Apology: Siva Vaidhyanathan isn’t Gale Norton

Not that I actually say he is (in this essay in the current Cites & Insights), but I do make a comparison that Dr. Vaidhyanathan finds unseemly.

He takes exception to my comment in this post at Sivacracy, and says I owe him an apology in a comment on the W.a.r. post just before this one. I have, therefore, apologized for comparing him to Gale Norton.

Notably, he also asks me to provide any facts suggesting that he’s wrong in his absolute statements about Google Library Project. I do so in the essay he objects to, and in previous essays.

I read the Michigan contract. I don’t see Michigan “turning over control” of anything to Google. I don’t see Michigan abandoning their own archival-quality digitizing or anticipating that Google will solve their problems for them. I don’t see a lot of the things that Dr. Vaidhyanathan sees as betrayals of library principles.

I’m not in Siva Vaidhyanathan’s league. I can’t imagine calling an NYU professor “some dude named Siva”; it would seem pointlessly dismissive. But I’m not a professor or an academic, and probably don’t understand the mores of the field.

Is “zealot” too strong a term for Dr. Vaidhyanathan’s commentaries on Google Library Project? Perhaps.

As to a possible factual error: When I wrote the commentary (a month ago…), I did not find Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom in GBS, even with as explicit a search as I see in SV’s post, although I certainly found it in Google. It’s there now.

But then, I’ve commented before and probably will again about the issues of indeterminacy and unaccountability in the results of the large web search engines (maybe not as much in C&I as elsewhere). Those are real issues. They don’t negate the value of better ways to discover books–not as replacements for libraries or library catalogs, but as complementary tools.

Added comment: You might wonder why I didn’t add a comment directly to the “Sivacracy” post in question. That’s fairly simple: Sivacracy requires registration in order to post comments. I suspect that’s necessary, given the volume of spam that a high-profile blog attracts. But I’m disinclined to register at such sites. If a blogger chooses to make commenting difficult, that’s their privilege, and may be the only way they can handle the blog, but I generally don’t comment when commenting is made difficult.

2 Responses to “Apology: Siva Vaidhyanathan isn’t Gale Norton”

  1. Thanks, Walt. I apologize for my heated reaction and diction. I hope we can continue to work through these arguments. There is real value here.

    A Dude named Siva 🙂

  2. walt says:

    You’re welcome. This is a complex area, one where I’ve been active–and where, unusually for my writing, my employer is active (as a partner in the Open Content Alliance, although it’s also true that all of the Google Library Project participants are members of RLG).

    And I really do need to read Anarchist in the Library… One of these days, I promise.