Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Winter 1999


Regarding "Science in the Twilight Zone" (Fall 1998)

Philip Barnett
Associate Professor and Chief, Science/Engineering Library
City College of New York (CUNY)
Science/Engineering Library

Albert Henderson (Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, #20, Fall 1998) scrutinizes the pressing problem that libraries are unable to provide all the journals needed by their researchers.

He castigates organizations for abandoning excellence in libraries. Among these organizations is the American Institute of Physics (AIP), specifically its executive director, Marc Brodsky. He chides Brodsky for not supporting federal funding of university libraries. In Henderson's rebuttal in the same issue of this journal he again chides Brodsky for the same thing. People who don't know Marc Brodsky may get the impression that Brodsky is hindering progress in addressing the serials crisis or ignoring important issues. In fact Brodsky is doing just the opposite.

Brodsky's caution on this one issue of federal funding does not at all mean he is ignoring the serials crisis in libraries. The AIP has a longstanding policy to promote knowledge of and appreciation for the value of both federal and industrial funding for research and development without generally advocating specific areas for such funding. The AIP provides the information and tools for scientists themselves to take advocacy positions that they may deem most appropriate.

Moreover, lobbying for more federal assistance to libraries could be a precarious approach since as Henderson points out "federal science pays sixty percent of research and one-fourth the total expenditures of research universities." Are there risks in asking for even more from the federal government? Instead of taking the chancy approach of directly lobbying the federal government, an approach which both does not readily fit into the mission of the AIP and might be seen as self serving to the AIP, Brodsky has instead taken the routes more readily available to the AIP to help hard pressed libraries.

I have known Marc Brodsky since 1994 when I became an unpaid consultant to one of their publishing advisory committees. I have observed Brodsky to be an open minded, flexible, creative leader and progressive trend setter who is making the AIP journals available as economically as possible to the widest possible audience. For example, the AIP's Applied Physics Letters was one of the earliest printed journals to offer an online version.

At first, to gain electronic access to Applied Physics Letters online, subscribers to this printed journal had to pay a surcharge that covered the additional cost of mounting this journal electronically. When few people subscribed to the online version, he made it available for free to any subscriber of the printed edition. He extended this generous policy to the other seven scholarly journals published by the AIP, thus joining other publishers such as American Physical Society and Institute of Physics in adopting this policy which they still have today.

Brodsky also confronted the spiraling costs of scholarly journals (Barnett 1995) by increasing their subscription costs well below the industry average, and by extending their range of money saving combination subscription packages.

The serials crisis in academic and research libraries is a persistent, serious dilemma with no immediate or obvious solutions. Henderson's goal, "to restore the growth of major libraries as an active, integral part of the world research" is an admirable goal, shared by many. Reaching this goal can only be a cooperative effort, where every participant must recognize who his allies are in this struggle. Marc Brodsky is an integral member of this endeavor, not a hinderance as Albert Henderson insinuates.

References Cited

Barnett, Philip. 1995. The American Institute of Physics pricing policy. Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues Number 148 : November 28, 1995. [Online]. Available: http://www.lib.unc.edu/prices/1995/PRICE148.HTML#148.3 [Feb. 10, 1999]. [Note: Link moved; URL changed 1/3/03 by aduda@istl.org]


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