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Monday, November 14, 2005

A critique of Michael Gorman's critique of Google Library

K. Matthew Dames, ALA's Gorman Strikes Out Again, Copycense, November 4, 2005. (Thanks to Library Journal.) A response to Michael Gorman's criticism of Google Library in the November 1 Wall Street Journal. Gorman is the president of the American Library Association. Excerpt:
Mr. Gorman's comments show a shocking naivete about his presidential post, a stunning lack of perspective and knowledge about the Google Print projects, and a disappointing waste of the influence the ALA could and should wield in this debate....[The] ALA needs to have an official position on this issue....That the largest library representative organization in the country does not have a position or opinion in this debate is unacceptable. ALA needs to get in the game....It is unconscionable -- stupid, even -- to think that quotes from the president of any organization ALA's size will fail to be considered the tenor of the membership. If Gorman's comments do not reflect ALA's membership or board, he is out of touch with his organization or made a colossal mistake. If his comments are consistent with what ALA's membership wants, then the four library organizations need to have a sit down and discuss a coordinated response. But that sit down should take place in private -- preferably before Gorman has looked foolishly out of place in speaking to The Wall Street Journal. Even Gorman's rationale for calling the project a "potential disaster" sounds idiotically irrelevant given the context of the debate and the article. Both the debate and the core theme of the Journal's article are about copyright, yet Gorman chose to frame his response in terms of the proper uses of scholarly texts. Who cares about the proper use of scholarly texts if the texts never get used? Sure, Google is looking to make money from the Print project, but if it allows access to knowledge in a respectful, economical way, then that sounds like an issue about which ALA has a stake, and should have an opinion. Has it occurred to Gorman that Google's digitization projects may allow a researcher to discover a source about which she knew nothing, and then enter a library to use that text or order it through the interlibrary loan process?

(PS: I responded to Gorman's comments on November 3.)