The role of for-profit companies in providing products and services to libraries has become increasingly contentious for many in the library community. Big deals with a lack of transparency and year on year price increases, the steady acquisition of emerging alternative players, and lobbying against open access are items that appear regularly in the news. This, coupled with concern that large for-profits are broadening their reach to the point where it becomes intractable, has led to proposals such as “The 2.5% Commitment”, for libraries to fund their own common, non-profit infrastructure.
Should for-profit companies have a role to play in the future? Do they offer qualities that non-profits cannot?
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then it is interesting to ask whether it is possible to move to a more equitable and collaborative relationship between for-profits and libraries. What are the core values and codes of practice that for-profits should adhere to in order to be acceptable partners? How should those values be enforced, and is this even possible for the larger shareholder-driven organizations?