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The widespread appearance of computers in libraries during the early 1990s elicited a debate among those who welcomed new technologies and those who perceived such changes as a threat to the traditional role of academic libraries and the values of liberal education. At the same time, increasing consolidation of major media channels—including sources of scholarly communication—has allowed a small number of corporations to control distribution and access to the materials libraries offer, through tools such as licensing fees, copyright restrictions, and digital rights management. In response to these barriers, librarians and educators have embraced open access publishing and Creative Commons licensing as viable alternatives. Some go further in their struggle to separate content from its proprietors, through channels such as torrent sites that undermine conventional notions of ownership. This paper will argue that restricting information and denying access to resources without addressing the systemic failure of affordable access weakens critical thinking and threatens the mission of liberal education. By pursuing new models for scholarly communication and resource sharing, libraries can both reassert control over their collections and help support the mission of liberal education.


This work was originally pubilshed in Library Philosophy and Practice, available at



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