February 7, 2013
It’s rare to be sued for expressing your opinion on a blog but that’s exactly what seems to be happening to a librarian at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario. In fact,librarians in both Canada and the US took to social media yesterday to discuss the rumour that Edwin Mellen Press <http://mellenpress.com/> with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom was about to file a statement of claim against the McMaster librarian.
Today, more details of the lawsuit have started to appear. Dale Askey, Associate University Librarian, Library and Learning Technologies, at McMaster University Library, was served notice in June 2012 by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The plaintiff, Edwin Mellen Press, is suing Askey and McMaster University for three million dollars for defamatory comments made about the publisher on one of Askey’s blogposts.
Copy of legal notice: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bz0QkOJbKc0mbVlBZmd3dUtDMmM/edit?usp=sharing&pli=1
(includes a copy of defendant’s blogpost).
The Steering Committee of the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians is gathering information about this lawsuit but find some of the early details very troubling. It is certainly unprecedented for an academic librarian in Canada to be sued for voicing his opinion on the matter of a publisher’s reputation. Further, it would seem that many other academics and librarians have expressed similar opinions.
For the record, CAPAL wants to affirm the right of academic librarians to voice their opinions about materials they collect, and this includes the publishers from whom these materials are purchased. CAPAL will be watching to see whether the suit has any merit but want to state emphatically that we believe this to be a threat to academic freedom not just at McMaster University but academia everywhere.
Petition to Sign
Academic Librarian blog (Princeton U). “Edwin Mellen Press Suing a Librarian?” http://blogs.princeton.edu/librarian/2013/02/edwin-mellen-press-suing-a-librarian/
Shocking attack on academic freedom at McMaster http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/02/shocking-attack-on-academic-freedom-at-mcmaster-by-edwin-mellen-press.html
Dale Askey Blog, http://bibliobrary.net/
“When Sellers and Buyers Disagree” see http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/02/11/you-probably-think-this-song-is-about-you-edwin-mellen-press-vs-a-critical-librarian/
Les Green page at McMaster http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/02/shocking-attack-on-academic-freedom-at-mcmaster-by-edwin-mellen-press.html
Chronicle Forum notes past history of Mellen Press: http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?topic=35215.45 and http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?topic=122855.225
Inside Higher Education, “It was, as such, my job to assess the quality of books, and I did so based on many years of experience in the field,” he said in an e-mail interview. “As budgets decrease, the necessity to be more discerning increases, yet libraries have reduced their qualified staff numbers over the years. As a qualified and experienced librarian, I was sharing a professional opinion for consumption by peers.” see http://www.insidehighered.com/print/news/2013/02/08/academic-press-sues-librarian-raising-issues-academic-freedom?width=775&height=500&iframe=true
Guidelines for Librarians:
Librarians protect yourself on social media sites. “Blogging & the Law” http://hlwiki.slais.ubc.ca/index.php/Blogging_and_the_law (Freedom of speech & Limits)