It seems safe to say that at some point in the twenty-first century, the millions of works Google copied will be available in their entirety with a click of the mouse—just as Courant envisions. But there are deep differences over how that should work, and unless Congress steps in, it appears they’ll have to be resolved in court.
Courant may be gone from the library by the time both cases are decided. Though his original five-year term was extended last year, he has already announced that he will step down in August 2013 to return to teaching, research, and writing.
“I’m thinking of writing a book about libraries,” he says. “When you jump up and down and say, ‘Hey, for a good time, come to the library,’ people don’t take you seriously. But that’s probably the working title of my book.”
This article has been edited since it appeared in the May 2012 Ann Arbor Observer. Courant's undergraduate concentration, the decline in circulation at the libraries he oversees, and the number of books and periodicals withdrawn from their collections have been corrected.
[Originally published in May, 2012.]