February 18, 2018

Google Deal Debate: Strengthened Partnerships or Diminished Access?

  • Wilkin: collaborative potential with a role for libraries
  • Johnson: Google deal could mean diminished access

The Google settlement continues to spark debate. The latest responses come in a sneak preview of LJ‘s January issue, where HathiTrust’s John Wilkin and scholarly communications consultant Richard K. Johnson (formerly head of SPARC) reflect on their concerns.

In “HathiTrust and the Google Deal,” Wilkin sees enriched collaborative potential for projects like HathiTrust in the settlement. “Much of what HathiTrust proposes to do—preserve content, support access by print-disabled users, generate print replacement copies from digital files…, and serve as a body of content for large-scale computational needs—is explicitly sanctioned in the settlement agreement, thus protecting this fundamental library-based effort from legal threats,” he writes.

However, he also reasserts an essential independent role for libraries. “Only libraries,” he writes, “can ensure the historical record is protected against distortion, suppression, and loss. As librarians we must assume responsibility for this role.”

Worse access?
Johnson intensifies the debate in “Free (or Fee) to All?” warning that the Google deal could mean worse, not better, access to the digitized materials. He takes on the proposed single terminals for each library—”So much for the promise of the digital age. This sounds more like the age of the CD-ROM,” he writes—and worries about the impact of Google being the “gatekeeper” via its search engine.

But, ultimately, he, too returns to the core mission of libraries, calling on librarians to “insist that Google withdraw all restrictions on use of scanned public domain works” and urging more support for “the development of a real Internet public library.”

For LJ‘s own take, see “Google Deal or Rip-Off?

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (miller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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