One for the Academics–The Ithaka Report

So, my scholarly and librarian friends, have you read The Ithaka Report?  I have mixed feelings.  I feel ooky about the idea that the university press exists only to to supply content for libraries and, while I think that libraries and university presses do have common ground, their goals are very different.  Libraries want information to be freely and widely available.  University presses clearly want to at least break even during the dissemination of information.

But it was stunning to see how negative the attitudes towards scholarly publishing were.


11 thoughts on “One for the Academics–The Ithaka Report

  1. Hmm. Haven’t read it, but by the look of it (well, the comments), it’s some of the same standard-issue cyberbole stuff that’s been going on for ages. That sort of thing tends to make me roll my eyes a lot and wave my thesis at people.

  2. I skimmed the Executive Summary, and wasn’t very impressed. It does seem like standard “Hey, put more stuff online!” Personally, I have enough work to do without getting all up in the university press’s business, because the purposes and activities are different.

  3. The general feeling I get, though, is that for some reason this report is causing people to be called into the Principal’s office. It does seem to me like the same old same-old with some added “so use our product” thrown in, so that’s why I can’t figure out why this and not some other report would be the catalyst for anything.

    The other thing I suspect–and I could be wrong–is that while we’re sitting around talking about how we’re going to make this happen, our Google overlords are already doing it.

    My question is, and will be throughout today, if Google is already doing what we’re considering putting time and resources to, why don’t we, for a change, exploit Google’s hard work instead of the usual way they exploit ours?

    It’ll be interesting.

  4. Okay, just looking at the libraries section briefly. “Because their budgets are relatively large (certainly compared to those of presses), libraries can often find
    room for experimentation.” Ah ha ha ha ha. Yes, we’re just rolling around in money. An you should definitely compare the budget of a multi-library system to that of a small press. The librarian who said, “We went through a period where we worried that Google was going to put us out of business,” had lost sight of their mission in the first place, which is connecting information to the user. It’s not a “reinvention” of the mission just because things go online. Overall, I find that the authors fail to distinguish between content and container.

    “Likewise, librarians have limited skills and experience in marketing content to build awareness and usage. Institutional repositories have struggled in this respect as well. And no library publishing alternative can begin to compete with the prestige that a university press imprint confers on scholarship, nor replace the credentialing power that presses have developed over decades.”
    Yeah, we just buy products that cost thousands of dollars and sit around hoping someone will find them. We definitely don’t promote their usage or train users. And damn us lowly librarians, with our unchangeable lack of prestige. Seriously, these people don’t get it.

  5. B – how much of the press’s content is available electronically in any form? How much of it is freely available? A better discussion might have been the economic model for presses in working toward better online access to their content.

  6. Much of our active list is at netLibrary. About 90 of our books are up in limited form at Googlebooks. None of it is “free,” but I think that’s where libraries and presses come into conflict. Y’all want information to be freely and easily available. In simple terms, we do not.

    I want to know how many librarians they actually talked to, too, because their ideas about librarians seem very “oh, the library is the solution to all the world’s problems” in a way that I just don’t think many librarians believe.

  7. Well, we want it to be freely available to our patrons. It doesn’t mean we don’t pay dearly for it out of our budget. We have journal subscriptions that cost more than a new car. We’re well-accustomed to the fact that people would like to get paid for their hard work. And see, you’re saying that you’re already putting your content online in some form. I think the authors were rather out of touch.

  8. Yeah, I hope we talk some about that today at work, because it seems to me that the problem is, and remains, that people are still talking about “what we’re going to do” instead of talking about “what people are doing and what works and what doesn’t.”

  9. Rachel, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I think the criticism of libraries not marketing their resources might refer to things like this: I used to work at an academic law library where we spent about 1.5% of our budget each year on microforms that were used only by one professor who wasn’t even at the law school but who was a buddy of the dean. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that several other people in the guy’s department would probably have been interested in them and didn’t know that we owned them. He never mentioned it, because he didn’t like to share. And they were in the overall catalog, but the librarians at the main library didn’t know we had them, and wouldn’t have been steering users toward them.

  10. nm,
    It’s simply too sweeping of a statement to be supportable. There are many kinds of libraries and librarians, with different specific purposes and missions from their parent institutions. If it were me, I would have reevaluated the purchase. I also would have let others know they were available. Too broad, much like the rest of the report, and not entirely reflective of current realities.

  11. Oh, I’m not agreeing with the statement overall. I just think that it’s kind of absurd on the face of it, unless you think of instances like the one I mentioned. I mean, every librarian I know is completely enthusiastic about letting people know about resources in any format, and most of them very good at communicating. I’ve had to speak strictly to a couple of ’em before library tours and let them know that I’ve already told my students about wonderful sources A, B, and C and what’s in them, and that what I’d like on the tour is a hands-on demo of how to use the A, B, and C search functions, which CD-ROMs to load, and stuff like that.

Comments are closed.