(Please be aware, this article was posted on April 1st)

The Elsevier Dessert Reception — a favorite destination for ALA midwinter goers since 1989 — has been nixed, creating both astonishment and outrage among the library community.

chocolate covered strawberry

Tom Reller, Director of Public Relations for Elsevier, cites a conspicuous lack of appreciation as the main rationale for canceling the event:

No chocolate fountain, no truffles, no tortes! I’m tired of librarians criticizing our profit-making from one side of their mouth, while stuffing an éclair into the other. If they want to eat, they can fight over the ALA cheese and cracker table.

The American Library Association is currently in closed-door negotiations with the Dutch publisher hoping to lure the event back for Midwinter 2013 in Seattle, WA. Both parties believe they will be able to release a public statement by late Monday.

In the case that both sides cannot come to a compromise, Seattle-based Starbucks has already submitted a proposal to host the 2013 event but will charge $45 admission ($40 for those with a Starbucks eGift card).

Immediately upon word of the fraught discussions, an online petition started to boycott the Starbucks event and had reached nearly 4,000 signatures as of Friday evening. A second petition asking Elsevier to reconsider had reached nearly 9,000 signatures.

“For weeks before midwinter, I dream of dipping ripe red strawberries into their chocolate fountain,” remarked a scholarly communications librarian who has asked to remain anonymous due to the political nature of her position. “Please come back, Elsevier. Please, please please?!”

Phil Davis

Phil Davis

Phil Davis is a publishing consultant specializing in the statistical analysis of citation, readership, publication and survey data. He has a Ph.D. in science communication from Cornell University (2010), extensive experience as a science librarian (1995-2006) and was trained as a life scientist. https://phil-davis.com/


11 Thoughts on "Torte Reform: Elsevier Cuts Library Dessert Reception"

It is my understanding, however, that the next price increases will be sugar coated. And to avoid sticker shock there will be no prices on the menu.

What next? No more Elsevier “t” shirts handed out at library conferences? Guess librarians will just have to be content with PLoS “t” shirts in the future.

I forego the Elsevier dessert reception in favor of a healthier fare. Sometimes challenging to find, depending upon the city.

This will be the biggest MLA fiasco since the time Ovid sent those buff bodybuilder booth guys with the Mr Clean t-shirts. Except that one really happened. I think.

No doubt our “friends” on the Hill will begin hearings about the lack of open access to the Starbucks’ event. Yale, Cal and Harvard will switch to Peet’s in their in library coffee houses, increasing prices by a moderate 12.5% to adjust to a more equitable trade supplier. As for our buddy at the Guardian: he’ll run a well timed editorial suggesting that both Switzerland and Belgium were in cahoots to defraud the scholarly community and start a “campaign for just desserts”

This is a lovely admission of defeat for the “sponsorship strategy” that was aiming at disarming librarians’ criticism of Elsevier’s commercial practices with a few sweets. Ambiguity always serves the status quo. Clarity may lead to interesting changes in perceptions…

Maybe the authors could pay. Everybody bring a Hershey bar, a bag of marshmallows, or a box of graham crackers. Roast the marshmallows over a fire of printed journals.

The PLoS table will have plenty of open access food: the cooks, sous-chefs, and bakers pay enormously for them but they are free for everyone else to eat.

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