The 115th Congress is winding down, but there are still a few major pieces of legislation out there that could impact libraries. Tops on the list, as we reported last week, is the Museum and Library Services Act, which would reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through 2025. But after passing the Senate last week, the bill is reportedly now being held up by Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
“The House is refusing to advance MLSA right when we have our toes on the finish line,” reported Kathi Kromer, associate executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office, in a post on the American Libraries site. “After two years of persistent work by ALA, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), our partners at the American Alliance of Museums, and countless advocates in the field, it is disappointing that the House is breaking their word at this stage.”
Is shortchanging libraries really going to be one of Paul Ryan's last act in Congress? ALA officials are urging librarians to contact their representatives and insist that the GOP leadership allow the bill come to the floor for a vote—stay tuned.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, S. 1010, The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, which critics (including the library community) say would politicize the Register of Copyrights by making the position a presidential appointee, was scheduled to be voted out of committee this week—but for a second time, that vote was postponed. As it turns out, sources say the bill has been "redlined" and could bypass the committee vote altogether and go straight to the floor. At the moment, there are holds on the bill, however, and it's unclear what might happen next.
Google CEO Appears Before Congress
Oh, and maybe you caught this week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing with Google CEO Sundar Pichai? Gary Price at InfoDocket has a nice post for those who missed the hearing, including some options to dive into the text, searchable by keyword.
But let's cut to the chase: it wasn't pretty. Among the lowlights, The Verge points to Steve King's outrage over stuff that shows up on his granddaughter's iphone, and various members of Congress wondering why their political beliefs are being discriminated against.
A piece over at Wired pretty much captures my feelings on the hearing—Congress had a great opportunity to ask Pichar about some serious subjects—and the they blew it:
“Over the course of three and a half hours, the members of the committee staked out opposite sides of a partisan battle over whether Google search and other products are biased against conservatives. Republican members largely criticized the company for burying conservative websites in search results and amplifying criticism of conservative policies—accusations that Google has repeatedly denied. Democrats only poured fuel on the fire by spending their allotted five minutes helping Pichai shoot down those trumped-up claims, which are hard to prove either way thanks to the company's black box algorithms. The rhetorical tennis match left precious little time for committee members to explore in any detail the urgent questions around Google's interest in building a censored search engine for China, the company's bulk data collection practices, its recent security breaches, or issues related to competition and antitrust regulation.”
A new Congress is set to gavel in on January 3, and we can only hope the 116th Congress will do better next time. Potential regulation of the tech sector is a serious issue, not just here but around the world, and it will be awfully hard for anyone to have confidence that our Congress knows what it's doing when they appear to have no idea how technology works, and political axes to grind.
Representatives from the Library community were in New York last week to talk about e-books with the major publishers. American Libraries captures the tenor of those talks. "At the publisher meetings, each group articulated the unquestioned value of libraries in the reading and publishing ecosystem and indicated a strong desire to continue engagement with libraries," the report states, although some "seem to have definite ideas for changes in their e-book lending models in the relatively near future..."
On the open access front, a release from the The Association of Universities in the Netherlands reports that Dutch universities have struck a deal with publisher Elsevier to extend their current for six more months in hopes of striking a long term deal. But it doesn't sound like there is much wiggle room. "The universities are only willing to renew the subscription agreements on the provision that publishers accept 100% open access," the release states, adding that the Netherlands remains committed to "100% open access by 2020."
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Chronicle of Higher Education has a report on a letter sent by one of the University of California schools advising faculty to consider declining to review articles for Elsevier journals until contract negotiations with the publisher "are clearly moving in a productive direction.” The UC contract with Elsevier expires on December 31.
The Scholarly Kitchen has an interesting Q&A with Elsevier's Y.S. Chi.
The Guardian reports that "journalists working as factcheckers for Facebook have pushed to end a controversial media partnership with the social network, saying the company has ignored their concerns and failed to use their expertise to combat misinformation."
Bloomberg reports that Slate's newly unionized editorial staff have voted nearly unanimously to greenlight a strike, "escalating tensions between the digital publication and its newly unionized employees." Bloomberg reports that "along with stronger diversity policies and cost of living increases, the union wants the company to back off its insistence on making union fees optional, the kind of 'right-to-work' policy loathed by liberals and organized labor."
From The Atlantic, an ominous essay looks at Wisconsin: Why the Liberal Arts May Not Survive the 21st Century.
On the legal front, via Publishers Weekly, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals this week shot down the prospect of a resale market for digital files emerging any time soon, unanimously affirming a 2013 ruling that effectively shut down ReDigi, the upstart service created in 2011 to offer consumers a way to resell their legally purchased iTunes files.
With the holidays approaching, this will be the last edition of PW Preview for Librarians for 2018. We will be back with the January 4, 2019 edition, although The Week in Libraries regular feature will return with the January 11 newsletter. Best wishes for a happy holiday season.