Librarians And Copyright

Andrew AlbaneseThe annual conference of the American Library Association opened this week in San Francisco, and many attendees may have their eyes on the job board. Earlier this month, James Billington, the 86-year-old librarian of Congress, announced he would retire after 28 years. The ALA has called for his replacement to come from the ranks of its own membership – in other words, the librarian should be a librarian.

“It is clear that most of the tasks at the Copyright Office are very closely aligned with library issues,” says Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer. “Here in San Francisco, in the shadow of Silicon Valley, ALA attendees are having a conversation about the future of libraries in the digital age. There are a lot of panels and discussions on how libraries will function going forward in world of e-books and digital information. And who runs the library of Congress, as well as the Copyright Office, will say a good deal about how those institutions will function going forward.

“Personally, I would note that whoever Obama chooses to nominate will say a lot about how we balance the inherent tension in the words of the Constitution that animate copyright in the US: Do we lean toward progress? Or toward access and the idea that information is vital to an informed citizenry? Or, do we tilt toward incentivizing business and creative industries? Both are key missions,” Albanese tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally, “and balance has always been the key. Whoever leads the Library of Congress going forward will have an unprecedented chance to tip that balance for the digital age.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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