big. hairy. mess.

Young Highland Cow
photo by Ben Cooper

My library director has us reading an article each month, all geared towards helping us think about better ways to do our things, with a look towards the future of libraries. This month is the Brian Mathews article “Librarian as Futurist: Changing the Way Libraries Think About the Future” from the July 2014 issue of portal.

I suppressed my gag reflex at the sight of the word “futurist,” forever associated in my mind with Joe Murphy (the “librarian”, not the amazing and hilarious podcaster tragically lost to cancer some years ago), and made it through the article. Lots of pie in the sky, but it got me thinking.

I had a call a few weeks ago from Informa Healthcare about adding some subscriptions. We have one title from them (for psychology), and since we have no pre-med or nursing programs, we’re not likely to subscribe to anything else. The sales rep sent me a turn-away report from our IP range for the past year, and talked about a pay-per-view plan (with a deposit account) that would give us perpetual access campus-wide for any articles purchased.

The Matthews article had me wondering about the future of my aspect of librarianship, since the author is mostly coming at it from a public services perspective, and the first thing that came to mind was the big hairy mess that is article purchases. At least with this model, we would have perpetual access. In the past, it was more like document delivery, with one person getting access one time, and paying again if someone else wanted it.

How do you account for the expenditure? Which fund do you use? Do we catalog each article we “own”? When will our OpenURL systems become so refined as to indicate when we have campus-wide access to a single article in a single issue of a journal and accurately link to it?

Big. Hairy. Mess.

But, I can see it on the horizon. Someone(s) will have to figure it out. I’ll be taking notes.