"I believe that much of the serials acquisitions of the future will be at the article level, not at the journal level, and it will not be limited to acquisitions and reference librarians. Library patrons will be acquiring their own materials electronically." (Marcia Tuttle "The Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues" The Public-Access Computer Systems Review 2:1 (1991) (pp. 111-127)).
Well, Marcia, it turns out was VERY much RIGHT about individuals acquiring their own materials "electronically." In fact, it's so commonplace at the moment as to be unremarkable. But in 1990 (when I believe Marcia wrote this) it was not the norm. Libraries were mediating. And most librarians in academic libraries, believed that what someone used in or from a library was nobody's business but the users. Some libraries have been "tested" on this assumption in the paper universe, but it takes more than a polite question or offer of "payment" to get ANY specific user data from public funded libraries. What does comparable protection mean in the electronic resources arena? That most library-oriented of institutions, OCLC, will provide IP address-specific information about access to First Search (and I assume other data sources) if particular types of accounts are set up. And I NEED some of that as a manager to make intelligent, informed choices about certain types of purchases/leases or contracts. But transaction logs are almost too easy to use.
In this get-it-yourself world we seem to be in agreement, as Robert Heterick says, that "Institutions built on a mediator philosophy will not survive the information ages" (in The National Electronic Library: A Guide to the Future for Library Managers (ed. by Gary M. Pitkin, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996 p. 173). So librarians have seen their roles as purchasing, leasing, etc. access, or electronic rights and then encouraging individuals to do their own thing. We have been getting out of the way as quickly as possible. I certainly agree with that principle. But as a corollary, use information is in other institutions' hands, information that formerly was only used within library contexts.
What happens when vendors and publishers have SPECIFIC USER data, i.e., down to the exact article, phrase, words, that someone, however briefly, pulled up or ordered? HOW are those commercial entities going to use that information? Is Elsevier (oh, it's so easy to pick on them these days) going to SELL to some producer of goods, (or even share among its various arms/entities/businesses) a list of people who access an article on polishing jade or building superconducting supercomputers (do we still have those)? Will information on who uses what be sold to the highest bidder? Will the new aggregator vendors routinely pass on to "publishers" or content owners, logs of WHO used WHICH of their titles? Those individuals could become targets for specific sales. Or perhaps the AUTHOR will want to know exactly WHO read her latest opus (Hey that sounds interesting!).
But then, why not create a log of all individuals who read the latest article on garbage eating bacteria? If sold to the right company, it could become important for determining who else in the WORLD is interested, or perhaps working on the same problem. Will commercial sci-tech companies have to tell employees NOT to read what's available on the publisher sites for fear of competitors getting an inkling of what they are working on?
In the rush to meet the common goal of full text access -- of individuals getting to what they need or want, or are just vaguely interested in -- are the protections that libraries provide, a cloak of anonymity, at least in in-house use, disappearing with librarians doing little on the demise of one of the primary characteristics of current use of the serial literature? Yes, many institutions are working on setting up their own authentication servers, some because of recognition of the need for privacy of certain individual identification information (such as social security number). But once the individual entering is "authenticated" what's to keep the information provider from determining who is reading their information?
Are we writing into our contracts with primary publishers, secondary vendors, distributors, and aggregator services, protection of the anonymity that is taken for granted when I read a newspaper in the library?
I just read an article by Carl S. Kaplan in the NY Times entitled "Children's First Amendment Rights Lost in the Filtering Debate" (CyberLaw Journal, March 6, 1998). If I read it online (through a library subscription) will the NY Times provide a list to the Justice Department or to those who might pay for it, at sometime in the future (or even currently) of everyone who read it? Am I losing rights silently? (The NY Times, if I remember their "contract" for free use, does offer some confidentiality.)
Use data WITHIN libraries has some protection, legal and cultural. Are there guarantees of confidentiality being built in when consortia and libraries provide such services to their specific user groups? Can a private, non-commercial company even begin to provide the guarantees of those rights that are traditionally provided by libraries? What if Richard Jewel -- who, if anyone, knows the extremes the government can go to in investigation -- had used online information sources through his local library's good graces? Would those uses have ended up in the investigative files? Some consortia are actively discussing these issues. Do we have a consensus?
How much of a RIGHT does a department head on campus have to know what information faculty and grad students in the department are using, accessing, or having faxed to their offices? Or how much right is there for a bibliographer of East Asian studies to know exactly which faculty members are looking at which information in a site paid for by the library?
Who should look at that information within the library that has paid for that use? Is privacy a part of our responsibilities, as much as price and connectivity and content. Without knowing who, can we evaluate expenditures, evaluate whether they should continue to be paid from library funds? Is it important to know the mix of off-site usage to in-house usage, and whether it is grad students or undergraduates or faculty doing the using? Or whether 1,000 uses are all from the same person, or spread across the whole user community?
Clifford Lynch speaking at the recent North Carolina Serials Conference (held the 5th and 6th of March) raised some of these issues in his own inimitable way. I've been struggling internally, and within the library context, over HAVING this type of use data, for the last several years. It's time for a discussion from the acquisitions and use and collection development and negotiations end about specific rights to privacy in commercial products that libraries are licensing or purchasing.
I've asked a few vendors and publishers about this, and so far most have indicated these are NOT issues that have been raised in contract discussions, though most have thought about them. I suspect some of NOSPI's readers have engaged in these kinds of discussions. I would greatly appreciate being educated. How are they being addressed? What, if any, consensus is emerging, both from a philosophical basis and from a practical, hands-on, perspective in contracts? What have been the results?
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The Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues (ISSN: 1046-3410) is published by the editor through Academic and Networking Technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as news is available. Editor: Marcia Tuttle, Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org; Paper mail: 215 Flemington Road, Chapel Hill NC 27514-5637; Telephone: 919 929-3513. Editorial Board: Deana Astle (Clemson University), Christian Boissonnas (Cornell University), Jerry Curtis (Springer Verlag New York), Isabel Czech (Institute for Scientific Information), Janet Fisher (MIT Press), Fred Friend (University College, London), Charles Hamaker (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), Daniel Jones (University of Texas Health Science Center), Michael Markwith (Swets North America), James Mouw (University of Chicago), and Heather Steele (Blackwell's Periodicals Division). The Newsletter is available on the Internet, Blackwell's CONNECT, and Readmore's ROSS. EBSCO customers may receive the Newsletter in paper format.
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