Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not So Different After All, Or, Academics and Publics vs. Predatory Pricing

I always try to write about things libr* people have in common - customer service, communication skills, job hunting, etc. But how much do we really have in common when it comes to collection development and our relationships with publishers? For instance, a friend who works in a public library said something like, "If a paperback costs more than $10, I don't even look at it." I responded, "If a paperback coast less than $10, I don't even look at it." To be more explicit: she's only interested in mass market paperbacks whereas I avoid them.

Think about these differences through the lens of recent publishing scandals. On the public library side, it's ebook pricing problems. Random House has moved to agency pricing and other publishers are completely refusing to sell ebooks to libraries. On the academic library side, it's the Research Works Act and Elsevier and getting access to scholarly and scientific articles. The publishers with which public librarians do business seem to want to employ predatory pricing and the publishers with which academic librarians do business seem to want to employ predatory pricing. Not so dissimilar after all.

If we aren't that different in our problems, I can't help thinking that there's got to be a way we can team up to fix our problems. I just can't think of it. So no, I don't have the answers this week, but I'm wondering if you do. I'd love to hear from any of my readers about this, but I'm especially interested to hear from the people at whom this blog is targeted: library science graduate students and new library science professionals. With all of our experience, established professionals haven't managed to solve these issues yet. So, new libr* kids, please help me with your fresh perspective.

What do you think?


  1. No, I don't think that we are that different in our problems. Especially dealing with electronic resources (which honestly, ebooks are) academics have already been through the "print vs. e-whatever" battle that publics are going through now. I hope that we can find a workable solution.

    1. That's the thing, Kristi. We're still suffering through it. Cutting things from other parts of the budget to be able to provide access to the electronic materials. I signed The Cost of Knowledge (http://thecostofknowledge.com/) pledge, saying I won't review, publish, or do editorial work for Elsevier, but there's no way I could completely stop doing business with them. The journals they own & publish represent some of the most prestigious in many fields. It's as frustrating for academic librarians to be at Elsevier's mercy as it is for public librarians to be at Random House's.

  2. I think a common factor is both communities' need to explain the issues in a way that makes sense and tries to get our user groups to understand why we make the decisions we make. Libraries are a strange marketplace in a way, because the people who create the demand aren't the ones who pay the suppliers (with the added wrinkle in academics that our users are also the ones who give the content away to those same suppliers...). So maybe we can come together and learn from each other about community engagement and communication to our users.

  3. Collection development is my weakest link - my only saving grace in that area (even after taking a class on the topic in my LibSci program) was my four plus years running the fiction department (which encompassed regular ficiton/romance/mystery/poetry/prose/manga/graphic novels/westerns) at $corporate_bookstore taught me a thing or two about developing a collection, which I'm thrilled to have. I struggle a lot with this because there are no nice/pretty guidelines, no rules of thumb - public or academic. Hell, when looking for other examples of collection development tools from other libraries on the 'net, a lot of them are so jargony/vague I want to stab a bish. HOWEVER, withall of that being said, I do not believe $$$ equals better/reliable content (and I work in an academic). I also do not and will not buy eBooks in any form unless you hold me under water. And it's not because OH BOO HOO, eBooks are bad etc, it's because I feel like the vendors purposely make it hard to get the content to my faculty/students. Once I start tap dancing through how to download and use eBooks to students/facutly, they immediately ask "Um, too much work, can't I just get print." I also am bitter about the huge inflation of academic pricing (as a recent exstudent AND now a buyer). The packaging of a lot of the electronic content is trash with few treasures. Blah blah blah. I hate the world.

    I just think that maybe if librarians as a whole said, "hey, this is OUR needs" rather then having the publishers (regardless of format) tell us what they THINK our needs are, we can make a lot of changes.

    -Lisa / @pnkrcklibrarian