Hot Topics of the Week: Thanksgivukkah Edition!

by Jonathan H. Harwell, Rollins College

As we approach the holidays and continue winding down from another great Charleston Conference (while visions of shrimp & grits dance in our heads), here’s a look at the hottest stories swirling around us.

 A couple of really hot topics at the moment, both related to Google.  But first:  US Senators Richard J. Durbin and Al Franken have introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act, followed by a companion bill in the House from Representatives Ruben Hinojosa and George Miller.  Here’s the text of the act, and here’s a brief explanation from the Chronicle of Higher Education.  SPARC has an action page in support of the legislation.

ALA invites you to sign a Declaration for the Right to Libraries.

The public now has a way to say, “I need this information, but it’s behind a paywall.  Why, O why is it not open access?”  …or words to that effect.  Check out the brand-new Open Access Button, an open-source bookmarklet developed by a couple of university students.  The project is gaining support and is growing.

Kevin Smith says this is a good time for librarians to practice saying “no,” in terms of Harvard Business Review’s restrictions on article usage via EBSCOhost.

The Digital Public Library of America is looking for volunteer “community reps.”

OK, now to Google:  First, the Google Books ruling, and Web of Science’s deal with Google Scholar.  First, Google has won the lawsuit brought against by the Authors Guild, et al., in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York.  Here’s the primary source document.  Essentially, Judge Denny Chin ruled that the Google Books project is an “essential research tool” that benefits the public, is transformative, and is legal as a fair use of copyrighted works.  Timothy B. Lee in the Washington Post proclaims this “a huge victory for online innovation.”  Copyright on Campus highlights the reasoning behind the ruling.  ALA’s Ted Wegner says an appeal is expected.  Meanwhile at Library Juice, Rory Litwin shares a spirited e-mail discussion about what the ruling means, according to members of the Progressive Librarians Guild and of ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table.  Library researcher Elisabeth Jones considers the skeptical reactions and still believes the decision is “a massive victory for libraries,” not just for Google. 

OK, that’s one Googlish hot topic.  The other is not so much on the public’s radar, but it’s made quite a stir among librarians this past week.  Remember the studies comparing the coverage and usefulness of Google Scholar, Scopus, and Web of Science?  A couple of these have now formed an alliance.  Thomson Reuters has announced through e-mails that they’re removing their citations, and their citation counts and tracking, from library vendors’ discovery services, such as Primo, EBSCO Discovery, and Summon–  and instead dealing directly with Google Scholar.  Looking ahead, perhaps Google is positioning itself as a vendor to libraries–  I hear they have some e-books–  and perhaps Google Scholar will actively compete with other discovery services.  But wait–  there’s more!

Almost as soon as librarians had finished scratching our heads over this announcement, update e-mails began arriving.  Apparently Thomson Reuters had made deals with Primo, EBSCO Discovery, and Summon after all.  It’s not entirely clear why all this happened as it did.  The one conclusion I can draw from available evidence (e-mail discussion lists, etc.) is that librarians were not amused.

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