charging fees cont.

Barbara Ertter ertter at UCJEPS.HERB.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Feb 7 11:22:06 CST 1997

My latest two-bits triggered by the recent line of discussion and a loan
request I just responded to:

The argument that sending loans benefits the lending institution as well as
the researcher, in the form of expert identifications, is true when the
material is borrowed in conjunction with traditional revisionary or
floristic studies.  For higher-level phylogenetic analyses, however, this
becomes more of a one-way street, and in extreme cases the researcher is
actually dependent on the borrowed material already being correctly
identified.  I fully acknowledge that this is not a strict either-or, but
there are definitely loan requests that fall into the extreme category
(e.g., master's level phylogenetic studies of groups that have been the
focus of life-time revisionary studies of traditional taxonomists).
This is NOT to be interpreted as a complaint against phylogenetic studies;
I am generally in full support of the research for which such loans are
requested.  I am also in full agreement that it is highly desirable that
our collections be found useful by as broad a user base as possible.  But
it is erroneous to perceive all systematic uses as providing equal
reciprocity, and cost-benefit analyses might need to take this into

As a corollary, I have several times now asked that blanket loan requests
for higher level phylogenetic analyses be reconsidered, if it is obvious
that what is being requested is significantly more than is needed (or
otherwise inappropriate) for the kind of study being undertaken.  We
certainly lend material that is actually needed, and not available at the
home institution, but our complete holdings of all target taxa are
generally overkill for defining characters outside the context of
monographic work, and locality data is increasingly available on-line, if
not already available from existing monographs.  Much as we like our
material to be used, there comes a point where the incremental benefit of
mass loans to either researcher or lending institution does not justify the
cost of curatorial labor and postage (at both ends) and potential damage to
specimens.  I suspect that what is happening is a lag between the kind of
systematic research being done and assumptions on how loans fit into the
process ("start out by borrowing all material from the appropriate
herbaria"), a hold-over from when systematic research implied a monographic
revision as a primary result.  When it isn't, it almost becomes a cruelty
to saddle an innocent student with the requirement that every specimen in a
blanket loan request be annotated, independent of the relevance of the
specimen to what the student was actually doing.
Before I get flamed for taking this stand, let me repeat that we most
certainly and happily DO send loans for such requests.  It's just that when
I suspect we're dealing with a "hold-over" blanket request, I ask that the
request be reconsidered in light of what it actually needed.  The result is
generally a significantly scaled-down request, more specifically addressing
the research needs with a much-reduced demand on the limited resources of
both parties.

Them's my thoughts,
Barbara Ertter
Collections Manager
University and Jepson Herbaria
University of California, Berkeley

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