Twisting in Hot Air

Some news out there that is troubling for anyone concerned about intellectual freedom. The University of San Francisco Law Review edited out a section of an archived article when one of the parties in a lawsuit discussed in the article threatened to sue. The publisher couldn’t afford to go to court. The author couldn’t either. And the author’s institution – the University of Oregon – wouldn’t agree to foot the bill, even though there was a high likelihood of winning. Moral of the story? If you don’t like something an academic publishes, threaten to sue. Even if you don’t have a hope of winning, you might be able to edit the record just by being a nuisance.

Or just legislate it out of existence. In France, lawmakers have passed a law that requires textbooks to paint French colonial history in a positive light. In spite of recent events, parliament voted to uphold this la vie en rose approach to history. If you’re having trouble getting your legislators to pay attention, a little talk radio can help. A few years ago our own Congress voted to condemn an article published in The Bulletin of the American Psychological Assocation after a vigorous public campaign by Dr. Laura to discredit it.

More recently, one of the authors of that article had his article yanked from The Journal of Homosexuality when a right-wing group caught wind of its imminent publication. The press has since agreed to publish the other articles in the issue and even, apparently, to publish the offending article in a future supplement. Haworth’s Editor in Chief said delaying publication made sense because it “was unnecessarily controversial in the current social and political climate.” Um … isn’t then exactly when we need to talk about controversial things?

This seems to me to be an issue academic librarians need to follow closely. We believe in making many different perspectives available in our collections. But that’ll be difficult if those perspectives are never published.

Understanding Books – and the Changing Marketplace

Remember our conversation about the EDUCAUSE piece about standing at the wrong platform? I think I see some publishers huddled down the station, anxiously checking their watches.

The Economist has yet another analysis of Google Print and its “threat” to publishers. They buried the lead, though: the real impact of the Internet on traditional publishing is online sales of used books – jumping from 1% of market to 20%. (That was 2002 – I suspect it’s higher now.) Funny how that doesn’t seem to have made trade publishers reconsider their traditional practice of embargoing mass market availability for a year after hardcover. Now you can buy the hardcover at paperback cost within weeks of publication. If an industry can’t adjust to that reality, it has bigger problems than Google.

Luckily, university presses don’t generally play that annoying game of making us wait for the paperback. Which reminds me: are you all aware of the excellent “Books for Understanding” program? Wonderful lists of UP books that are ready to roll when an issue is suddenly in the news. Sign up for it today. I use it a lot for collection development, and faculty seem delighted with it too.

ARL/ACRL Announce Scholarly Communications Institute

Building on the successful professional development model found in programs like the ACRL/Harvard Leadership Institute and the Institute for Information Literacy Immersion program, ACRL will be teaming up with ARL to provide an Institute on Scholarly Communication in July 2006. From the brochure:

“As a participant in this 2.5 day immersion program, you will become fluent with scholarly communication issues and trends so that you are positioned to educate others on your library staff, engage in campus communications programs and other advocacy efforts, and work collaboratively with other participants to begin developing an outreach plan for your campus.”

No information yet on program faculty, but applications aren’t due until April 1, 2006, so there’s time for much more content to be delivered. Mark your calendars!

Open Access Comes to C&RL

ACRL has announced that content from College & Research Libraries will be made freely available on the ACRL Web site six months after publication, and that back issues from 1997 – are already available.

This is welcome news to those of us who have been calling for ACRL to provide leadership in this area for the past few years. I have to believe that our message to faculty about the need to commit to open access alternatives for Tier One scholarly journals can only be made more effective by being able to demonstrate that our own professional association has made that same commitment in regard to our most highly-regarded, peer-reviewed journal. It would be nice to see other leading LIS journals make this same commitment, but it was absolutely imperative that ACRL do so, and I’m excited to see that it has finally happened.

I’m also happy to see that the announcement clearly articulates ACRL support for author self-archiving of material published in C&RL. I had to do some digging myself earlier this year to determine ACRL policy on this issue as I was preparing to place a paper that I presented at the ACRL meeting in Minneapolis into our institutional repository (KU ScholarWorks). Lots of good news in this announcement!