I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic
Here is a sequence of minor but very depressing and frustrating events which I witnessed today.
1) about 2.30pm, arriving at my department at the University of Edinburgh on George Square, I noticed a young man carrying A4 size boxes across the street from one of the row of Georgian houses converted into offices. I thought nothing much of it.
2) Leaving the department at about quarter to five, I noticed a group of students – undergraduates, I think – ferretting around in the skip into which the young man had been dumping his boxes. It turned out that these boxes had been full of back-issues of EUP journals – everything from Deleuze to Holy Land Studies, Scottish history, translation, literature, science…
3) a few minutes after I stopped to see if there was anything useful to me in the skip, a woman came out of the EUP office, shouting. She declared that it was illegal to remove things from a skip, EUP had paid for it, and if people didn’t stop she was going to call the police. The students told her that one of her colleagues had earlier told them to “go for it”, but she was having none of it and continued with her threats.
So, what we have here is a university press which not only skips its excess journals, but when students of the same university to which it is attached take journals which have been consigned to the waste stream, they are threatened with the police. Could not EUP have put selections of surplus back-issues in the university library and advertised them as going free? The press has a sale next Wednesday in the same library, presumably of its back stock – could they not at least have sold them at token prices then?
Edinburgh University Press’ website states that: “We are committed to furthering knowledge and making innovative and rigorous scholarship available to the widest possible readership through our range of research publications”. Unless, of course, that scholarship has already been earmarked for a skip, and it’s damn well going to stay in that skip rather than let students have it for free…