Open Access Week isn’t the worldwide party… yet…



OA cake 3, originally uploaded by Paul Stainthorp.

Last week LibPunk Radio discussed Open Access Week as only two people tangentially involved with it all can. I’m sort of ambivalent about the whole thing, but it’s mostly because right now I don’t think libraries are in a position to do much other than talk about OA and why it’s good.

As I said on LibPunk Radio, libraries are in the middle of it all. We don’t create and we aren’t really in the publishing business, nor are we really the consumers though we’re expected to pay for the content. We see the real costs of scholarly publishing and know how much the established publishers are jacking up their prices. We also deal directly with the people frustrated that they can’t track down articles or papers they are interested because of opaque licensing and not always logical restrictions. I guess that’s our job, insulating them from the pain. (People need to thank libraries for this more.)

I try to explain the value of OA to students and faculty, and I think some get it but most just tune it out. They don’t care yet, they just want that paper somebody told them they needed to read.

So given my ambivalence, it was nice to see somebody shared my feelings. Check out Steven Bell’s blog post on ACRLog yesterday.

So excuse me if I’m not in the mood to celebrate. I’m feeling frustrated. What else can you feel when the system is broken, you know that system must change, but there is little incentive for those perpetuating the system to change it for the better.

This hits really close to home. I’ve spoken with the faculty I work with about the benefits of OA journals and making their work more available. One was refreshingly (though also depressingly) candid about the whole thing. They only publish in the handful of refereed journals published by the likes of Elsevier and Springer because that’s where everybody else reputable in the field publishes, and that’s what they trust. They said TRB publications were acceptable, but not in the same regard, and that in-house publications weren’t really worth the time. This is the sort of person we need to get to appreciate the value of OA in a practical sense, but we’ve got a long ways to go.

This need for better outreach to faculty is the critical next step for OA. This recent Book of Trogool post really does a nice job of explaining why faculty involvement is critical. Right now I’m at the casual conversation stage. When I get to the more serious, “Let’s have an actual discussion” phase with my faculty, then I will really get active. I wish it would happen sooner, and I wish I had more time and energy to push for OA within my group, but I also recognize I already have too many things going on and transportation is a pretty conservative field.

But just as Steven Bell did in his post, I end with hope. Maybe next year I’ll have more of a reason to care here at MPOW?

Being Annoyed without being Annoying?

When I first read the Annoyed Librarian, I really enjoyed it. I thought AL was cynical enough and a nice counter balance to all of the other library blogs that seemed to pat each other on the back and never really explain to me why I should care about all this web 2.0 stuff. There needed to be somebody telling us to step back and think about things, and I thought AL would do that. Well, I was wrong. As much as I love snark, and I do love snark, AL was just the same sort of negativity post after post, and didn’t really seem to offer any solutions to the ills of the profession, so I stopped reading.

Then AL “sold out” by blogging for Library Journal. Lots of people questioned LJ’s thinking on this matter, but I just took it as a sign that AL really jumped the shark. I never really paid much attention to LJ, but I’m even less inclined to now. It seems they’re out for money and page hits, which is understandable, but nothing I feel like supporting.

Well now AL has really broke it to the big time, by writing all of the articles for the new issue of The Journal of Access Services, v. 5, no.4. (found here). My first inclination was to think it was some sort of joke, but it’s not April. Understandably, a lot of people are scratching their heads wondering what’s up with this move. Anna Creech, the Eclectic Librarian, writes:

Seriously? An entire issue of a journal subtitled “Service Innovations for 21st Century Libraries” is now dedicated to an anonymous someone who’s best known for trashing any sort of innovation or philosophy that the Librar* 2.0 movement puts forward? What were they thinking?

What are they thinking? They want a bit of noteriaty. There’s no such thing as bad press, and pandering with the AL is going to get this issue talked about. Well played.

Chadwick Seagraves, InfoSciPhi, also writes:

You know, you come to expect some level of authority from peer reviewed journals. Does this mean I can submit articles under my own pseudonyms and be potentially accepted for publication in the Journal of Access Services? Apparently it does. For someone who complains so much about the degradation of the profession, what does this say about AL? HACK.

Since this follows the recent relocation of AL’s muckraking blog to an official Library Journal site, it means that AL has finally hit the “big time”. I’m sure she was promised that there would be no censorship and ramifications if she did her thing there. Plus, it makes all the folks she has been complaining about look like that are open to constructive criticism. But, in the end, it just makes AL a HACK. Give it up girl – you have lost what little credibility you had.

Good question about citation. If AL lost a lot of her credibility as a muckraker with the jump to LJ, than this new move pretty much eliminates what little she had left. You can’t rage against the establishment if you join it, can you? Or if you do it all seems really hollow. Perhaps this will help the AL get tenure, but then that would totally blow her cover, unless there’s a huge conspiracy that involves her supervisor. (I’m always a fan of conspiracies.)

As a relatively new librarian, who graduates school in a month, it makes me a little dismayed to see this sort of behavior rewarded. I don’t think it’s really constructive and it just angers people who really should engage in an open dialog with valid criticism about the profession. It was exciting to see AL discuss the profession’s sacred cows, but what was the outcome.

There’s also the issue of the AL backlash that seems to feed into another aspect of the library blogosphere that irritates me: the cult of personality. I think there are quite a few library bloggers who have been made celebrities, and people either love ’em or hate ’em, but won’t shut up about them. It seems like any time these people talk about something it carries much more weight than if some random librarian did, which can be good or bad.

Edited to add: Paul Pival, a member of the Journal of Access Services editorial board responds:

I’m on the editorial board for this journal and this was news to me; it just showed up in my mail Friday afternoon. I’ll skim through the articles to see how funny they are, but even if we’re having trouble scaring up contributors, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the path we want to go down with our peer-reviewed journals!

Wow. So I guess this isn’t a joke? It also raises lot of questions about peer-reviewed publishing. Clearly in this instance, the machine is broken.