Magazine article Information Today

Censorship: You've Got to Love It

Magazine article Information Today

Censorship: You've Got to Love It

Article excerpt

It goes by other names of course, such as quality control, filtering, relevance ranking, and acquisition policies. But every time a controversial issue emerges or a non-player seeks to join the game, the hurdles and obstacles that arise could evoke the charge of censorship. These days, however, no one who can walk and chew digital gum could fail to find some way of getting their content onto the biggest information delivery service of all time, i.e., the internet and its web. It's not that they won't be online; it's where they'll be online.

Will Google find them? Probably yes. But will Google push their content to page one of the 1,358,472 million search results displayed? Probably not. And if it's scholarship you're looking for (round one of the censorship/quality game), you better pop up in Google Scholar or Google Books.

Librarians have long boasted of their role in fighting censorship. Soldiers of ALA, unite! However, even their effectiveness in this struggle may rely in part on their vigorous censorship activities. Librarians do not buy junk--at least, not unless they're forced to by a tax base formed entirely of trash devotees. Even when they do buy what they consider beneath contempt, it will probably be the best trash out there. Librarians are proud of their commitment and skills in identifying and acquiring the good stuff. That is probably why people listen to them when they defend challenged content. One way or another, the vendors with whom they deal had better follow the same goals.

Unfortunately, these days the traditional criteria for quality judgments, for defining what needs the protection and preservation offered by libraries, are starting to waver. The open access (OA) movement--as splendid as it is and as beloved to librarians suffering from predatory serial publisher prices--has some problems. Publishers supporting gold versions of OA publications, step by slow step (1% more a year as cited in a recent interview with an Elsevier executive), will supply a permanent home for content. Green OA leaves the job to the authors and their institutions. The latter seems much more reliably open, but the former seems more reliably complete. Either way, a ton of information will remain unavailable to some or all.

But at least we know where the best stuff will appear. Or do we? A Dec. 9, 2013, article in The Guardian (theguardian.com/commentisfree/ 2013/dec/09/how-journals-nature-science-celldamage-science) announced that Nobel Prize winner Randy Schekman had denounced super-prestigious journals such as Nature, Cell, and Science and boycotted sending his laboratory's work to these outlets. …

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