Monday, March 13, 2006

Scholarship and Libraries in Transition Conference, Part Three

This is the third of three posts relating my observations on the Scholarship and Libraries in Transition Conference (better known as the Google Library Symposium) which was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan on March 10th and 11th, 2006. This post will have my remarks regarding the speakers on March 11th.

Please note that I am doing my best to report what the speakers said. However, quotes might be slightly different than what the speaker actually said due to the fact I had to write it down while the speaker went on talking. Feel free to post and correct me if you are being quoted here incorrectly.

Ron Milne, Acting Director of University Library Services & Bodley's Librarian at Oxford, noted that the faculty at Oxford University are big supporters of digitizing collections. Indeed, members of the faculty are lobbying for which part of the collection to scan next. In regards to publishers and digitization, he said "Publishers will stay in business but their business model will have to change."

Paul Courant, Professor at the University of Michigan, talked about scale and digitization. He noted that digitization makes a local good a global good. Once scanned, it costs nothing to add new readers. He said that it no longer makes sense for most libraries to buy everything. Instead, librarians should concentrate on more specialized library specific collecting. He also noted that one consequence of digitization is that non-digitized materials will not be used by most patrons.

Hal Varien, Professor at UC Berkeley, talked about the value in what is being scanned. Most specifically, he claims the greatest value lies in digitizing out-of-print books which are still covered under copyright. He feels that the scanning of books fits the fair use test in the US based on his interpretations of Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation (2003). He ended by strongly arguing that the opt-in model for publisher inclusion in Google Books is unrealistic. He notes that up to 22% of requests for permission are never answered by publishers. This is because publishers are often unsure of the legal status of a work and because many other works have been orphaned and the rights may be split amongst multiple heirs who are not even aware of their legal rights to the work.

I was disappointed with the presentation of Karl Pohrt who is the owner of Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor. Rather than describe it briefly, I have a more extensive post titled Most Disappointing Google Library Symposium Speaker.

Bruce James, CEO of the U. S. Government Printing Office, noted the steadily rising costs of higher education. He asked then why if we have one digital library why every campus needed a library at all? He contends that the growing cost issue in higher education will be dealt with and the closing of some libraries is going to happen as a result. He also strongly stated that the government will not rely on a private company such as Google to assure the authentic long-term access to government documents. However, he will be watching Google Books to learn from Google's mistakes and successes.

James Hilton, Associate Provost for Academic, Information and Instructional Technology Affairs and University Interm University Librarian at the University of Michigan, talked at length about the current state of copyright law in the USA. He noted that more and more protection is being afforded to smaller and smaller ideas. He said in this context, "The pure property view of information undermines the values of the academy."

Clifford Lynch closed the Symposium. He asked, will others be allowed to copy en masse all of the public domain stuff in Google Books? Who will be allowed to copy and rehost the entire public domain collection? If Google refuses this access, it would in essence lead to public domain content being reprivatized. He also noted that, "Digitization and the mass spread of the information is the best insurance for any preservation program."

That concludes my report on this excellent conference. I must say that my brain hurts from all the great ideas I heard during these two days!

Further observations on the conference can be found at the links below.

Scholarship and Libraries in Transition Conference, Part One
Scholarship and Libraries in Transition Conference, Part Two

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