Current Cites

June 2014

Edited by Roy Tennant

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Peter Hirtle, Leo Robert Klein, Nancy Nyland, Roy Tennant

Bergstrom, Theodore C., Paul N.  Courant, and R. Preston  McAfee, et. al."Evaluating Big Deal Journal BundlesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America  (16 June 2014)( - Using Freedom of Information Act requests, the authors gathered data about "big deal" contracts with state-funded libraries. Normally, these contracts are kept secret by nondisclosure clauses. Consequently, this paper is an important glimpse into a major collection development activity that publishers have shrouded in secrecy. A key finding is the magnitude of the difference between the bundle costs of commercial and noncommercial publishers. For example, "Elsevier's prices per citation are nearly 3 times those charged by the nonprofits, whereas Emerald, Sage, and Taylor&Francis have prices per citation that are roughly 10 times those of the nonprofits." Another is the differential pricing of bundles for Master's, Research 1, and Research 2 institutions. For example, Emerald's 2009 bundle cost per citation for a Master's level institution was $1.89, but for a Research 1 institution it was $6.94. Bargaining also had a significant impact on costs: in 2009, the University of Georgia paid around $1.9 million for Elsevier's Freedom package; however, the University of Wisconsin only paid around $1.2 million. Fortunately, the data shows a decline in full-list big deal contracts in ARL libraries between 2006 and 2012. Given this paper's revelations, it's no mystery why publishers want big deal contracts to be secret. Here's your opportunity to see how scholarly publishing in the 21st century really works. - CB

Craig, David J. "The Ghost FilesColumbia Magazine  (Winter 2013-14)( - A fascinating story about how a Columbia University history professor and colleagues are using data mining techniques to determine what documents exist but are not yet unclassified. Dubbed the "Declassification Engine," software techniques can use such clues as an uptick in a government official's phone records to indicate an event that occurred but for which no public documents exist to prove it. The professor believes that the same techniques he has pioneered might be used by the government to automatically censor and declassify the millions of documents that come up each year to be declassified -- a chore that increasingly seems overly difficult. - RT

Hollands, Fiona M., and Devayani  Tirthali. MOOCs: Expectations and Reality  New York: Columbia University: Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education, May 2014.( - If you are in higher education you are likely very tired of the hype around MOOCs -- Massively Open Online Courses. Certainly we have been paying attention to this trend here at Current Cites. Going well behind the hype, this rather massive report (over 200 pages) from the Center of Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia University takes a very clear-eyed view of the impact of MOOCs on higher education and on the educational environment more broadly. There is too much to summarize, but this quote from the Executive Summary may serve: "Whether MOOCs as they currently stand persist into the future is certainly debatable, but there is no doubt that online and hybrid learning is here to stay and that MOOCs have catalyzed a shift in stance by some of the most strongly branded institutions in the United States and abroad...We ourselves expect that MOOCs or their derivatives will continue to play a role in the continuing education of working professionals, in experimentation with various types of blended or hybrid delivery models on-campus, and in efforts to help struggling students find low-risk options to build skills that allow them to test out of developmental education courses." - RT

Kassabian, Deke. "The Value of MOOCs to Early Adopter UniversitiesEDUCAUSE Review Online  (May-June 2014)( - Interesting perspective on the current state of MOOCs. We have an environment, as described by the author, that has moved from early 'exuberance' to current 'skepticism'. Even the goals and expectations are different, particularly as portrayed in the press versus academics who the author has interviewed from three early-adopter, 'elite' institutions, Columbia, Duke, and Harvard. Indeed, the ultimate beneficiaries of all the hoopla may simply be traditional instruction whether online or in the classroom. - LRK

Mannapperuma, Menesha A., Brianna L.  Schofield, and Andrea K.  Yankovsky, et. al.Is it in the Public Domain?  Berkeley, CA: Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, 27 May 2014.( - The purpose of this new publication from the Samuelson Clinic at UC Berkeley is aptly summarized in the subtitle: "A handbook for evaluating the copyright status of a work created in the United States between January 1, 1923 and December 31, 1977." Many works from this period are in the public domain, but mastering the rules that can tell you with some certainty whether any individual title has entered the public domain is difficult. The handbook is easy to understand with useful flowcharts and highlighted "Tips," "Traps," and "Special Cases" scattered throughout the text. - PH

Marcum, Deanna, and Roger C.  Schonfeld. Driving with Data: A Roadmap for Evidence-Based Decision Making in Libraries  New York, NY: Ithaka S+R, 2014.( - As the speed and capabilities of our technology tools increase, libraries can count inputs and uses faster, as well as analyze them with more sophisticated methods. The authors suggest that we collect ever more finely grained categories of data, such as traffic source or user type, where possible. But there is no point in collecting data unless it is both relevant and useful to decision makers. For decision-making purposes, library stakeholders must be identified, remembering that "the stakeholders are almost always outside the library." (p. 5) This Ithaka issue brief covers multiple crucial considerations for assessing information technology and other library services. The final page, a summary of six critical points, should be posted above every assessment librarian's desk as a daily reminder. - NN