Association of American Universities Research Libraries Project, in collaboration with the Association of Research Libraries., Reports of the AAU Task Forces. Washington: Association of Research Libraries, 1994 . Pp. ii + 154. Pricing st ructured to encourage bulk purchases; information from firstname.lastname@example.org. ISBN 0-918006-24-4.
Reviewed by James J. O'Donnell, University of Pennsylvania.
These are talking papers produced over the last year and a half by three task forces looking at the most pressing issues facing American academic libraries: "acquisition and distribution of foreign language and area studies materials" (it gets harder and harder to be sure we have a good national collection representing areas of interest around the world), "a national strategy for managing scientific and technical information" (in other words, a way to avoid being bankrupted by the cost of buying the b ack results of the rapidly-growing mass of results of scientific investigation, especially from commercial journal publishers), and "intellectual property rights in an electronic environment" (in other words, how to manage information responsibly in cyber space without being hamstrung by copyright).
The topics are all of urgent interest. To readers of BMCR/BMMR, the first and third are of the greatest importance. The last in particular has pressing relevance, and this document is a specially good exposition of what the issues are and how they are affected by electronic information. American academics know too little about their libraries and next to nothing about intellectual property laws. Universities often have copyright policies that are obsolete, incoherent, and dangerous to the institutions' best interests.
These documents were prepared then by a series of high-powered task forces to be talking papers for use on real campuses, creating awareness of issues and nudging institutions towards more responsible and, what amounts to the same thing, more intellige ntly self-interested policies in these areas. They are lucid, interesting, and constructive (unless you take the view of one commercial publisher who read the intellectual property report and found it "seditious" -- whether that is a good thing or a bad t hing is another question).