Sergey Brin Op-Ed Article: A Library to Last Forever

On October 9, 2009 an Op-Ed article, A LIBRARY TO LAST FOREVER, by Sergey Brin, Co-Founder and President, Technology of Google Inc. was published in the New York which he discusses Google’s rationale for their book project. For the informaation I am including in this post the two final paragraphs of his article, a link to the article itself, and some randomly selected comments in response to his article. Accoring to Mr. Brin: “Google’s books project is a win-win for authors, publishers and Google, but the real winners are readers, who will have access to an expanded world of books” Others are not so sure.


“In the Insurance Year Book 1880-1881, which I found on Google Books, Cornelius Walford chronicles the destruction of dozens of libraries and millions of books, in the hope that such a record will “impress the necessity of something being done” to preserve them. The famous library at Alexandria burned three times, in 48 B.C., A.D. 273 and A.D. 640, as did the Library of Congress, where a fire in 1851 destroyed two-thirds of the collection.

I hope such destruction never happens again, but history would suggest otherwise. More important, even if our cultural heritage stays intact in the world’s foremost libraries, it is effectively lost if no one can access it easily. Many companies, libraries and organizations will play a role in saving and making available the works of the 20th century. Together, authors, publishers and Google are taking just one step toward this goal, but it’s an important step. Let’s not miss this opportunity.”



“…If this is such a ‘great opportunity’ that “cannot be missed” as Mr. Brin says, then let’s have the Library of Congress oversee and manage and hold rights to the orphaned content, returning all income to that public trust. And let’s find out how devoted Google is to this public project by asking it to donate the content it has already digitally ‘appropriated.’ ”

“The ridiculously self-serving comments about libraries need to be dispelled: libraries are not “disappearing day by day”, and you don’t have to fly anywhere searching blindly for out-of-print books: you can either look for them yourself on the internet on Worldcat, the public version of the world’s largest library database, or you can ask your local librarian to find your titles and have them brought to you through their interlibrary loan system. None of this is news to anyone, and someone who intends to become the world’s monopoly provider of out-of-print digital books already knows that his statements here are deliberately exaggerated and misleading.

Being an avid Google user, I for one find the google books an extremely useful addition to it’s many other functions. I also fail to see what the problem is. Google is doing something that will benefit everyone. ”

“As an author I have used Google books extensively, even finding things about rural Ohio in the Harvard Library collection. …However, the only sure way something can be read is to keep it in text form on a piece of paper. Many digital applications have come and gone – or even a format such as tape recording. Digital is convenient, but much important scientific data has been lost because it could not be read from the recording format.”

Libraries still do exist to effectively organize and provide access to information in a variety of forms. Google might want to investigate beyond its own campus before presuming to offer a solution to a problem that is arguably self-serving in the guise of altruism.”

“…If what Google has done is such a great idea, and so nobly motivated, then surely Segey Brin won’t object if Google’s code and data are used and redistributed, at profit, by others, without consultation or prior arrangement. “.

“… There remain clear goals for librarians to collect, describe and provide access and these goals will continue whether the librarian works for a public library, private library or digital library.”

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