University of Toronto Faculty Association Letter to Rector Beauvais

Please see the letter sent from UTFA to Chantal Beauvais, Rector at St. Paul University. Scott Prudham, President of UTFA writes,

…I do feel obligated to remind you that academic staff – including librarians – are integral to the teaching and research missions of any university. In order to undertake their professional work in the university, and to further human understanding more broadly, academic staff require academic freedom, including the genuine security that permanent status and tenure provide. Security for academic staff in a university must be upheld and never trivialized in the face of
budgetary concerns no matter how severe those concerns may be. Moreover, in the unlikely event that terminations are the only way to address whatever fiscal problems your institution is encountering, collegial deliberations rather than unilateral decisions are warranted.

Thanks to UTFA for its support in this serious matter.

Pledge to the Library Community by Rory Litwin of Library Juice Press

In answer to the Mellen Press scandal, Litwin Books has formulated the following “Pledge to the Library Community”:

As an academic publisher, we understand our role in the information ecology, and respect the roles of academics and librarians in the same ecological system. To clarify our understanding of our place in that system, we offer the following pledge to the library community:

1. We recognize the free speech rights of librarians, and respect the fact that criticizing a publisher is sometimes part of a librarian’s professional duty. We will not sue librarians for criticizing us.

2. We will attempt to make money by selling books, not by charging authors fees to publish.

3. We will price our titles reasonably, so that individuals as well as institutions can afford to buy them.

4. We will always use acid-free, sustainably-sourced paper.

5. Our books will include bibliographic references and indexes where appropriate.

6. Contributors of chapters in edited volumes will maintain all their rights (the rights we license from them will be non-exclusive).

7. We pledge to balance timeliness, quality, and “timelessness” in our choice of book projects and our processes for bringing them to publication.

8. We pledge to make our full backlist available as DRM-free PDF files to personal and institutional members of Library Juice.

9. We will explore e-book publishing models with a creative approach and an effort to respond to the new logics of changing media, with the interests of scholars and librarians in mind.

This statement on the web:

Rory Litwin
P.O. Box 188784
Sacramento, CA 95818
Tel. 218-260-6115

Petition to Support Dale Askey


If you have not already done so, please sign the petition in support of Dale Askey. The remaining lawsuit against him is still forging ahead. Simply put, Dale Askey, who made a professional remark about Edwin Mellen Press on his personal blog while working at Kansas State University, is being sued for stating that Edwin Mellen Press publishes books of dubious quality.

I don’t need to remind you that part of a librarian’s daily tasks is to evaluate the information that we acquire for our libraries. Professional opinions are central to making good decisions. Dale’s opinion was based on results of a survey that he conducted where Mellen came out at the bottom in a ranking of academic publishers in the field of philosophy. The survey was public and I understand that several academic also participated in it. In other words, Dale was communicating the community’s findings regarding the press.

I hope that more signatures on the petition will discourage the publisher from pursuing this lawsuit against our colleague. Please sign:


LAC’s “Values and Ethics” Powerpoint Leaked

With thanks to Myron Groover of Bibliocracy.

See the powerpoint presentation here that was used as part of LAC’s new “code of conduct” for employees which has been in effect since January 2013. For more information, see Myron’s post “LAC Code of Conduct: First Look” and the article at Canada’s federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled.’

Here is the Code of Conduct.

ARL-CARL Joint Statement in Support of Dale Askey and McMaster University

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) share a commitment to freedom of opinion and expression of ideas and are strongly opposed to any effort to intimidate individuals in order to suppress information or censor ideas. We further share the belief that a librarian must be able to offer his or her assessment of a publisher’s products or practices free from such intimidation.

Consequently, we are highly supportive of Dale Askey and of McMaster University as they confront the lawsuit brought against them by Edwin Mellen Press. We strongly disapprove of the aggressive use of the Canadian court system to threaten Mr. Askey with millions of dollars in liability over the contents of a blog post. We urge Edwin Mellen Press to withdraw this suit and use more constructive means to address its reputation.

“No academic librarian, research library, or university should face a multi-million dollar lawsuit because of a candid discussion of the publications or practices of an academic publisher,” said Brent Roe, Executive Director of CARL. “The exaggerated action of Edwin Mellen Press could only impose a chill on academic and research librarians’ expression of frank professional judgments.”

“Unfortunately, this is just the latest publisher that has chosen to pursue costly and wasteful litigation against universities and librarians,” said Elliott Shore, Executive Director of ARL. “These hostile tactics highlight the need for people who share the core values of research libraries to embrace models of publishing that foster—rather than hinder—research, teaching, and learning.”

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) provides leadership on behalf of Canada’s research libraries and enhances their capacity to advance research and higher education. It promotes effective and sustainable scholarly communication, and public policy that enables broad access to scholarly information. Its members include the 29 major academic research libraries across Canada. CARL is on the web at

Together, ARL and CARL represent 136 research libraries in the United States and Canada.

APUO roundup for February

APUO librarians take note:

– The General Assembly is on Feb. 14th on the 12th floor of Desmarais. Everyone come and vote on the proposals that the Collective Bargaining Committee prepared for negotiations.

– APUO’s first even curling event is on Feb. 17th at the Royal Navy Curling Club, 3:00 – 5:30. Free for APUO members, including parking, pizza and instruction for beginners.

– Negotiations are beginning at the end of this month. Stay informed about negotiations!


Our colleague, AUL at McMaster University (yes, McMaster again) is being sued for $3 million for criticizing Edward Mellen Press. Read about it.


Is the Future of Academic Status at the University of Toronto Being Questioned?

St. Mike’s administrators have offered monetary remuneration on the condition that faculty and librarians at the college give up academic status, their tenure and permanent status in their first negotiations to secure a collective agreement. We have seen academic status threatened south of the border now we are seeing it at one of the University of Toronto’s affiliated colleges. As St. Mike’s college is a member of the University’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences, even though they have a semi-autonomous status, this has raised many questions in the community. Tenure ensures academic freedom which is essential to an atmosphere conducive to the free search for truth and the attainment of excellence in the University. On Oct. 8, less than a week, faculty and librarians will be in a lockout or strike situation simply because they will not be bought and give up their belief that tenure and permanent status is a core component of teaching and research at a publicly-funded, academic institution. We urge the community to become informed and realize that what is happening at St. Mike’s could just as easily happen in another sector of our community. We can say it doesn’t involve us, close eyes and forget it is happening – but can we really do that? Are these not the values we uphold as academic librarians?

Boycott of publishing giant Elsevier gathers pace

Reprinted from the Varsity, Sept. 10, 2012
Over 12,000 academics, including 55 from the University of Toronto, have signed a petition to boycott Elsevier, a leading academic publisher in the scientific, technical and medical realms. The Dutch corporation has come under fire in recent months for its controversial business model, sky-high prices, and lobbying efforts to restrict academic freedom.

“Elsevier is based on a business model in which academics do almost all the work for free,” explains Dr. Rachel Barney, a philosophy professor at U of T.

Academic publishers like Elsevier do not pay the academics and researchers who submit papers for publication, nor those who peer-review the papers to ensure their accuracy. Much of the research in papers published in journals distributed by Elsevier is funded by taxpayer dollars, enabling the company to keep expenses low.

Elsevier sells these journals back to public institutions like the University of Toronto for tens of thousands of dollars, frequently bundling together different journals to justify raising the sticker price.

Under this arrangement, Elsevier reaped profits of approximately $12 billion in 2010, a 36 per cent profit margin that is almost unheard of in the publishing industry.

“We’ve been talking about the astronomical journal price increases for quite a long time,” said Caitlin Tillman, head of collection development for the University of Toronto’s library system. “What’s interesting about this Elsevier boycott is that it comes from the faculty, and not the libraries.”

The boycott began with Cambridge professor Timothy Gowers. In a January 2012 blog post, Gowers vowed that he would not publish, peer review, or serve on the editorial boards of any of the over 2,600 journals Elsevier publishes.

In an official statement released in response to the boycott, Elsevier explains that they do not force libraries to purchase their journals. But librarians say that the journals are so prohibitively priced when purchased individually that they have no choice but to buy in bundles.

“They’ll bundle five or 10 together so that if you want one, you need to buy the whole set,” said Julie Hannaford, Associate Librarian for the Social Sciences and Humanities at U of T.

Journal prices have been rising for over 25 years, says Tillman, adding, “I would say the average price increase was four to five per cent.”

U of T’s libraries receive a yearly two per cent funding increase to cover inflation costs. But the price of journal subscriptions, particularly in science, technology and medicine, have outpaced this allowance, rising by around seven to nine per cent every year explains Tillman.

As a result, journals eat up more of libraries’ budgets, both at U of T and abroad. One survey found that in Britain, school libraries were spending an average of 65 per cent on subscriptions alone.

Last year, the University of Toronto cut all of its print subscriptions to journals that offered digital subscriptions. Tillman warns that “sooner rather then later” the library will have to make cuts that effect content.

Some suggest that part of the problem is the broader structure of academia. In some fields, a publish-or-die mentality has allowed publishers such as Elsevier to entrench their position. Publication credits in certain reputable journals are a key metric for hiring and promoting professors, and it increasingly serves in admissions processes to competitive research programs. Elsevier publishes some of the largest and most well-known journals including The Lancetseries of journals.

“This has very little to do with academic publishing,” says James Romanow, co-chair of Access Copyright “All they’ve got to do is stop subscribing and stop using [journal articles] as a metric for hiring and promotion.”

Elsevier is one of the three large commercial publishers in the industry, which together account for approximately 42 per cent of the academic journals printed worldwide. By limiting their boycott to Elsevier, academics can register their objections, while retaining the opportunity to publish their work elsewhere.

“Pretty much across the board Elsevier is the most expensive” says Tillman. She stresses that large academic publishers strictly enforce confidentially agreements, so it is difficult to know for sure.



A growing sense of frustration with Elsevier was further cemented when the company last year announced its support for controversial American copyright laws including the Stop Online Piracy Act, the Personal Information Protection Act and the Research Works Act.

Elsevier lobbied heavily in favour of the Research Works Act, which would have restricted open access for federally funded academic research in the United States.

If the bill had become law, academics would no longer have been allowed to share their own work publicly on personal websites or in an email to friends or colleagues. Publishers would have been granted complete control over anything printed in their publications. Elsevier withdrew its support for the measure in February of this year.

Steve Easterbrook, a computer science professor at U of T and a signatory on the petition, says he joined the boycott because of rising costs and bundling practices, but “above all [because of] their attempts to restrict open access journals.”

“When I publish something, it’s because I believe it’s worth sharing. I want anyone who wants to read my work to be able to read my work,” says Easterbrook. Easterbrook now publishes his work on his own website under a creative commons license, as well as through traditional print publications.



Open access efforts such as Easterbrook’s are on the rise worldwide. At U of T, a self-archiving system called T-space allows academics to make their work available online.

Others have taken matters into their own hands, creating not-for-profit journals that anyone can access and read.

In 2006, the entire editorial board of Topology, an Elsevier-owned mathematics journal, resigned in protest. The next day, the same board members formed a not-for- profit journal called Journal of Topology, which continues to publish today.

Cases like the Topology resignation are rare, but for many, they represent some hope for the future. Still, these open access journals are not a perfect solution. “Some of these journals have no status, because they’re putting up unreferreed work,” cautions Romanow.

The open access movement is also beginning to receive some legislative support. The European Commission announced this summer that all research published from 2014 through 2020 that is funded by the Commission’s more than $100 billion in grants must be made freely and openly accessible.

The commission’s decision followed on the heels of an announcement in the UK, committing to making publicly funded research freely available by 2014.

Despite advancements in open access, the problem of cost remains. In April, the Library Advisory Committee of Harvard University, the most affluent post-secondary institution in the world, published a report calling the rising price of journals “fiscally unsustainable” and “academically restrictive.” According to the report, Harvard spends $3.5 million annually on subscriptions to corporate publishers like Elsevier.

Elsevier claims their business model makes it possible for researchers “to have their work efficiently reviewed, enhanced, validated, recognized, discovered and made highly accessible.” But as library budgets tighten and the boycott gathers steam, Elsevier’s grip on the world of academic publishing grows looser each day.

Commissioner sides with University of Ottawa professor in privacy battle

By Andrew Duffy, The Ottawa  CitizenJune 10, 2012
OTTAWA — Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner has ruled that the  expense reports of a University of Ottawa law professor are protected by the  critically important concept of academic freedom.

In a ruling made public Friday, Commissioner Ann Cavoukian upheld the  university’s decision to withhold the research-related expense records of  professor Amir Attaran.

The records had been requested by an unnamed individual, known only as John  Doe.

The same individual has filed a series of requests for information related to  Attaran, a high-profile critic of the Conservative government’s Afghan detainee  policy. Attaran has relied on the federal access to information law to gain  access to documents that describe Canada’s treatment of detainees.

Cavoukian’s order — she was ruling on an appeal launched by John Doe — offers  a staunch defence of academic freedom.

The principle, she said, ensures that universities can engage in research  without interference by a disapproving government or public.

“Academic freedom is a critical underpinning of our institutions of higher  learning,” Cavoukian wrote. “It is a value that I’m delighted to be able to  uphold.”

Cavoukian said she did not have to review Attaran’s expense reports  themselves — they were sent to her in a sealed envelope — in order to make her  ruling. She relied instead on a description of the documents.

The commissioner, however, maintained that she had the jurisdiction to consider the appeal and examine the records if she felt it necessary.

The ruling ends a dispute that had caused friction between Attaran and  university administrators about how best to defend against what the law  professor considered to be politically motivated requests for information about  him.

He wanted administrators to challenge the commissioner’s jurisdiction to  consider the appeal.

In an interview Friday, Attaran said he was satisfied with the outcome even if the legal question of Cavoukian’s jurisdiction remains untested.

“This is an important step,” he said. “In terms of finding that the documents are lawfully shielded from disclosure, that’s exactly what I wanted and that’s  exactly correct.”

In its submission, the university said its researchers are protected by a “broad exclusion” from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy  Act.

Narrowing that exclusion would impede their work, the university argued,  since it could expose research to publicity before it’s complete.

U of O has received 20 freedom of information requests related to Attaran’s  research and school affairs, all from the same person.

A handful of requests seek Attaran’s correspondence regarding earlier freedom  of information requests.

Attaran said some of his email correspondence with U of O president Allan  Rock is being released in accordance with the law.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa  Citizen

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