32nd Annual Charleston Conference Issues in Book and Serial Acquisition
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Friday, November 9 • 2:15pm - 3:00pm
Playing the Odds: Pascal’s Wager and Decision-Making in the Long Scholarly Conversation

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This talk will explore some of the quirky philosophical issues surrounding the nature of the scholarly record and current challenges in academic libraries. The discussion arises from a 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education feature on a widely influential 1979 article entitled “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Making Under Risk,” which proposed a new model for how people assess risk and weigh decision factors. The theory has been applied to dozens of disciplines and cited thousands of times, and it has applications in academic collection development as well as everywhere else. It addressed the limitations of Utility Theory, which grew out of Pascal’s Wager (i.e., it’s safer to bet on the existence of God) but didn’t adequately explain how people--gamblers and insurance buyers, for instance--actually weigh risks and make decisions. Theory sounds dull, but presented in lay terms, some of it’s actually pretty entertaining. The pace of change and new demands facing libraries offer the opportunity to ask new questions about the nature of the scholarly record. Increasing ubiquity and transience of information, along with rapidly shifting notions of authorship and ownership, offer some interesting angles on how we might re-envision the role of academic library collections in scholarly communication as a whole.


Douglas Black

Collection Development Librarian, Northern Michigan University
Douglas Black is Collection Development Librarian at Northern Michigan University, after serving as reference librarian at Nova Southeastern University and reference/interlibrary-loan librarian at Amherst College. He holds an AB in English from Middlebury College, an MA in English... Read More →

Friday November 9, 2012 2:15pm - 3:00pm EST
Francis Marion Parkview Room 387 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403