August 2016

Openness and Uniformity

I want to take a moment to highlight the completion of the work by the Reproduction and Use Fees Working Group (RUFWG) over the last year. The focus of the group was developing a set of policies and procedures for digitization requests. At the same time, the group attended to questions regarding uses of our digitized content. I asked our group to harmonize practices across the University Library and to position us in such a way that our policies on reuse of digitized content reflect our values about the flow of scholarly information.

Those of you who have worked with our digital collections will be familiar with the diversity of practices we, as an organization, employed. Prior to the work of the RUFWG, different rate structures existed in several different parts of the Library. We also occasionally placed unnecessary restrictions on the use—including scholarly uses—of digitized public domain content. In some cases, the line between charges for digitization and “use fees” for permission to use digitized Library content was blurred.

The RUFWG brought together individuals from several representative groups of the Library, including RBML, Archives, and DCC, and addressed the issues in ways that will advance our interests as an institution.

By far the most important contribution of the group’s work was addressing the matter of use of digitized content from our collections. As a result of their work and our discussions, the group made recommendations that support freer use of our digitized content, particularly from works that are in the public domain. In the RUFWG’s final report, they note that “It is the Library’s mission that materials in all of our collections remain easily accessible and that they may be reproduced for purposes consistent with both the fair use and library and archives provisions of U.S. copyright law.” The resulting guidelines for reproduction, use, and copyright state that “Commercial or advertising use fees may be applied only in those instances where the University of Illinois owns the copyright in a work and chooses to exercise those rights.” By taking this position, our Library makes clear its commitment to making digitized content openly available in the highest-quality form whenever this is legally permitted. For example, we will not offer lower-quality versions of digital surrogates as a way to stimulate payment of fees. By taking these steps, we make it clear that we are committed to removing barriers between scholars and our digital materials, always providing patrons with the most direct access to the highest-quality scholarly resources available.

We will also benefit in other ways from the work of this group. Harmonizing practices for requesting and paying for digitized work is an important benefit for our users. We now offer our users a single fee structure and form for making these requests. Of course, behind the scenes, different Library units will have different challenges (and thus processes) to satisfy these requests, but a common form and set of fees will undoubtedly be a welcome benefit. Another benefit will be greater care with regard to audits and accountability for fees charged. With more oversight by the Library’s Business and Human Resources Service Center, we can ensure that we are better positioned to respond to audits that examine our use of income from fees. This will be especially important as more scrutiny is given to areas of University accounting.

I want to acknowledge the good work of the group, which took place over most of the last academic year. Members of the group include Tom Teper (chair), Bill Maher, Dennis Sears, Jennifer Teper, and Angela Waarala. Their thorough work, as well as the important discussions with the Executive Committee, Administrative Council, the Special Collections Division, and Content, Access, Policy, and Technology (CAPT), produced sound recommendations and important new processes for our Library. The relevant documents, including fee schedules and recommendations, can be found linked in conjunction with the February 15, 2016 Administrative Council meeting:

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian