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November 2001


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Wayne Miller <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 24 Nov 2001 00:53:09 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (61 lines)
Dear Don,
You are right and you are wrong. Sorry to sound like Vonnegut, but I, too,
have my head in the sixties. Maybe you can blame Reagan. Or maybe he was
only the messenger. But in my mind, the rush toward 'fee for services' was
spurred by two of his policies: vastly increasing the cost of federal
publications and services; and slashing public monies channelled to
cultural institutions while at the same time making it less attractive for
private individuals to donate to those same institutions.

As a user of libraries and archives, I find fees offensive. As manager of
a library/archive, I find them increasingly necessary. The very name says
it all: not for profit corporation. First, it is a business. Even if it is
a government agency, the ubiquitous ogre accountability is omnipresent.
Oh, I don't have a problem with the concept. But the practice is often, as
Dave Letterman might say, "A network timewaster." But I digress. A
business must take in at least enough money to cover expenses or it ceases
to exist. Any 'profit' by definition will be used to improve the
organization by, say, putting on a new roof, or upgrading the HVAC system,
or purchasing acid free containers for material storage.

You talk about 'paid professionals' and I am one of those. We are as
endangered as the materials we care for and provide access to. My position
is half time. My predessessor was full time. Twenty years ago our archive
had as many as four full time people working in it. We don't charge for
using materials on site, but if you want to publish materials in which we
may have a copyright intrest we want to have a say in how that material is
used. If it is for profit, then why should we not share in those profits?
And we don't want you scanning materials because we lose control of
subsequent uses of materials that belong to our archive. This may seem
petty, and in reality all we usually ask for is a credit line and a copy
of the finished work (we have almost no money for acquisions and this is a
way to build our collection), but as a department of a library that is
part of a larger institution (a college) that has been told by the State
to pay our own freight, the first mission of our archive is to support the
goals of the college. It is only because 'Community support' is one of our
strategic initiatives that we continue to exist.

And you cite the poverty of students. Do students not pay tuition, buy
scanners and laptops, travel to archives? Is it right for them to use the
services of educated professionals and unique or rare materials without
helping provide some funding so that the archives, too, can afford to
purchase equipment and travel to obtain in-service education to stay

Well, I've gone on for too long. And this is not a new conversation (Tom
Perrin and I followed a thread a couple of years ago). And as I said
before, I'm of two minds about this issue. I just wanted to give you, "The
rest of the story."

Wayne Miller

Wayne L. Miller                         Special Collections Librarian
Feinberg Library                        2 Draper Avenue
518-564-5206                            Plattsburgh, NY 12901
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        "I wonder what will happen today!"  -Maggie Muggins-
"Not even God can change history...which is why he tolerates historians."