[WEB4LIB] Re: Linking to Amazon.com for Big Bucks

Grace Agnew grace.agnew at ibid.library.gatech.edu
Tue Oct 26 11:01:54 EDT 1999


I just had to respond to this email  and tell you, as a long-time public
librarian now working in academia--your points are very well-expressed and
I couldn't agree more.  This "why isn't a library more like a business"
raises its head in many guises.  A decade ago, it was information brokering
for database searches.  Today, it's partnering with Amazon.  The library
fills a unique niche in society, just as the local symphony does.  While we
can always look for ways to improve our unique service, it is our very
uniqueness that sustains us.  We can become a button on the Amazon web
page, and the local symphony, for that matter, can become a Real JukeBox
button, but if this occurs, a very vital role will be lost, perhaps
irretrievably. The web has allowed public libraries, in particular, to have
a worldwide presence, but they still draw their flavor and their strength
from the community they serve.  And being a vital part of a local community
is more important than ever in an era where communication is worldwide but
individual voices are lost.  It's not an anachronism, it's a vital service.

Grace Agnew
Assistant Director for Systems and Technical Services
Georgia Tech Library

At 07:56 AM 10/22/1999 -0700, you wrote:
>I'm troubled by this hot new idea for raising money for the library. Seems
to me
>that you're explicitly (or at the very least) implicitly endorsing Amazon, as
>opposed to, say, bn.com, borders.com, books.com, your local bookstore...
>If I was the owner of a local bookstore and had been a strong supporter of
>local public library (which is the way it should work), and I then found that
>the library's online catalog was--in effect--touting Amazon and steering
>customers away from my bookstore, I would at the very least be outraged
and cut
>off library support. At worst, I'd think that the bookstores and competitive
>online stores would have a pretty good case for a lawsuit about using tax
>to support specific businesses over other businesses--and I don't think
you can
>make the claim that no public resources are being used, when you explicitly
>mount links and build the linking mechanism.
>If you're one of those who believes that public libraries should really be
>businesses anyway, and that anything that brings in the bucks is a Good Idea,
>then I suppose this is old-fashioned liberal whining. I assume your community
>information file sells placement? (Looking for a restaurant? Our reference
>department will steer you to whoever's paid us the best fee!)
>I haven't responded to some of these other notes, but I assume some of you
>aware of the negative implications of systems that offer to show you books
>might want based not only on what you've borrowed before (which means they
>a record of everything you've borrowed--so much for decades of working out
>privacy provisions) but, much worse, on what *other people* have borrowed
>I've heard it suggested recently that Amazon's not really in the book
>they're in the demographic information business. I suppose a library could
>make Big Bucks by going that route: "people on this block seem to take out
a lot
>of left-wing literature--oh, and look, there are really only two heavy
users on
>this block."
>Disclaimer: these are my own thoughts and don't represent the opinions of my
>employers, although I can assure you that our design and implementation
>practices support searcher confidentiality as a basic principle. And we
>implemented "buy it here" links, at least partly because of the equity issue.
>But we haven't taken a formal stand on that...and then again, we're not a
>library or tax-supported academic library.

Grace Agnew
Assistant Director for Systems & Technical Services
Georgia Tech Library
(404) 894-8932
(404) 894-6084 (fax)

mailto:grace.agnew at library.gatech.edu

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