30Aug

University Computer Science Libraries have become little more than temples to what once was…

Posted by Elf Sternberg as Uncategorized

University computer science libraries have fallen into a sad and tragic state. I went by the University of Washington Engineering Library. When I was at Isilon, that library was a kind of miracle; if we needed to know anything interesting going on in the world of data management, you could go to the library and find a raftload of interesting papers, digest them over the weekend, and be ready with some new trick for Distributed Dynamic RAID by Monday. It was a thrilling place to enter.

And you could make photocopies of the really interesting stuff.

I went in there recently and discovered that the stacks haven’t changed. I mean that literally. Most of the interesting CS journals have moved entirely on-line, and there wasn’t a single collected journal available dated after 2007. There was a wall labeled “Computer Manuals” that had books covering the initial industrial release of SQL. There was a general damp, fusty smell to everything.

There was one lone machine against the wall where you could survey and, if you had the time, read all the papers the world had waiting, tens of thousands of articles, conference submissions, books, precis, even patents. But you couldn’t print anything out and, since I’m no longer a student, I couldn’t mail copies to myself.

There’s more interesting stuff happening in the world now than there was a decade ago, but the academic CS journals are working ever harder to lock it up and “protect” it from the prying eyes of industry. And that’s a damned shame.

1 Response to University Computer Science Libraries have become little more than temples to what once was…

Brad Ackerman

September 3rd, 2016 at 9:26 pm

At least the parts of industry that can’t justify spending millions of dollars a year on journal subscriptions. (And also the places where academia doesn’t have that kind of money.)

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