The Corner

Re: Librarians

A few emails and I’ll get off of this:

Mr. Goldberg,

I am long time reader of yours and always enjoy your

posts on The Corner. I am a graduate student in

library science (graduating in 3 weeks) and have done

some research on the issue of electronic databases

such as JSTOR and their place in the academic world.

Make no mistake all of the database providers (JSTOR,

Project Muse, Lexis, etc) are for-profit entities.

All of them contract with various publishers to

provide abstracts or full-text articles. The database

providers then turn around and charge a large amount

of money to libraries for access to the material. At

my university the library pays close to $20,000 per

year for access to JSTOR alone – and this fee only

provides for 6 simultaneous users (out of a campus

population of 30,000+)

Another aspect of the database access is the

limitation of non-university users. At my public

university anyone may come into the library and use

the electronic databases. However, the contract with

the database limits off campus use to only those

affiliated with the university. This is true of the

majority of our electronic databases.

While the libraries and universities are here to

provide access, they are limited by the databases

providers themselves. Right now it appears that the

database providers have the upper hand.


[Name withheld]


As a Master’s of Library Science student, I know I can’t believe it’s a master’s

program either, I must say that if the public has access to everything we do

then the prospects of me getting a good job after I graduate is severely

reduced. So I guess it is mostly self-interest that keeps you plebs, from

breaching the JSTOR walls.


Dear Jonah,

Oh yes JSTOR is fantastic! The problem with opening the floodgates and

letting everyone have access to this great resource (and other such

resources) is that the agreements which libraries sign with vendors

specifically forbids us to do so. JSTOR access is supposed to be

restricted to the college’s or universities’ own patrons. In fact the

prices that we pay are determined in part by the number of users we have.

This is simple economics in some ways. JSTOR is very expensive to produce

and the company which does this, unlike the colleges and universities, is

not a non-profit. Were one library to simply allow free access to all and

sundry, there would be no need for many libraries to subscribe and JSTOR

would go out of business.

Perhaps you could see if you could get access through a large public

library, a scholarly organization (such as the AEI), or possibly in-person

access at a local college or university. The college or university would

not be allowed to offer you off-campus access. Or you could find a friend

who is an academic (there are some conservatives on campus!) and have him

share his access with you. The latter suggestion by the way is not an

official suggestion. It does violate the terms of the agreement with

JSTOR. Still I know it is done. Just keep it under your hat.

Keep up the good work at NRO!

[Name withheld]


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