Punt

On August 25, I posted “Open access: Giving up on a theme?” — asking whether I should give up on Library Access to Scholarship as a continuing aspect of Cites & Insights coverage. (I asked the question on FriendFeed as well.) I gave the reasons I was thinking of dropping the section and asked for feedback.

One librarian offered appreciation of the articles (but noted that she’s in an area where it may not matter). Peter Suber, as expected, hoped I would continue. One (scientist?) basically said give it up, ’cause everything that can be said about OA has already been said.

I repeated the request on September 2, noting that–apart from Suber–I’d received zero feedback from “the OA community” or from scientists (with one possible exception), and that I was postponing the decision in any case. At that point, I used September 14 as a cutoff (easy to remember, since it’s my birthday). One scientist said, I’m afraid correctly, that most academic scientists could care less about OA (he used a more vivid term); a journal editor hoped I would cover OA in my blog, which wasn’t the question (and that was before I moved the blog back here–and I see that the 40-odd imported posts aren’t formatted very well. Sorry.).

Just to be thorough, I also repeated the question in the October Cites & Insights, which came out on (surprise!) September 14, giving September 21 as a deadline for responses. While C&I readership always grows slowly, this issue’s not off to a bad start; as far as I can tell, that essay’s either been downloaded (as part of the complete issue) or read (as an HTML separate) at least 450 times so far. Presumably, the blog posts have been read several hundred times through feeds and maybe, oh, 50 or 60 times directly. I have received no further feedback from the C&I question.

So?

So it’s still difficult. On one hand:

  • The addition of Bill Hooker’s Open Reading Frame and Stuart Sheiber’s The Occasional Pamphlet may make my contributions even more superfluous.
  • It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the “OA community”–the bloggers who focus on open access, notably apart from Peter Suber and Charles W. Bailey, Jr.–would be just as happy if I disappeared or, perhaps more correctly, have never been aware (or cared) that C&I even existed. A few searches of the big OA blogs certainly suggest total ignorance of my contributions. That may not be surprising, and may be even less surprising given my lack of scholarly imprimatur and lack of wholehearted support for OA. Suber appreciates subtleties and conflicts; some others do not. (Note: I also exclude Dorothea Salo from this grumbling, but I don’t think of her as an OA blogger.)
  • Within the library community, I wonder whether my OA articles aren’t preaching to the choir. Outside the library community, I doubt that C&I has any impact (or much readership) at all.
  • Dropping OA entirely means I can ignore SOH (Stevan “One-Note” Harnad) entirely, which all by itself is a good point.
  • I grow increasingly convinced that most scientists just don’t care–either about libraries or about OA–and maybe that’s appropriate. I also grow increasingly convinced that librarians can’t do it on their own, although it’s encouraging to see things like the Compact that recently emerged. Still, it’s an uphill battle, and one that I really can’t play much part in.
  • And, frankly, every time I see calls for “universal mandates,” I get nervous and just want to back as far away as possible. That’s quite apart from the question of whether all worthwhile scholarship comes from academic institutions (since if it doesn’t, there can be no universal mandates), and as a non-scholar, I just won’t get into that morass…

On the other:

  • Maybe, just maybe, I’m occasionally putting points together in a different manner.
  • Maybe, just maybe, I’m persuading one or two people a year to think about aspects of library access to scholarship that they might not have thought about otherwise.

That’s a pretty slender hand; in a no-limit tournament, I’d fold.

Punting

That’s what I’m doing–along the lines of “When in doubt, punt.”

  • I’ve started a “get it all out there” essay on OA, under the Library Access to Scholarship heading. It will be in the November 2009 issue (I think), which will be out sometime in October (I think).
  • In the process, I cut the number of printed and delicious leadsheets down from 92 (actually 95) to 68…
  • So far, I’ve dealt with 16 of the 68. And the article draft is around 9,600 words.
  • If I maintain that rate, the full article would be 40,000 words. That’s too long. That wouldn’t be part of a November issue, it would be a November issue–and at that, an extremely long one (maybe 50 pages).
  • But I don’t think that rate will maintain. I may look at some of the lead sheets, or even some of the topical clusters I’ve arranged them into, and recycle them without writing anything. It’s likely that one cluster, where I have six lead sheets, will only require 1,000 to 1,500 words; it’s possible that the biggest cluster–17 lead sheets–will result in a relatively brief section (or none at all: the cluster topic has two letters and maybe I’ll just avoid that particular moteltopic).
  • I’m trying to have some fun with some of it, here and there. That’s not always easy…
  • Can I keep the essay short enough so it doesn’t become a single-essay issue? I’m not sure–and I’m not sure it matters, except to those who might be waiting for the next installment of Making it Work, Thinking about Blogging or Writing about Reading. Single-essay issues have sometimes worked quite well…
  • Once that essay is done, I will either stop tagging “interesting stuff” related to OA, or do so very selectively.
  • And, after three or four months, (more likely six or twelve), I’ll decide whether to resume Library Access to Scholarship, fold certain OA items into another area (or the catchall Trends & Quick Takes) or just walk away from the area entirely.

So that’s where things stand or don’t stand. Right now, along with a brief mental vacation from LLN editorial matters (before thinking through some major rewrites), I’m mixing this essay with the second phase of the liblog project (doing quintiles, then deciding how or whether to proceed), with reading books–yes, real print books, from the Livermore library–and magazines, with trying out a few things in the fall TV season. And, to be sure, with hiking, walks in the neighborhood (we have a 1.2-mile “around the block” walk that’s just about right for a daily break), and all that.

Oh, and once in a while, maybe even writing a post. It’s been known to happen, if not all that often.

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