Statement on the Google Book Settlement

Issue Date: 
December 13, 2009

Section 1.73 of the original Google Books settlement defined "Institutional Consortium" as "…a group of libraries, companies, institutions or other entities located within the United States that is a member of the International Coalition of Library Consortia with the exception of Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) - affiliated networks."

In an amici curiae brief filed on September 8, 2009 in response to the original settlement, the Bibliographical Center for Research, Lyrasis, and Nylink objected to the exclusion of "OCLC-affiliated networks". These parties requested that the definition be changed to: "…any legally constituted group of libraries, companies, institutions or other entities located within the United States".

The BCR/Lyrasis/Nylink brief gave the following rationale for removing ICOLC as a defining source for "Institutional Consortium":

    "…the International Coalition of Library Consortia ('ICOLC') is not a legally constituted body. It has no formal organizational bylaws, membership criteria or structure, nor any defined or permanent membership. Technically, there are no 'members' of ICOLC. It is simply an informal body that provides continuing education and communication among those who voluntarily choose to participate in its activities. These activities include hosting a listserv to provide an informal information exchange among organizations that choose to participate, issuing very occasional public statements, and holding twice-yearly meetings that may be attended by anyone associated with a library consortium."

Section 1.76 of the amended Google Books settlement now defines "Institutional Consortium" as "…a group of libraries, companies, institutions or other entities located within the United States that is a member of the International Coalition of Library Consortia".

The OCLC-affiliated network exclusion was removed, but ICOLC was retained as the defining source for "Institutional Consortium". The U.S. consortia that participate in the ICOLC represent only a subset of legitimate U.S. library consortia. If this definition is retained, unaffiliated U.S. library consortia will be denied eligibility for possible consortial pricing discounts and other benefits that may accrue to an "Institutional Consortium". Participating consortia of the ICOLC agree with the rationale presented in the BCR/Lyrasis/Nylink brief and agree that ICOLC should not be included in the definition of "Institutional Consortium". Given the informal, self-organized nature of the ICOLC, "membership" is not a sufficiently defined term for purposes of the settlement.

An equally major problem with the Agreement is that it requires a significant percent of members of a consortium to sign onto a deal for the consortium to qualify - which is not realistic for many (if not most) consortia.

It would be more appropriate to have a more broadly based definition of what constitutes an "Institutional Consortium", one that is more inclusive of U.S. library consortia as a group, and with realistic qualifications for participation.

About ICOLC: 

The International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) is an informal, self-organized group currently comprising approximately 200 library consortia in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. The member consortia serve all types and sizes of libraries. ICOLC has been in existence since 1996.

ICOLC supports participating consortia by facilitating discussion on issues of common interest. Twice per year ICOLC conducts meetings dedicated to keeping participating consortia informed about new electronic information resources, pricing practices of electronic information providers and vendors, and other issues of importance to directors, governing boards, and libaries of consortia. From time to time ICOLC also issues statements regarding topics which affect libraries and library consortia.

More information about ICOLC can be found at http://www.icolc.org or contact Tom Sanville, Director, Library Services, LYRASIS, Suite 200, 1438 West Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, GA, Phone: 404-892-0943 ext. 4873; tom.sanville@lyrasis.org