Friday, July 23, 1999

State settles suit
against book buyer
for $75,000

The amount is far less than
the $700,000 sought in the lawsuit

By Crystal Kua


Don't put all your eggs into one basket -- or all your book-buying capabilities into the hands of one company.

State Librarian Virginia Lowell says that's one of the lessons learned from a lawsuit that came about as a result of a controversial $11 million, five-year book-purchasing deal.

Lowell yesterday announced that the public libraries will receive $75,000 in books as part of a settlement with mainland book buyer Baker & Taylor.

The settlement calls for Baker and Taylor providing books that will be selected and ordered by the Hawaii State Public Library System.

The books will be selected from the New York Times Best Seller List and will help supplement the library system's "Hot Picks" program for high demand books.

The settlement amount is below the $700,000-plus sought from Baker & Taylor for the initial payment given to the company for books the libraries did not receive.

Lowell said problems with state's case in the lawsuit meant that the state might have lost in court.

"I think we settled the best that we can," Lowell said. "What we found as we went through the legal determinations of the process was that the contract language and the testimony that we had in support of the state's lawsuit just didn't add up. They didn't jibe. There wasn't any way that we wouldn't be vulnerable if we went into a court and litigated this."

Lowell said she knew that the library system would never regain the lost money and she felt the best course of action was to move forward.

"I needed to be able to put that behind us. It was money already spent. It was gone and it was going to cost us more to get it back," Lowell said.

Former state Librarian Bart Kane signed the contract in 1996. Soon after the books began arriving, librarians complained about the quality of the books and he canceled the contract the following year.

Baker & Taylor sued the state library system in 1997 alleging breach of contract, and the state filed a countersuit.

Lowell said there were lessons to be learned from the whole experience. "You don't put all your eggs into one basket. And if you're going to, then you make sure that the contract that you write is mutually beneficial to both parties."

Lowell said the contract took selection of books away from the librarians.

The library system still wants to be able to use Baker & Taylor but "under conditions that are a little bit better than that contract," Lowell said.

Lowell inherited the lawsuit when she came on board last year and wanted to quickly settle this and other legal actions.

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