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November 2001


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Don Rittner <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 15 Nov 2001 21:39:43 -0500
text/plain (62 lines)
That is the question..

This question should raise some debate.  I noticed an increase in historical
societies and other collection houses starting to charge for use of their
materials.  That includes looking things up, entrance fees, and charges for
using items like photos.

I have two peeves with this, well, maybe more than two...

I understand the need for non profits to make money (I have run a few of
them) but if an organization gets state or federal or local subsidies for
paid staff, should they charge - if you can do the research without needing
assistance, OR if the archivist or librarian is paid?

Point One.  If it is a library or center where you can grab the book off the
shelf, go to a copier and make the copy (paying whatever copy charge),
should you pay extra for the "use" of that item.

Point Two.  If it is a photo, AND you bring in your own laptop and scanner
and scan it in yourself, should you have to pay a "Use" charge?

Question?  There seems to be this move by organizations that believe by
charging the researcher substantial costs for the "use" of the item (photo
publication, etc.), they will add to their budgets.

Problem with this?  Anyone who has published a book knows it ain't the
author who makes the money - it's the publisher.  Since most publishers will
NOT pay for dup rights, it must come out of the author's pocket, or simply
is not used.

Problem #2.  By charging an entrance fee, dup fee, permission fee, etc., it
discourages the use of the material, and B, only allows those who can
"afford" to do research access.  Kiss it goodbye to students, seniors,
starving authors, etc.

When I was working on one of my recent books, one unnamed archive wanted me
to pay $65 for a copy of the photo (I could have scanned it), $65 for
permission to use it, and depending on how many books the publisher was
going to print, a publication charge that ranged from $100 to several
thousand.  Naturally, the photo is still sitting in its acid free envelope.
I'm sure someday it will be published by some one who can afford it.

Problem Three.  If I were a large collector of historic items, would I leave
it to any historic organization that would charge for using it considering
my belief system? No. However, when material was donated to an organization
with the belief that the purpose would be for public use, is it allowable
now to charge for it after the donor has gone to that archive in the sky?

I was always under the impression that the reason why collections were
"collected" was so the information could be "shared" and used for research
education, etc., not as a source of revenue. Is my head still in the 60's,
or what?

Am I being too naive here? or just out of sync with the times?  I know many
organizations are having tough economic times but it seems to me that this
move will only drive people away rather than encourage a visit. I have
already checked off a couple local places that I simply can no loner visit.
If I had to pay for access to every place I use for research I simply could
not afford to do it.  (Thank the stars for the State archives).