Archive for the 'Cites & Insights' Category

Thinking About Effectiveness

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on June 29th, 2014

It’s been roughly three weeks since “Journals, ‘Journals’ and Wannabes: Investigating the List” (Cites & Insights 14:7, July 2014) appeared.

Thanks largely to those who tweeted and retweeted items about it or even blogged about it (you know who you are, and thanks), it’s had reasonably good readership so far: just under 1,400 copies downloaded as of the last time I looked.

That’s not great–less than half the first-month downloads for “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall” (April 2014), although I suppose people could have been hot to read “Forecasts and Futurism” in that issue, but more than the first-month downloads for “Ethics and Access 2: The So-Called Sting” (May 2014, accompanied by “Future Libraries: A Roundup”).

In case it’s not obvious, the July issue was a lot of work, so much so that it can only be justified by whim. Still, I believe the results made it at least partly worthwhile–specifically, the finding (as I interpret it) that most of the vast number of “journals” on Beall’s lists aren’t really predatory because either they don’t actually exist or because authors who are paying attention wouldn’t submit papers to them anyway. Oh, and the perhaps-more-important finding that the casual assumption, which I’ve seen stated by people who should know better, that most OA journals are sketchy isn’t supported by any facts in evidence, and certainly not by Beall’s list.

So what?

There’s the question. The issue’s been downloaded. I’ll assume it’s been read (never quite a safe assumption, but…)

Will it have any medium-term or long-term impact?

Will people view Gold OA journals a little less cynically?

Will people regard Beall’s efforts as the hobby (or hobbyhorse) they are rather than as indictments of OA in general?

I don’t have answers. It is, of course, awfully early to say. I’m not sure how I would find answers.

But it feels like an important question.


Library philosophy: the essay(s) that won’t be written

Posted in Cites & Insights on June 14th, 2014

A couple of times, when I’ve expressed frustration over failing in providing something I thought was of real value to libraries (e.g., the series of events that have led me to give up on public library projects in general), my wife–who has been an academic library director, public library cataloger/head of cataloging and more–has suggested:

“Maybe the library world has moved on. Maybe you should do the same. I’m sure the Livermore Friends of the Library could use your help.”

What she’s suggesting is anywhere from cutting back to dropping this stuff entirely.

I’m certainly not ready to do the latter, at least not yet.

On the other hand…

adding value

An ongoing issue for any of my writing and research is that it should add value to the field.

There’s two pieces to that: actually doing something that hasn’t been done before, and (enough) people in the field regarding what I do as valuable.

there’s no value if there’s no perception of value

That’s another way to put it. Apparently only a few dozen public libraries/librarians thought my first “Give Us a Buck” effort was valuable…and essentially none thought the second effort was worth even a sawbuck.

Was I doing something that hadn’t been done before? Yes. Was it actually worthwhile–did it actually add value? Apparently not.

which brings us back to library philosophy

After I finished up Cites & Insights 14:7 (entirely original content, and I hope that it’s regarded as added value, but we shall see…) and took a day off entirely, I looked at the kind of thing I mostly do in C&I–that is, take a set of other people’s essays that I’ve given the same tag in Diigo, look them over again, and construct a useful narrative out of the citations and my comments.

Looking over my Diigo library–as of June 10, right around 1,750 tags for (I”d guess) around 1,550-1,600 items–I concluded two things:

  1. I should proceed with Ethics and Access 3, the catchall set of stories that adds to the first two essays.
  2. I should look at some of the tags and see whether I still believe I’m likely to add value

the first of those is in progress

and going reasonably well, I think. The draft is probably halfway done. It should be a half-issue essay, maybe 8,000 to 10,000 words, and more of a mosaic than either of the first two.

the second…well, here comes library philosophy again

The most frequently used tag in my Diigo library as of June 10, 2014 was “lib-phil,” one of 19 or 20 “lib-” tags. It had 133 items, accumulated over the last four years.

Using my typical methods, that’s not one essay: it would yield about 66,000 words, give or take 15,000, which is at least two and probably three issues. (C&I 14.7 is 17,322 words long; C&I 14.4 and 14.5 together are 55,600 words.)

That’s not important: After all, the Ethics triptych became a three-parter because there were too many items for one essay and I found I could split them easily enough into two neat essays and one mosaic.

What is important, however: I was no longer especially confident that I would be adding any significant value other than “here’s a bunch of neat things you may have forgotten” (and “here’s a bunch of things I disagree with and why I disagree with them”).

I’m not a librarian, either academic or public (or school or special). Pace Chris Bourg, I’m not even a feral librarian: I haven’t worked in a library since 1979, and never worked in a librarianlike role.

I’m not a library philosopher–or, rather, that really is a case where the library world has moved on and I no longer believe I should be trying to influence its overall direction. (I’m not sure I ever really did: Neither Balanced Libraries nor Future Libraries was, in my opinion, a real attempt to change the course of library philosophy so much as to avoid what I regarded as unfortunate course changes.)

going through the articles

So, after writing about half of the Ethics and Access essay, I started going through the lib-phil items, a few at a time. I read part or all of (most of) the items (not all: about one-third had evaporated in the way of the web).

And I either assigned a new tag for a topic where I still thought, perhaps, I could add significant value, or I deleted the tag.

I just finished that process. Two items were retagged (one already had a secondary tag). The rest–131 of them–are gone.

realistic, not sad; one choice, not an overall decision

I found it interesting to reread some of these posts, columns and essays, especially those more than a year old. I read most of the comments as well. (I will admit that I did not make it all the way through two or three posts in the blog/journal hybrid I alternate between admiring and wanting to avoid.)

I also found that–in nearly all the cases–I honestly didn’t think that Walt Crawford had anything especially valuable to add to the stories; that this particular train had left the station.

That’s realistic. It’s not sad.

This was also one choice–the most heavily-populated tag.

It may be a partial decision (I’m less and less likely to believe that pontificating about What Libraries Should Be is a valuable use of my time and energy, either for me or for anyone else–which, of course, won’t stop me from commenting in various social spaces). I’ll look at the other 18-19 “lib-” tags carefully and skeptically.

I noticed the extent to which a few writers kept popping up, and at some point said to myself, “If Chris Bourg or Barbara Fister or Wayne Bivens-Tatum want to do essay collections, that’s up to them.” I dunno whether any or all of them will (there are one or two other names and one pseudonym, but these are the three most obvious cases), but in any case I found myself with little to add other than “Still good stuff. Go read it.” (WBT made things easier by deleting perhaps half of the essays I would have considered. That’s his choice.)

what’s next?

Dunno. I haven’t decided to stop writing, not yet, not entirely.

One minor anecdote: Until two hours before I prepared the final PDFs, the date for C&I 14.7 was July/August 2014, an express statement that I was going to take it easy.

I finally decided that this was pointless. The publication’s already irregular. I don’t intend for Volume 14 to have anything close to as many pages as Volumes 12 and 13, but I expect it will have more pages than Volume 11. (Respectively, 11, 12, and 13 total 274, 394 and 398 pages. Volume 14 to date totals 202 pages–so even four 20-page issues would take it past Volume 11.)

Partly things will depend on whether there’s any additional support or sponsorship for C&I (three supporters to date: count them, three). Partly things will depend on how recent essays are received and whether I believe they’re having any useful impact. Partly things will depend on whether the (slightly delayed at ALA) Library Technology Reports issue is well-received (and maybe generates at least a few sales of the related book!).

Partly things will depend on going through more of these tag lists, seeing what still makes me feel there’s something worth saying, and seeing where that winds up.

The local Friends group? Yeah, I might get involved (which probably means spending a couple of hours a week helping out at the bookstore). That doesn’t preclude other writing, of course; just cutting back and refocusing.

for that matter, the blog might come back to life

There haven’t been many non-announcement posts. That might change. Maybe.

Cites & Insights July 2014 (14:7) available

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on June 9th, 2014

Cites & Insights 14:7 (July 2014) is now available for downloading at

That URL is for the traditional two-column print-oriented ejournal. If you plan to read the journal on a computer, a tablet or other e-device (and if you plan to follow links), you’re much better off–especially in this case–downloading the single-column online-oriented version at

[Links may not work from the two-column version. Conversely, some boldface may not show up in the one-column version. This issue has two dozen tables, some of which have smaller type in the two-column version, making the one-column version easier to read.]

The two-column version is 24 pages long. The single-column 6×9 version is 45 pages long.

The issue consists of a single essay, all original material (except for a few excerpts from publisher pages):

Journals, “Journals” and Wannabes: Investigating the List (pp. 1-24)

Jeffrey Beall’s 4P (potential, probable, possible predatory) publisher and journal lists total 9,219 journals in early April 2014.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) totals 9.822 journals as of early June 2014.

9,219 is 93.9% of 9,822.

But: 90.8% of the journals in DOAJ are not represented in Beall’s lists.

A paradox? Not really.

This special issue does something I don’t believe has ever been done before (and is unlikely ever to be done again): looks at every journal from every publisher on Beall’s lists to see whether they’re plausible predators–whether they could reasonably attract any sensible author.

Yes, I even used a control group: members of the OASPA. And two subject groups from DOAJ as secondary control groups.

What’s here? A discussion of my methodology (of course); the results; the control-group results; the subject-group results; some notes on “the name game” (anyone want to help start up International Journal of International Journals?); a few notes from some “publisher” sites; some comments on fee vs. free; discussing real and possible predators–and a list of potentially predatory characteristics of subscription journal publishers; a couple of other issues; and some conclusions, including a new and faster “Is this a reasonable journal?” methodology.

If you read C&I 14.4 or 14.5 (and thousands of you did), I believe you must read this issue, the product of months of research and analysis.

Update, later on June 9, 2014: Someone reading the essay carefully might ask why I didn’t just do a mechanical comparison of all journal names I derived from the Beall lists against the DOAJ list, instead of looking up publishers and journals.

I tried that. Differences in the way names are offered by publisher sites and DOAJ mean that an Excel VLOOKUP function only yielded 272 matches, mostly MDPI journals (which typically have short, distinctive names). The method I used, if less automated, was more productive.

Cites & Insights 14:6 (June 2014) available

Posted in C&I Books, Cites & Insights on May 28th, 2014

Cites & Insights 14:6 (June 2014) is now available for downloading at

The print-oriented two-column version is 16 pages long. You may also view or download a 32-page one-column 6×9″ ereader-oriented version at

This issue includes three sections:

The Front: Beyond the Damage (pp. 1-4)

Libraries that subscribe to Library Technology Reports should, some time in the next few days or weeks, receive “Big-Deal Serial Purchasing: Tracking the Damage”–and academic libraries that don’t subscribe to LTR may want to purchase this edition from ALA Editions. It brings last year’s The Big Deal and the Damage Done forward to cover 2002-2012 and offers a tighter and more sophisticated view of the situation. (Spoiler alert: Things got worse from 2010 to 2012)

Simultaneously, I’m publishing Beyond the Damage: Circulation, Coverage and Staffing, a book looking at some other aspects of academic libraries and how they changed between 2002 and 2012. It’s available in two forms, each $45: a 130-page paperback with color graphs–or a site-licensed PDF ebook with precisely the same content. Easiest way to find it: go to and search “Crawford beyond damage” (no quotes needed)–that currently yields just the two versions.

Media: Mystery Collection, part 7 (pp. 4-12)

For the first time, most of these movies are in color–which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better, as this is also (I believe) the first time I’ve given up on movies before they’re finished in five out of 24 cases. There are some gems, but also some real dross here.

The Back (pp. 12-16)

Little snarky essays on a variety of things, not all of them entirely humorous.

Next time…

As previously announced, the next issue (which might be the July issue, the July/August issue, or the Summer 2014 issue) should appear some time in June and will be a single- essay issue delving into the realities behind the Beall list–including not only original research but a control group!

After that…well, there’s still time to become a supporter or sponsor of Cites & Insights.

Triple digits!

Posted in C&I Books, Cites & Insights on May 13th, 2014

Thanks to somebody (or some college) in Canada, The Big Deal and the Damage Done has now reached triple-digit sales (counting each of, well, five site-licensed ebook versions as four sales).

I do appreciate these last-minute sales. Current plans are to remove the book (in both versions) from sale on May 21, 2014–next Wednesday. That could change by a day or so either way. (That’s a week later than the originally announced cutoff.)

The new book, Beyond the Damage: Circulation, Coverage and Staffing, which complements the Library Technology Reports issue that replaces The Big Deal…, will become available about a week later–in two versions, a full-color paperback and a site-licensed ebook, the two having the same price.

A gentle reminder: If you care about Cites & Insights and think it’s worth keeping, please help. The support/sponsorship drive has so far garnered all of three supporters. Or maybe you’re sending the appropriate message…


Not ready and other notes

Posted in Cites & Insights on May 1st, 2014

For several months now, Cites & Insights for a given calendar month has emerged on the first or second day of the previous month.

There have been good reasons for this–getting ahead to leave room for the Library Technology Reports project and staying ahead for a while primarily.

That’s not happening for the June 2014 issue, and a few notes on what is happening may be useful. Or not.

The Slowdown

To be honest, I haven’t written any copy for Cites & Insights since, oh, about a week before the May issue appeared–in other words, more than a month at this point. (“I haven’t been writing at all” would be close, but not quite accurate.)

There are several reasons for that:

  • I decided to try starting out a possibly-silly project and felt I could spare some time for it. Still not convinced whether it’s silly or not, but it’s also 80% done, so… And it’s taken a lot of time.
  • I did spend time on a followup to the LTR project (and on revisions to that project), which will emerge late in May 2014.
  • It appears that the project–which involved spending hours and hours and hours staring at both displays (which are different sizes and at different distances) and dealing with small type may have finally pushed me over the edge on eyestrain, to the point where I’ve had a varying headache for better than a week now. (I also visited an opthalmologist, got the first new prescription in six years, and now find it very believable that this is the problem: my right eye moved from profoundly nearsighted to very nearsighted, a three-diopter change, so it appears that it’s always struggling with the current classes. I won’t have new glasses for a week or so. I’m hoping they arrive early.)
  • Attempting to reduce the eyestrain slows down the project–and the headache discourages other writing in any case. (Stopping the project entirely might not matter much–after all, as long as I’m wearing glasses and reading, watching TV, enjoying nature, anything, there’s new eyestrain.)
  • Then there’s motivation. My attempt to find a core group of supporters and sponsors started out slow (three people) and stopped cold. It’s still at three people. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 read the Beall essay and more than 1,400 so far have read the Bohannon essay. (The ebooks-and-pbooks essay also had strong readership.) But apparently (almost) nobody thinks it’s worth throwing a couple of bucks at. This does not give me huge motivation to start writing more.

The June 2014 Issue

There will be a June 201g4 issue. It will announce and promote the Library Technology Reports issue (not for my own financial gain: LTR is a one-time payment, with no royalties–but I think it’s an important and timely report) and discuss the self-published book that accompanies it for those wanting to explore further.

Not clear whether there will be anything more to the issue; if there is, it’s likely to be “The Back” or something like that.

Expect a short issue. Expect it in very late May 2014.

The July 2014 Issue

This issue will be based on the project. It will be a single-topic issue. I have no idea how long it will be–10 to 22 pages seems like a good initial guess. It should be interesting for a bunch of people. It represents a form of real-world research that sensible people wouldn’t attempt; I won’t necessarily admit to OCD, but there’s a touch of it in this case.

It will come out no less than a week after the June 2014 issue. Otherwise, “when it’s ready”–I’m guessing sometime in mid-June.

Meanwhile, I’ll also be setting time aside to help my wife with a genealogy-based book (a very special occasion), trying to preserve my health, and generally relaxing.

After July 2014?

I honestly don’t know.

A little more support/sponsorship surely wouldn’t hurt.

It’s exceedingly unlikely (based on past track record) that C&I will just disappear at that point.

I just don’t know.



Links not working in 2014 Cites & Insights issues

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 3rd, 2014

It’s been called to my attention that the hyperlinks in the May 2014 C&I don’t work–and the reason they don’t means they won’t work in earlier 2014 issues either.

See the announcement post (now modified) for a partial explanation.

I’ll fix the *one-column* version of 14:5 later today. I’ll fix the earlier issues some time. Unclear whether I’ll fix the two-column versions; I assume people aren’t much linking from them anyway.

Update: The one-column tablet/online-oriented versions are now fixed. I haven’t decided whether to fix the 2014 two-column versions.  I’m not currently planning to change the two-column versions, on the assumption that most people link from the single-column version.

Thanks to Will S. for pointing this out…



Cites & Insights 14:5 (May 2014) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 2nd, 2014

The May 2014 Cites & Insights (14:5) is now available for downloading.

You’ll find it at for the 34-page print-oriented two-column version

or at for the 65-page 6×9 online/tablet-oriented single-column version.

The issue includes two essays:

Ethics and Access 2: The So-Called Sting  (pp. 1-20)

John Bohannon wrote a news article in Science that either shows that many open access journals with APC charges have sloppy (or no) peer review…or shows almost nothing at all. This story discusses the article itself, offers a number of responses to it–and then adds something I don’t believe you’ll find anywhere else: A journal-by-journal test of whether the journals involved would pass a naive three-minute sniff test as to whether they were plausible targets for article submissions without lots of additional checking. Is this really a problem involving a majority of hundreds of journals–or maybe one involving 27% (that is, 17) of 62 journals? Read the story; make up your own mind.

Future Libraries: A Roundup (pp. 21-34)

Pretty much what the title suggests–not a sequel to a nineteen-year-old book I coauthored, but a roundup of some thoughts from other folks.

A note on formatting

I believe I’ve solved the “emphasis added” problem–that bolded material within quoted passages should now actually appear bolded. In the process, I’ve also cut the download size (and presumably time) considerably, especially for the print-oriented issue. I’ve retroactively done the same for all 2014 issues; let me know if you see problems.

 Update, April 3, 2014:

Well, yes, that “fix” solves the emphasis-added problem…and makes all links within the publication unworkable. (Thanks to Will S. for pointing this out.)

[Previous grumpy discussion deleted. Let’s just say that, for now, given the non-budget on which C&I currently operates, the single-column C&I will have working links but non-working boldface emphasis, while the two-column C&I will have working boldface but non-working links.]

The steakhouse blog

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on March 13th, 2014

When I finished editing “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall,” the lead essay in the April 2014 Cites & Insights*, I didn’t worry about the fact that I failed to reach clear conclusions about Beall or his list or blog. As with most essays of this sort, I was trying to paint a picture, not come up with a Declaration of Belief.

But I did think about why I found the situation so troubling–especially since it was and is clear that many librarians continue to assume that Beall is a reliable and worthy source. Last night, it came to me.

The steakhouse blog

Let’s say someone with some credentials as a judge of good meat starts a blog called Steakhouses. (If there is such a blog, this has nothing to do with it: I didn’t check.**) It gets a fair amount of readership and acclaim, even though every post on it is about bad steakhouses. After a while, there’s even a Bad Steakhouse List as a page from the blog.

Some people raise questions about the criteria used for judging a steakhouse to be bad, but lots of people say “Hey, here’s a great list so we can avoid bad steakhouses.”

The big reveal

After a couple of years, the author of the blog–who continues to be judge and jury for bad steakhouses–writes an article in which he denounces all meat-eaters as people with dire motives who, I dunno, wish to force other people to eat steak.

I will assert that, to the extent that this article became well known and the blog author didn’t deny writing it, the Steakhouse blog would be shunned as pointless–after all, if the author’s against all meat-eaters, why would he be a reliable guide to bad steakhouses?

Bad analogy?

So how exactly are the Scholarly Open Access blog and Beall’s List different from the Steakhouse blog and Bad Steakhouse List? And if they’re not, why would anybody take Beall seriously at this point?

Note that dismissing the Steakhouse blog and the Bad Steakhouse List as pointless does not mean saying “there are no bad steakhouses.” It doesn’t even mean abandoning the search for ways to identify and publicize bad steakhouses. It just means recognizing that, to the Steakhouse blog author, all steakhouses are automatically bad, which makes that author useless as a judge.

Full disclosure: I haven’t been to a steakhouse in years, and I rarely–almost never, actually–order steak at restaurants. I am an omnivore; different issue.

*Just under 2,900 downloads as of right now. Amazing.

**I’ve now done some crude checking. There are a number of blogs that include “Steakhouse” in their titles, I don’t find a Steakhouse blog as such, I don’t find a “Bad Steakhouse List,” and the blogs about steakhouses that I did find don’t appear to be uniformly anti-steakhouse.


Posted in Cites & Insights on March 11th, 2014

A little follow-up to last Friday’s “Popularity?”–posted at the point where the April 2014 Cites & Insights had about 1,030 downloads, remarkably high for the first six days after publication. I guessed it was mostly because of the first essay, “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall.”

I’m now fairly certain that’s the reason. A number of people had mentioned the essay before last Friday (I didn’t see most of the mentions; I don’t follow that many people on Twitter and only track about 500 blogs with Feedly). Since then, there’s been quite a bit of tweeting and retweeting, with John Dupuis and others calling it an important essay. I am, of course, grateful for this.

(If you’re interested: around 2,450 as of midafternoon today, Tuesday, March 11–I suspect it will hit 2,500 some time today or tomorrow.)

I want to note three things here, I hope briefly:

  1. To be honest, I didn’t think this was all that strikingly important as an essay; I mostly just rounded up some articles in a fairly coherent article. Although I do admit, when I read it today, it reads reasonably well. However, I believe the May 2014 Cites & Insights will have a more important article–Ethics and Access 2, including some original pseudo-research–and I’d like to believe that quite a few essays and books over the past two or three years have been more important, especially for libraries. None of the (self-published) books reached even 10% as many people. That’s a shame… And for those interested in OA, I’ve done a lot of writing about it in the past (some of it collected in a free ebook).
  2. Any opinions regarding Jeffrey Beall stated in tweets or other commentary do not necessarily reflect my own opinions, except for those in non-quoted portions of the article. I’ve seen a couple of unfavorable opinions that I would probably disagree with.
  3. I love having more readers. I’d love having a little more support–either book purchases or direct support of C&I or, dreaming once again, finding an actual sponsor for the publication (and for related original research: I have an idea in mind that’s somewhat related to the April essay, but it would involve 50-100 hours of work, and at this point I can’t justify the time for $0 return, given that I don’t have a job that I’m doing all this in addition to). Full sponsorship (which I had for a few years) would be wonderful; if any of you are in a position to help, great. (It would cost $10K/year, and I’d be happy to work with any company or operation that’s not typically covered in C&I–e.g., a library distributor or services company like Ebsco, Gale, etc., a group like OCLC, a foundation like Gates (but I’m too small-scale for them), an automation vendor like Innovative. There are firms I would not work with, presumably including those I do discuss in C&I and one or two special cases, but not all that many.)

But mostly: I do appreciate the readership and the direct appreciation in tweets. The rest of this–other than maybe #2, where it really may be important to say that other people’s opinions are, obviously, their own–is secondary. Oh, and that I believe the May 2014 issue will be worthwhile.

Finally: one correction to the Beall essay, pointed out to me by a reader: Hindawi is headquartered in Egypt, not India. Sorry about that.

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