•How does humanity fund culture?
•Popular publishing: crowdfunding
•Library as publisher
FIRST... SOMETHING WE’VE LEARNED
•Money (especially post-creation sales) is an absolutely
TERRIBLE proxy for cultural value. Just wretched.
•We saw that with monographs (undervalued), serials (many
overvalued), news (undervalued and getting worse)...
•At this historical moment... we’re relying on “will sell =
good” much more than we probably should be.
•But it’s such an easy heuristic to use that it’s critically hard
to walk away from. Including in librarianship.
•The Open Web vs. The Library, anyone?
•I think we have to figure out how, though. You may disagree.
TAKE A MOMENT...
•You want to make your living writing popular fiction.
What are your options?
•You want to make a documentary, but you don’t have the
money. What are your options?
•You want to start a community choir. What are your
expenses, and what are your options?
•You want to build an archive and mini-museum for a local
celebrity. How do you keep it afloat financially?
YOU WILL FACE THESE QUESTIONS,
AND OTHERS LIKE THEM.
WE DON’T GET TO SKATE ANY MORE,
IF WE EVER DID.
And we owe it to the people whose stuff we work with
to consider these questions on their behalf as well!
OPTION: SELL SOMETHING
•The most obvious one, right? ... right?
•At this moment in time, yes... but it has not always been so.
Hold that thought!
•The “what” changes as technologies do.
•Late 19th/early 20th c.: sheet music was a big seller!
•Then along came the phonograph...
•... and after that various other generations of recording and
•... and now the Internet. Yes, people buy mp3s!
•We’ve spent most of the course talking about how this
plays out for various text-based artifacts.
RELATED OPTION: SELL SOMETHING
ON THE SIDE
•It’s not what journalism is “for” exactly, but it’s a saleable thing that has
allowed journalism that wouldn’t otherwise pay for itself to be done at
•Comic books ran on this in the 1980s.
•The variant-cover thing was absolutely a bubble, but the point remains.
•I’ve seen a pretty convincing argument that a LOT of trade/
popular nonfiction exists to advertise its authors for lucrative
OPTION: SELL AN EVENT
•Music, post-Napster: “they’ll make money touring.”
•Well. Maybe. Harsh life, though.
•How movie theatres stay in business?
OPTION: SOLICIT DONATIONS
•The public-radio, public-television model
•Which is starting to emerge in indie form, e.g. Patreon, Gittip
•The stock market! (“Going public”)
•Which brings its own set of constraints and issues, e.g. short-
term thinking, heavy reporting responsibilities, problematic
governance structures, ethics failures, looty management
•Part of what killed major newspapers? Homogenized broadcast
media? Homogenizing publishing?
OPTION: COLLECTIVE CULTURE
• We don’t just consume culture; we make it, too!
• And this doesn’t have to cost a lot; in fact, it’s historically been
self-supporting to an extent.
•Think about all those music scenes in movies set in the Regency era. There
was a reason music and art were considered “accomplishments” for ladies!
•Craft (of many kinds), storytelling, visual art, dance, ritual, poetry slams...
•Digitally: fanﬁc/fan art, supercuts, .gifs, blogging, Twitter ﬁction, etc.
• Libraryish things, too. Little Free Libraries? The Occupy libraries?
•But do libraries proper support collective culture? How? What about
•And I don’t need to say anything else about the current copyright regime’s
opinion of collective culture, do I?
•Rich people or organizations fund culture, for an audience
of those like them, or for others
•Classic (heh) example: Western European art music
•Library example: Andrew Carnegie!
•Governments, churches, individual philanthropists...
•Newspapers: classically family-owned in the US!
•Always assume there’s an agenda!
•And the agenda affects the culture produced.
•True in libraries and archives too. Like Wikipedia, we are not and
have never been politically or socially “neutral” organizations!
•Supposedly “charitable” or “progressive” agendas can hide a lot
of condescension, misunderstanding, and oppression.
•“Tell a man what he may not sing, and he is still half free;
even all free, if he never wanted to sing it. But tell him
what he must sing, take up his time with it so that his
true voice cannot sound even in secret—there, I have
seen, is slavery.”
•Mary Renault, The Praise Singer
•(Take a moment: examples?)
RELYING ON THE TAXPAYER
•How a lot of libraries and archives survive! One of the
only remaining ways to achieve ongoing support if
you’re not selling things.
•Though crowdfunding may gradually be changing this...
•Salutary for us to ask ourselves “what does it mean to
be a civic institution?”
•But also has its issues (e.g. “community standards”)
and conflicts (law vs. ethics)
BIG QUESTION FOR LIBRARIES:
DO WE OFFER PATRONAGE TOO?
SHOULD WE? IN WHAT FORMS?
LIBRARY PATRONAGE WE’VE SEEN
•Author talks (yes, really! think about it; it’s usually
indirect support, but it counts)
•Support here usually in-kind, but occasionally straight-up $$$.
If you ask me, I think that balance needs to tilt quite a bit more
in favor of straight-up $$$.
•Supporting community organizations in publishing and
SOMETHING TO NOTICE:
WHERE MONEY FOR PATRONAGE COMES FROM
•It’s almost NEVER the collections/acquisitions budget.
•Events/programs, IT, “gift funds,” whatever.
•But ask a collection developer for money for the cultural commons
and hear “talk to the hand.”
•What is this? Billions of dollars for Big Deals, not one cent
for open access?
•Well, yes. Lots of reasons. One is that our patrons are selﬁsh, also
stuck in library-as-wallet thinking. Scary and hard to budge them!
•Another is that for all the talk of change, the library that dies with
the biggest collection STILL wins.
•Go ye forth into the library world and FIX THIS, please.
•Leslie Chan: “1% solution”
OPTION: GRANTS FROM
•Extending patronage “beyond the grave”
•Or a governance mechanism for those with money
uninterested in doing the governing themselves
•Notorious problems: time-finite, high-overhead,
sometimes low-accountability, sometimes too-high or
THERE’S MORE THAN ONE WAY
TO DO IT.
WHAT IS CROWDFUNDING?
•Asking for up-front donations from many people toward
a defined project, product, or purpose.
•The Internet makes this a lot easier than it used to be, especially
•Until recently, similar to grants in that it’s one-time-only funding.
•Many crowdfunded projects involve some kind of
cultural production that never could have been funded
this way before!
•Issue brief coming; I won’t stomp on it.
WHAT IS CROWDFUNDING NOT?
•A magic bullet
•Just keeping track of all the premiums is tough!
•An automatic democratization of culture funding
•It helps, sure. The rich aren’t calling the whole tune!
•Doesn’t ﬁx that some people just plain have more disposable
income than others, and therefore have disproportionate
impact on what gets funded.
COULD LIBRARIES BE CROWDFUNDED?
CROWDFUND OTHER THINGS?
•A lot would depend on whether legal and policy structures permit it. I don’t
have any insight on this point; I don’t know libraries that have tried this!
•Also, there’s a danger: “they don’t need taxes; The Crowd will fund them!”
• Remember, this is usually project money, not ongoing money.
•You can’t easily fund (e.g.) permanent staff this way! It’s just like cobbling
• Could we use library money on crowdfunded projects?
•We’d have to check policy, again... but there’s that cultural issue, too.
•Librarians think of acquisitions as things bought for their speciﬁc patron
base. Many crowdfunded projects (not all, as some produce saleable
objects, but many) wind up with open results.
•So, are librarians ready/willing to fund open? Under what circumstances?
With what consultation with patrons?
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WITH MONEY
IN THIS SYSTEM?
•Individual purchasers of books and journals
•Scholarly-society wrinkle: society journal as membership perq
•Universities themselves (distinct from their libraries)
HOW WE’VE BEEN DOING IT
•We buy physical things.
•This used to be the entirety of what we did in this system!
•We lease access to electronic things.
•Note that there’s a huge implicit subsidy of the system
here! There’s money! We, yes WE, have money!
•We could theoretically use this money to shift the
system. As discussed... we largely haven’t.
HOW CAN OA BE PAID FOR?
•Depends on color, to an extent.
•Running repositories, institutional or disciplinary (arXiv is run by
Cornell University Library, with money from many libraries).
Funders can do this, too, and have (e.g. PubMed Central).
•Remember the university-press trap! Depending solely on your
host institution for subsidies means you die if they yank funding.
•DO NOT BE AN IDIOT ABOUT COSTS. Running a repository is
not “free.” It’s not even cheap; repos that cheap out fail.
•Staff and technology cost. Content recruitment especially costs!
(And a mandate is not a silver bullet here!)
•In open-data circles, there’s some venture capital sloshing
around. We’ll see how that plays out; I’m not sanguine.
PAYING FOR GOLD
•e.g. library-based journal hosting services
•DO NOT BE AN IDIOT ABOUT COSTS and workﬂows. Some
faculty know how to do a shoestring journal. Most don’t, and
they’ll look to a library service to do or subsidize such things as
editing and typesetting/ﬁle conversion.
•Often paid by research funder rather than author
•Some libraries have author-side fee funds for gold OA. (Again,
these are almost never from the actual materials budget! At UW-
Madison they were from unrestricted gift funds.)
•Still a great deal of faculty concern about “vanity publishing,”
publishing only available to wealthy scholars.
A THING I HEARD ONCE
•Virulently anti-OA publisher representative
•“We’ll follow the money,” he said. “If the money moves
to OA, so will we.”
•Insofar as libraries are not moving money to OA, we are
complicit in the toll-access system.
•Maybe we’re okay with that (many of us are!), maybe we’re
not. We don’t get to look away from it, however.
BEATING THE PRESTIGE GAME
•Every time I see a librarian or LibGuide that reinforces
Journal Impact Factor, I want to cry.
•We know the system is dysfunctional; why advertise it?
•Insofar as we direct faculty and student eyeballs, why
do we not direct them to OA?
•(Cultural reason we don’t: professional heuristics for “quality”
materials that privilege materials libraries pay for.)
•Some savvy academic libraries have discovered that adding OA
searching to ILL workﬂows can save time and money.
•Eating our own dog food
•Refusing to be silent. Or silenced.
WHAT IS CROWDSOURCING?
•Humans and computers differ in the tasks they’re good at.
•Some large-scale tasks can’t be done by computers, but
are too vast to be done by one or a few human beings.
•These kinds of tasks are good crowdsourcing candidates.
•Classifying galaxies (GalaxyZoo)
•Transcribing handwritten manuscripts (many, many projects, some
of them library-based)
•Making an encyclopedia!
•Because the work can’t get done any other way
•Because all of us are smarter than any of us
•We see this in libraries/archives with metadata crowdsourcing,
crowdsourced current-history collecting online.
•To ENGAGE PEOPLE and COMMUNITIES in the work you do.
•Yes, crowdsourcing is an outreach tool!
WHY NOT CROWDSOURCE?
•If you’re just thinking “woo! free labor!” please stop.
•That’s exploitation, and exploitation is not cool.
•Figure out what you’re giving back, not just what you’re getting.
•Not to mention that volunteer-herding is real work!
•Because you have a driving need to be The Expert
•Honestly, this is what stops a lot of libraries and archives from
crowdsourcing: a sense that Only We Can Possibly Do It Right.
•I have zero patience for this. It is condescending nonsense.
•Trolls, spammers, griefers can be worked around; don’t let that
LIBRARIES AS PUBLISHERS
one form of the “makerspace” movement
WHO’S DOING THIS?
•Journal-hosting services (though to be honest, a lot of these are
half-assed and unsupported)
•Library imprints (e.g. Parallel Press here, UNebraska)
•Repository-as-“publisher” (usually of gray literature)
•“Micropublishing” (local-interest publishing)
•large ones may have publishing imprints of their own
WHY ARE WE DOING IT?
•Because other libraries are, or some pundit told them
they had to
•This is the worst reason ever to do anything! Lemming services
rarely work out well. No ﬁre in anybody’s belly!
•To diversify the world of published information
•On any number of fronts! This is partly a social-justice issue.
Libraries have historically smoothed out differential access to
information; can we now smooth out differential access to
making oneself heard?
•To fix perceived problems in current publishing systems
•To serve one or more demonstrable patron needs
HOW DOES THIS CHANGE LIBRARIES?
•Historically, we have facilitated information
consumption. What people made or did with that
information was largely outside our purview.
•Dilution of our assessment/QA function?
•We’re used to buying stuff, for our patrons specifically.
Can we become collective actors, buying for the entire
•The alternative, as we’ve seen, is free-riding.
I AMAR PRESTAR AEN.
BUT WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD, TOO.
AND CHANGE WITH IT.
•This presentation is available under a Creative
Commons Attribution United States 4.0 license.
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