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JILT 1997 (3) - John Buschman

Notes on a Critical and Skeptical Overview of Electronic Publishing and Librarianship from the United States

John Buschman
Rider University Library
buschman@genius.rider.edu

*(This is an edited version of a paper delivered at the ICCC/IFIP Conference
on Electronic Publishing '97, at the University of Kent at Canterbury, April 15, 1997.
The full paper will be published in the Conference Proceedings.)

Contents

Abstract
1. Introduction
2. The Technological Status of the United States
3. The Level and Environment of Technological Development in U.S. Libraries
4. Preservation
5. The New Economics of Information Purchasing
6. Intellectual Differences Between Print and Electronic Resources
7. Conclusion
Bibliography

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Abstract

Electronic publishing presents the most fundamental challenges to the practices and values of librarianship. The United States is perhaps the best case study to highlight and review the issues raised by electronic publishing in libraries. It is the country which has invested both broadly and deeply in electronic resources, both generally and in libraries. It is also the country which has promoted - through both the public and private sectors - the idea and the image of an information revolution. In short, libraries and electronic publishing are seen to have the same future in the United States. In this environment, problematic issues are not generally raised or actively discussed by library professionals. A brief, critical review of those issues concerning electronically-published products includes:

- Preservation. Libraries traditionally collect and preserve the scholarly and documentary record of publishing. Electronically-published materials require a new approach to preservation, access, and security.

- Economic Issues. Library budgets are not swelling, yet information outlets - and the demand for those products - are. Price and fee structures of electronically-published works are different for libraries. The end result of differing collecting patterns and the imposition of fees-for-use have broad consequences for equity of access and the skewing of content in libraries.

- Inherent Characteristics of Print. Electronically-published texts are intellectually different than printed resources, and those differences critically affect how people approach and value knowledge and information, how libraries organize it, and how it is packaged and promoted.

The paper concludes with recommendations for librarianship in approaching these resources.

Key Words: Libraries, Librarianship, Information Economics, Print, Archives, Preservation, Information Society, United States


This is a Refereed Article published on 31 October 1997.

Citation: Buschman J, 'Notes on a Critical and Skeptical Overview of Electronic Publishing and Librarianship from the United States', 1997 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/elecpub/97_3busc/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1997_3/buschman/>


1. Introduction

A strong case can be made that electronically published products pose a strong challenge to the practices and values of librarianship, and the United States is perhaps the best place to review and establish this. As I have written elsewhere, the pattern of shifting toward electronically published resources 'is the one touted by the vast majority of our library leadership as the essential model if our institutions are to survive' and librarians are under considerable pressure to develop skills to accomodate them. (Buschman J; 1995, p 210) The challenges posed by these new resources are not 'the traditional barriers with which we have grappled, such as single usage of a single printed copy or the preservation problems of the codex. Rather, the essence of the shift in our profession is in redefining [it.]' (Buschman J; 1994, p 13) This process of redefinition - driven in large part by electronically published resources - is not without serious problems for libraries. In order to demonstrate this, this paper will proceed from a brief overview of the current technological status of the United States to an assessment of the environment and level of technological development in U.S. libraries. The paper will then move on to review three important areas where electronically published resources in American libraries pose a direct challenge to some of the basic ideas and values upon which modern librarianship is based. Those areas are: preservation, the new economics of information purchasing, and intellectual differences between print and electronic resources. The paper will conclude with a summary analysis of and recommendations concerning these trends in American libraries.

2. The Technological Status of the United States

Though assessing levels and leadership in technological development is nowhere close to an exact science, by a number of measures the United States is a world leader. For example:

- The most recent National Critical Technologies report rated the U.S. as leading or even with Japan and Europe in every major area of technological competitiveness, and well ahead in the areas of software and computing systems. ('Critical'; 1995; 'Report'; 1995)

- Wildly divergent estimates on Internet usage at least give some indication of American consumer dominance: over 37 million people are estimated to have access to the Internet in North America, up from an estimated 6 million just two years ago. (Sandberg J; 1995, 1996; 'Internet; 1996; Lohr S; 1995)

- Approximately 50 per cent of American schools are linked to the Internet as of early 1996, up from 35 per cent the previous year. Although still a low percentage, the number of connected classrooms tripled during the same period. ('50%'; 1996; Fox R; 1996)

- A 1996 summary of an international conference on electronic publishing noted that 'collectively [there is] a wide gap between European and U.S. experience, with the United States considerably ahead in electronic productivity and in the customer base to make use of it. . ..' (Baker J; 1996, p 203)

There is one area where I would argue vigorously that U.S. worldwide dominance is undisputed: hyping the information revolution. Indeed, there seems to be a convergence between academic, economic, and governmental rhetoric in order to thoroughly set the idea that, after 25 years of predictions, we are still rapidly moving into a knowledge-and-software-based economy, and that the technical bases of this exciting shift will solve longstanding problems. For example, an economic theorist predicts that networked computers will convert American capitalism into 'a healing force in the present crisis of home and family, culture and community,' (in McGrath P; 1997, p 82) and a founder of an electronic civil-rights group simply states that 'we are in the middle of the most transforming technological event since the capture of fire. I used to think it was just the biggest thing since Gutenberg, but now I think you have to go back farther. . ..' (in Young P; 1996, p 111) In sum, it would be fair to say that there is considerable economic, governmental, and social force behind the development of technological resources in the United States, made creditable by ample media coverage and scholarly commentary. As one observer put it, 'unlike cars in recent decades, computers have been a symbol of America's technical dynamism compared to the rest of the world's.' (Fallows J; 1996, p 15)

3. The Level and Environment of Technological Development in U.S. Libraries

It is worth noting again the primary focus of this paper: definitions of electronic publishing are surprisingly hard to find. The briefest recent definition I have found stated simply that 'electronic publishing is the publishing of material in a computer-accessible medium, such as on a CD-ROM or on the Internet.' ('Electronic'; 1997) Indeed, this is the implicit definition embedded in articles about and definitions of a 'virtual library.' (Statewide Library. . .; 1993) The definition and scope of electronic publishing is therefore very broad and, in hindsight, libraries have been involved with it for some time now. For instance:

- The library automation market in the United States peaked at over a half billion dollars in 1994. Though sales of units increased 6 per cent in 1995, revenue slipped to $450 million. To put this in perspective, between 1992 and 1994, library automation investments in the U.S. nearly doubled, before slipping in 1995. This trend is not recent: an earlier report cited 25-30 per cent growth in the American library automation market at the end of the 1980's. (Barry J; 1996, 1995; Budge F; 1993; Muro E; 1990)

- President Clinton wants every classroom and library in the country connected to the information highway within the next three years, and is putting forth a $2 billion Technology Literacy Challenge Fund to help accomplish the task. This initiative follows up a 1993 funding program for computer and network technology in schools and libraries, and the earlier NREN (National Research and Education Network). ('President'; 1996)

- American libraries very early on developed automated systems on a large scale. The National Library of Medicine began the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (now MEDLINE) in the early 1960's. The Machine Readable Cataloging project for the Library of Congress was begun in 1966. The bibliographic utility OCLC began in 1967, and had over 300 libraries in 28 states contributing electronic catalog records by the early-to-middle 1970's. (Gates J; 1976, p 118, 120-121, 213) Currently, the Library of Congress envisions digitizing five million unique items of Americana in the National Digital Library Program by the year 2000 to make them available over the web. (Lamolinara G; 1996) By the early 1990's, one survey found that 97.5 per cent of academic libraries in the United States offered CD-ROM services. (Condic K and Lepkowski F; 1992)

American librarianship has also fully participated in the hype surrounding information technologies and electronically published resources. 'Elite members of the library profession seem to have encountered, and fully assimilated, [Daniel] Bell's work [on information professionals] by the mid 1970's,' and as one author put it, post industrialism became for librarianship, 'the object of desire, signifying the state of being 'with it' at any price.' (in Harris M and Hannah S; 1993, p 35-43) Yet 25 years later library leaders were still beating the drum and warning professionals that the need for rapid adaptation is still at a crisis level. The goal for at least one author in the field is 'gathering a single comprehensive collection, including all extant current, past, and future scholarly publication,' and he confidently declares that 'No substantial technical problem lies in the way of [this] accomplishment.' (Smith E; 1992)

However, my favorite piece of sheer hype and silliness appeared in 1992 at the Library and Information Technology Association's conference. The futurist Hans Moravec delivered an astonishing address there. He

began by reviewing the present state of artificial intelligence, likening it to an insect's mentality. Ten years from now . . . a computer's intelligence will be comparable to a dog's, and the computer will be able to recognize objects. Ten years after that . . . a computer's intelligence will equal a monkey's. At this point the computer will not only be able to recognize objects but be able to adapt to its surroundings. Thirty years from now, computers will combine the previous abilities with superhuman reasoning. By this time, computers will be manufactured in outer space and will be created by themselves. It is at this point that they will become independent and begin to spread beyond Earth. Eventually, computers will fill known space. That space will be filled with computation, effectively becoming 'cyberspace,' a space many times larger than its physical size. Returning to Earth for natural resources, the computers will offer humans an 'increasingly irresistable simulated reality' where we will live in a better and more efficient world. Finally, we will become absorbed by these computers and, possibly, ultimately become mere recollections of a great thinking machine. (Morgan E; 1992, p 74)

American librarianship, I believe, has more than held its own in pumping up the volume of calls for an information future.

In sum, the United States and its libraries can be successfully argued to be a good case to review problematic issues posed by electronically published resources in libraries. It is a country which has invested both broadly and deeply in electronic resources, and where the public and private sectors - and many of the professions - have promoted the idea and image of an information revolution. If electronic publishing and libraries are to have a meaningful partnership, then librarians need to look at what I have called the 'underside' issues. The remainder of this paper will review this underside in the three areas mentioned: preservation, the new economics of information purchasing, and intellectual differences between print and electronic resources. A summary conclusion of these trends will be offered.

4. Preservation

American Library Association (ALA; 1996, p 42) policy 'affirms that . . . preservation is central to libraries and librarianship. In particular, ALA affirms that the preservation of library resources is essential to protect the public's right to the free flow of information as embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Library Bill of Rights.' This policy goes on to note that it includes both print and electronic resources, and specifically the 'threat to information posed by technical obsolescence, the long-term retention of information resident in commercial databases, and the security of library and commercial databases.' I believe that electronic publishing poses a more fundamental challenge than this somewhat mild language would indicate.

Clifford Stoll (1995, p 180-181) has accurately described one of the problems: 'electronic media aren't archival [and] the physical medium isn't the problem. It's the reading mechanism.' He goes on to give many examples of the now-extinct formats: 78-rpm records, 8-track tapes, 100-column punch cards, and 5-inch glass lantern slides. Further, there is an equally impressive list of soon-to-disappear formats like Betamax tapes, and single-side, single density diskettes. As Stoll notes, the information contained in these formats may be perfectly good and workable, 'but they become increasingly expensive to read, as equipment becomes expensive to maintain or simply cannot be repaired.'

Libraries all over the United States are slipping and sliding toward exactly this problem, and my own institution is a good example. In 1995, we had a complete collapse of our online library system, including the catalog. The company from which we purchased the system in the early 1980's was in some financial trouble by the middle 1990's, and the processor which ran our database was eleven years old. There was no means of repairing it further and the database itself - our library catalog on magnetic tape - was in an obscure, obsolete program language and record format. As a result, we were an academic library without a book catalog for one entire semester. The conversion of our old database, and its successful loading into a new library system simply took that long. (Buschman, et. al.; 1996) The replication of the information into a more current format is very expensive and this promises to break library budgets. (Stoll C; 1995)

These are not idle worries. One writer noted that, if Bill Gates had written 'The Road Ahead' for publication in late 1994 (instead of 1995), 'its 'vision' of the future might already have seemed seriously out of date. . .. Through 1993 and 1994, computer industry analysts were deeply interested in the likely convergence of the video-game, computer, and cable-TV industries. . .. Very few people put much emphasis on this possibility any more. [T]he technical and financial excitement of computing has all concerned 'the Net' and 'the Web'.' (Fallows J; 1996, p 14) In other words, Stoll's concerns for libraries have not been superceded by the permanence of new technological standards and formats - and they have not superceded the legitimate preservation concerns of libraries.

As a recent article indicated, online and CD-ROM journals pose a similar and problematic issue: the contracts electronic publishers demand 'place the powers of access and preservation to the journals in the hands of a commercial publisher,' who frequently has no clue as to the long-term needs of libraries, and how to effectively price such new products to gain business and meet those needs. (McDonald P; 1997) For instance, my own institution again provides an example. We subscribe to a product from UMI called Business Periodicals Research. We rely on UMI-provided equipment and software for access to read and copy approximately 450 journals. Three years after cancelling approximately $9,000 worth of print subscriptions which overlap this CD journal collection, we are now faced with some problems. UMI willy-nilly drops and adds journals to the list provided on CD. Effectively, this drops and adds journals to our library collection without any selection input from us.

There are other fundamental issue for libraries and digitized archives. A true archive 'shouldn't depend on duplication for preservation.' (Stoll C; 1995, p 181) While expressing gratitude to libraries for digital and microfilming preservation efforts, the Modern Language Association (1995, p 95-96) states that 'the advantages of the new forms . . . cannot fully substitute for the actual physical objects in which those earlier texts were embodied at particular times in the past . . . . All objects purporting to present the same text . . . all carry different information, even if the words and punctuation are identical. . ..' Eugene Provenzo (1992) writes that 'Anyone who has used a word-processing system . . . knows how easy it is to transform information in a digital context. One word can be automatically substituted for another, a name changed, a date altered, an idea corrupted without any record of what the original source said. . .. [This] represents a major problem in terms of the integrity of historical documents, and the extent to which we can trust the information from such sources in the future.' The exact same issues of electronic corruption, erasure, and verification exist between libraries and electronic journal and database publishers.

It would be comforting to say that American librarianship has always been on the right side of this issue, but there was a chilling report from a division of the American Library Association in 1977 (in Harris M and Hannah S; 1993, p 47) which stated that

As a consequence of . . . information overload, the role of libraries for several thousand years, which emphasizes the preservation of the human record, has now become more complex, requiring hard decisions not only about what is to be preserved but also about what is to be discarded. Decisions are, and must, be made to erase portions of the record deemed to be insignificant, irrelevant, and unrepresentative, in order that the useful and pertinent be accessible.

Clearly, such a statement - from a public library planning task force - flies in the face of professional policies on preservation. In sum, electronically published resources present a major problem to the professional mission of libraries in the area of preservation, and libraries and electronic publishers have only scratched the surface of these issues.

5. The New Economics of Information Purchasing

The values of American librarianship concerning the economics of our profession are crystal clear. There is

a bedrock of professional policy and principle which guides us - indeed instructs us - to make our services and collections accessible, equitably distributed, and responsive to the needs of 'all of the people of the community' as the Library Bill of Rights puts it. American Library Association policy is quite blunt: 'all individuals [should] have equal access to libraries and information services.' Specifically, there is policy which calls for . . . 'equity in funding adequate library services. . .' and 'the removal of all barriers to library and information services, particularly fees' which are elsewhere described as 'discriminatory'. . .. (Buschman J; 1996)

In other words, American libraries should budget and spend in such a way as to provide free access to a variety of sources with the fewest barriers - and no economic ones - as practicable. However, electronic publishing is ushering in a new kind of economics of information purchasing for American libraries, and this new economic imperative is driving libraries away from these values. This can be illustrated by reviewing several trends. For instance:

- The Reagan-era privatization of public information was driven by both the ideology of movement toward private sector, market driven information distribution and the technologies which made it possible to profitably remarket and sell the information. Thus a fundamental shift has taken place where once-free information is coming at not only a cost, but a much higher cost to libraries in these remarketed electronic forms. (See Buschman J; 1993, 1996; Buschman J and Carbone M; 1991)

- As numerous authors have noted, 'the biggest challenge that is facing electronic publishers is how to best protect their data, and therefore their investment' when recopying and redistributing those products over networks is so easy. ('Electronic'; 1997) There is a consequent structuring of access - licensing, subscriptions, etc. - which is designed to maximize income for the publisher, resulting in what is generally estimated to be one-third higher costs to libraries for these resources. The licenses and subscriptions for electronically published resources sometimes firmly regulate the library's institutional access policies for them. (see Haar J; 1993; Okerson A; 1996; McDonald P; 1997)

- American libraries have been altering their pattern of investment in content. For instance, there has been twenty year decline in the sales of scholarly monographs. Why? 'Total spending in real terms by academic libraries [in the United States] dropped by 4.5 percent between January 1995 and December 1996 and a total of ten percent since the beginning of 1994. . . . Spending for books has been particularly hard hit while spending for online services and CD-ROM has increased an average of 12.5 percent in 1995-96.' ('Academic'; 1997) Journal subscriptions have followed the same pattern in academic libraries as well. This economic shift is typical of other kinds of U.S. libraries. (Buschman J; 1993; Eckman R; 1996) Further, the economic investment required to make electronically published materials available has resulted in some conservatism as to what content to make available. (Riley M; 1997; Buschman J and Carbone M; 1991; Haar J; 1988) It does not take a mathemetician to figure out that, if electronically published resources cost libraries more, and library budgets are not growing at a robust rate to keep up, then those budgets are purchasing a lesser variety and depth of content.

- American libraries have reacted to these trends by jumping on the bandwagon. Library patrons are now primarily conceptualized as consumers and library leaders are worried about 'how libraries can find a competitive niche in the rapidly changing information environment.' (Estabrook L; 1997) As I have written elsewhere (1996),

The Reagan era privatization of public information was a harbinger of culture change in librarianship. Essentially . . . librarians were introduced to the notion that they were sitting on a form of 'wealth' [they] were not fully exploiting. From this has grown the concept of 'entrepreneurial' librarianship whe[re] librarians expect their resources (especially the electronic ones) to 'produce income, or create a more favorable budgeting and fundraising environment.'

- Most singularly, there have been elaborate justifications for libraries to 'rethink' the national policies against the charging of fees. The National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (1986, p 98-99) issued a report in 1985 justifying fees for the sake of resource efficiency, the implicit recognition of the value of libraries, and basing services on needs and demands 'depend[ing] on the library's operating environment and perceptions of its role in the marketplace.'

In sum, the trend toward privatization of government information resources in electronic forms and the high cost structures of those and other electronically published resources has elicited responses from American libraries ranging from a shift in resources away from print to an entrepreneurial effort to generate revenue from library users. These shifts have left the longstanding values of economically structuring free and equal access to a variety of library resources in doubt.

6. Intellectual Differences Between Print and Electronic Resources

Libraries in the United States are inextricably linked to print literacy and the values of free and protected inquiry. Again, American Library Association (1996, p 41) policy asserts that 'lifelong literacy is a basic right for all individuals in our society and is essential to the welfare of the nation.' Support for literacy lies behind the fundamental policy of Freedom to Read, which opposes the suppression of printed materials by any agent for any reason, and notes that 'they are essential to the extended discussion which serious thought requires, and to the accumulation of knowledge and ideas into organized collections.' (in Gates J; 1976, p 250) Finally, the circulation of materials and the 'information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted' are to be kept private and confidential. (ALA; 1996, p 46, 43) Together, these policies form a strong statement linking libraries to organized, inclusive collections of printed works in which users have an inherent right to free and unmonitored inquiry. Each of these faces a serious challenge as libraries move from printed to electronically published materials.

First, it is clear that electronically published materials are not simply digitized text. They are often multimedia blends of sound-and-image-with-text. On the positive side, these products are seen to be 'dynamic, changing in real time, because it is given context by the actions of a reader. . .. Electronic journals, for example, are an experimental literature that . . . combine text with new modes of visualizing information, or use interactive discussions to simulate the research process itself.' (Lyman P; 1996, p 17-18) At worst, they can be market-driven products whose content is skewed to capture users. As one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it, 'we could wind up with . . . glitzy, interactive multimedia successors to Nintendo and MTV; . . . their uses and content determined by mega-corporations pushing mindless consumption.' (Kapor M; 1993, p 54)

In some ways, it does not particularly matter which analysis one choses, because the essence of the difference is in the medium which libraries are purchasing. As Neil Postman (1979, p 48, 175) (among many) has pointed out for a long time, each medium has its own curriculum: 'a specially constructed information system whose purpose, in its totality, is to influence, teach, train, or cultivate the mind. By moving toward a confluence of text and sound and visual images in our electronically published resources, we shift the curriculum of libraries from 'all of the assumptions on which the slowly disseminated, logically ordered, and cognitively processed word is based' toward a 'non-linguistic bias.' Our new multimedia library resources play to the bias toward the visual and, as Postman (1988) notes, 'pictures ask to be recognized; words ask to be understood.' The symbolic arena of persuasion - like advertising - is the dominant discourse, not the literacy based assumptions of truth, falsehood, and factual verification. Librarians have grappled very little with the meaning and effects of electronically published resources in relationship to our commitment to literacy.

The move toward electronically published resources endangers the privacy of intellectual inquiry. With printed resources, privacy was a relatively simple matter. That circumstance now changes. It has been noted that electronic publishers plan 'to enforce their copyrights and collect royalty fees by using reader-identification and metering devices that will keep track of what a user reads or prints.' (in Buschman J et. al.; 1995) There is a real threat to the privacy of inquiry when there are huge economic incentives to gather and use this information for marketing purposes, or even for larger social purposes such as combatting terrorism. As one report put it, 'the chief culprit is not so much Big Brother as lots of little brothers, all gossiping with each other over computer networks.' ('We Know'; 1996) This represents a radical departure from the past.

The monitoring of Internet and network use - even if only for scholars to gather data to study its use - is raising similar and serious questions about privacy in academia. (Wilson D; 1995) Finally, the entrepreneurial environment of libraries is causing some to question whether librarians should continue to protect the privacy of users. '[I]n the name of one good - keeping patron records confidential - we are sacrificing another: targeted and tailored services to library users. We are sacrificing the ability to compete effectively in an increasingly complex system of information services. . . . We should rethink our current policies and practice. . . .' (Estabrook L; 1996) Perhaps this proposal to abandon principle was inevitable given the recent tradition of technological bandwagonism in American librarianship.

In sum, there is good reason to question whether library investments in electroncially published resources serve to move our institutions away from traditional print literacy and the privacy of inquiry which it embodies. Electronically published resources do not merely mimic the attributes of print. Indeed, that is one of the major arguments in favor of them. However, it is these differences which are posing strong challenges to libraries' traditional support of literacy and private research and inquiry. Neil Postman (1988, p 41-42) wonders whether the entire tradition of intellectual freedom is not a print-based, nineteenth century issue, irrelevant to our new resources. He writes that 'if the inclination, preparation, opportunity, and motivation to read are swept away, then it makes no difference what books are on the shelves of libraries.'

7. Conclusion

In conclusion you might ask, where does this leave libraries? Unfortunately I do not have a comforting answer. My coauthor and I have argued that the social, economic, work, and institutional patterns of accomodating technological information resources in libraries are essentially technocratic in nature. American librarianship seems to have fully accepted the post industrial thesis, particularly Daniel 'Bell's ascendent vision of codified theoretical knowledge as the next economic engine [and] the rise of a technocratic 'knowledge elite'. . .. Since [this] is the new economic capital, social processes and institutions (such as schools and libraries) which produce, reproduce and transmit such knowledge must become predictable through planning and rationalized control just like any other economically important raw material.' As we have argued, this now characterizes the nature of technocracy in institutions like universities and libraries, not to mention commercial broadcasting, publishing, and data gathering enterprises. Taken together, these trends in librarianship bear more than a casual resemblance to previous periods of technocratic planning and control of social and human resources - at least as this has been historically manifested in the United States. (Buschman J and Carbone M; 1996)

Librarians and electronic publishers are not Siamese twins, but nor are they archenemies. Librarianship will not serve its historical and public role in preservation, literacy, and equality of educational opportunity if we assent to the technocratic redefinition of our profession and our institutions. The problems raised in this paper are not insurmountable. There is a role - even in the traditional missions of libraries - for electronically published resources. But we must play our rightful role: protector of the integrity of information, preserver of archives, equalizer of access, facilitator of unmonitored and unfettered intellectual inquiry, and yes, collectors and sponsors of printed materials. This means, for instance, that libraries should be in the vanguard of the effort to standardize CD-ROM database formats and software. Libraries should be in the vanguard of challenging licenses which do not economically or by contract allow us to make electronic publications available to our publics, and allow us to retain what we have purchased. Both of these would go a long way towards reestablishing the role of libraries in making information available to the public, and not incidentally, they would free up monies to purchase other electronic resources for our patrons.

What is most discouraging to me is the quick abandonment of historical principles on the part of librarianship in our attempts to find some niche for ourselves in a presumed info-future. As I have written elsewhere (1994, p 18), if we persist in our current path, 'there is no particular reason for all of these [electronic] resources to be offered through libraries. . .. We will have become just another competitor in the information marketplace, not logically, socially, economically, or morally better or more desirable than other information providers.' The historian Perry Miller (1979, p 194) prescribed what we need when we survey new technologies and what he called the 'panorama of huckstering.' He said we need to 'keep in [our] eye the glint of disapproval.' Libraries must not continue on the technocratic path toward convergence with information vendors. Only then will there be something like a true partnership with electronic publishers.

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