OverDrive outrage currently going on:
Next week, OverDrive will communicate a licensing change from a publisher that, while still operating under the one-copy/one-user model, will include a checkout limit for each eBook licensed. Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached.
-via Atzblog, who also sums up the myriad problems thusly:
To be clear, this model eliminates almost all the major advantages of the item’s being digital, without restoring the permanence, durability, vendor-independence, technology-neutrality, portability, transferability, and ownership associated with the physical version.
I have some sympathy for Harper-Collins’ position (at least their point that ebooks don’t need to be replaced as physical books periodically do; and as someone on Twitter pointed out, at least they allow ebooks at all (1), but then again…not really. It’s up to them to develop a profit model for digital technologies without trying to artificially enforce the same rules of analog media. This is the music industry all over again. And the TV/movie industry. It was bad enough when the rule was 1 ebook = 1 physical book for circulation(2)!
Worse yet, 26 is the magic number for circulation, which
… was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies.
-via Library Journal
A couple weeks ago I was hanging out in the WW2 section of Bird Library to pick up some books from my wish list. While I was perusing the shelves, I pulled out a book that had actually been published in the early 1940s. Instead of a copyright insert near the front of the book, there was a notice that the book had been produced in accordance with wartime regulations (smaller overall size, thinner pages). In the very front of the book was the old-school circulation data…as in, due dates stamped on the little card in the paper pocket affixed to the book. It was neat to try imagining the people who checked out this book (many times) in 1945 before the war ended, and then all the check-outs right after the war, and in the decade after that.
My point with that story is: how the hell did HC actually come up with 26 as an appropriate circulation number, because if a 66-year-old book, deliberately printed on thin paper, can still be in tip-top shape on my library’s shelves…. hooboy. Again from LJ,
If a lending period is two weeks, the 26 circulation limit is likely to equal roughly one year of use for a popular title. For a three-week lending period, that stretches to a year and a half.
How many physical books have to be replaced on a yearly basis? Serious question. I’m sure some do, but generally speaking? Is that a common lifespan for a library book?
1. I’m not really sure whether that’s better or worse than this hurlyburly.
2. Which was bad enough, let’s be honest. Another Twitter commenter pointed out acceptance of that practice as libraries not exactly having a good track record for defending patron use rights. But what options have libraries, generally, had? Like publishers, libraries have a/n (potentially) uncertain role in an increasingly digital world and each industry does what it can to keep up/preserve its place. For libraries–not exactly rolling in cash and influence– that may mean some compromise in usability and access to provide content in a relevant medium to their patrons. (And on the other hand, this is an example of libraries trying to adapt to stay relevant, whereas HC’s actions are a desperation act to keep increasingly obsolete/irrelevant practices.)
* [sic], per Granny Weatherwax in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books
I just read an editorial from The Chronicle of Higher Education by Brian T. Sullivan, an instructional librarian at Alfred University, declaring the death of the academic library. He briefly addresses one of my reactions near the end, briefly stating:
At the same time, the death of the academic library is being hailed by many as progress and the logical next step in the evolution of information.
I wish he had explored that idea a little further, because I am not convinced by his enumerated arguments. Admittedly, my skepticism was heightened by the very first point on digital books making book collections obsolete. Never mind that not every book yet digitized, nor will they all ever be, nor that the library would have to expensively digitally replicate its physical collection. It also smacks of the old and pervasive attitude that a library = books, and the quality of a library can be determined by how many volumes are sitting on the shelf. As if a library digitizing collections means it no longer has a collection at all. Amusingly, at the end he chastises librarians for committing professional suicide by clinging to long to the mantra “There will always be books and libraries” and other outmoded notions.
He further claims that “[i]nformation literacy was fully integrated into the curriculum,” “[l]ibrary instruction was no longer necessary,” and “[r]eference services disappeared.” I think he’s grossly overestimating the ability (and inclination) of the typical student (or faculty member) to fully utilize a database or even a Google search. My group in IST 605 did an hour-long presentation focused on the information literacy of incoming freshmen at colleges. Spoiler alert: no, kids these days don’t know everything about successfully locating information. [The very existence of Let me Google that for you is a nice demonstration of that lack.] An early assignment for that same class also had us filling in a chart for different databases showing their different vocabularies and boolean markups and so forth. No, databases are still not user-friendly!
He also is critical of the practice of having untrained persons field basic questions instead of librarians. This practice was being implemented at the SUNY Upstate Medical University Health Science Library and was a topic in my project plan for them. [See VSD Project Plan.] They wanted to be able to better triage questions (and have triage happen on their end rather than have users have to figure it out for themselves), which included getting student workers answering easy questions (possibly developing/utilizing an FAQ-type wiki to supplement). Not to belittle the task of librarians, but to free them up to work on their other projects instead of needing to personally field easy ready-reference questions or inquiries about library hours and what-have-you.
Actually, all his points are adaptations libraries have made to accommodate new information technologies and information-seeking behaviors. The “traditional” academic library may be dead, and, as I quoted above, these little “deaths” mark a change to, as I see it, staying relevant, not dying. Perhaps someday the library of the future will be nothing more than set of websites, a means of accessing fully digital collections with the ability to chat with staff exclusively through computer.
Either way, the full impact of this transition is a long time off. Not all books are digitized. Digital book distribution has been established conclusively. Librarians are information-finders, not mere book slingers. Not all universities have the budget to essentially redo their library structure. I do not know anything about Brian Sullivan or his university’s library. I do know that for the past four semesters, I have not been taught his–I believe rather limited– worldview of academic librarianship.
via Agnostic, Maybe
Sigh. I remember in IST 511 some of the younger visiting librarians (we had representatives of various types of libraries come to class to give us an insider perspective on career paths) warning us that they were told this same thing and it proved untrue.
Actually, I think one of the older visitors mentioned it as well…
via Closed Stacks