Google's Good Deal for Libraries

Sunday, May 24, 2009

In his May 19 op-ed, "A Book Grab by Google," Brewster Kahle said that a court settlement involving Google, if approved, "would produce not one but two court-sanctioned monopolies. Google will have permission to bring under its sole control information that has been accessible through public institutions for centuries. In essence, Google will be privatizing our libraries."

As the steward of one of those libraries, a library that has had some 3 million of its works digitized by Google, let me assure readers that Google will not have a monopoly on the information that we hold. We retain the original copies, we have our own copy of the digital scans and we are free to scan the works again.

The Google settlement provides a mechanism whereby the print works of the 20th century will be searchable, findable, readable and generally usable online, with large parts of the text readable online for free. All of this is of tremendous public and scholarly value, and no one other than Google has shown any willingness to make the investment necessary to get the job done. Meanwhile, Michigan's publicly owned library and others will keep print and digital copies safely in not-for-profit hands.


Ann Arbor, Mich.

The writer is university librarian and dean of libraries at the University of Michigan.

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