Debate within library community over Google settlement

Paula J. Hane, Anti Google Book Settlement Organizations Band Together in Open Book Alliance, Information Today, August 27, 2009.

… At the end of July, The American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) sent a letter to the [U.S. Department of Justice]’s Antitrust Division, requesting it to advise the court presiding over the settlement to supervise the implementation of the [Google Books] settlement closely, particularly the pricing of institutional subscriptions and the selection of the Book Rights Registry board members.

These library associations have not joined the newly formed [Open Book Alliance]. According to Corey Williams, associate director for ALA’s Office of Government Relations, ALA leadership worked closely with its membership to shape its position on the settlement. … “We’ve already gone on record with the court,” she says. Commenting on the formation of the alliance, she added, “ALA is delighted that others are joining the debate. We encourage everyone who cares about the issues raised by the proposed settlement to weigh in with the court.”

The Urban Libraries Council (ULC) is the nonprofit membership organization serving the major public libraries located in urban and metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. On Aug. 19, the ULC submitted a statement urging the court to require that the parties involved “address the issues raised in this document before approving the proposed settlement.” The ULC concerns relate to access (one terminal per public library building is “admirable but not workable”), reader privacy, printing charges, and monopoly issues. CEO Susan Benton says the alliance certainly sounds of interest for the council’s concerns, but the ULC had not been approached about joining. …

N.B.: ALA, ACRL, and ARL are the members of the Library Copyright Alliance. Until recently, LCA membership included the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), the Medical Library Association (MLA), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA, now a member of the Open Book Alliance). According to an internal ACRL memo, the other associations quit LCA earlier this year, “citing the current economic climate”; ACRL subsequently joined.

Norman Oder, Margolis: ALA, Allies Should Request More Library Access in Google Settlement, Library Journal, August 25, 2009.

A veteran American Library Association (ALA) Councilor and longtime library executive has urged ALA and fellow library groups to more forcefully advocate that the pending Google Book Settlement offer increased library access to the book database, among other things.

Bernard Margolis, State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries, New York State Library, shared an open letter following up on a letter sent to the Department of Justice by leaders of ALA, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries. “I want to urge your consideration of a stronger position reflecting both the critically important principles of access as well as the economic realities faced by your members (individual and institutional),” Margolis wrote.

He asked the leaders to consider conveying some settlement outcomes to the Department of Justice, including expansion of free Public Access Service (PAS) to school libraries, state libraries, and public law/medical/health libraries, as well as ensuring that the service is available throughout public libraries rather than limited to one terminal. (Google has said the latter is a minimum, but it would consider more.) …

Margolis, as have others, requested the Books Rights Registry—an independent, not-for-profit organization described in the settlement as representing “authors, publishers and other rightsholders”—be expanded, in this case to include library community and public representation. …

Norman Oder, PW Survey: Librarians On the Fence Regarding Google Settlement, Library Journal, August 20, 2009.

Just as library organizations have criticized the proposed Google Book Search settlement without formally opposing it, rank-and-file librarians are on the fence about the settlement, according to a new [unscientific] survey of stakeholders by Publishers Weekly. The magazine shared preliminary findings with the LJ Academic Newswire in advance of a cover story appearing August 24.

Some 225 librarians were surveyed, among a larger sample mainly drawing from the publishing industry. Regarding court approval of the settlement, 37% said they were unsure, while 29% supported the settlement and 21.5% said they opposed it.

Also, only 25% of librarians surveyed said they supported the initial lawsuits by publishers and the Authors Guild, while 25% opposed the filing. The rest had no opinion. …

See also our past post on the Open Book Alliance.