Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 9, Number 11: October 2009

Bibs & Blather

Sponsor Still Needed

Cites & Insights needs a sponsor for next year (and years after that, if any). If you are, or work for, or know of some outfit (or group of outfits) for which this might make sense, please get in touch. (waltcrawford at gmail dot com).

YBP Services, a division of Baker & Taylor, has provided some sponsorship for Cites & Insights since 2005. That sponsorship runs out at the end of 2009. I’m extremely grateful to YBP for those five years. Would C&I still be here if it hadn’t been sponsored? I don’t honestly know. Would it have been as robust as it’s been? Almost certainly not…I would probably have looked for paying homes for many of the major essays.

I believe C&I still serves the field. I’d like to continue that service. Sponsorship would help—a lot.

You’ll find more details on sponsorship on the first page of C&I 9:8 (July 2009). I’d love to hear from you.

Library Access to Scholarship

This commentary appeared, in slightly different form, on Walt at Random on August 25, 2009. I’m repeating it here to give C&I readers who don’t read my blog a chance to respond—say by September 25, 2009.

Here’s the question: Should I give up on Library Access to Scholarship as a continuing aspect of Cites & Insights coverage?

What it is

Library Access to Scholarship is one of several running heads for periodic essays on a given topic. The topic, in this case, is what it says—but that means it’s been primarily about open access.

The difference between my coverage and others, I suppose, is that I’m focused on the library aspect of all this—that is, can OA decrease the extent to which scientific, technical and medical journals are undermining academic libraries’ ability to pay for anything else—such as monographs and other books? Of course, I’m also interested in other issues of OA, but usually with that slant. (It’s also true that I’m less firmly aligned with any “camp” than most writing in this area. I am, in effect, an OA independent.)

Where it is

I’ve done a fair number of LAS/OA essays—but not recently. So far, the section’s only appeared once in 2009 (in the April issue). In 2008, it appeared in April, August and November. In 2007, it appeared in April (hmm: is there a theme here?), July and October. In 2006: May, October (two essays) and December.

In 2005, I see essays in January, March, June and November. In 2004, January (two essays), March, June, September and November. (Before March 2004, I used “Scholarly Article Access” or “Scholarly Access” as a heading—before I deliberately slanted the coverage to library-related issues.) 2003: May, July, September and November (two essays). Before late 2002, I didn’t use thematic headings as much, but I believe there were three related essays in 2001 and 2002.

In other words, while it’s never been a dominant theme, it’s been a significant recurring theme—more than two dozen essays, probably more than a book’s worth if I slapped them all together.

What’s the point?

Right now, I have 34 leadsheets in the Library Access to Scholarship folder—and another 58 items tagged “oa” in delicious. Ninety-two items in all.

Based on past experience, if I did my usual excerpts-and-commentary-with-synthesis approach, 92 items would yield around 46 pages.

And, frankly, I have very little desire to do the usual excerpts-and-commentary-with-synthesis on all of this material.

·         Value added: I’ve never felt that I could add much value to Peter Suber’s commentaries or, for that matter, Dorothea Salo’s (when she was focusing on these issues). I’ve given up engaging Stevan Harnad or directly discussing his monotone writing (and I’m not sure I want to take on Phil Davis, although maybe somebody should). Lately, I’m not sure my synthesis and commentary are adding much value to any of this.

·         Effectiveness: Most Cites & Insights readers are within the library field, I believe—and that’s only reasonable, since that’s my background and the focus of most topical areas. So I’m probably not reaching many scientists—or, if I am, I’m probably not doing much to convince them to do more about OA and access-related issues. As for librarians, I’d guess that my readers are mostly already convinced—that I’m neither educating nor convincing much of anybody who doesn’t already get it. (I’d guess 1% to 3% of librarians read C&I, spiking to 20% or more for one particular issue. Those who need educating are mostly in the other 97%, I suspect.)

·         Futility: Given what I’m reading from scientists as to how they relate to libraries and librarians, and given what I’m reading as to how they make decisions on where to publish and where to exert pressure, I’m feeling pretty futile about the whole effort. Not necessarily about OA as such—but definitely about my ability to make a difference.

Am I missing something?

That’s the open question. There are plenty of other places to find out about open access, most of them much more consistent in their coverage. For that matter, the cluster of OA-related articles on the Library Leadership Network draws pretty good readership, and I’ll probably keep maintaining those.

If I’m missing something about C&I’s role or effectiveness in this area, I’m open to suggestions. But I look at article readership, feedback (or lack thereof), and my general sense of futility (and lassitude and the merits of taking a nap...) whenever I look at that folder and I think...maybe it’s time to close that section.

If I do, I’ll probably do a “brain dump”—very brief notes on some (probably not all) of the 92 outstanding items. I might, just for fun, put all 25-26 of the essays together and see whether they make anything coherent enough to be given away as a combined PDF and sold as a PoD paperback. (My guess is they don’t, but it would be easy to find out—and if I do this one, I would set the PDF price to $0 and give it an explicit BY-NC license, just as C&I has a BY-NC license.)


Just for fun, I added a column to my infrequently-updated “civiews” spreadsheet—tracking downloads for issues and pageviews for essays—flagging each essay with a general category. (HTML essays didn’t begin until 2004 and weren’t consistently provided until 2005.)

Then I did a quick PivotTable on categories, total pageviews, number of essays in each category, and average pageviews per essay. Turns out there are slightly more HTML pageviews through 8/7/09 (just under 600,000) than there are whole-issue PDF downloads (just under 500,000).

I’m not sure how significant the results are, but they’re interesting:

·         Nineteen essays related to blogs and blogging are tops, with more than 2,900 pageviews each (in addition to whole-issue downloads).

·         Nine essays related to Google Books and the Open Content Alliance come in a close second, just under 2,900 pageviews each.

·         Eight essays related to net media (excluding nine related to Wikipedia and other wikis, averaging 1,700 pageviews) averaged just under 2,800 pageviews each.

·         From there, it’s a significant drop to eight conference-related essays (2,372 average), 25 copyright-related essays (2,242 average) and four (older) censorware-related essays (2,070 average)—and the whole slew of essays directly related to libraries and librarians (what’s now called “Making it Work”), 43 of them averaging just over 2,000 each.

·         Library Access to Scholarship? Actually better than I expected, with an average of 1,857 pageviews—just below five ebook essays and just above 25 Perspectives that don’t fall neatly into a category and 30 product roundups.

So “lack of readership” isn’t a primary reason to dump this section, although it’s one of the weakest thematic sections. But high readership also isn’t a reason to keep it.

Is there an argument that will energize me to keep covering OA? (Sponsorship for C&I would help, of course.) If so, I’d love to hear it by September 25 (or so), when I’ll do something with all that material.

Status Changes

Quick and partly repetitive notes:

·         Libraries as short-run publishers: On hold. When the economy firms up and librarians start thinking about new ways to expand their roles in the community, I’ll see whether this idea still makes programmatic and economic sense.

·         Public Library Blogs: 252 Example is now off the market. Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples will go off the market on or around October 1, barring at least one sale between now and then.

·         The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008 will remain available for some time to come. As far as I know, it’s still the most substantial study of blogging within a field—and its continued availability in its current form relates to the next one…

·         Another look at liblogs: That’s not the title, but this project seems to be live, if only because there’s been so much recent talk about blogs being passé. The new project will differ from The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008 in a number of ways, not all of them clearly defined yet. Some of those differences:

·         More selective: I’m not going to attempt to cover the field as comprehensively, although I will attempt to cover it broadly and transparently. I’ve already winnowed the list of blogs in the 2007-2008 study to 492 (from 607) by eliminating the handful of non-English blogs, eliminating blogs that didn’t have at least three posts in either March-May 2007 or March-May 2008, and eliminating blogs that didn’t have a Google Page Rank of 4 or higher in either fall 2008 or August 2009. I’ve also eliminated a few blogs that have become password-protected, not only for future study but as part of the past—after all, if someone doesn’t make a blog generally available, they probably don’t want it studied. The 492 figure will decline a little further (I’m eliminating blogs that have entirely disappeared), but probably not much. As for new blogs, I won’t be looking as hard or as long, and they’ll also have to meet the “visibility” (GPR 4 and up) and “activity” (at least three posts during March-May 2009, in this case) criteria. Note that requiring GPR 4 and up doesn’t actually clobber that many blogs—only about 36 that would otherwise have been included.

·         A little easier: I’m not willing to go to such great lengths to calculate metrics when blog setups get in the way of doing that. This shouldn’t make much difference in overall patterns, but further weakens any claim that this is a truly comprehensive study.

·         More narrative, more subjective: While the new project will still use objective metrics—not including illustrations—it will include a lot more commentary (from me and from bloggers) about how and why liblogs do or don’t work. Additionally, I think the liblog profiles will include my own comment on what the blog seems to be doing—and that will be a subjective judgment.

·         Fewer profiles? I’m not committed to including profiles of every blog included in the study. We’ll see how that works out.

This isn’t a done deal (sponsorship would help here as well, since it’s clear that I can’t rely on book sales for minimum-wage income for the time required to do this). I could get into it and decide that the results aren’t worth the effort.

Assuming I do finish the study, it’s likely that some results will appear in C&I, that a summary will appear elsewhere (maybe several elsewheres if I’m clever), and that the full set will appear as a very different book. That book will not replace The Liblog Landscape.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 9, Number 11, Whole Issue 121, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, Editorial Director of the Library Leadership Network.

Cites & Insights is sponsored by YBP Library Services,

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