Hot Topics: The Charleston Afterglow Edition 11/13/15

Erin GallagherBy Erin Gallagher                                                               

It’s post-Charleston week, and though I’ve been battling a cold I picked up at the conference (I blame the train ride…), I returned to my library feeling energized and full of fun ideas to spring on my colleagues.  What a whirlwind!  We had record attendance, a snazzy new venue, another rockin’ good time at the South Carolina Aquarium, and a whole lot of camaraderie, Lowcountry style.

I had the great honor of co-hosting the closing session with the magnificent Derek Law, who proved to be a scholar, a comedian, and the winner of this year’s Hyde Park Debate.  This year’s End-of-Conference Poll-a-Palooza: Part II was a rousing success.  Read the summary by Don Hawkins, and be on the lookout for a full recap of our poll results coming to the ATG NewsChannel soon.

It’s appropriate that one of the hottest buzzwords of the conference this year was Open Access (that’s technically two words, but give me a break here…) in light of some recent news.  I’ve been following the saga of the editors and editorial board members who resigned from their positions with the journal Lingua (published by giant Elsevier) in order to start a new open access journal called Glossa.  Their resignation came in light of many librarians citing that they cannot afford to subscribe or maintain subscriptions to such a costly journal.   Many librarians, editors, and scholars applaud the actions of these editors and editorial board members; as someone who handles serials subscriptions at my library, I feel their pain and frustration.  It’s difficult to understand how a company with the size and wealth of Elsevier can justify charging $1,500 to $2,000 for libraries to essentially provide access to the research being produced by faculty and researchers at their own institutions.  It’s even harder to wrap my head around charging that much when they acquired the content they’re selling for free.  It’s like if I grew a huge crop of cantaloupe in my backyard and gave it for free to Wal-Mart who turned around and sold each melon for $1,500.  Of course, Elsevier is responding by pointing out that they do support open access publications and that the cost of publishing journals is so super expensive!  Check out this piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that begs to differ.  These sorts of situations make me question our journal subscription strategies at my own library.  Am I just buying into a corrupt and slimy publishing system by renewing our big deal packages?  Or am I really upholding a mission of providing the best access to information for our user community?  Do the two things have to go hand-in-hand?

In other news, you may have realized by now that I have a growing interest (obsession) with shipwrecks and maritime lore.  This week marked the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  But from a tragic accident came one of my favorite songs of all time: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.

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