February 16, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, October 1, 2016 Issue

“Given the invective and occasional violence in many of these protests…. I question the wisdom in aligning with the Black Lives Matter movement”


I have concerns about Lisa Peet’s report Public Librarians Launch ­Libraries4BlackLives. Libraries by their very nature represent equality; doors are open to all in the community. We are about providing educational and recreational resources to all citizens. We are about providing a diverse collection within that framework and promoting a diverse workforce within our ­organizations.

Given the invective and occasional violence in many of these protests, as well as exclusion tactics on the part of protest organizers at various events, I question the wisdom in aligning with the Black Lives Matter movement. Individual librarians can choose to do so in their private lives, but I am surprised and disappointed in “ALA and PLA committees and task forces” and in LJ for endorsing and promoting an official affiliation.

—Name withheld

A valued service

The point is that although tax money paid for part or all of the research, it did not pay for its dissemination (Lisa Peet, Sci-Hub Controversy Triggers Publishers’ Critique of Librarian). Bringing a research paper through peer review, producing it in its final form, making it discoverable, archiving it, promoting the work, protecting the author from any action arising from the publication of the work, etc., etc., are all the role of the publisher and all cost money. To pretend that this is covered by public funding is disingenuous. The fact of the matter is that quality dissemination costs money—either through professional publishers or in time cost to authors who do it themselves (not that I can think of any successful examples of this). Publishers might be an easy target, but they provide a professional service that is valued by the vast majority of ­academics….

—Name withheld

Authors don’t profit

Unfortunately, in academia most authors are not the ones who profit financially from their work (Lisa Peet, Sci-Hub Controversy Triggers Publishers’ Critique of Librarian). We write the articles for free in return for tenure or prestige, and then publishers and vendors sell our content for profit. This is why it’s the database vendors complaining and not the authors. It’s in our best interest that our work is read by as wide an audience as possible, because that increases the likelihood of our papers being cited, and citation count is a measure used to assess our “scholarly worth” to our institutions.

—Valerie Forrestal, Web Svcs. Libn., Coll. of Staten Island Lib., CUNY

Porous borders

What I take away from Lisa Peet’s Sci-Hub Controversy Triggers Publishers’ Critique of Librarian, not being an academic, is that the borders online are very porous, not unlike our southern border. While I believe that writers who have copyrighted their work deserve to be compensated, the game online seems to have different rules. Namely, that once you put it out there, it is in public domain. Cynically, I think how great that we now live in an age where there is so much information “freely” available—traded “freely.” In the not at all distant future it may be that scholarly writers will have to be satisfied to be footnoted.

—Name withheld

Caution on “fair use”

A great piece (Rick Anderson, The Difference Between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism—and Why It Matters). I don’t think it gave an example of the third option: copyright infringement without plagiarism. I explain to clients that plagiarism is dishonesty/unethical conduct surrounding the origin of a work, whether copyrighted or not. If you borrow from or quote a work and give full credit, you’re not plagiarizing. But you could be infringing copyright, despite the fair use defense that people like to assume will protect them. The owner of the copyright will likely not care that you gave them credit—you are still using their work without their consent or license. I also tell people to be very cautious in relying on a fair use defense because only a judge can tell you if it applies, and your goal is to avoid ending up in front of a judge.

—Nicholas Wells, Atty., Legends Law Group, PLLC, Kaysville, UT

Creative Staff Spaces

The observation about office space is worth noting (Steven Bell, Leading the Creative Library). In libraries, we focus on learning spaces for the community but forget that our own work spaces need to be conducive to learning, collaboration and creativity, too—not a place where “there’s a bunch of ‘stiffs’ sitting at cubicles.”

—Name withheld


Nina Willner’s autobiography Forty Autumns, which received a starred review (LJ 9/15/16, p. 95), was written by the first female U.S. Army intelligence officer to lead intelligence operations on Soviet territory in East Germany during the Cold War. The family’s story takes place in both East and West Germany, not merely in Berlin, and the author’s mother, Hanna, was 20 years old when she escaped but 33 when she moved to the United States.

This article was published in Library Journal's October 1, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.