library genesis in Mars & Medak 2019


se gesture of slowdown and custodianship too, against the imperative of innovation
imposed on them by policymakers and managers.

Custodians.online, the first letter
On 30 November, 2015 a number of us shadow librarians who advocate, build
and maintain ‘shadow libraries’, i.e. online infrastructures allowing users to
digitise, share and debate digital texts and collections, published a letter
article | 345

ephemera: theory & politics in organization


(Custodians.online, 2015) in support of two of the largest user-created
repositories of pirated textbooks and articles on the Internet – Library Genesis
and Science Hub. Library Genesis and Science Hub’s web domain names were
taken down after a New York court issued an injunction following a copyright
infringement suit filed by the largest commercial academic publisher in the
world – Reed Elsevier. It is a familiar trajectory that a shared digital resource,
once it grows in relevance and size, gets taken down after a court decision.
Shadow libraries are no exception.
The world of higher education and science is structured by uneven development.
The world’s top-ranked universities are concentrated in a dozen rich countries
(Times Higher Education, 2017), commanding most


-ranked research universities (Baty, 2017; Henning, 2017) and that the
poor universities are left with no option but to tacitly encourage their students to
use shadow libraries (Liang, 2012). The editorial director of global rankings at the
Times Higher Education Phil Baty minces no words when he bluntly states ‘that
money talks in global higher education seems … to be self-evident’ (Baty, 2017).
Uneven economic development reinforces global uneven development in higher
education and science – and vice versa. It is in the face of this combined
economic and educational unevenness, that Library Genesis and Science Hub,
two repositories for a decommodified access to otherwise paywalled resources,
attain a particular import for students, academics and researchers worldwide.
And it is in the face of combined economic and educational unevenness, that
Library Genesis and Science Hub continue to brave the court decisions,
continuously changing their domain names, securing ways of access beyond the
World Wide Web and ensuring robust redundancy of the materials in their
repositories.
The Custodians.online letter highlights two circumstances in this antagonism
that cut to the core of the contradictions of reproduction within academia in the
present. The first is the contrast between the extraction of extreme profits from
academia through inflated subscription prices and the increasingly precarious
conditions of studying, teaching and researching:

346 | articl


ivalent of one (second-largest) US
university. Current levels of investment cannot have a meaningful impact on the
current model of economic development ... (Dolenec, 2016: 34)

So, these universities don’t have much capacity to capture value in the global
marketplace. In fact, their work in educating masses matters less to their
economies, as these economies are largely based on selling cheap low-skilled
labor. So, their public funders leave them in their underfunded torpor to
improvise their way through education and research processes. It is these
institutions that depend the most on the Library Genesis and Science Hubs of
this world. If we look at the download data of Library Genesis, as has Balasz Bodó
(2015), we can discern a clear pattern that the users in the rich economies use
these shadow libraries to find publications that are not available in the digital
form or are pay-walled, while the users in the developing economies use them to
find publications they don’t have access to in print to start with.
As for libraries, in the shift to the digital they were denied the right to provide
access that has now radically expanded (Sullivan, 2012), so they are losing their
central position in the dissemination and access to knowledge. The decades of
retrenchment in social


demos: Neoliberalism’s stealth revolution. Cambridge:
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Brynjolfsson, E. and A. McAfee (2012) Race against the machine: How the digital
revolution is accelerating innovation, driving productivity, and irreversibly
transforming employment and the economy. Lexington: Digital Frontier Press.
Bürger, P. (1984) Theory of the avant-garde. Manchester: Manchester University
Press.
Collini, S. (2017) Speaking of universities. London: Verso.
Critchley, S. (2007) Infinitely demanding: Ethics of commitment, politics of
resistance. London: Verso.
Custodians.online (2015) ‘In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub’. [http:/
/custodians.online]
Custodians.online
.online/ubu]

(2016)

‘Happy

birthday,

Ubu.com’.

[http://custodians

Dolenec, D. (2016) ‘The implausible knowledge triangle of the Western Balkans’,
in S. Gupta, J. Habjan and H. Tutek (eds.) Academic labour, unemployment and
global higher education: Neoliberal policies of funding and management. New
York: Springer.

364 | article

Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak

Against innovation

Engel-Johnson, E. (2017) ‘Reimagining the library as an anti-café’, Discover
Society. [http://discoversociety.org/2017/04/05/reimagini

 

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