Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Settlement nearly reached
in library book-buying case

By Crystal Kua


A book-buying controversy involving a mainland firm and Hawaii's public libraries will soon be a thing of the past as attorneys work to finish settling a related lawsuit.

"We're working on finalizing the details," Deputy Attorney General James Chang said. "Until it's actually signed, it's not over."

Book-buyers Baker & Taylor filed suit in 1997 against the state library system for terminating the company's five-year, $11 million contract to select, acquire and provide books and other materials for the libraries.

The state then filed a counterclaim saying that Baker & Taylor failed to live up to the terms of the contract.

State Librarian Virginia Lowell, who came on board after the lawsuit was filed, said that putting this legal chapter behind the state library system is a welcome present for her upcoming first anniversary in her current post.

Chang said he could not release the terms of the tentative agreement until the parties have signed off on it.

Lowell, who returned from vacation yesterday, said she had not been briefed on the status of the case.

Baker & Taylor's Honolulu-based lawyer, Paul Alston, could not be reached for comment.

But court documents in the case spell out the positions taken by both sides during settlement negotiations.

Baker & Taylor said it incurred damages of $150,000 for the costs of closing down the project, according to court documents. The company also argued that it also is owed more than $200,000 in lawyers' fees.

State attorneys said the state should receive $730,000 for the initial payment given to Baker & Taylor for books it did not receive, court documents said. The state argued that it should also receive $134,141.64 for 6,406 duplicate books at a cost of $20.94 per book.

After an agreement was reached, the terms of the tentative settlement were detailed for Circuit Judge Karen Blondin last month, according to court documents.

The book deal was signed in 1996 by former state Librarian Bart Kane.

Once the books began arriving, librarians complained about the quality of the books.

Kane canceled the contract the following year.

Lowell, who began her job Aug.13, said the Baker & Taylor lawsuit was one of three legal actions she wanted to settle quickly so she could look to the future instead of the past.

"When I first got here, I didn't want to spend our time digging out of a hole," Lowell said.

"Our department has worked to resolve these legal issues so that she can move forward," Chang said.

Lowell said that if the financially strapped libraries receive any money out of a settlement, the plan is to put the funds toward what they were originally intended for -- books. "I think it's fitting ... if we gain anything out of the settlement, it would be most appropriate to buy library materials."

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