Taking the Long View: Guédon and Changing Technologies

Perhaps many of you have already received your complementary copy of the most recent Academic Matters, a product of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. What you may not have noticed is the excellent, illuminating, accessible, and far-sighted article in it by McGill’s Jean-Claude Guédon: Digitizing and the Meaning of Knowledge. I cannot recommend this too highly to anyone who would like to understand, in 2000 words or less, what is happening with scholarship, the web, universities, and libraries.

The comments he devotes to the position of libraries are very insightful, and they apply to law libraries in spades. It is not uncommon for law libraries to have access to multiple versions of the same journal as provided by separate publishers. The overlap is occasioned by the current licencing options available to libraries as they manage various big deals. Our monograph collections are suffering as a result of the duplication of these expensive arrangements. Who suffers? All the legal researchers who have a question that goes unanswered or badly answered because there was ‘no market’ for the excellent work of scholarship on the topic that was never written. Libraries will buy these works when we are able to reallocate our spending more according to our scholarly and practical judgment, and less at the whim of publishing conglomerates.

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