Homo Loquax

by Frank Paynter on May 25, 2006

Today Doc Searls sent me a URL for the 35th Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, delivered by author Tom Wolfe last week.

So begins a May 16 post on the Krugle blog by Chris Locke. I’ve admitted shame-facedly that I don’t use an aggregator. Even if I did, how could I possibly read everything of interest? I’m pleased to have run across this gem less than two weeks after Chris posted it, less than three weeks after the incomparable Tom Wolfe made his speech (even though it shows that I have been absent from the world live web and out of the conversation and so forth. Life ain’t no ice scream stand so don’t ’spect no scoop).

Chris’ post spins a tangent from the Wolfe speech, a tangent that vectors in on the topic of open access to refereed science publications. A few years ago, as a consultant engaged by the president of an East Coast land grant university, I ran across the bizarre electronic serials acquisition expense structure that prevented researchers at the University from sharing journals online through the University library that were acquired for their colleagues at a private lab, and vice versa. My sense of this was that the publishers had a profitable lock on what is essentially a niche market. I was familiar with software licensing schemes that are just as limiting and just as bizarre. The status aspects of library accessions hadn’t occurred to me until I read Wolfe’s piece, but now the importance of the leveling aspect of open access has been made quite clear!

And this clarity came to me through the linkage made by blogger Locke, the linkage to an open access publication, a scientific paper published in a manner that sets the entire status structure of scientific accessions librarians and their patrons on its ear. This may be way short of an epiphany, but it is a pleasant gestalt: the assemblage of Locke’s insights regarding open access publications, Wolfe’s status thing, and my own modest experience with a consummately bureacratic queen bee of a librarian and the scientist drones who fed her ego.

I had hoped my big “take-away’ from Wolfe’s address would be a good book. He touts Born Fighting by James Webb. So I went to Amazon, and after reading a little about the book, I’ve decided a novel about an old man with daughters and an elephant and a grove of ripening lula avocados will be more to my taste.

…and so to bed.

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