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Re: Web Page

At  2:44 pm 12/19/1995 -0500, Judith B. Kerman wrote:

>I'd like people's thoughts about the question of small presses and such
>being listed on university homepages.  The president of my university sees
>this as all commercial, and therefore inappropriate (but he's worried
>about the thing getting out of hand, and it already has...!) It seems
>clear to me that the line between supporting the arts and providing a
>forum for independent "commercial" interests is hard to draw in the area
>of literary small press, book arts, etc.  What do other people think? (I
>may pass on some of your thoughts to the president.  (I've already pulled
>my press homepage off our resources and put them on CRIS, so this is
>largely theoretical for me...)

Should libraries take the American Book Trade Directory, Books in Print,
the Literary Marketplace, and the Small Press Record of Books in Print off
their shelves? Should a history of a press produced by the press for
promotional reasons be banned from the library? Should a library excise
advertisements from its periodicals? Should library staff refuse to allow
students and faculty to consult publishers' catalogs in the acquisitions
office as a matter of principle?

At one school with which I am well familiar, administrators have raised
questions about the library providing links to (1) other educational
institutions (even within the same consortium), which represent the
competition; (2) personal homepages (even of its own faculty), which could
from time to time turn out to be embarrassing for the institution and where
the legal terrain is as yet far from mapped; and (3) politically incorrect
sites. Where will it all end?

The argument I give is that links provided by the library should
approximately correspond to the library's collection development policy. In
other words, if that sort of information is within scope for the library,
that link is appropriate for the library to make. (The same with respect to
any other department of the school.) If the Net allows more types of
information within scope to be gathered, all the better. Stands that
institutions of higher education have taken against censorship, for
academic freedom, and in favor of information gathering for academic
purposes should apply to institutional interaction with the Net.

One thing is for sure: The mission of an academic institution is academics,
not public relations. The tail should never be allowed to wag the dog. You
should feel fortunate that the debate in your institution is over
idealistic principles.

I wonder, though, why the quibbling, when some of the nation's most
prestigious universities are making mega deals with genetic engineering
firms; allow recruiting by businesses on their campuses; are shameless
about accepting computer equipment that is donated with the idea of
increasing market share; are talking increasingly, for financial reasons,
about proprietary rights over academic information held uniquely at or
generated at those institutions; and . . . well, the list goes on and on
and on.

To draw a focus on the issue of commercial sites: Some businesses are
responsible Net citizens, making a serious contribution to the Net
community.  The categorical imperative of netiquette, according to Eric
Braun in The Internet Directory (1994), is not to treat "people as means to
your ends," but "to give as much as you receive." Commercial sites that
follow the categorical imperative can wonderfully enrich a university's
links. Most of those that don't follow it and that use the Net primarily
for self-promotion are not worth the links anyway.

As far as small presses go, their lists taken cumulatively are an important
contribution that can serve a host of academic purposes. I can see every
reason to make links to them, provided that they serve an academic purpose
for your institution, be it so mundane as answering reference questions for
people trying to identify out-of-the-way titles by particular authors.

-- Norman E. Anderson

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