Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Price of a Bad Review

February 8, 2013 - Colleen Flaherty -Inside Higher Ed 

Librarian questions quality of a publishing house. Librarian publicly criticizes said press on his personal blog. Two years later, librarian and current employer get sued for libel and damages in excess of $4 million.

That’s been the progression of events for Dale Askey, associate university librarian at McMaster University in Ontario, where he’s been working since 2011. At the time of his blog post, in August 2010, Askey was a tenured associate professor at Kansas State University, where librarians are granted faculty status. He said his comments about Edwin Mellen Press, since removed from his blog, pertained to his work, assessing materials for potential inclusion in Kansas State’s library collection in a time of diminishing resources.
“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.”

Askey declined to say when or why he removed the post from his blog. According to court documents, Askey’s critique was posted as “The Curious Case of Edwin Mellen Press,” through early 2012, and referred to Mellen a “vanity press” with “few, if any, noted scholars serving as series editors,” benefiting largely from librarians not returning books sent for approval at “egregiously high prices.” (In the suit, Mellen refutes many of these claims, saying its average list price is lower than Askey alleged; that most books are sent out by special order and not through approval plans; and that books are edited by reputable scholars.)

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