An end of an era? More like just the beginning

So we’ve come to an end of the LAPIS and I have to say it has been the module that’s caught my attention most over the last two years…so much so i’ve decided it’d be a good idea to focus on copyright and digitalisation for my dissertation. Ask me if i’m still engaged once that beast has been completed.

The last session introduced us to Alastair Horne and his blog of ‘Ten ways to get ahead in publishing‘ was a perfect way to end LAPIS, summarising for us what we can do professionally going forward. We shouldn’t be reliant on our employer to push us forward but instead make our own way, join CILIP and make use of the opportunities through it, volunteer at your local library (especially if they have zombies!) and keep learning. If there’s one thing i’ve learnt through LAPIS and CityLis in general is that there is so much to learn and information science is forever changing especially as we move further into the digital age. I know i’ve developed a particular passion for copyright (my colleagues think i’m insane!) and that’ll drive me forward in finding a solution for my company’s current digitalisation problems and also be a driver for any future career plans I might have….who knows in a decade I might be reading any future offspring I may have copyright stories instead of bedtime stories. God help them.

What I took away from Alastair is that you get back what you put in. Like with our essays and our dissertations, if we put in 100% then we’ll do well, likewise with our career. If we make our own networks, learn, practice, review and above all say yes to things then we’ll go far in publishing and librarianship. LAPIS has given us the foundation and now we can build on it for the rest of our professional development (or personal development if you’ve got a thing for irritating bits of legislation).

This isn’t the best blog i’ve written in the series and is a bit gushy but I have thoroughly enjoyed LAPIS because it has made me frustrated, excited, indignant, curious and I always left the lecture with a smile on my face. Books are my future, publishing maybe not but copyright compliance certainly is so for me this is not the end of an era but the start of my whole career.

Zombies in a library? Apocalypse or just the best idea ever?

I have to say week 9 for LAPIS was one of my favourites. What’s not to love about a lecture that talks about comics, zombies and Snoopy? Dr Matt Finch has been one of my favourite guest lectures. Not only was he engaging as a speaker but his passion for literacy was actually infectious, I went home thinking I needed to do something to get more kids into libraries or generally into reading and proceeded to spend an hour on the phone talking to my 9 year old nephew about his recent discovery of Gulliver’s Travels and I rejoiced that my brother’s hatred of novels didn’t pass down to his offspring.

As a child literacy was one of the most appealing things, it was a new adventure in every new book. Even as an adult I feel the same way, I just lack the time to pick up a book at the moment between uni, work and getting ready to move house. I want to indulge in my favourite ‘The Secret Garden’ but at the same time finally get through Game of Thrones that have been sitting on my bookshelf since my last birthday. My point is is that I love that Dr Finch is imparting the same passion and doing something worthwhile, addressing parliaments to get literacy right in the public mind.

But what I fell in love with the most from this lecture was the zombie takeover of a library in Tullamore, Australia. It shows how a library is so much more than just the shelves as Dr Finch kept saying. A library can be the hub of a community, it can be used to engage with different types of groups, it for some groups can be the only place to feel any connection to another person. As William Sieghart said in his ‘Independent Library Report for England‘ that libraries are the golden thread of our lives and if public funding keeps getting cut then there will be a huge hole in our communities. So I say good on the libraries that open their doors for comic festivals and zombie takeovers, hopefully these innovative ideas can come across the oceans to us and we can make a conscious effort to keep communities alive with stories, information and education.

The plight of small libraries

As someone who works in a small specialist library I have some gripe with scholarly publishing. I have nothing against the intention to publish academic works nor who their content is aimed at. Perfectly respectable aim to get research out into the public realm. As a student I think it’s great, it helps a lot for me to be able to search City’s library catalogue and be able to login to an Academic journal through a big publisher’s website.

But as someone from a small specialist library my gripe is the price of these journals. Not just online price but print price as well can get up to ridiculous prices and with budgets being cut across all libraries not just small libraries it can easily become unattainable to subscribe to so many journals. I understand why the cost of the subscriptions can be so high is because scholarly publishing avoids advertising and therefore depends on subscriptions to get by. But the library I work for has a very small budget but with high demand for access to certain academic journals. We’re fortunate in that we have historical agreements in place for a lot of our journals in exchange for our own publications so we don’t have to pay for all of our subscriptions but some examples of price can be found below:

Building Research and Information – £1470
Energy and Buildings – £2278
Building and Environment  – £2561

I know we’re a library so you would expect that to be nothing for us, but subscribing to over 100 journals soon adds up and our FD really isn’t fond of signing off on such payments when he doesn’t see a big benefit. But these are journals are customers need and get a benefit from so we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As I say we are fortunate in that we have these historical agreements in place so we don’t have to fork out but not all libraries like us are in the same position. They are facing closure because they simply can’t afford to pay for subscriptions and so lose readers. Scholarly publishers (particularly the big four who own 50% of the market!!) need to acknowledge that their subscriptions aren’t attainable for all of their customers. Yes they have certain deals like so many articles can be bought for a reduced price but that still doesn’t help library collections. Perhaps if they looked to some sort of advertising they might be able to help out libraries who are facing budget cuts.

Another worry for us when it comes to scholarly publishing is the move towards online subscriptions replacing print subscriptions. Two of our regular journals have now stopped printing and only have their articles available to view online. I accept this is a great idea on the whole but it doesn’t always help libraries. We are facing a battle to move to electronic delivery, a battle over copyright and a battle over costs.  When contacting the publishers we have agreements with about moving to online access instead of print we are met with either stony silence or a “That’s fine but you’ll need to start to cough up”. As I say we can’t afford that at the moment and because of our current CLA license we can’t legally do that at the moment.

I understand the benefits of scholarly publishing and the intention but from a library perspective I think there are serious flaws to it in terms of the sorts of subscriptions available and also the move to online only access. As always there is a lack of communication between what the publisher wants and what the libraries need.

Not a terribly insightful week of blogging….