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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Comparing Hathitrust and Google Books as repositories of government documents

Here are 2 recent items analyzing Hathitrust and Google books for their efficacy in giving access to Federal government documents. The first is an article by Laura Sare (Texas A&M) and compares Hathitrust with Google Books. The second is a presentation by Brian Vetruba (Washington U in St Louis) at “Leveraging Your Strengths: Regional Government Documents Conference” at the Federal Reserve Bank St. Louis on May 4, 2012.

A Comparison of HathiTrust and Google Books Using Federal Publications. Laura Sare. Practical Academic Librarianship: The International Journal of the SLA Academic Division. 2(1) 2012 p. 1-25. (attached below. Fair use claim)

Moving from the Google Book Store to a True Digital Public Library

Although many media stories about the Google Book Settlement continue to refer to Google’s project as a “library,” the smart media and knowledgeable people, including Judge Chin, understand that Google’s project is not and never was a library: “It is instead a complex and large-scale commercial enterprise in which Google — and Google alone — will obtain a license to sell millions of books for decades to come.”

In the wake of the court decision, we are seeing calls and planning for establishing an actual public, digital library as an alternative to relying on Google.

Here are some key articles:

  • Concept Note, Digital Library of America Project (as of March, 2011).

    The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) will make the cultural and scientific heritage of humanity available, free of charge, to all.

    …At the outset, its material is likely to remain hosted, as a primary matter, in a federated series of the existing digital repositories. The system would allow for broad and easy access to enormous existing collections, such as the Internet Archive, along with those in research libraries and other repositories and those to be created by future scanning…. [working] with the leading preservation technologies — HathiTrust, DuraSpace, and LOCKSS, and potentially others — to build out the nation’s existing preservation architecture. [The project should] begin with works in the public domain that have already been digitized and are accessible through the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, [and] a broad range of government material…

  • Thank You, Judge Chin, By Siva Vaidhyanathan, Chronicle of Higher Education (March 24, 2011).

    As opposed to how some university libraries celebrated Google’s announcement of its Book Search Project in 2004 because now they would not have to spend money to get digital files of their books, scientists who work on the Genome stood up and organized.

    …We lack only one thing: the political will to fight for a great and noble information system — a global digital library. I’m not talking about the haphazard rush we’ve seen to date to digitize the stacks of major research libraries. Nor a commercial venture like Google’s. I’m proposing what I call the “Human Knowledge Project”…. What I mean is a truly global digital library. To generate support for that, we need to identify the political and legal constraints, as well as articulate the payoffs.

  • Creating a digital public library without Google’s money, By Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times (March 25, 2011).

    The Google books case now looks like a salvage operation for the dream of a digital library.

    …Judge Chin’s decision forces us — or allows us– to ponder the dream of a digital library without ceding our future to Google.

A last post on GBS

There is so much coming out about the Google Book Settlement court decision that it seems redundant now to repost links here on FGI. I did think it might be useful to weed through so many and post a few highlights here and that’s what I have been trying to do (here and here and here and here).

Even though most of the GBS controversy is over copyrighted materials and most government information is not copyrighted, I believe that this issue is relevant to government information. That relevance relates to who will control information access and how we will build our digital libraries. The Settlement and the trends it was promoting were not good for the public, for privacy of reading, or for libraries. As google relentlessly blocked full access to most scanned government publications, the HathiTrust made most of those same publications publicly available. The press has repeatedly referred to what google was building as a “library” and continues to do so now, even though the judge explicitly said it was not (“The Google Book Search initiative envisioned in the [agreement] is not a library… It is instead a complex and large-scale commercial enterprise in which Google — and Google alone — will obtain a license to sell millions of books for decades to come.”) Google transformed what it originally described as indexing (in the same way that it indexes web-pages) — and therefore fair use, into a giant bookstore in which it would sell access to individuals and sell and limit access to libraries.

What happens next may turn those trends around and give us a better chance of going beyond google’s avowed policy of making money without doing evil, to a more enlighted policy of actually doing good for our communities.

In that spirit, here are a few more links on the GBS decision.

Still more about the GBS decision

A lot more good commentary and analysis is coming out about the recent Google Books Settlement decision. Here are a few not-to-be-missed items:

  • Research Libraries See Google Decision as Just a Bump on the Road to Widespread Digital Access, By Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education (March 23, 2011).

    [T]he Association of Research Libraries …did not take a pro or con stance on the proposed settlement. Along with the American Library Association and the Association of College and Research Libraries, it did raise privacy and antitrust concerns about it and questioned whether academic libraries’ interests were adequately represented.

  • A Copyright Expert Who Spoke Up for Academic Authors Offers Insights on the Google Books Ruling [interview with Pamela Samuelson] by Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education (March 23, 2011).

    The thing that surprised me about the opinion was that he took seriously the issues about whether the Authors Guild and some of its members had adequately represented the interests of all authors, including academic authors and foreign authors…. Academic authors, on average, would prefer open access. Whereas the guild and its members, understandably, want to do profit maximization.

    …as we all know, Google basically also wants to know everything that we look at and everything that we read, and they would be engaged in profiling and serving up ads. There were virtually no privacy guarantees for users in the settlement agreement.

  • Google Book Search rejected: why not try fair use instead?, by Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing (Mar 23, 2011).

    …what Google had originally set out to do — index all the books, in the same way that it indexes all the web-pages — is arguably fair use, and Google could have mounted a fair use defense against the Authors Guild claim. A victory there would have paved the way for a competitive landscape of multiple search engines indexing books under the same legal theory.

Darnton on Google Books Decision

Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library and leader of the movement to establish a digital public library of america, writes about the Google Books Settlement decision:

  • A Digital Library Better Than Google’s, by ROBERT DARNTON, New York Times (March 23, 2011).

    … the settlement didn’t do what settlements are supposed to do, like correct an alleged infringement of copyright, or provide damages for past incidents; instead it seemed to determine the way the digital world of books would evolve in the future.

    …Perhaps Google itself could be enlisted to the cause of the digital public library. It has scanned about 15 million books; two million of that total are in the public domain and could be turned over to the library as the foundation of its collection. The company would lose nothing by this generosity, and might win admiration for its good deed.

    …only a digital public library will provide readers with what they require to face the challenges of the 21st century — a vast collection of resources that can be tapped, free of charge, by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

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