Moral Crisis

Let’s talk about the OCLC fight (yes again).  The discourse over Autocat is starting to turn a little ugly.  People on both sides of the issue are getting really worked up over this (granted I’m one of them).

But let’s put this in perspective.  At this point in time the library world is in turmoil.  Budgets are being cut while usage is skyrocketing, and every day brings word of another publisher  dealing with similar issues.  There are plenty of deserving causes to get angry about, so why is this the one that people are reacting so strongly towards?

I think it’s because at its heart, this debate is between the ideals and the self-interest of libraries.  On one side are those who believe that we should promote access to information by any means necessary.  On the other are those who want to maintain control over those sources in order to guarantee that they will still be required in their role as middlemen.

Speaking from the idealist side of the argument, I get the the view.  I am a public librarian after all, and thus am just barely staying above the poverty line.  Plus I love my job, and want nothing more than to keep it.  But I still think that the way to do that isn’t to keep a stranglehold on our resources.  All that’s going to accomplish is pushing away all patrons except for those who can find no other sources for what they seek, and unless you’re one of the elite research libraries, just how many items do you have that are both truly unique and highly in demand?  And that’s assuming that those few patrons will actually be able to discover that you have those items in the first place, which is going to be impossible if we prevent any finding aids from having access to our data.

Thus our only recourse to stay viable is to remain open and share our data.

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