The Library Faculty Organization of the Pennsylvania State University joins other libraries, library associations, publishers, and individuals in supporting Dale Askey, Associate University Librarian at McMaster University, and in deploring litigation brought against him by the founder of the Edwin Mellen Press, Herbert Richardson.
In 2010 Mr. Askey, then a librarian at Kansas State University, published on his blog comments about the Edwin Mellen Press and its publications, judging them to be of generally poor quality and not worthy of purchase by Libraries. Readers of his blog commented, echoing the author’s assessment. In 2012 Edwin Mellen Press filed suit against Mr. Askey and McMaster, seeking $3 million in damages. Herbert Richardson also filed a similar suit asking for $1 million in damages. Although Edwin Mellen Press announced on March 4, 2013 that it had dropped its suit in the face of significant public criticism, Mr. Richardson’s legal action continues at this time. We are pleased that Edwin Mellen Press has discontinued its legal actions against Mr. Askey, but we believe Mr. Richardson should do the same.
Freedom of inquiry and the unfettered exchange of ideas are essential to the missions of academic institutions. Academic freedom has been understood to include freedom of inquiry and research; freedom of teaching within the university or college; and freedom of extramural utterance and action. In the twenty-first century, we believe “extramural utterances” extend to blogs and other digital communications which empower a global community of scholars.
It is the job of professional librarians to review and evaluate publications and their publishers and make judgments about their value for library collections. Librarians are trained to consider objective criteria such as the work’s scope, authority, accuracy, relationship to other titles, and cost in making such evaluations. If librarians are successfully sued for expressing their professional judgments in public, then the profession of librarianship is at risk.
Therefore, we call upon Mr. Richardson to drop his lawsuit. We urge other libraries, faculty, and scholarly publishers to join us in this call.