Subject: NWU on Electronic Libraries
From: Irvin Muchnick (email@example.com)
Date: ti 20 elo 1996 - 10:28:40 EEST
Dear ecup-list subscribers,
I saw this announcement on the USA CNI Copyright-list today and
thought that it might be of interest to you. Do you agree with the
view of Bruce Hartford on the roles of the (public) library in the 21st
The following letter in *The New York Times* is in response
to a column by Paul LeClerc, president and chief executive
officer of the New York Public Library.
For the full text of the National Writers Union's
comprehensive position paper on electronic publishing
issues, *Authors in the New Information Age*, visit the
NWU's World Wide Web site: <http://www.nwu.org/nwu/>.
Copies of the paper are also available in booklet form, at
nominal cost, from the NWU's National Office West; for
further information, call (510) 839-0110 or send an e-mail
message to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
August 20, 1996
Electronic Public Libraries Must Remain Free
To the Editor:
While sharing Paul LeClerc's wish for affordable
telecommunications rates for public libraries ("Electronic
Data for All the People," Op-Ed, Aug. 17), we fear that our
elected officials are missing some broader issues regarding
an expanded and rejuvenated public library system in the
Just as they are funded now to buy physical books and
periodicals, the libraries of the future should be funded
to buy electronic works and subscriptions to data services
that the public can use free or on a discount basis. The
costs of these programs should be paid by tax revenues or
subsidized by surcharges on other electronic library
There are at least three obvious roles for libraries of the
21st century. The first is as repositories and electronic
distribution points for intellectual property not under
copyright; Project Gutenberg, which brings online works
into the public domain, is a good example.
To make similar projects feasible, the "affordable rates"
mandated by the new telecommunications law must include
moderate surcharges on commercial library users in order to
subsidize library services to those who cannot otherwise
afford access to the world infosphere.
The other key roles for libraries are those of training and
access centers and of information search centers. But for
libraries to fulfill those roles, publishers must stop
their practice of offering electronic material on a high-
cost, limited-license basis that requires annual renewal.
Unless publishers are required to provide some mechanism
whereby public libraries can acquire electronic-based
information for a one-time fee, it will be financially
impossible for libraries to operate as depositories of
record, and we will lose access to our cultural and
historical heritage. And when publishers decide that it is
no longer profitable to make certain records commercially
available, those data must be transferred to public
Though paper can yellow or become brittle, it is in some
respects hardier than electronic information, which can
become obsolete as digital formats evolve. The costs to
libraries of keeping pace with conversion must be shared by
those entities that profit from the electronic marketplace.
National Writers Union
San Francisco, Aug. 17, 1996
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