Posting to Autocat
On 07/03/2012 15:49, Mike Tribby wrote:
[John Marr wrote:
Any truly sentient, conscientous and fearless voices out there? Write “Why and how to avoid corporatization of libraries” in response to the following: http://www.alastore.ala.org/detail.aspx?ID=3431]
John may well be proceeding from the assumption that “[a]ny truly sentient, conscientous and fearless” member of this list would necessarily be opposed to privatizing libraries and library services. Given that two of the three authors are identified as consultants they’re likely capable of delivering the same well-reasoned processes and wise decisions that informed the consultantocracy’s leadership role in the RDA process. John is, I think, asking for someone to post a contrary view of privatization.
The question is actually one of outsourcing (as mentioned in the preview to the book in Google Books http://books.google.it/books?id=lr_F7aBrTWIC). The library space and materials are not actually sold and ownership remains with the local bodies, therefore it is the functioning of the libraries that may be “privatized”. Of course, almost all libraries “outsource” some aspect of their work, and they have ever since the libraries gave up adding each article from each issue of each serial they bought, and decided to just buy Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature in the 19th century. Today, libraries inevitably outsource some of their functions: from approval plans to cataloging to recon to whatever. This is *completely different* from what Greece, Ireland and Portugal are facing (let’s hope it stops with those countries!), that is, actually being required to *sell* their national gas companies, ports, water companies, public transportation and so on, and do this irreversibly(!), for whatever amount they may be able to get. That is privatization, and I don’t think that is really discussed in this book.
So, it seems as if the question is: given that libraries already outsource some functions now, how much should a library outsource its day to day functions of the library, along with its management? As I keep mentioning, what sets librarians apart from other “information experts” is–I think–our ethics. In the preview to the book on Google I mentioned above, I couldn’t find that mentioned either in a keyword search or in the index. Ethics are mentioned in the ALA documents on privatization however. http://www.ala.org/tools/sites/ala.org.tools/files/content/outsourcing/outsourcing_doc.pdf, http://www.ala.org/tools/outsourcing/background.
So, if selection were completely outsourced to an agency that got bought up by Random House or had a close relationship to it, it would make sense for that library to pay the huge prices for the ebooks Random House is asking. (I discussed this pricing and other issues in a recent blog post that I will link to shamelessly! http://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/03/the-information-universe-turned-upside-down.html) The same could be said for each and every library function: Baker and Taylor reference librarians steering people to their databases, Springer catalogers making catalog records full of typos and completely wrong headings for books published by Bertelsmann. You can go on and on.
And let’s not pretend that could never happen. The only thing that would stop any of that would be ethics.