“many librarians/libraries are very, very risk averse”

Comment scraped into Arcturus

Another very useful contribution from Stephanie Taylor. This is, perhaps, the main issue – that libraries and librarians are far too risk averse. I think the BL has been too risk-averse (though I have yet to find out whether they got legal advice) and libraries round the country have been too quiet. And now we are saddled with something awful that nobody wants and needs getting rid of.

One major concern is that by adding DRM the BL is giving a signal that it approves of technological control of content. This is very dangerous. It also gives the signal that its suppliers call the tune and not it. That also is very serious. Anyway…

Stephanie Taylor says:

May 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm  (Edit)

In response to Owen, in my experience there is a risk in using e-signatures, and many libraries are not prepared to take a risk. In my personal opinion, the risk is minimal, but it presents a real barrier as many librarians/libraries are very, very risk averse on the copyright aspects of interlending. The EThOS stance gave me some hope, as I thought such a high-profile project with heavy-weight partners would maybe inspire by example. This doesn’t, however, seem to be filtering down to general practice in quite the way I wished.

Also, I may be unduly cynical here, but I think that the potential ease of inappropriate re-distribution of electronic material has been balanced out with a clearer audit trail for rights holders to follow – and they have tightened the requirements accordingly on digital content, holding a much tighter grip than was possible with paper copies.

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2 Responses to “many librarians/libraries are very, very risk averse”

  1. Chris Rusbridge says:

    Peter, there is no doubt at all that theDRM-limited system you describe is appallingly unfunctional. I really liked your restatement of Ranganathan’s laws as being for publishers rather than libraries, as that is what I think is happening here. I was eLib Programme Director during the first stirrings of the digital world into libraries (perhaps an over-statement), and was party to some of the negotiations between JISC and the Publishers Association as we struggled to get agreement on how best to deal with digital documents. All this was, of course, well before “semantic” documents, and you should understand some of what happened bearing that in mind.
    Prior to that time ILL was always paper to paper, using postal systems, and that is how the law was set up, including the requirement for a physical signature. In the eLib years we introduced a couple of paper to paper systems using electronic delivery. These essentially involved scanning the documents and sending them in various ways. The law required this transaction to be between librarians, and the end document had to be supplied on paper. A fee had to be charged, a few pounds I believe.
    Publishers have never liked ILL systems, as they wanted to charge much larger author charges (I think they were typically 15 pounds or more at the time). But it was the law and they had to live with it. They did what they could to frustrate its improvement.
    One thing we tried was an “electronic inter-library loan” system for the case where the source document was already in electronic form, eg an electronic journal that the library subscribed to (note, this means rented under licence, not owned). The idea was that the library could transfer a copy direct to the academic in electronic form under conditions that disallowed further copying. The system was described in “Morrow, T. (2002). EASY Does It: A Fresh Approach to Electronic Article Supply. In VALA 2002. Retrieved from http://www.vala.org.au/vala2002/2002pdf/25Morrow.pdf“. However, after the pilot experiment the publishers were not interested in continuing and it died.
    I am confident that the BL was unhappy with the paper-electronic-paper system, and I know they spent much time in negotiation with the publishers to improve functionality for readers. Treating it as an exercise to get a copy to a reader rapidly, they presumably decided the DRM-limited functionality was an acceptable compromise. ILL never allowed you to make further copies of the material, and if you gave “your” copy to a colleague, then there was still only one. I think they felt they were replicating that functionality with improvements in speed, not envisaging the further analysis readers like yourself would in the future be capable of making.
    So, perhaps viewed from that history, perhaps the current situation is more understandable. I don’t think it is a good situation for readers, and particularly for computational readers. I guess the publishers would say: buy a proper copy from us…
    Please note, I’m not writing this as an apology for the publishers, who should b apologising themselves. I’d really like to see an improvement. But with the DE Act showing what continuing influence these industries have, improvement seems unlikely. But do keep pushing!

  2. Pingback: Copy – right or wrong? | Trading Knowledge

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