University Senate Committee Report, AY 2003-2004

Libraries and AcIS Committee


The Committee on Libraries and ACIS met regularly throughout the Fall and Spring semesters. Early in the Fall semester, Jeremy Waldron (ten., Law) took over as chair from last year’s chair, Fran Pritchett (tenured, A&S), who had been acting as Chair pro tem. Regular attenders at our meetings were Ilona Bicsak (library staff), Eleanor Dickey (non-ten., Classics), Curtis Kendrick (administration, Libraries), Vace Kundakci (administration, AcIS), Carol Lin (non-ten., Biological Sciences), Jim Neal (University librarian), Fran Pritchett (tenured, A&S), Pat Renfro (Dep. University Librarian), Nancy Ronning (alum.), Christopher Small (Res., Lamont-Doherty), Jeremy Waldron (ten., Law), Nathan Walker (Stu., TC). A number of other members of the committee attended sporadically or not at all – due in large measure to the fact that we had to change the scheduled meeting time halfway through the Fall semester. 

1. Reports and Discussion

A lot of the Committee’s business consisted in hearing and discussing reports on various developments and studies within the library and ACIS systems. These reports and discussions characteristically do not involve action or resolution on the Committee’s part but are an invaluable basis for Committee members’ understanding of the systems and their problems. During the year, reports in this category heard and discussed by the Committee included:

·                    Course Works system, the options for its eventual replacement

·                    the Open Knowledge Initiative

·                    Budget issues

·                    results of The Libraries surveys

·                    RECAP Offsite Storage facility at Princeton, and planning for the 4th module

·                    the setting up of Libraries development team, with sections on Major gifts, Annual Giving/Events and Grants

·                    addition of records and links for open access journals on CLIO

2. Lawsuits Relating to Illegal File-Sharing

In November, the Committee devoted a meeting to the discussion of issues concerning the University's participation in a lawsuit against a student’s illegal file-sharing of music from the internet. The University provided internet records, in response to subpoena. The Committee heard from two guests, Professor Eben Moglen (from the Law School, who had represented one of the students) and Beryl Abrams (of the Office of University Counsel). There was discussion of the basis on which the University retains records of the use that has been made of University-provided internet access. There was agreement on the Committee on two things:

·                    efforts should be made to ensure that students are aware of rules about internet use and of the existence of University records, that might be passed on under subpoena by potential plaintiffs

·                    the Committee should consider developing a resolution for the full Senate, concerning the normative length of time that records of internet use are retained. It was acknowledged that this involved also some consideration of security and law-enforcement issues as well as student privacy concerns: records need to be retained for a certain period in case there has been abuse or harassment involving internet use. A two-week period was suggested. Pressure of other work in Spring 2004 prevented this resolution from being further discussed and developed; so the issue remains alive for the Committee to address in Fall 2004.

3. Scholarly publishing

Throughout the year, the Committee devoted a lot of attention to issues about scholarly publishing, and the growing crisis in serial pricing, particularly at the hands of one or two publishers. Early in the Fall, the Committee allowed a member of a group of scientists from the University of California to talk to us about the issue. And throughout the year, we heard a number of reports on this issue from Jim Neal, and considered a number of the initiatives that he is developing to address this issue including:

·                    membership of Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), a group whose mission is to “ignite major changes in the global system of scholarly communication.”

·                    the scheduling of a number of meetings with faculty in the departments of Arts and Sciences and Engineering over the course of the spring and next fall semesters to discuss current and future developments in scholarly publishing/communication in those disciplines.

·                    Columbia’s hosting in November 2004 of an international conference on fair use in libraries, focusing the need to restore balance in copyright between the interests of information creators and consumers.

·                    maintaining contact with other Universities, other University Libraries, and groups of concerned faculty at other Universities, so that we share in the growing awareness of various initiatives that are being undertaken around the country to deal with this issue.

In discussing problems of scholarly publishing and pricing, the Committee considered a number of issues, including

·                    the academic exception to the ordinary “work-for-hire” rule concerning intellectual property developed by an employee as part of his or her employment

·                    editorial practices at various serials, concerning assignment of copyright

·                    relation between scholarly publishing issues and issue of tenure and promotion

·                    text-book publishing practices

·                    anti-trust issues in the organization of boycotts against offending publishers

Out of this discussion, we developed the idea of a broad resolution, to be put before the University Senate, setting out a number of principles with which this problem might be approached. The aim of such a resolution was to raise consciousness of the issue, foster discussion, and move to encourage the growth of a common ethos among members of our scholarly community about the ways in which their own copyright (and the assignment of their individual copyright in their works) might afford a basis for predatory pricing by publishers. The resolution aims to encourage members of our scholarly community to think about the broader consequences for scholarly publishing when they make decisions about the assignment of copyright. The resolution – a copy of which is attached to this report -- was circulated in draft at the February meeting of the full Senate, and put forward for adoption at the March meeting. There was discussion at both meetings. At the latter meeting, some was opposition expressed concerning the breadth of the resolution, and its implications for faculty members who rely on their individual earnings from text-book publishing. The resolution was tabled at the March meeting, and the Committee’s present disposition is to discuss it again in the Fall, in the light of presentations solicited from its opponents, with a view to resuming full Senate discussion in November 2004.

4. The “Agora” Project

The Committee heard presentations on the initiative to set up a project enabling members of the Columbia community (students and faulty and researchers) to indicate their research interests and network with others who shared those interests. (This project was also the subject of a presentation at the full Senate meeting in March.) The Committee’s support for this initiative was sought by its sponsors. Committee members asked a number of questions about the value and implications of this project, and resolved to discuss the matter, without the need for any further presentation, at an early meeting in Fall 2004.

5. Other Issues

Other issues raised by Committee members, discussed by the Committee, and referred to the Libraries for further consideration included:

·                    libraries’ opening hours, especially access for graduate students during breaks.

·                    the use of study space in the libraries, particularly competing concerns of graduate students and undergraduates

Jeremy Waldron