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CLIR Issues Number 48

CLIR Issues

Number 48 • November/December 2005


CLIR Launches New Agenda by Nancy Davenport

Asking for Access by Kathlin Smith

CLIR Welcomes New Staff and Consultant

SCI3 Discussions Lively and Wide Ranging by Amy Harbur

SAVE THE DATE! April 7, 2006

CLIR Receives Mellon Award

CLIR Launches New Agenda

by Nancy Davenport


ON THE EVE of its 50th anniversary, CLIR has launched a new, three-year agenda. Growing out of a strategic planning session held by the CLIR Board’s Executive Committee this summer, the agenda centers on four themes: place as library, scholarly communication, preservation and stewardship, and leadership.

Place as library will be the keystone to the agenda. The phrase reflects the fact that library resources and services are increasingly being delivered outside the library’s walls. Library staff are working, often side-by-side, with the creators of knowledge—in labs, classrooms, faculty departments, and computing centers. In many cases, libraries and computing centers are taking on roles that publishers traditionally held in disseminating scholarship.

The phrase place as library also acknowledges the potential, in a networked world, for information resources on campus to become more integrated. Most institutions now have the technical capacity to share with the outside world the vast amount of research and information that is generated on their campuses. Ironically, they often lack the organization and structures that would allow departments on their own campuses to easily share such information. For example, a biotechnology student at a large research university recently lamented that while working in the lab, she had no means to access information on relevant experiments (published or unpublished) that had previously been done there. How can a college or university ensure that the information resources and services available on its campus (or through a campus agency) are available campus-wide?

To begin its exploration of place as library, CLIR will commission a series of “think pieces” on the topic. Then, early in 2006, CLIR will appoint an advisory group of librarians, provosts, publishers, information technology (IT) providers, and users. Group members will use the essays as a basis of discussion at their first meeting. The aim of that meeting will be to conceptualize models of user-driven, differentiated services for various learning communities—models that can serve users around the clock, regardless of their location. CLIR will identify institutions that are developing collaborations with other cultural organizations on their campuses and in their larger communities and will publicize information on these partnerships in forthcoming editions of CLIR Issues. CLIR will then develop and promote intrainstitutional models of a newly configured and redefined campus library.

Ongoing work at the Digital Library Federation, such as DLF Aquifer, a second-generation Open Archives Initiative finding system, and the Electronic Resources Management Initiative, will complement CLIR’s work in place as library.

Scholarly communication, the second item on CLIR’s new agenda, is an intrinsic component of place as library. The current blurring of traditional roles in the chain of scholarly communication—those of creator, publisher, distributor, and steward—makes it essential that we understand how each participant in the communication process contributes to the creation, dissemination, and retention of scholarly work. Collaboration among librarians, IT experts, faculty members, and academic executives is needed to acquire and distribute new forms of digital scholarly communication, to develop user-driven services for groups whose preferred mode of access is electronic, and to maintain and exploit the rich heritage in our paper-based collections.

CLIR’s agenda will address issues relating to new forms of scholarly practice, the use of digital assets, ownership of scholarly work, and the functions of the library and university press in supporting and disseminating scholarship. In 2006, we will commission and publish two studies. The first will contain forecasts of scholars’ use of digital assets in selected disciplines; the second will focus on the changing value chain, from author to reader, in scholarly communication.

The vitality of scholarly communication depends on access to the scholarly record. Libraries and other collecting institutions today face formidable challenges in providing access to the growing print and digital record. New preservation strategies will be needed to meet the unique demands of digital information and the challenges of managing a hybrid preservation environment.

The new preservation landscape raises a series of questions that CLIR will pursue over the next three years. For example, if managing a digital journal subscription is less expensive than is managing its print counterpart, how can the funds saved be reallocated to ensure continuing access to and persistence of the digital versions? Libraries have partnered to develop purchasing consortiums: Can preservation consortiums for shared ownership in print archives be similarly constructed? What underlying trust, financial, and operating mechanisms must precede implementation? To what extent will newly digitized versions of older material revitalize demand for the artifact? What bearing might the answer to that question have on the development, location, and operations of print repositories? The DLF is working on developing standardized ways of handling the licensing and business aspects of leased digital materials. CLIR’s focus is complementary: What are the preservation questions raised by long-term access to materials not owned by a library? Should libraries take on such preservation? What will happen if they do not?

If place as library is the keystone of CLIR’s agenda, leadership is the mortar. We need to develop leaders with broad perspectives, an understanding of user groups and their needs, the ability to work effectively across institutional units, and the will to effect change in a change-resistant environment. The effective delivery of the information, services, and education that will enable scholars to thrive in a virtual library requires flexible, forward-looking leaders. Building on the success of the Frye Leadership Institute, CLIR will develop a curriculum and financial model for a new, self-sustaining program in leadership development that includes librarians, IT providers, educational technologists, faculty members, and administrators. The objective of this program will be to train leaders who can foster greater collaboration within institutions.

The staff and Board look forward to embarking on this new agenda. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Asking for Access

by Kathlin Smith


REALIZING THE DREAM of creating a rich, openly accessible digital library requires navigating copyright. A new study, Acquiring Copyright Permission to Digitize and Provide Open Access to Books, examines the practical aspects of seeking open access to monographs whose rights are privately held—that is, most work published after 1923. The author, Denise Troll Covey, principal librarian for special projects at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), describes three efforts at CMU to make books freely available on the Internet for public use. Her descriptions of this process and its results reveal an array of challenges—from locating copyright holders to defining the meaning of out of print—but also suggest strategies for success. The studies show that obtaining legal clearances requires an enormous investment of time, money, and patience.

Random Sample Feasibility Study

The first of the three studies, the Random Sample Feasibility Study, was conducted between 1999 and 2001. Its purpose was to determine how likely it was that publishers would grant nonexclusive permission to digitize and provide surface Web access to their copyrighted books and to gain insight into what factors influence publishers’ decisions. The study was also intended to help project staff understand the process of acquiring permission, the time it takes, and the problems encountered so that lessons learned might be applied in subsequent efforts.

The study targeted 277 titles published by 209 publishers, selected at random from CMU’s library catalog. Project staff requested permission on a title-by-title basis, mailing a separate letter for each inquiry. A follow-up letter was sent if the publisher did not respond. Publishers who no longer held the copyright in question sometimes returned the letters; in such cases, project staff attempted to find the current owner.

Ultimately, 21 percent of the publishers, accounting for 19 percent of the titles in the sample, could not be located. Half of the publishers responded to the request letters, and more than one-fourth of them granted permission, thereby enabling CMU to digitize and provide Web access to about 25 percent of the copyrighted books in the sample. Most of the publishers who granted permission applied some kind of restriction, ranging from limiting access to Carnegie Mellon users to stipulating that permission did not apply to components of the work with copyright owned by a third party.

Troll Covey estimates that the average cost of obtaining a single permission was about $200.

Fine and Rare Book Study

The Fine and Rare Book Study was conducted between 2001 and 2004. The effort focused on the Posner Memorial Collection of fine and rare books and associated archival material. The materials were collected by Henry Posner, Sr., between 1924 and 1973 and are now housed at CMU. The collection includes 284 copyrighted works owned by 104 copyright holders.

To reduce transaction costs, project staff changed their approach for their second study. If a publisher held multiple titles of interest, staff included all the titles in a single request letter rather than send one letter per publication. Staff also followed up by telephone or e-mail, rather than by a second letter, with publishers that had not responded to the first letter.

Although project staff located fewer of the publishers of copyrighted content in the Posner project than in the feasibility study, they greatly increased both the response and success rates during the second study. Almost two-thirds of the publishers responded to the request or follow-up letters, and almost half of them granted permission. This enabled CMU to digitize and provide Web access to most of the copyrighted titles in the Posner collection. Publishers who granted permission in the Posner project applied fewer restrictions than did those granting such permission in the feasibility study. Thirty-one percent of the publishers, accounting for 13 percent of the copyrighted titles in the Posner Collection, could not be located.

Project staff attributed the increased success of the Posner project to a more informative initial request letter, prompt follow-up by e-mail or telephone, and the publishers’ ability to see the quality of the digitized books in the Posner collection on the Web. Also, most of the titles in the Posner collection were owned by special publishers. The feasibility study had shown that such publishers were more likely to grant permission than traditional publishers were.

Project staff monitored the costs of the Fine and Rare Books Study and found that the average transaction cost per copyrighted title in the Posner collection for which permission was granted was $78.

Million Book Project

The Million Book Project (MBP) is funded by the National Science Foundation and the governments of India and China. Its goal is to digitize and provide open access to 1 million books by 2007. The MBP is part of the Universal Library Project, a partnership of Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science and the CMU libraries.

When the first collection-development meeting was held in 2001, MBP planners decided that 100,000 of the 1 million books would be works in copyright. (The remaining works would be in the public domain or would be indigenous works from India and China.) Project staff began selecting the copyrighted works to be digitized by consulting Books for College Libraries (BCL). The 50,000 titles cited in BCL were published by about 5,600 publishers. Because it would be too expensive to seek title-by-title permission, project staff decided to use a per-publisher approach—to treat BCL as they would an approval plan for publishers. Staff asked the publishers of books cited in BCL for permission to digitize all their out-of-print, in-copyright books, to digitize all such books published before a date of the publishers’ choosing, or to digitize a subset of titles of their choosing. The analysis in the report is based on 364 publishers with which staff sought to close negotiations.

Staff located all the publishers that they attempted to contact in the MBP. As of February 2005, 61 percent of the negotiations had been completed; the rest were still being negotiated. Almost one-fourth of the publishers granted permission to include at least some of their titles in the MBP; altogether, permission was given for at least 52,900 titles. Slightly more than one-fourth of the publishers denied permission. Of the publishers that granted permission, one-fourth did so for all or most of their out-of-print titles. More than half granted permission for a specific subset of their titles.

The average transaction cost for obtaining permission in the MBP was 69 cents per title.

General Findings

The three studies show that however painstaking the effort, it is possible to secure permission to digitize and provide open access to books. The following findings from the CMU projects may be instructive to others who plan to seek copyright permission for digitization.

  • Locating copyright holders is difficult, expensive, and often unsuccessful. The three studies demonstrated the time-consuming and often-fruitless effort required to identify and locate copyright holders, especially those for older works. Publishers move, merge, or go out of business, or copyright reverts to the author. Authors and estates may be extremely difficult to find.
  • For very large projects, the cost of obtaining permission on a title-by-title basis may be prohibitive.
  • Obtaining permission to digitize targeted collections of material is more successful than is obtaining permission for entire bodies of published work. The per-title cost of a targeted effort, however, is higher than that of a nontargeted approach. Standard library practice is to target designated collections; therefore, the transaction costs suggested in the MBP may be unsuitable for planning purposes.
  • The likelihood of gaining permission varies among types of publishers. Special publishers, authors and estates, museums and galleries, and scholarly associations were most likely to grant permission. University presses and commercial presses were the least likely to grant permission. Scholarly associations and university presses were more likely to grant access to older works than commercial publishers were.
  • Some types of publishers are easier to locate than others. Museums and galleries, scholarly associations, and university presses were the easiest publishers to locate; commercial publishers were the most difficult to locate and least likely to respond.
  • Publishers who deny permission may fear lost revenue, may no longer hold rights, or may be uncertain of their rights. Publishers who chose not to grant permission to digitize often did so because they feared lost revenue, even for older or out-of-print titles that were not generating revenue. Many publishers, particularly university presses, said that they wanted to participate but could not because copyright reverts to the author when their books go out of print. Many publishers noted that older contracts did not grant them electronic rights to the books or that they were uncertain of their rights in this regard. The most common reason publishers gave for not participating in the MBP was they did not have the time and staff needed to check their paper files title-by-title to determine copyright status and ownership.
  • Publishers define “out of print” differently than librarians do. Even though a book may be listed as “out of print” in a catalog, publishers who still control rights to a book may view it otherwise because print on demand can give a book new life.

The study findings are preceded by a brief history of copyright law and practice. The full text of the report, copublished by CLIR and the Digital Library Federation, is available at

CLIR Welcomes New Staff and Consultant

Roberts photoPauline Roberts has been appointed CLIR’s director of finance. Ms. Roberts is a certified public accountant with 15 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector. She comes to CLIR from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, where she served as director of finance. She has also held positions in finance and accounting at the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.


Kresh photoDiane Kresh has been appointed consultant to CLIR for a project to develop The Whole Digital Library Handbook. The handbook, which will be published by the American Library Association, will be a practical guide for anyone who manages, works in, or uses a digital library. It will be a compilation of facts, lists, documents, “think” pieces, guidelines, “best-of-breed” case studies, and humor. Perspectives offered will be both national and international and will include examples drawn from all types of libraries—academic, school, public, special, and national. The book will also examine library education and how we identify and nurture the library leaders of tomorrow.

Ms. Kresh is director of the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress (LC). The project is a nationwide volunteer effort to collect and preserve oral histories from America’s war veterans. From April 1998 to June 2004, she served as LC’s director for public service collections. In that capacity, she founded the Collaborative Digital Reference Service (now QuestionPoint, a service jointly developed by LC and OCLC), a project to build a global, Web-based, reference service among libraries and research institutions. That accomplishment earned her the 2003 Director’s Award from the Virtual Reference Service.

SCI3 Discussions Lively and Wide Ranging

by Amy Harbur


MORE THAN 40 scholars, librarians, administrators, and technologists came together in mid-July at the University of Virginia for a lively, three-day debate on the past, present, and future of scholarly communication in the humanities. Moderated by Bill Walker of the University of Miami, the gathering was the third in the series of Scholarly Communication Institutes (SCIs) supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. While participants in the 2004 Institute had focused on a single field—practical ethics—the net was thrown far wider at the 2005 session. Rather than concentrating on a single discipline’s expectations of digital scholarship and methods for harnessing it, deliberations centered on the notion of digital scholarship itself: its uses, its vices, its possibilities and consequences, its sustainability—even its very definition.

Four institutions—the University of Virginia, Emory University, Indiana University, and Wheaton College—sent teams to SCI3. Each team included a senior scholar, a senior administrative officer, the college or university librarian, a technologist, and a student. Several other institutions and organizations, from the University of Nebraska to the American Council of Learned Societies, sent individual representatives.

The Institute’s opening session featured Stanley Katz of Princeton University and Donald Waters of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Their comments on digital scholarship set the framework for the next two days’ discussion.

Waters asked participants a basic question: What is digital scholarship? Does it encompass any type of work done on a computer, or does it mean something more—as he put it, that “rarer and more peculiar case where the research agenda is framed and formed by what we can do with computers.” He cited advances in the field of archaeology, listing several ways in which scholars in that field are using digital scholarship to create their own resources. They are using digital technology, he said

. . .to build new fields and subfields of study by systematically identifying relevant evidence and related work . . . to create new resources of evidence that will open or reinvigorate fields of study . . . to develop collaborative structures for richer and more-detailed analysis of related but distributed data sets . . . to reshape the stewardship of and access to archaeological collections around content rather than format . . . and to visualize and test hypotheses and theories by assembling virtual reconstructions of sites based on available evidence.

Because such work can be carried out and advanced only with the aid of digital technology, it deserves the designation of “digital scholarship,” Waters argued.

But the opportunities afforded by this new form of scholarship come with risks. Katz raised several issues that merit consideration: the notion, whether real or imagined, that there is a “crisis” in academic publishing in the humanities; the changing economics of providing library services in a digital environment; and the problems individual scholars face as they struggle with matters of technology, facilitation, collaboration, compensation, promotion, and tenure. Katz urged participants to think about how their professional societies might provide the leadership needed to address these issues and to advance digital scholarship. He also warned that scholars in the humanities “haven’t done well on a national basis in establishing what we’re about, where we’re headed, and what we need to do to get there.”

That lack of clarity was mentioned repeatedly as the conversations continued over the next two days. At one point, Charles Henry of Rice University noted that his own research showed that this discussion had been going on in the humanities and social science communities for 40 years. But that doesn’t mean, he added encouragingly, that there hasn’t been progress. The larger environment has slowly but measurably changed over time, and it is significantly more ready and able to support real advancements in digital scholarship now than it has been in the past. Projects such as JSTOR, DLF Aquifer, and Google Print, which weren’t even conceivable a decade ago, have transformed scholarship, Henry maintained. Moreover, similar initiatives are springing up all over.

As SCI3 drew to a close, participants reflected on the future of digital scholarship in the context of its past and present. Although plenty of troublesome topics remain, including concerns over copyright, the general feeling was one of optimism. Participants realized that the growing amount of experience among those working with digital scholarship can now augment the nearly boundless enthusiasm for it. Scholars are at last seeing the rise of an “older generation,” able to pass on lessons learned and to provide a foundation from which current and future generations may build to ever-greater heights.

SAVE THE DATE! April 7, 2006

CLIR’s annual Sponsors’ Symposium will take place in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 7, 2006. Watch for details in the next edition of CLIR Issues.


CLIR Receives Mellon Award

THE COUNCIL ON Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has received a $750,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support general operations in 2006. The award will allow CLIR to launch a new, three-year agenda for work in four areas: place as library, scholarly communication, preservation and stewardship, and leadership (see “CLIR Launches New Agenda,” page 1).


“CLIR now has a fresh strategic plan, an expanded Board, a growing body of sponsors, and a partnership with two recognized scholars as Visiting Fellows,” said CLIR President Nancy Davenport. “As we prepare to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2006, we thank the Mellon Foundation not only for this new grant but also for the generous support and guidance it has provided over the past decades.”

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