A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


"According to the Association of Research Libraries, the average per-title cost of an academic journal grew by 227 percent between 1986 and 2002; in the past five years, prices have continued to rise 7 percent to 11 percent annually."

I was talking with my sister the other day and she had a less than average experience with the clerk that checked her books out. I explained that clerks are not really customer service oriented; clerks are trained to maintain the physical and logistical appearance of the library; they are neither trained nor necessarily like to interact with the public.

Customer service has become the primary directive of most librarians. I have gone to several job interviews lately where I was told by librarian friends that I should talk up my customer service skills. I have no problem with that since I have been a teacher for ten years and have developed intense rapport capabilities. I could talk a turnip into wanting to be a potato if I had to and if my fancy was struck. But, does that necessarily mean that I can give good customer service?

I ran across this article in The Chronicle Review written by Daniel Goldstein that speaks specifically to the dominance of this trend, especially in academic libraries where I have garnered most of my experience as a librarian. The article is titled, Library Inc., and I believe it has a lot to teach the layperson and librarians alike.

In it, Goldstein makes the point that libraries have shifted from "owners of the material their patrons required" to "providers of access to information" and that "At least since the 1970s, libraries have understood that their budgets would never be able to keep pace, and they began to seek an alternative arrangement. According to Goldstein, what they've done is redefine themselves as locksmiths and abandoned the scriptorium. You may ask yourself, why is this troubling?, and what is the relationship between this and the current emphasis on customer service?

Well, to save a few bucks, academic libraries have given control of their coffers of scholarly material to information middlemen like Elsevier and Taylor and Francis instead of opting to own journals, monographs, etc. Or as Dan Goldstein puts it, "The shift from owning a journal to merely providing access to its digital incarnation has, of course, saved some money. But those savings come in tandem with detrimental changes both to the content of library collections and the ways those collections are used." In other words, to save money, academic libraries are relying more and more on access rather than ownership, but this does nothing to amplify/push/further/engender the librarie's collection. If anything, it would be like not buying a CD of music in the hopes that you could hear the songs individually on Pandora.

Furthermore, Goldstein writes, "By outsourcing ownership to mega-vendors, libraries have introduced the commercial interests of the journal providers into what had been an internal academic transaction between a library and its patrons. Purveyors of e-journals provide access to their titles on sites that are designed to bolster brand recognition and encourage repeat visits". This does nothing for the idea as libraries as repositories of information from a diverse array of sources, not just a Google-like expanse of Teflon scholarship.

1 comment:

fern said...

Nice post! I disagree too, I still believe that treating the customer so good and politely makes them so comfortable with your services.

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