Duping the Docents: Musings on Serials Collections and Prodigality

Are things really worse today? Today it is about access, not ownership.

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cereals

Dear Mr. Boy,

A fine post and on a topic that doesn't get discussed as much here. If I may:

According to the October 15, 2007 edition of Library Journal, three out of four faculty at the University of California now believe that journal prices represent a burden to their institution. Remember what we've been told. Information wants to be free.

That's not the principle at work here. There's no whiny, liberal, academic candy-ass sense of entitlement to free information. They just don't want to pay too much. It's just consumer behavior. Who doesn't want to pay the least for the most? Is that one of the principles our economy is based on?

But like those who lament three dollar per gallon gas so they can load up on sixteen dollar per gallon Evian, there is a specious quality to this harangue.

What?

And on the subject of what, I think you are trying to relate serials pricing and access but I don't follow. Can you clarify?

Where once a $30,000 periodical budget may afford a collection of 600 or 700 periodical titles, those same funds could now easily buy access to tens of thousands of full-text journals.

I think you are on the wrong side of the access argument here. Many serials that research libraries need come from disparate sources and can't be swooped up with one EBSCO product. Web of Science, Beilstein, etc.

Plus many professors want paper (no really.) Dumb? Maybe. Inefficient? Certainly. But they are the patrons and the do have a great deal of say in what we buy and how.

Access isn't good enough. Like a tuxedo or swanky beach house, it is imperative that they own the material as well. (Then subsequently whine about lack of shelf space, binding costs,...) Their Weltanschauung is antiquated and arguably fiducially irresponsible.

It's not elitism it's protection. When you paid for a print subscription you got the content for life. Now we are paying more because electronic access is expensive and awesome but we have none of the permanence. Maybe it's possible to get both and maybe it's not. But it's my job to advocate for it and someone else's job to tell me no.

Cereals

Chuck - First, thanks for reading.

Your points:

They just don't want to pay too much.

My question, "Why shouldn't publishers enjoy the discretion to set pricing as any other producer, service provider in a free market economy?" Surely they've considered their pricing with respect to demand for their publications.

Regarding my analogy to Evian, I'm not clear if your question is with my math or the analogy itself. If it's the math, a 24 pack of 11.2 ounce bottles goes for about $40. If the analogy... just forget it.

I think you are on the wrong side of the access argument here. Many serials that research libraries need come from disparate sources and can't be swooped up with one EBSCO product. Web of Science, Beilstein, etc.

I beg to disagree having been an administrator in both a health sciences and academic library. Some serials? Sure. But I suggest you revisit full-text journals within; Access Medicine, ACS Journals, Applied Science Full-Text, BioMed Central, Dyna Med, Cochrane Database, Ovid, Medline Plus....Then check for duplicity in the print collection. I have in my library.

It's not elitism it's protection.

Protection from what? And for what cost? Many vendors offer backfile purchases that can be purchased.... much cheaper than print. If we are this paranoid re our collections perhaps closed stacks for all collections the alternative here. But again the salient question. Who is using these print subscriptions and do they justify their expense when electronic equivalents are already being subscribed to? I can't begin to count the email I receive from larger academics trying to find someone to take their old bound periodicals. Why? Because they are no longer used. It's a different game today Chuck. The small to mid-sized academics get it, for the most part, the last are large Univ of Cal types that are still coming to terms with this shift. Unfortunately these are the same libraries that seem to have the most squeaky wheels.

But I do concur with your characterization of "dumb" for $2500/yr quarterlies for the few who still prefer to flip the pages.

walk away from titillation, become a pop culture dropout

"Why shouldn't publishers

"Why shouldn't publishers enjoy the discretion to set pricing as any other producer, service provider in a free market economy?" Surely they've considered their pricing with respect to demand for their publications."

Why should anyone but them care? Do I give a farthing about my contractor enjoy pricing freedom? Or about the oily car salesman's right to set prices that benefit him?

No. It's about one thing: MY money. Or my employer's money. Those are the things I care about. Vendors and everyone else can go to hell. They have enough people protecting their interests.

It's not elitism it's protection.

Protection from what? And for what cost?

It's protection for my money. If I subscribe to a paper journal and then cancel my subscription, I still have my issues. If I stop subscribing to an online aggregator I have nothing. And the contract I signed usually forbids systematic copying of materials, not that that's practical anyway.

I should tell you that I was a ruthless journal-canceler when I was an academic librarian. I agree with you. But it's not all that simple and the things that make it complicated are very important.

I noticed that when we were canceling duplicate print serials titles the vendors where trying to guilt or bully us into keeping the paper which we didn't. I wonder how long it would take for some enterprising suck-up at Proquest or EBSCO to suggest that all subscribing libraries be prohibited from canceling titles also sold in print by that same company.

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