Collection Management and Strategic Access to Digital Resources: The New Challenges for Research Libraries.

Published on Apr 1, 2006in Journal of The Medical Library Association2.42
Susan Kaplan Jacobs6
Estimated H-index: 6
This collection brings together leaders and stakeholders in the current debate over the future of scholarly publishing, as impacted by digital formats, with a focus on the implications for research library users, administrators, and commercial vendors. Since the mid-1990s, changes in information technology have influenced the dissemination of scholarly research and user access to library resources, and, as predicted by Clifford Lynch, a “cultural revolution,” initiated by physics and computer science scholars, is taking place in the health and life sciences, modeling a new paradigm for all scholarly communication [1]. In this dynamic environment, the “discovery” and “delivery” of content are the main themes of the papers delivered at the 2004 University of Oklahoma Libraries Conference, aggregated in this collection (p. 41). The user-oriented focus of these essays considers the needs of library scholars to access a repository of information and the economics of the sustainability of new business models, balancing the perspective of scholarly societies (e.g., the Association of Research Libraries [ARL]), academic institutions (Harvard and Vanderbilt Universities), and vendors (Elsevier and Gale), as well as not-for-profit initiatives such as the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and Ithaka. The tension that exists between models of publishing is examined by Hunter, a senior vice president at Elsevier, as she challenges readers to examine sixteen “orthodoxies” underlying the thinking that led to alternative publishing models such as SPARC. The questions Hunter raises, including the economic feasibility of the “author pays” open access model and the threat of introducing bias into the peer-review process, have been documented elsewhere by Elsevier, including their corporate Website [2]. Mary Case of ARL contributes data supporting research libraries' expenditures on resources and their responses to “big deal” licensing agreements. Gherman traced from the television news archive more ephemeral “edge collections,” outside of the traditional cycle of scholarly publishing, which create a “third leg of the scholarly record” and were recognized as necessary in the 1960s. Gherman's essay points to the greater need to respond to emerging technologies and their resulting content. As Heath and Duffy chronicle the moving target that is the struggle between open access and the commercial publishing business model, they observe that the immediacy of Web collaboration and its effect on scholarly behavior and communication suggest a trend that could reshape the university paradigm itself, enlarging the conversation beyond libraries. More than one contributor noted that the 2004 conference was positioned on the “tipping point,” evoking Gladwell's model of social epidemiology [3]. Several of the essays, including that of Hunter, characterize the current era of as one of “unprecedented uncertainty,” in which “delivery platforms, technical requirements, and marketplace alternatives are not yet settled” (p. 38). Guthrie, Ithaka president, reminds readers that dramatic changes in information technology have occurred in the last 10 years, whereas the infrastructure has been in place for more than 100 (p. 72)! Thus, the arrow on the compass of change is still fluctuating. Is technology the “tipping point” for open access or for commercial revenues? The volume achieves editor Lee's stated goal of disseminating the ideas and challenges addressed at the 2004 conference to a wider audience. Both the practical and philosophical issues addressed in this collection serve as metaphors for the role of research libraries themselves, both as repositories as well as “nodes,” pointing the way to materials based and subsequently updated elsewhere. The footnotes and cited uniform resource locators (URLs) point the reader forward in time as the challenges of the dynamic digital environment continue to be addressed, for example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy enhancing public access to NIH-funded research, which was established in May 2005 [4]. Though this text is copublished in the Journal of Library Administration, volume 42, number 2, 2005, and two of the papers are open access articles on the Internet, academic, science, health sciences, and library science collections will benefit from acquiring this collection in one volume. The conference essays, contributed by prominent leaders in their fields, capture the relevant issues and provide a valuable record of the challenges during this dynamic era.
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