SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION ISSUES

A Newsletter for the UIUC Community

Issue #6 October 30, 2001


Hard Times Bring Hard Choices

The events of September 11 cause us to confront hard choices as we look at the balance between the liberties our society cherishes and the security our society demands. As of the writing of this newsletter, the USA Patriots Act had just been enacted, but its implications are not yet fully understood. It appears as if library circulation records may be more vulnerable to FBI scrutiny than they have been. Watch this space for updated information as we receive it.

 

The UIUC Library is receiving requests to remove certain U.S. government publications from our shelves. Materials received under the US Federal Depository Library Program are only deposited; we don’t own them and thus must follow written instructions from the Superintendent of Documents to return or destroy certain materials. However, we’re now also receiving phone calls from people representing themselves as employees of various government agencies requesting that we remove specific items from our shelves. We’re reviewing each request with University counsel to determine if there are any reasons why we should comply.

OMB Watch continues to monitor federal sites from which information is being removed. Here’s the organization’s statement of purpose:

In an open society we run enormous risks. Any individual or group of individuals can cause great damage. We try to protect against such damage, but the potential remains. One way is to make ourselves as aware as we can of the risks and take steps to ameliorate them. An alternative is to limit the free flow of information, which is how totalitarian societies operate. While security may improve, the spirit of civil society is lost. We cannot let that happen here. Already, valuable information is being pulled from agency web sites.

Check for the latest "takedowns" at www.ombwatch.org

 

Some states are also taking down some of their information from the web. New Jersey has decommissioned Web databases detailing the state's reservoir system and hazardous chemical sites in an effort to keep the information out of the hands of terrorists. The move comes just days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed from its site risk management plans that detail steps communities should take in the event of a chemical disaster.

 

 

E-Book Vendor Struggles

Recently, netLibrary surprised some in the library and publishing communities with its announcement that it was up for sale after failing to land a crucial round of investment capital. Many libraries and publishers have extended arrangements with netLibrary, which supplies copies of books in electronic format; libraries are now concerned about losing access to these materials. Users of the UIUC Library have access to some netLibrary materials through the Illinois Digital Academic Library (go to www.netlibrary.com to look at these items). NetLibrary has an escrow arrangement with OCLC to provide backup access. Here’s how OCLC describes the arrangement: "netLibrary has placed on deposit with OCLC CD-ROMs containing the e-books licensed by libraries and the software necessary to provide access. Our escrow agreement with netLibrary calls for OCLC to provide CD-ROMs to netLibrary subscribers who signed up for perpetual access. In the event that netLibrary has ceased to conduct business for at least 60 days or has become insolvent, OCLC will begin distributing these back-up copies of the subscribed-to materials." NetLibrary has reduced its payroll and continues in business, at least for now.

ARL Releases 1999/2000 Statistics

The Association of Research Libraries has just released its annual statistics for 1999/2000. In addition to data for individual libraries, it reports on trends found among its 120 members in the US and Canada. Here are a few from 1986-2000:

Serial unit cost has risen 226%

Serial expenditures have risen 192%

Monograph unit cost has risen 66%

Monograph expenditures have risen 48%

Serials purchased have fallen 7%

Monographs purchased have fallen 17%

Interlibrary borrowing is up 190%

Total expenditures rose 105%

CPI rose 57%

Rankings for the UIUC Library:

Volumes in library: 3rd (Harvard and Yale are still 1st and 2nd)

Volumes added (gross): 10th

Microform units: 1st

Total library materials expenditures: 23rd

Total salaries and wages expenditures: 16th

Total Library expenditures: 18th

Expenditures for monographs: 20th

Expenditures for current serials: 23rd

Total Items borrowed: 3rd

Total staff: 12th

It is not hard to estimate that within only a few years, the University of Toronto (currently ranked fourth) library’s holdings will surpass ours in size.

New Thinking About Scientific Journals?

Carol Tenopir (University of Tennessee) and Donald W. King (University of Pittsburgh) reported in the October 18, 2001 issue of Nature about their ongoing tracking of US scholarly science journals from 1960 to 2000. Their results show that the journal system has remained surprisingly stable over these years. Scientists still depend on scholarly journals for reporting research results, obtaining information, and as reference sources. Also, the number of articles published per scientist, the amount of reading, and the indicators of usefulness and value are virtually unchanged. They also conclude that the overall cost of the journal system has stayed relatively constant, although costs have shifted among participants. To read the entire article go to www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/Articles/tenopir.html

In the same issue of Nature, David R. Worlock, Chairman of Electronic Publishing Services Ltd., addresses the question "What winners will emerge from the battles over access to scholarly data?" He looks to a number of developments for answers:

    1. conventional publishing in the hard sciences is too slow; there is an inexorable pressure to connect the e-print services of the world and to create a two-speed scholarly communication economy;
    2. although print is not under threat, a culture of reading outside core publications is growing;
    3. the university and library are being sharply redefined, in both the terms and style of access by scholars and in the ownership of tradable intellectual property;
    4. librarians are emerging into powerful network-resource administrators; years of library consortia and licensing arrangements underline the power of collective bargaining and remind libraries that if they have the intellectual property, they can be traders too;
    5. outside the consortia and in the less-developed world, a genuine poverty of access is emerging;
    6. the world of print is underpinned by commercial publishing;
    7. rapid consolidation creates economies of scale, prevents players from being cut out by new intermediaries, and accounts for the reinvestment forced on publishers by expensive digital conversion and new formats such as SML.

He concludes that big publishers are likely to get bigger and the small ones squeezed. But, he also points to publishers’ collaborations such as the Digital Object Identifier Foundation (www.doi.org) and the CrossRef service (www.crossref.org), which are attempts to use metadata to improve access to journal articles wherever they are held in distributed publishing systems and the Open Archives Initiative (www.openarchives.org), which promises a lowest-common denominator universal metadata standard, as new methods to provide unifying access standards across thousands of distributed e-print sites. Upcoming changes include knowledge representation and the addition of RDF (resource-definition framework) standards to current XML metadata, which will enable ontologies to be used that will allow searching on knowledge structures, not simply on terms and words. See Worlock’s entire article at www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/Articles/worlock.html

U. OF CHICAGO PRESS RECEIVES $1.5 M FROM MELLON FOUNDATION FOR DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER

The University of Chicago (UC) has received a $1.5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support two digital distribution initiatives: the Chicago Digital Distribution Center (CDDC), the first short-run digital print facility operated through a U.S. university press; and the BiblioVault, an electronic repository for backlist and current university press titles. Officials say the two initiatives will greatly enhance the ability of university presses to keep scholarly works in print and help them continue to publish frontlist monographs in specialized subjects, a practice that has become an economic challenge for scholarly presses under traditional offset printing.

UC Press officials say that funds from the Mellon grant will support the preparation of 5,000 books for short-run digital printing and, eventually, for online searching. The CDDC will serve not only Chicago, but also the many scholarly presses served by the already established Chicago Distribution Center (CDC), the press's traditional distribution center, which serves a number of university presses including those at Alabama, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio, Ohio State, Tennessee, Temple, and Wisconsin. The BiblioVault, an electronic repository of books in digital form, will make backlist books and new publications available to scholars for online searches. It will also enable participating publishers to deliver their books to scholars in new ways as technologies evolve. Officials at participating presses will deposit both electronic files for frontlist and backlist titles, which will be prepared by the University of Michigan Library Digital Library Production Service for BiblioVault. The grant will also allow the CDDC to develop an appropriate intellectual property management system. The CDDC will have an initial capacity of 36,000 books a year.

 

How Are We Doing?

Scholarly Communication Issues welcomes your input. Please let us know what’s missing from our coverage. And let us hear your comments about the issues themselves. Does our current system of scholarly communication need to be changed? If so, how should the academic community go about changing it? Send your comments to Paula Kaufman at ptk@uiuc.edu.