Paul Courant on Revolutions in Libraries

Paul Courant Presents

This afternoon, well, it was that afternoon when I started this, but a week ago now. Anyway, I was lucky to be able to attend a presentation by Paul Courant in which he passionately expounded on some of the trends and challenges facing libraries as a result of changing technologies around us. I left my laptop in the office, so I didn’t livetweet this one, and I heard from several people that they were disappointed about this, so I promised to blog as soon as I could, and took copious notes. When I printed it off, I found I had taken over 4 pages of single spaced notes in a 9-point font. I will not inflict that chaos on you, and am going to try to pull out some of the most significant issues and take-aways, distilled into a few categories that seem to work with the colorful way Paul presents. Please note that I was taking notes, so please verify the quotes with the video if at all possible. The video should appear here shortly.

Pic of the day - Stop Sign?

Once upon a time, copying was expensive. Now it is cheap. Perfect copies at next to no cost. Hunh. That might effect an industry based on copying.

Without peer review, why, scholars will not know what to read! Scholars will give up reading!

Do I sound like the boy who cried wolf? Mmmhmmm. Remember, how did that story turn out?

Libraries: Things That Happen to Books 2

On revolutions: “You always lose something you care about.”

What do we want? “We want CONTINUED SCHOLARLY PROGRESS.”

On electronic scholarly works & access:
“What if there’s a flood in Amsterdam, or a publisher is sold? Maybe we can dig up a copy, maybe we can’t. This is the world we live in, but we don’t know it yet. Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

Successful societies build libraries because they need information in order to be more successful. If the libraries fail, society fails.

On orphan works and online access: “It’s hard to get permission from people you can’t find.”

People love infrastructure. We don’t always know it.

Look to the purposes of the things, rather than to the things themselves.

50/365 - school

A new technology makes the old ways of doing things not work any longer, but doesn’t necessarily offer any solutions for the new ways of doing things.

There are two competing claims, both false. One, people won’t create art except for money. Two, Money doesn’t matter in the production of art. Now, take the word “art” and substitute another word for things people do.

Pre-publication peer review USED to make sense. It was an economic necessity because of the cost of publishing. Now that publishing is not expensive, it makes a certain amount of sense to shift the focus to post-publication review.

Libraries like to share things. … Libraries like to buy things, too, things that are too expensive for one person to buy and then they can share with many. We’re still figuring out the impact of reuse on the economics of sharing.

Types of sharing: (1) noblesse oblige sharing (Libraries – you can borrow it, but remember it’s really mine) vs. (2) communist sharing (take a copy, make a copy)

What’s more important to authors? Reputation or money?

Scholarship produced today is at risk of being lost forever!!!!!

Cornell and Columbia are two places working on an e-journal safety net, through such tools as LOCKSS and Portico. A study of these preservation & backup systems found that the content and scholarly record eligible and protected through these initiatives is not 100%, not 50%, but 13% of what might be saved.

There is a perception that others will take care of problem. Do you know who does take care of a problem when people in general think someone else will?

Church Candles at Christmas

Margaret Hedstrom & John L. King. Epistemic Infrastructure in the Rise of the Knowledge Economy

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”
Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, Document 12.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA):
– as a complementary project to the Google project

“The conventional rationale for copyright of written works, that copyright is needed to foster their creation, is seemingly of limited applicability to the academic do- main. For in a world without copyright of academic writing, academics would still benefit from publishing in the major way that they do now, namely, from gaining scholarly esteem. … But if the publication fees would usually be paid by universities or grantors, the motive of academics to publish would be unlikely to decrease (and could actually increase)—suggesting that ending academic copy- right would be socially desirable in view of the broad benefits of a copyright-free world.”
Shavell, Steven. Should Copyright Of Academic Works Be Abolished? Journal of Legal Analysis Spring 2010;2(1):301-358.

“An act for the encouragement of learning, by vesting the copies of printed books in the authors or purchasers of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.”
Statute of Anne (1710)

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries … ”
US Constitution.

Dentistry Library: Stacks

1. Libraries produce a reliable and reusable corpus.
2. That corpus is reusable, checkable, and verifiable. Reliable over time. This requires preservation.
3. Sharing. The library is filled with things that make sense to share once you have them. Hence, lots of skill at sharing things. (And note the demand side. We want these things shared because it’s cheaper for users that way.)
4. How do we figure out how to share digital (Legal and organizational issues)? (Mechanism design)
– Collective reliable preservation
5. How do we figure out how to share print? More organizational and to some extent ideological.

* This section was copied directly from a photograph of the relevant slide. While possibly the least visually interesting slide in the deck, it was also likely one of the most important, at least in my eyes. Part of what fascinated me was Paul walking through a thoughtful checklist of what things were easy or hard to do with print and what things are easy or hard to do with digital. They are very different lists.

Found Words: Question Marks

Q: What about preserving the right information to respond in major disasters?
A: .. Tell me what kind of disaster we’ll have and I’ll build a system for it
.. There will still be a few print collections
.. There aren’t any solutions that you’ll like.

Q: Why not trust someone over 30?
A: .. At 20, it’s hard to imagine being old.
.. To a young man, age is like California in the Saul Steinberg cartoon ” A View of the World from 9th Avenue”
.. At 30 the rest of life becomes visible, 40, 64 … and wee see into the Beatles song that was so important to my generation, exactly because it was unimaginable to us that we would ever be 64.

Q: The cost of making born digital preservable
A. .. Explosion of stuff
.. Review of what to KEEP is harder
.. Standards could come from the Digital Preservation Network (DPN) type org if it existed
.. Storage isn’t getting cheaper any faster than the volume skyrockets

Q. Elitist assumptions (here at U? Good heavens)
A. .. More folk allowed to vote
.. Market capitalism
.. Clash of cultures
.. Does quality of public discourse (not encouraging) penetrate the halls of government
.. 2019 things may enter public domain
.. Will debate be framed well?
.. Imagine doing the zombie version of Catcher in the Rye?
.. Conversation not so much driven by scholarly needs & purposes, but rather by the ability of fun cultural games for everyone
.. Answer won’t come from deep views, but from commercial interests

Q. I’m writing a book. It has to be just this certain way, because of print standards. What would my book look like in a diff cognitive context?
A. .. Prob of permanence and storage
.. Things that look radically different than books
.. Insist in ironclad terms that publisher ought to deliver full access to your work in 100 years.


One response to “Paul Courant on Revolutions in Libraries

  1. Pingback: Emerging Issues with Plagiarism in Scholarship | Emerging Technologies Librarian

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