Closing talk: Progress and Poverty: The Paradox of Scholarly Communication in the Digital Age

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Wenzler, John
Archival Science; Cataloging and Metadata; Collection Development and Management; Information Literacy; Library and Information Science; Scholarly Communication; Scholarly Publishing
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We live in an era of unprecedented scholarly productivity and vastly improved scholarly communication. Academic researchers today have immediate access to an immense volume of scholarly articles and research data that would have amazed a researchers of 25 years ago. Today, my library at a medium-sized Masters institution, offers students and faculty an online Discovery System that provides direct access to millions of articles and nearly 80,000 online journals -- increasing the amount of scholarly information available to our patrons by 20, 30, 40 times? ... I don't know -- compared to what was available to them in 1980. So, why do Academic librarians talk about a "crisis" in scholarly communication? Why do we consider the current system unsustainable, inequitable or unfair? Why do we worry that we don't have the resources to provide patrons with information that they need? I argue that it comes down to a matter of control. We, as librarians, as the academic community, no longer control the technological platforms used to preserve and distribute scholarly research. The platform has largely been outsourced to for-profit corporations whose goals don't always coincide with academic values. I also argue that academic librarians need to focus on the mission of the academic community as a collective whole rather than on the local needs of their own campuses to resolve this paradox ... anyway, give me about 40 minutes to try to explain myself.