My latest Peer to Peer Review column in LJ looks at Big Deal Serial Purchasing: Tracking the Damage, by Walt Crawford:
The evidence is getting harder to ignore.
My latest Peer to Peer Review column in LJ looks at Big Deal Serial Purchasing: Tracking the Damage, by Walt Crawford:
The evidence is getting harder to ignore.
I’ve been thinking about this topic in response to a couple of things I’ve read lately. One is this blog post by Meredith Farkas giving her thoughts about tenure after leaving the tenure track (along with numerous comments) and the other is a discussion on an ACRL listserv about whether College & Research Libraries should try to include more than the empirical research studies that seem to be the norm. Since I started drafting this post, Barbara Fister has also responded to Meredith.
In the interest of disclosure, I should note that I am not now nor have I ever been on a tenure track as such. The librarians at Princeton don’t have faculty status, although we do report to the Dean of the Faculty and we do have a three-tiered promotion structure and a tenure-like status called “continuing appointment.” However, while that process does reward publication, it does not require it. My previous professional librarian job had no faculty status, no promotional structure, and no tenure-like status. Not only have I never been on the tenure track, when starting out I deliberately avoided jobs where the librarians had faculty status and tenure requirements. I’d have taken one of those jobs in a pinch, but I definitely didn’t want one.
Meredith and others are debating the merits of having tenure and faculty status, and I’ve heard a few librarians over the years tell me I’d be better off with faculty status. Campus governance, respect from the faculty, etc. That’s possibly true, but I seem to have done okay without it. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever lacked the respect of the faculty members that I’ve come into contact with, even as a lowly librarian interacting with relative academic superstars. I can’t imagine the Princeton faculty members ever considering the librarians as equals to them professionally, but they do seem to consider us as capable professionals in our own right and I’ve yet to have an unpleasant or demeaning experience with any professor here.
For me, this is a sign that the librarian tenure debate might be affected by place. Perhaps there are institutions where a lack of faculty status would mean a lack of respect, or that a lack of participation in governance would harm the library or the librarians. There’s a lot to be said for faculty status, but I have found no reason to agree with the more diehard proponents that faculty status is always necessary for professional well being. There are a lot of librarians at good universities who don’t have it and don’t miss it. However, I also disagree with those who think tenure is always restrictive rather than liberating. That might also depend on place. While I didn’t write much prior to being granted continuing appointment, I didn’t hesitate to speak my mind or take risks at work if I thought the cause worthwhile. The prospect of being up or out in six years didn’t silence me, but I understand there might be institutions where librarians might feel they had to remain silent to keep their jobs.
I avoided such jobs mostly because of the publishing requirement. I don’t think it’s too immodest to say that writing and publishing themselves weren’t obstacles. While there are a lot of librarians who struggle with both, I haven’t been one of them. However, I knew the sort of empirical research studies that seem expected in jobs like that would be a struggle. I’m not trained to do them. I don’t want to be trained to do them. And I have no interest in writing and usually very little interest in reading them. In the C&RL discussion, someone mentioned librarians writing articles based on critical inquiry who feared for their tenure chances because they hadn’t cranked out social science studies. That was not going to be me. While a lack of tenure wouldn’t silence me, a requirement to publish social science research articles would have harmed me, either by forcing me to write stuff I didn’t like or by keeping me from publishing at all.
It’s a pity, because there are librarians out there writing some good stuff that doesn’t fit in with the empirical, quantitative social science model that seems to be the norm. I’ve seen historical, philosophical, or political writing about libraries and librarianship that’s pretty good, and often much more readable than most LIS writing, and if the tenure process serves to stymie such writing, then the library literature is better off without tenure. For that matter, the literature of most scholarly fields would probably improve if tenure wasn’t a publish-or-perish process.
The great thing about not being a faculty librarian on the tenure track and not having my work judged by empirical research ideologues is that I can publish whatever I want, and there are always places to publish. I once had a practical ethics article rejected from a conference proceeding because the reviewer claimed that such an “opinion piece” wasn’t appropriate for this scholarly book. That reviewer seemed not to know or care that there are scholarly genres other than the empirical research study, or that a lack of quantitative data doesn’t reduce arguments to “opinions.” The only thing that irked me at the time is that I’d been asked by the editor to take a brief conference presentation and write it up as an article. That was just as well, since I then published it in an open access journal where it would actually be read. I didn’t need the publication, but there’s no reason to waste a piece of decent writing.
I don’t think there’s much doubt that the social scientific empirical research study is considered the gold standard of library scholarly publishing. My question is, why? At least from practicing librarians, many of them are terrible. Even I, committed humanist that I am, can often spot the flaws in such research. Librarians typically don’t have the time or training to do these things well, and yet they’re expected to and probably wouldn’t publish so many if they weren’t. The average results speak for themselves.
The reason is possibly because that’s what LIS professors usually publish. As an academic enterprise, LIS professors seem long ago to have decided that library science is a social science and that social scientific research methods were the appropriate methods. Creating that norm makes it easier to unify a field of study and to evaluate research from other LIS professors. Because this is what they do, and these are the people who have the time and training to publish the most rigorous stuff, the publishing model has become the norm, with librarians trailing along behind trying to keep up while working 12-month contracts and usually not having PhDs in LIS or social science disciplines.
I, on the other hand, resist this ideology, because I believe that the “science” in library science doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as the “science” in social science. The science of library science depends upon an older 19th century meaning of science, something like an organized body of knowledge about a field. In that sense of science, library science is definitely a science, and a fairly well developed one. Thus, while there’s nothing wrong with engaging in social science research related to libraries, there’s also no reason why such research should define what sort of scholarly work about libraries is appropriate. Library Science might be a social science, but being a librarian is an art. There’s absolutely no reason that libraries can’t be approached in a humanistic manner. It’s just that most LIS professors aren’t humanists.
That seems to me to be a big divide in the profession. LIS professors are social scientists, but most people going to library school to be librarians are humanists. Plant someone like me in a job where I’m expected to publish social science research and it’s going to be pretty bad, plus I’m going to hate writing it. That’s a recipe for garbage research and misery that I wanted to avoid. Let me approach the profession rhetorically, philosophically, or even historically, and the results, although perhaps not outstanding, at least won’t be embarrassing.
Thus, in retrospect, I avoided faculty status and the tenure track not because I was afraid of research, or that I couldn’t write, but that so much LIS research is unnecessarily narrow, and the expectations for research are equally narrow. When LIS is unjustifiably defined as only a social science, when most LIS professors are social scientists, and when most of the leading journals in the field expect that sort of writing, that tells humanists like me that whatever scholarship I might produce is unwelcome, unvalued, and sometimes just plain misunderstood. The clear message for me as a library school student and then a new professional was that mainstream LIS scholarship was something I wanted nothing to do with and that wanted nothing to do with me.That was fine, because my experience, and I suspect I’m not alone here, is that most of that social science LIS research is largely irrelevant to my work or to my professional interests.
I have no problem with faculty status or tenure for librarians, but I also don’t consider it a necessity at every institution. The value might differ depending on circumstances. However, I am glad that there were good academic libraries where someone like me could write and publish what I wanted, rather than being constricted by the social science expectations of mainstream LIS publishing. If faculty status and tenure for librarians with expectations to publish social science research were universal, I’d probably be in another profession, which would be too bad for me because I’m pretty happy doing what I do.
I’d promised some librarians that I would write up a comparison between PhilPapers (PP) and the Philosopher’s Index (PI), because choosing between the two of them might be a budgetary necessity for librarians who wanted to subscribe to PhilPapers under the new terms. This has been delayed somewhat because I knew PhilPapers was planning to announce some important changes, and until then a comparison would be premature. The changes are on the website now, so I feel comfortable writing. The big news is that PhilPapers will be merging with the Philosophy Research Index (PRI). This will still be a comparison, but the incorporation of the the PRI into PP is something of a game changer. But first, some comparisons.
If we’re going by sheer number of entries, PP is ahead. As of July 21, there were 1,104,558 entries from 1,032 journals. According to the Philosopher’s Index website, PI “has a total of over 540,000 journal article and book citations from over 1600 journals collected from 139 countries in 37 languages.” This is qualified somewhat in that only about half of the PP entries are classified according to the categories of its philosophy bibliography. That makes the number of controlled indexed entries about the same. However, PP is, according to David Bourget, “categorizing hundreds, sometimes thousands a day,” and will soon be improving the categorization process. Thus, in the not too distant future, most if not all of PP’s entries will be categorized, making them even more accessible than they are now. In addition, about 700,000 of the entries have categories or associated keywords, and I’ve been told by PP that the most prominent method for accessing entries is search, not browsing via the bibliography. So most of the entries are available to search. In addition, PRI is larger than both PP and PI, with more than 1.3 million bibliographic records. It also covers 800 journals in 30 languages. Once PP incorporates PRI, PP will definitely be by far the largest philosophy literature index. The coverage will also go back to the beginnings of many library journals, instead of just back to 1940 as with PI, and the addition of more foreign language coverage will broaden the scope considerably.
The PP/PRI merger also means that PP will incorporate the Philosopher’s Index Thesaurus. For those unfamiliar with the history of PI and the Philosophy Documentation Center (PDC), a little background might be worthwhile. PDC and PI were both founded in the 1960s at Bowling Green State University, and until 1995 PDC published PI. In 1995 the editor of PI left BGSU and took PI with him. PI is now published by the Philosopher’s Information Center. However, the PDC still owns the Philosopher’s Index Thesaurus, which is the thesaurus PI still uses, and which PRI has been using to build up its own index. The thesaurus is available in print from the PDC, which explains why it cannot be accessed from within PI, comparable to thesauri from other indexes. Thus, when PP incorporates PRI, PP will have both its robust and developing bibliography of philosophy and the thesaurus that PI also uses, plus more extensive coverage of the philosophical literature.
There’s also a difference in how the entries in PP and PI are classified. PI uses the Philosopher’s Index Thesaurus. I couldn’t find any information on the website by whom the indexing is done, but presumably it’s a by a team of indexers with some knowledge of philosophy (if anyone has more complete information, please let me know). PP entries are classified according to the entries of the philosophy bibliography either by the authors themselves or appointed editors, all of whom are professional academic philosophers. I haven’t noticed any problems with either classification process, so I’m not sure the comparison would help anyone make a choice. If others disagree or have found issues, please leave a comment.
One problem I had early on was using SFX from PP. I was getting incomplete results. The problem could be solved only by creating an account with PP and going through a relatively simple process of choosing a link resolver (very simple if anyone from your institution had ever done it before). The accounts can be completely private if you choose, but I disliked the extra steps someone might have to take to get to articles that PP doesn’t have OA but which a library might subscribe to. However, PP is improving OpenURL and SFX linking, and subscribing institutions shouldn’t have a problem. It should work as seamlessly as PI when everything is done.
The final comparison is platform and price. PI is a proprietary index available through Ebsco, Ovid, and ProQuest. Princeton uses the Ebsco interface, which I happen to find very user-friendly. The PP website is also very user-friendly in my opinion. On whatever platform, the cost will vary among institutions because of differences in FTEs or consortial agreements or whatever. Princeton pays a few thousand, and the PP expectation from Princeton is $1200 because Princeton is a philosophy PhD granting university. That makes PP cheaper than PI for my library. I don’t plan to cease subscribing to PI yet, because I’m awaiting further PP developments and I want to have a conversation about it with the Philosophy Department, but I imagine that will matter for a lot of libraries. However, with the incorporation of PRI into PP, I will be canceling the subscription to PRI if it continues to exist as a standalone database, and that money will go to PP instead.
And then there’s the open access of PP. PI is available only to subscribing institutions, while PP is available to everyone in the world. As those of you reading in the spring might remember, my major objections to the PP subscription drive were the unmanageable budgetary timing (asking to subscribe by June 1 or face penalties) and the list of institutions expected to pay (basically every institution in the world from which anyone had ever accessed PP). I thought the first pointlessly hasty and the second unjust. Both those objections were met soon after. The announcement of the PP/PRI merger says, “The service will continue to be available on the model where non-institutional use is free and only institutions located in high-GDP countries and that offer degrees in philosophy are asked to subscribe.” Although I still would have preferred the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) endowment method, those are the same kinds of institutions that SEP targeted and the kind that should be subsidizing this sort of open access project if possible.
Of course, PP is more than just a competitor to PI. In addition to the growing index and the structured bibliography, it has the huge OA archive of philosophy articles. It also has announcements for philosophy events and job, and generally serves as a community portal for professional philosophers and philosophy grad students around the world to share work and stay informed. I’m not aware of anything quite like this for other academic disciplines. If PP can gather enough subscriptions to continue to develop, it will remain an important resource for anyone interested in philosophy. And when PP is used in combination with the SEP, philosophy has perhaps the most robust OA reference support of any academic discipline.
I have a new article out in the journal tripleC: Reactionary Rhetoric Against Open Access Publishing. It’s a version of this blog post that tripleC invited me to revise and expand, written in response to Jeffrey Beall’s aggressive anti-open access article in the same journal.
My latest contribution to the LJ Peer to Peer Review column if you’re interested:
My latest Library Journal Peer to Peer Review column is here if you’re interested. I write about the recent attempt by Taylor & Francis to stop publication of one of their journal issues with an article critical of commercial scholarly publishing.
I should have done this at the time, but an email from someone prompted this. I tried to just put it in the comments to the main PhilPapers post I have up, but WordPress balked at the length I guess. So, for anyone who missed the conversation:
Submitted on 2014/04/16 at 9:22 am
I think that it is promising that PhilPapers pushed back the deadline but honestly, that is still way too soon for some institutions to move forward with subscriptions. It also is out of sync with many universities that have fiscal years ending in June. It would be far better for the service to give at least 6 months notice before any such switch.
Submitted on 2014/04/15 at 5:58 pm | In reply to Matt Thomas.
Matt, I agree. I dislike the approach that immediately starts with a threat to restrict access before anything else has been tried. There are possibilities of offering more as well. For example, right now PP is SFX-enabled, but only sort of. I did some searches comparing it to the Philosopher’s Index. For the same article, PP linked to SFX, but was missing the Source and Page# information, and wasn’t finding the article. The PI link did the correct SFX search and provided links. For books, PP doesn’t seem to have SFX enabled at all, whereas the book I searched in PI to compared linked to SFX and then the catalog record. If better funding could allow PP to offer services that would increase the compatibility with library systems, this would be an incentive for some to subscribe.
Anne Knafl (University of Chicago)
Submitted on 2014/04/15 at 3:23 pm | In reply to David Bourget.
July 1 still isn’t enough time, for me at least, since our fiscal year ends June 30 and our deadline for new orders is May 15. In addition, I have already spent down my philosophy budget for the year. Extending the deadline through the summer would be much appreciated.
Submitted on 2014/04/15 at 11:19 am
I’m not sure why philpapers didn’t just say what they meant initially: that they are no longer going to be open access. The subscription model is fine if that’s what they plan to change to but don’t wrap it up in “seeking support”. If libraries are paying, it needs to be something of value. And OA can coexist alongside a subscription model if they’re are providing access to two different things. Subscription could give an institution bonus access or special access or access to more than just what is available as OA. We can work with that. What no one appreciates is having to pay for the privilege of not being punished. Throttling or restricting access to your potential customers can only be seen as a punishment.
Also, is this a done deal? The information about this is well hidden. I see no way to get to the subscription information except the discussion forum item. Is that intentional?
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 7:54 pm | In reply to David Chalmers.
David, it should be clear that I’m not opposed to this, but objected to the threat that unless we paid in 6 weeks data would be “throttled,” as well as the initial wording of the website that stated all of the 3000+ institutions would be expected to subscribe, rather than the larger universities who have philosophy departments and can probably afford it. I thought that was an inappropriate way to promote open access scholarship, and I appreciate the change.
Banners asking people to ask their libraries to subscribe, or perhaps with slightly stronger language, I think are a good idea. I thought the SEP approach was very clever. Instead of threatening to restrict access ever, the threat was instead to put up banners basically shaming places that wouldn’t contribute, especially larger institutions like mine. Although I also understand the need to create incentives when such shaming doesn’t work. Great and useful resources should be supported by the places that will use them the most, and if that makes the resource available freely to everyone else in the world, I’m all for it.
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 7:43 pm
At the heart of the open access movement is the notion of accessible public scholarship — the idea that even non-academics may have access to scholarly work and resources that are, after all, generally funded directly or indirectly through public money, and that are of a general benefit to society.
While we all recognize that scholarly libraries — indeed, libraries in general — are under terrible and very unfortunate financial pressures these days, OA is not really about ensuring institutional access. It would of course be wonderful if PhilPapers could remain free for everyone, all the time; were our public universities and researchers better funded that might even be possible.
But in the final analysis, this model, which allows individuals regardless of affiliation to use it, seems a pretty good compromise. If the worst is that a scholar has to use a home rather than office or library computer to get at it, I think there is little to complain about. In fact, I wish a few non-commercial resources that are not currently OA would adopt this model, which seems to me pretty true to the essential spirit of the movement.
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 6:38 pm
As co-director of PhilPapers, let me say that I’m sorry that our message to librarians came across as a threat. That’s far from what we intended. We have consulted with many university librarians over the last year or so, asking about the best model for financial support. We initially thought about pursuing a donation model, but a number of librarians (especially at public institutions) told us that it would be difficult for them to justify giving a donation and much easier to justifying paying for a subscription. They also told us that for this to work, there would have to be some sort of differential effect for subscribing and non-subscribing institutions. So that’s the model we have pursued.
We’ve done our best to ensure as much open access as possible consistent with a subscription model. The PhilPapers Archive (the biggest open access archive in philosophy) remains open access, of course, as do the PhilEvents and PhilJobs services. Subscription is for the PhilPapers bibliographic database, which is a bibliographical service comparable to the Philosopher’s Index. Access to the database remains free for non-institutional users. Even for institutional users, in the short term the access restrictions will take the form of banners saying “Your university doesn’t subscribe. Please ask them to subscribe.” Our aim has been for this subscription model to share as much of the spirit of a donation model as possible.
We’re sorry that our communication about this model translated into the appearance of a “threat”. We’re academics who are new to the subscriptions business. It’s hard to get tone right, and we obviously should have explained more in the message to librarians, as we did in our messages to users.
A little background: We set up PhilPapers in 2009 as a sort of labour of love, working for free. I’ve never received any financial compensation for my many hours per week working on PhilPapers and I don’t intend to (though I’m still hoping that one day my department chair at NYU will grant me a teaching release for it). For a period we had significant grant support from the UK, which paid for David Bourget to work nearly full-time on PhilPapers and for other technical staff, but this has now dried up. As things now stand, both of us have full-time academic jobs with many other duties, and it has become clear that without financial support to appoint technical and administrative staff, PhilPapers can’t be sustained. With the financial support from subscriptions, we hope that PhilPapers will be able to not just survive but to keep developing in new and innovative directions. PhilPapers is now used by the majority of professional philosophers and students, and we think we have a responsibility to keep it going and to develop it. So we hope librarians appreciate why this step has been necessary.
We greatly appreciate the feedback we’ve received so far from librarians. Any further feedback is welcome.
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 6:17 pm | In reply to Jen (@JemLibrarian).
Jen, I understand that position, but don’t share it. I took issue with the threat, but I do understand that there are concrete reasons why this resource that’s widely used in the philosophy community can no longer remain free. My primary objection was the idea of targeting, even in theory, over 3000 institutions, most of which don’t offer philosophy degrees.
In a separate email from someone else at PhilPapers that arrived via another route this afternoon, PhilPapers said it has decided “the best way forward is a model involving annual subscriptions for large institutions.” I have no problems with that. Open access scholarship isn’t really free. It has to be paid for somehow. I have no objections to universities, especially those with philosophy graduate programs, being targeted to support a resource like this that’s valuable to everyone studying philosophy, including at smaller institutions that can’t even afford standard philosophy indexes and journal databases.
I think that’s good for the open access study of philosophy without putting an onerous burden on libraries. It’s akin to the fundraising campaign several years ago for the SEP, which raised money from philosophy departments and libraries like mine to make sure that valuable resource could remain open access.
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 5:33 pm
I would only not subscribe, I would discourage anyone from releasing/submitting their papers to this organization. This flies in the face of the principles of open access.
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 2:53 pm | In reply to David Bourget.
David, thanks very much for commenting. I wrote this upon receiving your initial email to see whether other librarians were thinking. Thanks very much for considering my objections to the initial proposal. As I wrote to you, this move shows that it’s a positive move asking the institutionalized philosophy community to help support open access scholarship for everyone, regardless of whether their school happens to have philosophy degrees or programs.
Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 2:51 pm
Hi Wayne, as we’ve discussed by email, we are not going to require non-BA granting institutions to subscribe. The language on the site has been clarified to reflect this. We also moved the start of the subscription model to July 1st following your advice. – David Bourget
This month’s column in Peer to Peer Review: Anger and Persuasion
I wanted to write a little more, because I know at least one person didn’t like that I’d taken down the previous post with the comments. I’m calling this a “last bit,” because I’ve spent a LOT of time this week writing about PhilPapers, mostly to PhilPapers.
I objected to the initial communication about the PP subscription for a number of reasons, but most distressing was beginning with a threat to restrict access on a timeline that was unworkable for most libraries and the theoretical application of the restriction to over 3,000 institutions, most of which probably don’t even have philosophy departments. The restriction timeline showed a lack of awareness of how library budgets operate and I thought the choice to go with no carrots and all stick was a bad idea, particularly since there are easy ways to avoid being hit with that stick. The broad application of the restriction seemed to me a betrayal of the whole purpose of OA scholarship and expected support from institutions that barely participate in the academic philosophical community that uses this resource so heavily. I blogged about it and began an email conversation with David Bourget of PhilPapers.
Over the course of two days, both in communication with me, comments on the blog, and comments elsewhere, David Bourget and David Chalmers of PhilPapers took the concerns of librarians very seriously, revised policies in the light of those concerns, and made it clear to me that there was now no immediate threat of restricted access, not on June 1, July 1, or any time very soon, especially now that they were aware of the budget and fiscal year restrictions on librarians. As an example, I used our own budget process. The fiscal year begins July 1 here, but it’s not until July that I even write the budget report in which I would make a request for any new funds to cover something like this, and it would be quite a while longer before everything was officially in place, and this is at a library with pretty good budgets and philosophy funding. I told them I thought it might be months before some libraries could subscribe, even those that want to as soon as they can.
Moreover, they revised the request to include at most only institutions that offered at least a BA in philosophy, and the messages from Chalmers on the blog and to philosophy professors was that they were especially making the requests from “large universities.” In my second post, I specifically mentioned research universities and better off liberal arts college libraries, and have communicated to PhilPapers that I believe reaching beyond those groups isn’t going to be productive. Philosophy is often poorly funded at smaller regional or branch public universities, for example, even if they happen to have a small philosophy department.
Since Tuesday, I’ve also spent a lot of time writing to PP about libraries and how they work. I’ve also suggested that the point of sales isn’t just to talk about what they need from libraries, but also what they can offer libraries that do subscribe. One example that came up from another librarian who emailed me was improved interaction with link resolvers for those who subscribe, making it much easier to get from citations in PP to other library resources, especially in the many cases where there is no document in the OA repository (e.g., all the book citations).
PP has been a grant funded project created and run by academics, not sales people. They’ve never tried to sell anything or work with libraries, so everyone is new at this. In that light, I think the issues I had with the initial PP email were the result of misunderstandings and miscommunication rather than a sign of ill will or arrogance. I’ve been very pleased at how Bourget has responded to my mostly constructive criticism, and I assume that of others who may be contacting him, and both he and Chalmers seem dedicated to making this work for libraries as best as it can without undue penalties, and especially without any short term penalties that would destroy the good will even of librarians that wanted to participate but couldn’t because of budgeting constraints in a short time period. Their only goal is making PP sustainable, not to harass libraries. Maybe this won’t work, but PP is a heavily used resource among philosophers and has developed a significant amount of valuable content, so it’s worth trying. Besides revising the language on the website, I think they’re preparing another round of communication with librarians that I expect will be quite different in tone and content.
It could be that I’ve been deceived, and that it’s all a clever ruse to get me to change my story for public consumption. I don’t believe it is, and don’t see how anyone would gain by that. On the extremely off chance that I’m wrong, and bad things happen down the road, it’ll be easy enough to respond in kind. Librarians have the power here. They have the power to help support a useful OA resource and keep it viable, or not. Since my criticisms have been addressed and I trust that more development will improve the site for libraries, I’m willing to give it a shot.
As you know from my last post (since removed), PhilPapers is seeking library subscriptions from some institutions to achieve financial sustainability. I had a number of concerns about the initial approach to librarians and the scope of the subscription drive that I communicated on this blog, on the ACRL philosophy discussion group listserv, and through email communication with David Bourget of PhilPapers. David worked quickly and with good grace to address my concerns and those of other librarians to the point where my criticisms are almost nil and I believe PhilPapers will act in good faith to encourage support without alienating librarians. David asked me politely if I would revise the (somewhat aggressive) title of my previous post, as it no longer reflected the PhilPapers stance and could potentially damage the subscription drive that I had already defended in the comments. Instead, I chose to take down the post and write another response.
Let’s begin with PhilPapers, which some librarians might be unfamiliar with. PhilPapers has become a useful, and, in the words of one Princeton philosopher who wrote me, an “essential” tool for contemporary academic philosophers. It attempts to replace the Philosopher’s Index, which, while a useful tool itself, has received a lot of criticism from philosophers over the years (and which has inspired at least one other competitor, the Philosophy Research Index). PhilPapers has always aspired to be more than the Philosopher’s Index ever tried to be, though. In addition to an index of the philosophical literature, it provides a taxonomy of philosophy and an open access archive of philosophical research that constantly grows as the hundreds of philosophers who contribute to it continue to do so. It is the best, if not only, available platform for open access scholarship in philosophy. As such, it deserves the support of the universities that house the majority of academic philosophers.
But as with any open access resource, there’s always the question of money. Some anti-OA folk criticize OA advocates for thinking that information not only wants to be, but can be free. However, outside of a few starry-eyed idealists, nobody really believes that. Open access scholarship should be freely available to all, but it has to be funded somehow. The argument for funding it is that without the profit motive, OA scholarship will be less expensive than the closed access scholarship that libraries have been funding for decades. Initially, the money sometimes comes from grants, as happened with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (which also had a library fundraising campaign a few years ago) and with PhilPapers. While grants allow time to develop a product and test its value, they do run out. Such has happened with PhilPapers now. The logical alternative is to seek financial support from university libraries. It’s in the interest of libraries to support OA scholarship because doing so benefits everyone.
Thus, because PhilPapers has shown a great willingness to work with librarians to address our concerns and has revised and clarified its goal of raising subscriptions mostly from larger universities with philosophy programs, because of the great value of PhilPapers to the philosophical community, and because of the inherent value of open access scholarship for scholars and students throughout the world, I believe that libraries, especially those at research universities and better off liberal arts colleges, should subscribe to PhilPapers so that this excellent resource can continue to exist and grow. As the philosophy selector at such a library, I will be subscribing to PhilPapers this summer, after my fiscal year begins, confident that waiting until the time is appropriate for my library won’t bring on the sort of repercussions I was at first concerned about.