It’s been an interesting week in digital scholarship. The American Historical Society’s “Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations” kicked off a firestorm of comment and criticism. Public discussion has taken place on Twitter and any number of blogs, and has encompassed everything from the role of the AHA to the selection policies of university presses and the plight of junior scholars in the humanities. A very timely recent article in C&RL (“Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities? Findings From a 2011 Survey of Academic Publishers”) provided some useful backdrop for the discussion, as have personal statements by history scholars (Jennifer Guiliano’s was particularly interesting) and thoughtful commentary by librarians and others (Kevin Smith at Duke University is, as always, worth a read).
One voice that has been largely missing, however, has been that of library acquisitions. What libraries will and will not buy would seem to be the linchpin of the whole discussion: Scholars are afraid to make their dissertations openly available because presses won’t publish them. Presses won’t publish them because libraries won’t buy them. Or will they? The policies and motivations of acquisitions librarians seem to be the least well-explored aspect of the whole situation, so I asked Dracine Hodges, the Head of the Acquisitions Department at the OSU Libraries, to respond to a few questions. I think her answers shed some light on what goes into an academic library’s decision to buy a book – or not, as the case may be.