Oh, Chicago? Your Freudian slip is showing.

Dec 28 2010 Published by under Open Access

When I was a young and ambitious librarian, as opposed to the cynical crone I am now, I read a number of librarian career manuals. I honestly don't recall which one it was that mentioned open-access journals only with loathing, discouraging any academic librarian serious about her career from publishing in one.

You know, never mind that in digital librarianship then as now, D-Lib Magazine is one of the major prestige outlets. (So much for peer review, incidentally. D-Lib isn't. Doesn't seem to stop them publishing brilliant articles from the best people in the business—and no, I've never managed to land an article there, so I am not being self-serving.) But that book was weak on digital librarianship to begin with.

Be that as it may, as a new institutional-repository manager reading that book, I felt betrayed by my own profession. How was I supposed to cheerlead for open access (gold as well as green) within my library and my institution if my profession took this "do as I say, not as I do" attitude? The rest is history, really; that was only one of many times librarians and librarianship have despised and undermined open-access work, my own as well as that of colleagues at other libraries in other institutions.

So I'm saddened but not shocked to see that the Chicago Manual of Style is similarly undercutting the many scholars actively participating in the open-access movement, as Stuart Shieber ably recounts. Not shocked, but a little surprised, I must say; I always respected and appreciated the Manual for its "if you really believe it's fair use, don't ask permission, because among other things, by doing so you weaken your fair-use case" stance.

That is sound advice, advice that strengthens the cultural commons. What the latest Manual says about open access is nakedly selfish and a tremendous lurch backward. Whoever wrote that segment should be ashamed. Whoever greenlighted it should be ashamed. Whoever demanded that segment be written? Shame isn't enough, frankly. Maybe a severance package?

The conversation on Twitter has noted that Chicago has a bit of a left-hand-right-hand problem here. If their fair-use advice isn't enough evidence of liberality, the University of Chicago Press has one of the most enlightened green-OA policies out there (ignore the color designation and read the text; "yellow" is wholly unfair). So the Manual editors aren't just stabbing Shieber and other OA-friendly faculty in the back; they're gutting their own colleagues over in the journal division. Nice of them.

I don't entirely know what to do about these situations. Voice and protest, yes, certainly. I've exercised voice. Dr. Shieber obviously does. Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick has as well, quite skillfully. The fact remains, though, that the academy's print fetish gives that librarian career manual and certainly the Chicago Manual of Style an awful lot more weight than a few blogs can muster—and as we're seeing, the suppliers of the academy's print fetish tend to be quite a bit behinder-hand than even the academy itself.

I wasn't entirely kidding about the severance-package idea. I don't even mean it to be punitive. I'm just not sure how far forward we move (pace wonderful people like Mike Rossner and the Rockefeller crew) given current scholarly-press notions of leadership.

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