Inside Higher Ed has a good recap of the controversy kicked up by Anthrosource going to Wiley/Blackwell from U of C. The title of the piece says it all: it’s all about values. But which values? On the one hand, the value of a publication is that it generates the revenue to sustain a scholarly society. On the other, the value of the research and the values of the profession are all about making knowledge more widely available. Technology has made the second value easier and the first more complicated.
(The absurdity of trying to lock up “intellectual property” in a digital age reminds me that we just saw the first conviction of a criminal who was caught in the act of filming Transformers in a movie theatre. A girl who happened to have a camera with her took a twenty second clip to show her little brother. In spite of all the scare tactics, it just didn’t occur to her she was engaging in piracy. She was just doing what comes naturally in an age of digital gadgetry. And now has a criminal record for it.)
One irony mentioned in the IHE article: as libraries make online bundles more conveniently accessible, scholars are dropping their memberships, presumably because the benefit it once gave them – access to journals right on their desktop – is being provided by libraries now, whereas you used to have to hike over to the building to get your hands on your membership journal. Societies and their members need to find new ways to support the dissemination of their work and to fund their own professional organizations. Honestly, shouldn’t professional communication itself be not only easier but less expensive in a digital age? We need to figure out what our values are – and then figure out how to carry them out in an affordable manner.
ACRL itself could practice what we preach. We could use our own society as a sandbox to create some innovative models for sustaining an organization and fostering its values using new technologies – and then show other societies how to follow our lead.