2016 Photo: Eli Christman, “$100 Bill Macro,” https://www.flickr.com/photos/gammaman/21034840592/ CC-BY, enlarged/cropped So hi there, I’m Dorothea Salo and I’m from the iSchool at U-W Madison. And before I start I just want to thank everybody for their ﬂexibility, especially Scott Alan Smith and Stacey Devine. I know a closing keynote isn’t the norm here at Timberline, but I couldn’t have made it here for an opening keynote because I’d have had to miss our iSchool graduation. That’s a hugely important time for our new graduates and their folks, and of course for us, so again, thank you for having me, and for letting me close the festivities instead of opening them. And I think… the job of a closing keynote is a bit different from the job of an opening keynote; whoever opens a conference is supposed to get everybody excited for all the other great things you’re going to see and hear and learn about… but at this point we’ve already seen and heard all those things and we’re already excited about them, so that wouldn’t exactly work. What I’m going to try to do instead is give us something to think about on our way home, while we’re driving down the mountain—please pay attention to the road, though, I don’t want to be responsible for any accidents!—or in the T-S-A line at the airport, I hear they’re getting really bad. Something kind of big, something kind of challenging, something full of juicy controversy and discontent, something maybe out-of-the-ordinary for some of you, and crucially—something where I DO NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. In fact, what I want to send you home with today is a problem, a problem I think acquisitions professionals speciﬁcally are in the right place to help me solve. And that problem is acquiring open.
the librarian who handles acquisitions for the iSchool library—yes, we still have our own library and we’re totally keeping it, here it is, sorry the day was so gray you can’t see the lake out the windows—our acquisitions librarian, who also teaches on our faculty, is Bronwen Masemann, and as far as I’m concerned she is magic. “Hey, Bronwen, can I have this book?” I ask her, and I dutifully tell her that I’ve looked it up and we don’t have it, and I tell her whether print or electronic will work better, and I tell her which class or classes I teach that it’s relevant to… see, Bronwen has me REALLY WELL TRAINED.
And some time passes, and half the time I forget what-all I even asked for until like magic, LIKE MAGIC, PEOPLE, it’s suddenly on the new-books table near the library door and I’m all “Ooh! Shiny! New book! Look at that!” and I grab it up off the table. And Bronwen totally gives me the eye, because SHE remembers that I asked for that book, but she’s not really mad, she’s used to me and my steel-sieve brain, it all works out. And for electronic stuff Bronwen sends me an email when it’s in the system and I can get at it, and it’s awesome, it’s kind of the greatest thing ever, you know? Bronwen buys stuff so that my students and I can learn more and learn better. How is that not awesome? I don’t think acquisitions librarians hear this nearly often enough, so I’m just gonna say it: what y’all do is seriously the GREATEST THING EVER. Thank you. Thank you all!
here’s the problem I want your help with, which I am illustrating with Ben Franklin’s hundred-dollar-bill frowny face here. I don’t know why the Treasury did that, by all accounts Ben Franklin was a pretty funny guy, but whatever, on the hundred-dollar bill he looks as frustrated as I am.
from the talk slate at this very conference that open access is a thing. We know it’s a much bigger thing than it was, and it’s going to be a bigger thing still. I mean, declaring my own bias, my entire library career was spent on open access, so I have obvious incentive to say it’s a thing, but still—open access pretty much is a thing, well beyond any bias of mine. And for that matter, we know open educational resources are a thing. And Creative Commons, open culture, totally a thing. Open data? Also a thing! But because it’s my particular bailiwick, I’ll mostly be sticking to open access today. So, if open access is such a thing, here’s what I want to know. *CLICK* Why haven’t we ﬁgured out how to buy it yet? In fake syllogism form: open access is a thing, y’all buy things—or in the case of our vendors in the room, sell things—so y’all should be able to buy and sell open access, right? But it doesn’t work that way. Does it.
mean it, I’m totally serious. Acquisitions folks are the folks in the scholarly communications game WITH THE BENJAMINS. Not as many benjamins as we’d like, of course, but even so. Supposedly, having the benjamins puts us in the driver’s seat. Not to mention that we’re the expert purchasers, right?
the expert purchasers, I’m not, I’m just saying, I could go to Bronwen and say “buy me an elephant, please” and she’d be like “African or Indian elephant, print or electronic elephant, and will we have to shelve it in oversize?” I’m kinda serious, actually. Nothing fazes Bronwen Masemann.
I CAN’T go to Bronwen and say “can you buy me open access to this, please?” We just don’t seem to be able to buy open access, because if we did, we’d have it already, y’all being the expert purchasers you are, and I hope we’d have it on the best terms y’all could negotiate, because no, open access isn’t and should never be an “on any terms” arrangement. Franklin frowny face! Why haven’t we ﬁgured out how to buy open access?
that libraries haven’t tried to make open access happen, of course we have. But here’s an interesting thing about our attempts to buy open access: for the most part, they’ve bypassed acquisitions entirely. All y’all expert purchasers, you’ve been detoured around. Huh. How’d that happen exactly? Because it sure ain’t helping, not libraries and not content producers either.
been scratching my head about that question for quite a while now, prepping for this talk, and honestly, I don’t know that I have the full and complete answer; in fact, I’m quite sure I’ve left a lot of blanks. I have some parts of the answer, though, I think, and as I put them forward I invite everybody to ﬁll in those blanks on your way down the mountain tonight or tomorrow.
of the reasons for the exclusion of acquisitions professionals from the open-access movement come from outside, outside acquisitions and sometimes even outside the library altogether. There’s just no question about that, so if you’ve been yelling that at me inside your head, I hear you, I totally do! Lemme open the door on some of those reasons.
the obvious ﬁrst: it’s hard to buy what sellers ain’t selling. I can’t go to Bronwen and ask her to buy open access to a journal article, no matter how handy that would be, because that’s not a thing most paywalled content vendors are willing to sell to libraries. They do sell it to AUTHORS, mind you, that’s the whole idea behind hybrid journals and author-side processing charges, and sometimes we subsidize that—which I’m cautiously and with a lot of limits and reservations in favor of—but it’s still the authors doing the buying. Content vendors just won’t sell open access to libraries, because… well, I guess a copyright in hand is worth up-front cash in the bush, or something? Wow, I think that metaphor got away from me a little bit. But also, of course, most scholarly authors are NOT expert purchasers like you folks. Do I think there’s an exploitative element here, especially from the hybrids? Of course I do. It’s no different from the sign-over-your-copyright hustle on the toll-access side of the fence; either way, it’s taking advantage of author ignorance, and it’s not cool. It’s not just journals that will sell open access to authors, though—I’m in the middle of a book negotiation right now where the publisher says they’ll provide delayed open access if my coauthor and I forego royalties. Sure, okay, ﬁne, who writes books for librarians for the money? Open access is far more important to both of us, so we said yes, and we’ll see what happens. But Bronwen can’t intervene in that negotiation, can’t offer to buy openness for the book—how can she? acquisitions librarians aren’t privy to author contract negotiations with publishers!
and for all the hoopla about open access to the journal literature, it’s weirdly easier to buy open access to books. Go bug Knowledge Unlatched or Unglue.it, they’ll be happy to oblige you. Or give some humanist with a worthy monograph a subvention, university presses will suddenly perk up their ears over something that is otherwise commercially hopeless. But—but—that isn’t how acquisitions works! To which I say, well, why isn’t it? As systemic change goes, this style of open-access crowdfunding is the EASY stuff. And until the whole purchasing ecosystem we have now ﬁgures out how to handle it, acquisitions will continue to be left out of the advance of open access. I don’t think that does anybody any good.
grabby, entitled patrons, who want what they want when they want it and don’t know anything about the system and couldn’t care less. Academic librarians, we know how this goes, I don’t even have to say anything except that it’s not just us. I have a good friend in a government-agency library who’s basically under siege right now because the agency refuses to understand acquisitions tradeoffs but is REAL happy to blame librarians for them. It’s not a good scene, and I don’t have any ﬁxes for it; if there’s a magic elixir that makes patrons act less like entitled clueless jerks, gimme a whole oil tanker full. I will say, though, that I keep hearing content vendors talking about bypassing academic libraries to sell direct to professor or direct to department, and I think y’all might not end up liking that as much as you think you will. Acquisitions and collection-development librarians take an AWFUL LOT of ﬂak for stuff that content vendors actually control. I also GUARANTEE that a whole lot of academic departments will be paralyzed by sudden sticker shock. Things being what they are, acquisitions choices can be pretty tightly constrained. To get beyond those constraints sometimes, all you can do is do something different and hope nobody notices. I wish… well, one of the things I wish is that we were all, content vendors and acquisitions librarians, all a lot more, how shall I say, OPEN ABOUT THIS STUFF. Where secrecy is a competitive advantage, it’s an unfair one that damages the whole system.
gets left out of things open is the open-access movement’s naked technomessianism regarding green open access and repositories. That pretty much got paid for out of the technology budget—institutional repositories especially—so acquisitions didn’t have to get involved, unless maybe you’re processing the IT department’s software-as-a- service invoices. Lucky you! Just look at my wrecked career; open-access technomessianism failed big and failed hard.
along pretty great, best I can tell. Social Science Research Network’s meeting its bills. There’s some new stuff happening, bioRxiv for example—hey, I love how they got the Greek chi right, about time—and that one I think is too early to call. It might be the usual technomessianism, or it might actually have met its moment. A few of you acquisitions librarians in the room might be involved in this, if you’re at a campus with a strong physics or computer science or math department such that you’re helping pay for arXiv. Most of you aren’t involved. You’re being detoured around. And you might say to me, how do we even pay for this stuff, it’s not how things work around here! And I’m saying yeah, that’s kind of the problem. And a few of you content vendors might be seeing this as a threat to your current business model; acquisitions dollars that go to arXiv and SSRN and bioRxiv aren’t going to you. I tend to think you’re right. I’m challenging you to adapt, to ﬁnd reasons for us to WANT TO give you money for open access, instead of pulling some of the—ahem, I’ll be polite and say “stunts”— y’all have collectively pulled the last ten years or so. Pretty sure we all know the kind of thing I’m talking about, some of it’s come up at this very event, I don’t have to elaborate. But I’m really glad for people like Tom Hellestad, I tell you what. Honestly I was kinda traumatized by some prior leadership at the university press where I am—not the current director, he’s cool and I like him—but it was GREAT to hear Tom today and learn that not everybody’s like that.
research funders insist on open access, often through repositories like PubMed Central. Some people think this is a passing fad; I think they may not entirely realize how long it’s been around. Ten years ago—well, nine and a half, close enough—I was sitting in Robert Kiley’s office at Wellcome Trust in London chatting amiably about Wellcome’s open-access mandate, which had been out two or three years by then! And PubMed Central should balloon in size in the next ﬁve to ten years because of the OSTP Memo. And, you know, universities fund research and agree on open access too, have you noticed that Harvard’s ﬁrst internal open-access policy happened eight whole years ago? And it’s still around, it hasn’t been repealed or shouted down by furious faculty? And racking up several million article views a year? Time ﬂies, I tell you what. So I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes it’s okay to let other people pick up the tab? I don’t think that’s a thing we need to object to, and I also don’t think we need to fear that it writes us out of the picture altogether, which is a worry that I’ve had librarians express to me. But I also think we have to watch out for when funders stop supporting something valuable, and we need to have the kind of policies and procedures that let us intervene to save it. That’s actually exactly what happened with the arXiv—its faculty founders got bored with running it and fundraising for it, so Cornell University Libraries stepped in to white-knight it, and eventually they passed the hat to other libraries to diversify their funding base, and here we are. Hathi Trust works this way. The Digital Public Library of America sort of does; they rely on a lot of infrastructure from library consortia and state libraries. And again, I don’t think that’s how acquisitions usually works, what it usually pays for. But, I mean, it ain’t illegal or immoral and it DOES maintain and improve access to information, so why not?
I’m seeing a particularly interesting case of the detours with respect to the Open Library of the Humanities, which, disclaimer, I spent some time on their pre-launch advisory board, and I’m currently involved in a different book project being led by one of their founders. *CLICK* If you look at their where-our-money- comes-from page, you’ll notice that they call it “Supporting Institutions.” Not libraries, institutions. And if you scroll down the list, there’s no way to tell what money’s coming from a library and what’s coming from somewhere else—I mean, there’s a consortium explicitly credited at the bottom, but other than that, nothing. So, look. I happen to know some of their money isn’t coming from libraries, though exactly what the ratios are I’m not sure. And because this is the humanities we’re talking about, it’s not coming from author-side fees either. Instead that money’s coming from humanities deans, department chairs, provosts, whathaveyou. What this says to me is that open access isn’t always wedded to libraries for its funding… and if libraries don’t pony up, open access can and will detour around libraries to ﬁnd other ways. And maybe that’s okay, I’ve said that sometimes it is, but…
Fair use asserted. … but I really think we might want to take a more thoughtful and strategic approach to buying open access. Why, you say? Here’s the why in my head. This is from the latest Ithaka report, it’s college and university faculty’s opinion of what libraries and librarians are for. As usual, the top line is “buyer,” libraries exist to buy them things. So. If we libraries and our acquisitions people are not buying open access, if open access is detouring around us, BUT open access is still happening, still being paid for, and touching more and more of our patrons one way or another every day, um… what does that do to our buyer role exactly, and what are the knock-on effects if we start to seriously let go of it? When I talk about open access to librarians, practically every single time, somebody the Q&A session pulls out the “altruism” argument. Libraries won’t support open access because we’re too hardheadedly practical to be that altruistic. And I can see a lot of historical weight in that argument, given how few benjamins, comparatively, libraries have sent in open-access directions. Straight-up, y’all, as Tom said earlier today, a LOT OF US ARE FREE RIDING. YALE. (I always call Yale out for this. They’re just the worst.) But look, y’all, I’m honestly getting kinda worried about how common that argument is still. If we don’t ﬁgure out how to buy open access even considering all our constraints, aren’t we cooperating in the marginalization of our buyer role? It’s not altruism. It’s service, and it might yet turn into survival. If we’re making considered policy-driven decisions to let other people pay for this sometimes, ﬁne, I’m not arguing, I think it’s only sensible to get more people’s skin in this game. If we’re just saying “open access can talk to the hand” because that isn’t how we roll here in library acquisitions, yes, THAT I am arguing with—that’s a slow but steady road to us marginalizing ourselves. Us marginalizing ourselves. Let’s talk about that some more, now that I’ve beaten external forces into the ground.
some extent, what’s going on with open access and acquisitions boils down to that ancient horror-movie cliché—“the phone call is coming from inside the house.” And collection developers are TOTALLY making that creepy phone call, sure. Acquisitions folks don’t always get to make decisions about what exactly the money gets spent on, and kicking back against coll dev is pretty fraught. I get that, I do, I learned real fast in my library career not to mess with liaison librarians because THEY MESS BACK and there’s a lot more of them than there’s ever been of me. I just. In my head that’s not the whole story. What I’ve learned in the last few weeks is that there’s pretty foundational thinking inside acquisitions, FROM acquisitions ABOUT acquisitions, about what acquisitions is—are? is? whatever—and what acquisitions is for that I’m starting to think might be overdue for an overhaul. I think you acquisitions professionals have much more power to change the world than you’re using, or than anyone else gives you credit for. I just think acquisitions as a specialty is kind of getting in its own way here? And I’d like y’all to go home thinking about changing that.
CC-BY, cropped I don’t know if you noticed this when I put up the picture of our library’s new-book table, but—completely by coincidence, I totally did not set this up!—this book was on it when I snapped the photo a couple of weeks ago. If you can’t see it in back, sorry, the title font is kind of thin and spindly, though I will say it’s nicely kerned, good job cover designer—it’s ALCTS’ Guide to Ethics in Acquisitions. And of course as soon as I got the pictures for this talk I immediately grabbed the book off the table and read through it, because come on, how am I not going to do that, for one thing I’m always down for reading about ethics and for another I need to not sound like a complete ignoramus here.
Bill Macro,” https://www.flickr.com/photos/gammaman/21034840592/ CC-BY, enlarged/cropped And so I learned, among other things, that the book goes into a whole lot of detail on ALCTS’s Principles and Standards of Acquisitions Practice, which is a kind of code-of-ethics, what- we’re-all-about thing, right? And it’s by acquisitions professionals for acquisitions professionals, the book talks about its history quite a bit. Really useful book, I’m glad Bronwen bought it, and hey, if any of the authors are here today, let me buy you a drink.
his or her institution; 2. strives to obtain the maximum ultimate value of each dollar of expenditure; 3. grants all competing vendors equal consideration insofar as the established policies of his or her library permit, and regards each transaction on its own merits; 4. subscribes to and works for honesty, truth, and fairness in buying and selling, and denounces all forms and manifestations of bribery; 5. declines personal gifts and gratuities; 6. uses only by consent original ideas and designs devised by one vendor for competitive purchasing purposes; 7. accords a prompt and courteous reception insofar as conditions permit to all who call on legitimate business missions; 8. fosters and promotes fair, ethical, and legal trade practices; 9. avoids sharp practice; 10. strives consistently for knowledge of the publishing and bookselling industry; 11. strives to establish practical and eﬃcient methods for the conduct of his/her oﬃce; 12. counsels and assists fellow acquisitions librarians in the performance of their duties, whenever occasion permits. In all acquisitions transactions, a librarian: And here’s that code, this is the whole thing, and wow, for me as an outsider to acquisitions, this is an absolutely FASCINATING document here, I’m really glad it exists, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I… don’t like it. And as an explanatory and outreach document, I don’t think it’s doing y’all justice. Not even a little bit. Well, okay, parts of it are pretty hard to argue with. Those last two? I am ALL ABOUT practicality and efficiency, they are what give us room and reason to be thoughtful and creative. By the same token, I am NEVER going to argue against helping colleagues, that would just be outrageously self-defeating… though I AM going to say that I don’t see why that counsel and that assistance should be limited to other ACQUISITIONS librarians.
rest of us NEED YOU! Me and my problems, I’m no exception! You want me to beg? I ain’t too proud to beg, I will put on my best puppy-dog eyes. I am BEGGING YOU, help me with this open access thing, I cannot do it alone, and I don’t think WE, all of us in librarianship and in content creation and production, can possibly do it without y’all!
his or her institution; 2. strives to obtain the maximum ultimate value of each dollar of expenditure; 3. grants all competing vendors equal consideration insofar as the established policies of his or her library permit, and regards each transaction on its own merits; 4. subscribes to and works for honesty, truth, and fairness in buying and selling, and denounces all forms and manifestations of bribery; 5. declines personal gifts and gratuities; 6. uses only by consent original ideas and designs devised by one vendor for competitive purchasing purposes; 7. accords a prompt and courteous reception insofar as conditions permit to all who call on legitimate business missions; 8. fosters and promotes fair, ethical, and legal trade practices; 9. avoids sharp practice; 10. strives consistently for knowledge of the publishing and bookselling industry; 11. strives to establish practical and eﬃcient methods for the conduct of his/her oﬃce; 12. counsels and assists fellow acquisitions librarians in the performance of their duties, whenever occasion permits. In all acquisitions transactions, a librarian: librarians, other colleagues, and the library profession So really, can ALCTS acquisitions folks strike this adjective in the last principle, please? It bugs me kind of a lot that your code of ethics implies that you don’t have to help librarians who do other things than acquisitions. And the next word, “librarians,” *CLICK* maybe think about changing it, or adding to it? Just as an example, I would die happy to see acquisitions people explaining to boneheaded ignoramuses in the open-access movement—and oh wow, are there EVER a lot of boneheaded ignoramuses in the open-access movement—exactly how the whole library-acquisitions game works. It’s not like I myself entirely understand it; every time I hear from acquisitions and e-resources folks about workﬂows, today no exception, I come away hugely enlightened. And angry at the system, of course, but… mostly enlightened.
I’m saying is, think big! Think really big! Y’all can help a lot more people than one another. Y’all can help more people in your libraries. Y’all can help more people in the organizations that your libraries are embedded in. Y’all can totally help more people in the larger library profession! Y’all can help the whole world, for heaven’s sake! And I’ve been reading slides from yesterday, I’ve been here today, I know quite a few of you don’t even need me to tell you this, so why is your principles document selling you short? So to speak. For example, I talked about free riding a bit ago. This is exactly the kind of thing principles, standards, and ethics documents are designed to call out! So how about this one actually SAY “free riding is uncool?” Maybe in slightly more elevated language, but you see what I’m saying. And then we have a reason to start hashing out how we can tell when somebody’s free-riding, what a fair share of the burden actually is, and stuff like that. Because right now we just don’t really know, other than the obvious that I’ve been screaming about MY whole career: if you’re an R1 and all you have is a neglected institutional repository in the basement, as Lindsay Cronk was talking about, just don’t even PRETEND you’re pulling your weight, okay? So that’s a starting example of how the call is coming from inside the house. Which surprises me, honestly. I’m used to ALCTS being the most forward-thinking ALA division there is! In my decade or so kicking around the profession, ALCTS has regularly out-curiositied ACRL and LITA and RUSA and, like, everybody! I don’t really understand how this document came out of ALCTS, and why it hasn’t been revised since. So let me take it apart some more, from my point of view as somebody begging y’all for help with open access, and suggest some improvements y’all can take home to ponder and maybe bug ALCTS about.
gives ﬁrst consideration to the objectives and policies of his or her institution; Here’s article one of the Principles, and—look, I am a notorious contrarian, ask anybody. As a scholarly communications librarian, though, it practically became my JOB to argue with the objectives and policies of the institutions I’ve worked for, because on a SYSTEMIC level, a level larger than those institutions, and sometimes even just on the institutional level, their objectives and policies were MESSED. UP. I couldn’t get my job DONE if I meekly knuckled under to existing objectives and policies! Not an option! So, I mean, take my knee-jerk contrarianism into consideration when I say I have huge reservations about this principle. Your institution über alles? Even when their objectives and policies conﬂict with your professional judgement? Your professional ethics? Even when you know perfectly well those objectives and policies will lead the institution straight off a cliff, like happened with the serials Big Deal?
mean, I’ve been there, I got in big trouble with our campus C-T-O for a column in Library Journal a few years back where I said that e-textbook Big Deals were a bad idea for a lot of the same reasons serials Big Deals were. Contrarianism has costs! My contrarianism basically ran me out of academic librarianship, there isn’t an academic library in this COUNTRY that would hire me, nobody wants to deal with my big mouth. I’m not saying it’s EASY to buck the system… I’m saying sometimes it’s necessary, and this principle is not leaving much room for that. I’d be a lot happier if that principle thought bigger. What is y’all’s professional obligation, beyond your institution, to well-functioning, equitable scholarly communication and publishing systems? When that conﬂicts with your institution’s stated objectives and policies, what are y’all supposed to do? I kinda want to see ALCTS acquisitions folks grapple with these admittedly very difficult questions and come up with some clearer guidance.
strives to obtain the maximum ultimate value of each dollar of expenditure; 8.fosters and promotes fair, ethical, and legal trade practices; Here’s article two and article eight. I kinda dig these two actually! They’re going in my direction! How is open access, making something accessible to everyone with an Internet connection, NOT the “maximum ultimate value” for a buck? (But another thing real quick, “dollar?” I know this is from the AMERICAN Library Association, but really? I’m sure people who spend yen or euro or rands or reais or whatever want the maximum ultimate value too. It’s just as easy to say “value for money expended.”) Anyway, all in all, I think open access broadly speaking, and acknowledging there’s some shysters out there, is pretty fair and ethical, a lot more so than many alternatives, and it can even be legal, who knew? So principle eight here, I got no problem with it. Here’s the thing, though. I’m not sure ALCTS acquisitions folks meant what I mean when they wrote these principles. I’d love it if they did, though! And I will totally spin them that way whenever I have a chance! Because in my head, this here? Is thinking big.
grants all competing vendors equal consideration insofar as the established policies of his or her library permit, and regards each transaction on its own merits; Here’s three, and as with principle one, I think this defers much too much to existing library policy. What’s so great about existing library policy? Is it comprehensive? Of course it’s not. Is it perfectly aligned with the times? Come on, we all know policy lags. So, add something to this principle about the long-term health and global equity of larger publishing and access systems, and I’d be a lot happier with it. Maybe even add another principle about working toward positive change in library policy and practice aimed at the long-term health and global equity of larger publishing and access systems, why not? And just a caution, though I suspect all y’all are smarter than this: when I say “the long-term health and global equity of larger publishing systems,” I absolutely do not mean “the system as it stands right now, world without end, amen.” I cannot stand here with a straight face and go all Pangloss on you, “the current system is the best of all possible systems,” because ﬁrst, it’s not, and second, there’s no such THING as a perfect system.
grants all competing vendors equal consideration insofar as the established policies of his or her library permit, and regards each transaction on its own merits; And while I’m at it, this last bit bugs me too. I mean, I could be wrong about this and I’d like to be, but this wording seems to me to forbid looking at a deal from a systemic perspective— even where the system is just “the rest of the library budget,” never mind the rest of the world. I have to think—I do think—that that sort of tunnel vision leads people with all innocent intent to make and to take deals that are way more damaging than they should be.
subscribes to and works for honesty, truth, and fairness in buying and selling, and denounces all forms and manifestations of bribery; 5. declines personal gifts and gratuities; 6. uses only by consent original ideas and designs devised by one vendor for competitive purchasing purposes; So, I want to take these next three principles as a bunch, partly because if I do them all one by one we’ll be here all day and nobody wants that, partly because I think they interact in some problematic ways that need and deserve to be confronted directly.
subscribes to and works for honesty, truth, and fairness in buying and selling, and denounces all forms and manifestations of bribery; 5. declines personal gifts and gratuities; 6. uses only by consent original ideas and designs devised by one vendor for competitive purchasing purposes; A little thing, ﬁrst: what is this overemphasis on buying, selling, purchasing, money-for-stuff, like it’s all y’all do and all y’all will ever do? It’s even in the title of the whole code, “in all acquisitions TRANSACTIONS.”
Dorothea Salo, “SLIS Library New Books Table” https://www.flickr.com/photos/cavlec/26525628530/ CC-BY As I said earlier, our iSchool librarian Bronwen is really good at the whole exchanging money *CLICK* for stuff *CLICK* for me and my students thing. And this three-cornered deal here is what the Principles claim to be the fundamental thing that acquisitions folks do. Y’all exchange money, to buy access to speciﬁc stuff, in the best form to beneﬁt a speciﬁc audience. And that’s ﬁne as far as it goes, I wasn’t kidding when I told you I’m grateful for it. But gosh, it’s awfully limiting. With all the sustainability experimentation going on in open access and crowdfunded publishing, I mean, it’ll never all boil down to exchanging money for speciﬁc stuff for speciﬁc people. So, what, that means write acquisitions out of open access? I hope not!
CAN THINK BIGGER. THINK BROADER. Acquisitions is more than transactions! It’s more than buying and selling! It’s more than dealing with established library vendors! Especially in a world where open access is burgeoning, tunnel vision about buying and selling is totally how acquisitions is getting detoured around! Does a membership in BioMed Central count as a transaction? How about supporting arXiv, or the Open Library of the Humanities, or Knowledge Unlatched? How about ponying up to create Open Educational Resources? Or underwriting a patron to self-publish? Or funding the foundation of a new open-access journal? I mean, I dunno, maybe those DO count as transactions, that would be awesome, but hey, some clarity here would be nice.
subscribes to and works for honesty, truth, and fairness in buying and selling, and denounces all forms and manifestations of bribery; 5. declines personal gifts and gratuities; 6. uses only by consent original ideas and designs devised by one vendor for competitive purchasing purposes; Here’s another locus of discomfort I have, this mention of bribery, personal gifts and gratuities. First, I appreciate this. I’m glad it’s here. I wish this idea would bubble up to the larger profession’s ethics codes, actually. It’s good for us as a profession to say out loud, yeah, we’re better than some of the crap that goes on elsewhere in life, we know what our professional values are and you can’t pay us enough to betray them. One more time, though, I think this is too narrow a focus. It’s not enough for us to be individually incorruptible, though it’s certainly welcome and necessary. We need to be incorruptible en masse, and I wish I could say that we are. I can’t.
also notorious for biting the hands that feed me. I’m glad to be here at Timberline, I am, because I’m all about saying things I think are worth saying to audiences that I think need to hear them. But this list of Timberline Acquisitions Institute sponsors here, straight off y’all’s website, these sponsors represent the terms on which I’m speaking, and I’m way, way uncomfortable with that. It makes me complicit in what I feel is a level of both personal bribery where I as a speaker am concerned—yeah, I’m totally implicated here and I’m owning it, none of you know who on this list might have sweet-talked me, or anyone else in this room for that matter—but also PROFESSIONAL bribery, profession- level gifts and gratuities. I’m thinking some of this stuff happening across the library profession is not entirely ethical, and not good for us. Looking at this list of sponsors, I can safely say it’s not great for open access, either. I’m guessing right now we have some sponsor representatives in this room who are pretty mad about what I just said. I’m not going to say y’all are wrong to be mad! Be mad, I’m a grown woman, I can handle it! For what it’s worth, though, be mad at me, okay? Timberline didn’t have any prior knowledge of what I was going to say today, and they didn’t suggest or vet any of it. But here’s the bribery angle on that: I know conferences and other events nominally librarian-focused and librarian-run where, unlike here at Timberline, the vendors call the shots on programming. I bet we all know some of those. That’s way seriously not okay. That’s DEFINITELY crossing the line to profession-level bribery. So, look, if I lose speaking gigs in great places like the Paciﬁc Northwest because the library profession starts running events within its own limited means, I’m ﬁne with that. I think it’s what we ought to do, in fact. Unconferences, regionals, webinars, what we can afford, let’s do that. I’ll lose money as an individual speaker, sure, but I still prefer that my profession stay independent. If, on the other hand, I lose speaking gigs because vendors start leaning on library conferences they’re paying for not to invite me because those vendors don’t like what I say? That’s corruption, people, straight-up. That’s lost intellectual freedom. It’s exactly what I don’t want and what the library profession can’t afford. And no joke, it’s happening. I suspect pretty strongly it’s happened to me more than once. And if it’s happened to me, it’s happened to other noisy obnoxious contrarians given to biting the hands that feed them, I’m not a special snowﬂake. And circling back around to open access, can y’all think of some conferences relevant to what you do where a commie pinko open-access type like I am wouldn’t even be WELCOME, much less asked to speak? ‘Cos I sure can. And that’s not good. So yeah. Broader notion of bribery, please. I think we need it, and I think y’all have a good foundation for it.
subscribes to and works for honesty, truth, and fairness in buying and selling, and denounces all forms and manifestations of bribery; 5. declines personal gifts and gratuities; 6. uses only by consent original ideas and designs devised by one vendor for competitive purchasing purposes; I promised you some internal conﬂict in these three articles, and here’s where I think it is. If, as article six says, we do all this mental compartmentalizing and secret-keeping around vendor pricing models and vendor terms and stuff, I can’t see how we EVER get to honesty, truth, and fairness, in buying and selling or in anything else for that matter. Take NDAs. It’s not a secret, what non-disclosure agreements are for. It’s not a secret that they put acquisitions librarians individually and collectively behind the eight-ball. It’s not a secret NDAs aren’t about competition among vendors, but about keeping acquisitions folks in the dark. That’s not honest, it’s not truthful, and it’s NOT fair. So why is there an entire standard here aimed at propping up NDAs? I can’t. I just can’t approve of this. Please, if any of you have any inﬂuence in ALCTS at all, see if you can start a conversation about getting rid of article six. Just kill it. A number of libraries and library consortia around the world have come out against NDAs, or even said they won’t sign them. For honesty, truth, and fairness—please join that number. Content vendors, stop asking for NDAs. Stop. It’s NOT OKAY.
accords a prompt and courteous reception insofar as conditions permit to all who call on legitimate business missions; I um. I have friends in collection development and acquisitions who tell me hair-raising stories about how some bad-apple content-vendor salesfolk treat them. Whether it’s refusal to hear “no,” repeated browbeating by phone calls or email, handsy catcalling reps on conference exhibit ﬂoors, salesfolk who call somebody’s supervisor to try to get a different answer or to rat on them for complaining, whatever—I mean, you’re the pros, you probably have way more and worse stories than I do. It’s not limited to paywalled publishers, either; some of you may recall some pretty high-handed, abusive rhetoric from an open-access outﬁt called PhilPapers a couple years ago. And the PhilPapers people were made to walk it back, which is good, but trust me, that wasn’t because they got a “prompt and courteous reception” from the librarians they whaled on. Taking this personal for a moment, the accusation I often see leveled at loud librarians like me is the “niceness” argument. We’re all friends, right? Content vendors and librarians? Can’t we all just get along and be NICE? And there’s a term for that rhetoric, “tone policing,” and it’s a very conscious silence-the-loud-critics strategy. What it means is “shut up; I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I don’t want to argue it because I might lose, so I’ll criticize the way you’re saying it and imply you’re a bad person too.” That’s not okay, and if you think I’m not a nice person for saying so, that’s cool with me—I’ve never thought I was a nice person. And, you know, I was wondering where bad-apple content-vendor salespeople got this weird idea that librarians owed them niceness no matter what. Sure, some of it’s gender, but… I think it might partly be Principle Seven here, too. I smell a lot of Stockholm Syndrome coming off this principle. That bothers me. Some people ain’t NOBODY required to give a prompt and courteous reception to. I’d like this principle to recognize that, maybe with a clariﬁcation to “as conditions permit,” maybe with an admission that circumstances alter cases and a “legitimate business mission” is no substitute for decent behavior. I also want this code to back its people who say things that content vendors—on any side of the business-model fence—don’t like. Content vendors, I don’t even know what to tell you here, except that some of your fellows are making all of you look really really bad and you might want to look to that. I mean, I’m ripping on this acquisitions code of ethics here, which in a way isn’t fair because you’re getting off scot-free. Thing is, though, I can’t rip on y’all’s codes of ethics because um. They’re either nonexistent or laughably incomplete. Speaking of things you might want to look to. There IS NO trade-association ethics code I can ﬁnd that addresses abusive behavior to librarians, just for a start. Fix it, y’all. Straight-up, I am not softening this, FIX IT. Because how is it good business to make the people who send you the benjamins want you and everybody LIKE you to fail?
sharp practice; engaging in oneself putting up with from others Principle nine is one of those ones where I’m not sure ALCTS and I have the same interpretation of it. What I think ALCTS means is *CLICK* avoiding engaging in sharp practice ourselves. Which, sure, I’m cool with that, no argument. What I WANT ALCTS to mean in addition, though, is *CLICK* avoiding putting up with sharp practice from others. Whether on the toll side it’s NDAs, mythological interpretations of “historical spend,” twenty-six checkout limits, skeevy misleading PR like the PRISM Coalition back in the day, whether on the open side it’s browbeating authors, charging author-side fees with zero relationship to production cost or quality, exploiting new scholars—yeah, I want us to avoid this stuff! I want us to call it out when it happens so others of us avoid it too! And I want us to call spades spades. If it’s a bad deal, lousy terms—heck, I even have stories about straight-up illegal terms in content contracts, and I bet you do too—y’all should be empowered to say that, loud and proud. I’m hearing about more illegal nonsense in content contracts than I used to, and it bugs me that this standards-and-principles document doesn’t work harder to back up the people who both won’t put up with that AND who make it public so nobody else puts up with it either. So, you know. A little clarity here would be good.
strives consistently for knowledge of the publishing and bookselling industry; So, last principle I’ll be talking about, aren’t you glad? And again, there’s a lot to like here—I don’t know too many other ﬁelds of librarianship that make the absolute necessity of continuing professional development sound so clear and so urgent. So props to the Principles for that, I want to see more of our specialties say it! I mean, I’m a library educator, I get blamed all the time because people don’t know everything, but I got two years, folks, TWO YEARS. If I told you I could learn everything any one of you knows in two years, wouldn’t you laugh at me? Yeah, because you should! I can boost my students a ways up the learning curve, that’s my job, but dang, some of the expectations get pretty ridiculous.
strives consistently for knowledge of the publishing and bookselling industry; Hrm. Yeah. I’m just gonna let that one sit there for a sec. Again, it’s not WRONG exactly, it’s just way, way too limited. It does not capture the complexity of the world y’all are dealing with. Serials? Music? Film and video? Art in all its wild amazing forms? Many of you acquire these things, of course you do, and ALCTS somehow thinks you’re not supposed to keep up with how those industries work? Weird. ‘Cos obviously you do anyway.
strives consistently for knowledge of the publishing and bookselling industry; But this, I just can’t get over this. Singular? There’s one industry? Not in Rupert Murdoch or Jeff Bezos’s wildest DREAMS is all of publishing one industry. I mean, the iSchool where I work treats me pretty well, they let me have one course that’s not core to the department or anything, but they let me teach it because I straight-up love to teach it. It’s got a terrible title, “Publishing, Knowledge Institutions, and Society: E-Revolutions,” but I just call it “publishing and libraries” and people mostly seem to get that. And after we lay the necessary copyright groundwork, we talk about trade publishing, ﬁction and non-. And how ebooks work. And scholarly monograph publishing. And scholarly journal publishing. And open access as it relates to monograph and journal publishing, and if you want to call open access a separate industry I’ll probably argue with you about it, but I also kinda see where you’re coming from, you could make a case for that. And bibliometrics and altmetrics. And news publishing, a little bit, I don’t understand the magazine industry real well so I kind of gloss over it, but I can at least talk about what’s going on in journalism some. And reference publishing. And textbook publishing. And self-publishing, and crowdfunded publishing, and stuff like that, and I’m looking at this and I’m just, how is this all one industry? It’s not! Now less than ever!
of the things that happens to me kind of a lot as a library educator—I wrote a Library Journal column about this, too, you can read it online, it’s open access—is that people come up to me and admire the things I know, or know how to do. Which sounds all complimentary and everything, but the way they say it, the subtext is “tell me I don’t need to know the things you know because you know them so I don’t have to.” Sometimes it’s even more explicit than that: “Tell me why I should know about open access, or self-publishing, or crowdfunding” in this very truculent or dismissive tone of voice. I think some of you might have had similar experiences regarding what you do? Which, whaaat? What profession are we in exactly? Something about information, I thought? Now, it’s a big, massive lot to know. You don’t have to tell me that, I gotta keep up with as much as I humanly can so I can teach it. So, what I’m saying is, I don’t like the way principle ten puts these strict, artiﬁcially teensy-tiny boundaries on y’all’s knowledge and continuing professional development. I think ALCTS can do better by the incredible amount y’all know than that. Not to mention that I don’t know how anybody can help me with my open-access problem if they’re limiting their learning.
of you aren’t convinced yet. That’s ﬁne. I want to close with an elephant in the room, something I think might convince a few more people to think bigger, to help me with my open-access problem, and to convince ALCTS that ALCTS might want to convince its membership to do likewise. (I drop an elephant in the ﬁrst ten slides, you KNOW I’m coming back to it, right? Chekhov’s Elephant.)
of this elephant in the room for all of us curious about acquisitions, librarians and content vendors alike, is Sci-Hub. Now, I’m not going to stand here and start prophesying at you. Prophecy is a total mug’s game. I’ve been repeatedly shocked, in good and bad ways, by changes in scholarly communication over my careers as librarian and library educator; there’s all kinds of stuff I didn’t successfully predict. Plus, we all know library pundits who come out with all their doomsaying and bullyragging and usually they’re wrong and even when they’re right, ugh, that is not really my style. So I’ll just say that Sci-Hub has me thinking about some patterns I’ve seen in other industries, and how those played out, and I don’t have any ﬁrm conclusions, I guess? But this moment kinda feels like change to me. Y’all can guide that change, if you choose, and I’d like to see that.
were physical things like compact discs, and then there was ripping, *CLICK* and then there was Napster, which is everybody’s analogue to Sci-Hub because users loved it but courts killed it, *CLICK* and then there was cheap mp3 purchasing on Amazon and iTunes, *CLICK* and then there was streaming, Spotify and like that. And if you talk to music industry insiders about this progression, they pull long faces because their proﬁts are not looking so great. So… that’s an interesting analogy. Will it play out the same this time? Dunno. But I left something out of this tidy chronology. Anybody catch it? *CLICK* Yeah, post-Napster peer-to-peer sharing like Gnutella and torrenting. Because it’s on that, I think, that Sci-Hub’s survival depends, or at least its importance in the grand scheme of things. Elsevier can whack-a-mole Sci-Hub’s domain names in court until the cows come home—and I’m from Wisconsin, I totally know when that is—but it won’t matter if Sci-Hub can keep growing its Tor-based peer-to-peer userbase. *CLICK* Because, see, that DID NOT HAPPEN with Napster. Torrenting was weird and scary and technical—still is—so most Napster users never made the leap to peer-to-peer; they chose Amazon and iTunes and streaming instead. And, you know, I cannot tell you which way Sci-Hub’s actual and potential userbase will go here! I don’t know! We’re talking about an academe more or less evenly split between people who build whole new slide-presentation systems in their sleep and people who can’t even change the default theme in PowerPoint. So I got nothin’ here, I can’t predict. But I do think the parallel is worth considering, and the crossroads we’re looking at right now—peer-to-peer information exchange, eating the world or not?—is worth thinking hard about. And I think another thing is worth saying, too: something doesn’t have to be LEGAL to change things in a really big way. So none of us in this room gets to hide behind “well, Sci-Hub ain’t legal.” It doesn’t have to be to end up upending a lot of what we do, just as Napster did for the music industry. How do we get ahead of that? By thinking big, I think. How do WE, all of us in this room, make something legal, something effective, that works as smoothly and conveniently and egalitarian-ly as Sci-Hub? I don’t think it’s beyond us, I really don’t. I sure hope it’s not.
least, I haven’t seen it, though it may well be that I just missed it—software provision and delivery. Folks my age or so remember installing software from ﬂoppy disk. Toward the end of the ﬂoppy’s reign as commonest digital storage medium, maybe something like twenty disks? Or even upwards of ﬁfty, I seem to recall? And it was ridiculous. So we eventually switched to CDs, and it helped… for a while, until we needed DVDs to handle the bloat. But the software-on-DVD era didn’t last real long, because Internet bandwidth caught up to the point where it was cheaper and easier and more convenient to download software than get it on a physical carrier. … Is this starting to sound familiar? Yeah, okay, I thought maybe. And the interesting thing about THAT is, we didn’t end up with a software monoculture because of this shift. There’s quite a few business models that turn out to more or less work. *CLICK* Take software-as-a-service. Physical carrier? The buyer doesn’t get one. The way that works is, we decide that we don’t need the thing, where “thing” might mean “software disk” or it might mean “server,” we just need what the thing can do. And one of the things that’s interesting about this is scale, of course—we can do giant things that weren’t always possible with these giant compute clouds, but at the same time, the scaling-up of this infrastructure makes it possible for the littlest players to succeed without getting stomped by startup costs. So y’all small publishers here, take heart! Maybe as we rescale and rethink parts of the publishing industry, it doesn’t get harder for y’all, it gets EASIER. And then there’s open source software, and the way that works is, some of us can make the thing for all of us. We don’t actually NEED to restrict access to the thing to be able to make the thing. Does open source always work? Nope. Do not get me onto the topic of DSpace; my feelings about it are not family-friendly. Does open source work? Yep, quite often it does. And a lot of the oh-my-gosh-altruism arguments that currently get made about open access have been made about open source, and guess what? They were wrong. One, it’s totally possible to make money without restricting the source, and two, excuse me for being idealistic here, but sometimes making money isn’t actually the point. And then there’s the app economy on mobile, and to me that is the scary warning, the outcome we DO NOT WANT. You can’t ﬁnd anything you need in iTunes or the Android store. There’s a lot of skulduggery behind the scenes, fake or lookalike apps or fool-your-children in-app purchases or whatever. Everybody wants everything for free, which turns out to feed the skulduggery, and NOBODY likes the system except Apple and Google who make fat rents off it. Heck with that. If that’s the future of getting information to readers, include me OUT. And note that it’s NOT AN OPEN SYSTEM generating this horriﬁc result, so don’t anybody be telling me that walled gardens lead automatically to virtue. But no, rant over, here’s where I’m going with this: If we as collections and acquisitions folks switch mentally from paying for THINGS to paying for SERVICES, life suddenly gets considerably more interesting! Acquisitions librarians get an entire new set of decision criteria and new ways to throw weight around. And, I think, a service-support rather than a thing-buying-or- leasing orientation might help get me what I want, more open access. If content vendors don’t HAVE to sell the thing to get paid, they can actually maybe stop selling the thing!
under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Please respect licenses on all CC-licensed material included. Photo: Eli Christman, “$100 Bill Macro,” https://www.flickr.com/photos/gammaman/21034840592/ CC-BY, enlarged/cropped Thank you, and I understand that there’s wine waiting for some of us, so I won’t delay it any longer! Safe travels home, everyone.