I “demonize” librarians? I am trying to help them.

Scraped into Arcturus in an attempt to energize the community

I reproduce in full a recent helpful comment on this blog and then comment.

  1. Stuart Bentley says:

    May 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Whilst I don’t disagree with the spirit of what you’re saying, I think there are a few faulty premises in your post.

    The reason academic librarians are paralyzed by copyright is that it’s the law, and the librarian is often responsible for managing the institution’s licence for copying (you can read standard licences for education at http://www.cla.co.uk/) because it sits nicely administratively with the place where all the materials are kept. You can find the Act of Parliament at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1988/Ukpga_19880048_en_1.htm and if you read the sections on fair dealing and what librarians and education are allowed to do – including regarding inter library loan -, you will see that the restrictions aren’t imposed by librarians but by Government. Failure to comply can result in the rescinding of licences and large fines against the institution and the person named as the institution’s copyright officer is likely to be fired. Which does not help anyone’s agenda.

    Similarly, my understanding is that the BL’s hands are similarly tied by the licences granted them by the publishers, who are the people who make the money in the scenario and so have the vested interest in keeping things under a tight leash. However, they will be better placed to respond on that.

    The law is outdated by any means and the digital economy bill is going to take things in a worse direction. What is required is academics to come together with librarians and lobby for change, rather than demonising them.

I am now familiar with the Copyright Act (having been made aware of it by a non-librarian reader of this blog). I fully agree that it is incredibly constraining. However it does NOT mandate DRM (as it came from a pre-digital era).

You argue that I demonize librarians. I do not. I have some limited sympathy for the constraints on them. But UK librarians have done absolutely nothing in public to show that they care about DRM. From casual conversations over the last 2-3 weeks with librarians I believe that they do not know about or do not care about DRM applied by the BL. Where they know about it they accept it as inevitable without even publicizing the problem.

You say “What is required is academics to come together with librarians and lobby for change”. But this requires action. I am an academic. I am trying to find a single UK librarian who cares publicly about DRM. If they existed they would have come forward over the last month. For me what is required is for librarians actually to do something. I and others will meet them more than halfway.

The US librarians have raised concerns about DRM. The UK librarians have done absolutely nothing. The DRM on InterLibraryLoans (ILL) has been going on for 5 years and not a single public paper debating the issue. I don’t find this acceptable. I believe that any professional body should identify issues of general public concern and initiate debate. Librarians in academia are paid for, in part, by the revenue brought in by research grants, such as I apply for and often get. I and my colleagues are a constituency they would do well to involve.

Because if they don’t, the role of the academic librarian will be taken over by direct sale of material from mega-publisher (SpringWilesevier) to researcher, perhaps mediated through the British Library (which to my eyes appears to be acting excessively on the side of the publisher rather than the scholar).

But this will be revealed when I finally send my FOIs to the BL and academic librarians. If either have taken the case of the researcher over the last 5 years in this matter then I am sure they will be delighted to change my perceptions.

If not our new MP for Cambridge understands all about scholarly publication and I shall be WritingToHim.com


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One Response to I “demonize” librarians? I am trying to help them.

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

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