Robert Darnton on the Serials Crisis

Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library, recently wrote an excellent column in the New York Review of Books entitled “The Library: Three Jeremiads“. He describes three crises currently facing academic/research libraries – one of which is the serials crisis (his “Jeremiad 2”).
Some excerpts:
“In 2009, Elsevier, the giant publisher of scholarly journals based in the Netherlands, made a $1.1 billion profit in its publishing division, yet 2009 was a disastrous year for library budgets. Harvard’s seventy-three libraries cut their expenditures by more than 10 percent, and other libraries suffered even greater reductions, but the journal publishers were not impressed. Many of them raised their prices by 5 percent and sometimes more.”
“While prices continued to spiral upward, professors became entrapped in another kind of vicious circle, unaware of the unintended consequences. Reduced to essentials, it goes like this: we academics devote ourselves to research; we write up the results as articles for journals; we referee the articles in the process of peer reviewing; we serve on the editorial boards of the journals; we also serve as editors (all of this unpaid, of course); and then we buy back our own work at ruinous prices in the form of journal subscriptions—not that we pay for it ourselves, of course; we expect our library to pay for it, and therefore we have no knowledge of our complicity in a disastrous system.”
This article is a good introduction to the issue that spurred the creation of the Open Access movement.

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