Since I was a child begging my mother to take me to the library on a daily basis, I have appreciated the designated keepers of books. Conducting research as a student made me even more aware of the specialized jobs that academic librarians and archivists do every day to make life easier for people like me.
Partly because of that background, Meredith Farkas’ recent post struck a nerve. This particular sentence caught my eye:
We need to go back to a model where scholarly publishing is about providing access to scholarship . . .
It reminded me of a conversation that I had with an archivist earlier this year. This individual argued that the turf wars between academics (history professors such as myself) and archivists harmed the scholarly pursuit. Archives need to be open and accessible to the public, which was one of my rallying cries earlier this year about the Tennessee State Library and Archives. At the same time, academics do not possess a proprietary right to sources that they are using. For example, if a family genealogist is using a source at an archive that I need for my academic research, or if an archive has restricted access to a collection, it is not my right to demand that my research takes priority or that the rules don’t apply to me. (You laugh, but I’ve seen both happen.)
It’s also a shame that academics sometimes view library and archival staff as people to do their bidding instead of partners in scholarship. Believe me, library and archival staff have helped me immensely over the years, identifying sources that might be useful, finding extra funding for books that I needed for upcoming courses, and ordering obscure interlibrary loan requests. Without them, I would never have finished my undergraduate degree, graduate school, or my first book, nor would my students have had the access that they needed to do the work required.
So, for all of you librarians and archivists who’ve helped me and others over the years, thank you. You don’t get enough credit (or pay) for what you do.