Paul Mosher: Thank you Peter. It's question time. Yes.
Audience Member (Judith Shapiro): Judith Shapiro from
Barnard College. I thought Peter Lyman very usefully reminded
us that there's no way we can understand where the technological
forces of production are going to take us unless we understand
the social relations of production, as you know who used to point
out all the time. One thing that I was very interested in was
when you talked about the problem clearly being too much information.
As computing and libraries are coming together and people staff
there libraries differently with people who have come out of different
backgrounds, the culture of access and freedom and going out there
and finding everything and the culture of quality control sort
of come head to head, and I'm wondering what are some of the best
outcomes or resolutions of people who span both of those world
views. As an aside--I don't know if it's on the same topic--I wanted
to ask whether Mr. Lesk, when you cite that statistic that you
picked up off of National Public Radio and saved, did you try
to confirm it's veracity first or try to find out where did National
Public Radio get it in the first place? Because things take a
life of their own when they get repeated, you know, when they
get placed somewhere and then go on as a statistic from place
to place to place. I was just curious.
Michael Lesk: The answer is, no, I didn't check up on
NPR. Peter, do you want to...
Peter Lyman: I was going to comment on the first part...
Lesk: Yeah, right.
Lyman: Why don't you continue.
Lesk: I don't know. What can I say? I didn't check up
on NPR! I mean, I view it as a reliable organization.
Lyman: On the first part of your question, we don't assume
that our students know how to use the printed library, and we
don't assume that what they've learned about computing helps them
make quality decisions. Although I thought the eighth graders
had some pretty good pragmatic criteria in the looking at the
technology, in looking at the URL's. But they thought of it as
a problem of deception. "Who would try to lie to an eight
grader?" And that's not the problem. So what we're trying
to do, we now understand the core function of the library to be
training every student who comes into Berkeley. We try to do
that by mainstreaming training, both in making decisions about
the quality of print and digital information, mainstreaming those
into the freshman and the sophomore courses. If it isn't in the
context of the courses, it doesn't stick. We of course don't
train faculty, but we notice graduate students and faculty taking
furious notes at our presentations.
Audience Member: Can you comment a little further, either
one of you or both, on the value of this J-store effort? It strikes
me that this is an opportunity, not necessarily for the current
literature, but to digitize all those printed materials that have
been produced by people that are long gone and for which there's
no commercial interest. Even the journals, the private ones I
understand that are involved in J-store agree that digitizing
and making available the older issues is a good thing. It enlivens
the literature, and while there are many who enjoy going into
libraries and like the smell of the places as we heard this morning,
I hear often from scientists and engineers that six months in
the laboratory will save a day in the library.
Lesk: Yeah I mean I think J-store is very, very important
because it's the best stab we have at an economically viable method
of collaboration to digitize all the stuff. You know, most--Peter
spoke eloquently about the problems of the libraries who find
electronics costing more than paper, and this is a place where
J-store is delivering journals at roughly a dollar a volume.
And there's no way you could do that in the library if you had
to do that with paper. So this is a very important project.
They claim they need about 500 subscribers to be self sufficient
and continue. They have about 200 at the moment, and I hope very
much that they go forward. I should also point out that they
started thinking that they would sell to libraries that already
owned all this stuff and were saving on shelf space, and in fact
a lot of their customers are libraries that had never owned these
journals, had never been able to afford them, and now could.
So I think that's a very good project and I really hope it succeeds.
Lyman: It's logic--it makes a lot of sense logically, but
there's some practical problems. One is: what makes it sustainable?
We all have an economic interest in not using scarce library
space for things that are very, very rarely used. So the idea
of digitizing and creating a national data base of back issues
of journals makes a lot of sense if it's sustainable economically.
And we all had to just put up I think 30 to 40 thousand dollars
as capital money. Now the question is, what will it take on a
recurring basis, and will we continue to do that? And it goes
back to something Mike said which is, because our budgets aren't
fungible, money we save as librarians, money we save in the capital
budget, doesn't come back to us. So we don't have a real incentive
to save capital budgets.
Secondly, there are new costs in the technical infrastructure
to access J-store which are unknowns at the moment. But if you
think deferred maintenance is bad on the library building, deferred
maintenance on the Network brings it down. Thirdly, the main
reason to subscribe to J-store is, even Harvard, which had five
copies of each of the journals, that they began by scanning, didn't
have--no one copy was whole. Every one of them had pages torn
out. And the best thing about J-store: it has complete records
of the history of the journals. So it's a quality issue.
Mosher: Stephen, and then Shimon.
Audience Member: (Steve Knapp): Steve Knapp from
Johns Hopkins. I think even if J-store is a ray of light, I think
the situation Peter has described is rather thrillingly gloomy,
and I'd like to summarize the description if I could, just to
see if I've got it straight, and then ask a question about it.
It's a situation in which the universities which have traditionally
been paying faculty to produce materials which the universities
then buy back from publishers at an increasingly inflated rate
are now going to be required to police themselves to make sure
that they pay every penny that the publishers, with the help of
the legislatures, can extract for this. So that one sees a rather
horrifyingly escalating cost. You alluded to one alternative,
which is to have the universities get in the business of publishing
and doing that collectively, presumably by, for example, splitting
up among themselves the various fields. And, you know, one university
might take one field and publish the leading journal in that,
another might take another one. And you mentioned discussions
that are underway perhaps to explore the possibilities of doing
I really wanted to ask you two questions. One is: is that something
that is possible to pursue under the current legal theories, or
is that going to get us into trouble on the copyright side itself
because we're going to be seen to be a kind of anti-trust buster
of some sort? Or is it going to be--so that's one question. The
other question is, if we don't do that, how can libraries survive?
Because under the current situation where we can't afford to
continue purchasing journals even without the additional cost
of regulating ourselves through this network of policing activities
that you rather eloquently described, it seems to me we have no
choice except to do something like that. And if that's the case,
then perhaps what we ought to be doing at a conference like this
is splitting up the fields and going home and setting up the journals
so we can get these publishers out of the business. I just wondered
if you could comment on those scenarios.
Lyman: Thank you for bringing that up. That was in the
part I cut. There's several interesting things we can do. The
first is professor Rob Kirby in our math department has sent an
open letter to every math department in the country simply reporting
to mathematicians the cost per page of publishing in different
journals and asking them, a) to resign, that is from the editorial
boards of the expensive journals, saying, "Why should we
subsidize journals that are profiteering off of a gift that we've
made to them?" and asking them to choose to publish in the
more cost effective journal. And this came out of a real tussle
I had with the math department about cutting their budget, cutting
the collection budget. And when they finally began to understand
that the librarian did not create these price increases, the faculty
created these price increases, and that a change in their behavior
could change the cost of publications, he kind of created a national
manifesto. And I haven't been sued yet, and I don't know how
many of you have received it, but I sent it to every librarian
in the country. So that's one thing: simply helping faculty
understand that the choices they make about where they publish
have real consequences for the price of information.
The second strategy is to say exactly what you said: we subsidize--we
have to think about ourselves not only as the consumer of information,
but as the producer. And we give away extremely valuable information.
Well, why do we do that? Or do we benefit from doing that in
the way that we do it? I think Peter Smith mentioned rethinking
our relationship to copyright the way many institutions have rethought
the relationship to patents. And I was very, I heard a rumor
that MIT--Jim, help me--had thought about a concept of shop rights,
which is reserving some educational rights to the use of material
published by MIT faculty. That's a concept I think we might look
at, not telling faculty what to do, but just saying the university
and the colleges underwrite the production of this knowledge and
therefore can reserve some rights. I think those are all on the
table, and I think forming electronic presses will be on the table.
Lesk: I'm sorry, can I...
Audience Member (Shimon Shocken): My name is Shimon Shocken.
I'm the dean of the school of computer and media sciences at
the Interdisciplinary Center. That's this new university in Israel
that Professor Reichman described earlier on. I'm probably the
last person who should make this comment, but I'd like to say
a few words in defense of the traditional paper-based book.
And I'm very happy with this initiative of scanning material and
putting everything on the Web. I'm more concerned about all the
buttons that will surround these materials, and I'm concerned
about students who will go to search for materials about Napoleon,
and within two or three mouse clicks will start reading materials
about the sex life of the Malaysian bug or whatever it was that
bit John Sealey Brown earlier on.
But I think that there's a great virtue to the linear nature
of a good book or good publication, and I think that it takes
several pages and several chapters to develop a deep idea or something
that we want to convey in traditional or what I think is good
education. And hyper-text has great virtues, but at the same
time it can distract the mind from pursuing a sequence or the
development of a complex ideas, and therefore I think that one
of the greatest challenges of producers of modern software and
access outwears and etc. is to provide the great benefits that
the Web offers and at the same time try to preserve the great
intellectual benefit of following up something in a quote unquote
traditional, sequential way. So for me a good book is a little
bit like a symphony or a quartet, and you don't want the listener
to say, "Hey that's a nice tune. Show me some other tunes
which are relevant or similar to this tune." You want the
person to go through the entire process. And it's something which...
Lesk: They're two different forms, each of which has validity.