Tag Archives: ALA

Public Libraries must take a Stand with the Big 5 on eBooks


Library Journal “ALA, Publishers Talk Ebook Lending Terms for Libraries

I saw the headline and thought “Excellent! I hope this means ALA has made real progress toward open access to ALL content regardless of format!” and then I read the article.

“ALA highlighted the valuable role of libraries in the publishing and reading ecosystems and thus why more flexible and favorable terms for library eBook lending are in everyone’s best interest.”

Publishing ecosystems? Huh? Where’s the mention of providing equal access to information regardless of format?

“This visit represents ALA’s ninth such delegation effort over the last several years.”

Ninth delegation!? Seriously? And yet here most of us sit with abysmal title selections and outrageously priced contracts. I don’t think the strategy is working…whatever it is.

“Libraries have a prominent role in the discovery of books and authors, whether in the physical or virtual worlds.”

True. We all love our reader’s advisory and putting those new books in people’s hands.

“Indeed, the opening of a brick-and-mortar store by Amazon is a major acknowledgment that physical place is important, even for an online-based service. “

True…Library as 3rd space. We have been saying this for a decade. Wait…is the delegation saying these publisher’s should think of the libraries as their “brick-and-mortar” presence for their eBook trade? Hmm..starting to feel a little uncomfortable… where is this headed?

“In our meetings, we came away with a few possibilities for strengthened collaboration with publishers to promote discoverability as well as reading and literacy.”

OK- even less comfortable. Let’s break down this sentence. So in addition to promoting reading and literacy which we all do and love…the delegation is suggesting we promote discoverability…of the publisher’s eBooks. Why is it that this sounds a bit more like promoting for revenue than simple reader’s advisory?

“One idea that received some traction is tying discoverability with a particular subject matter, such as health or workforce issues. Library services or programming in an area would be developed and highlighted on a national scale, and publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured. Publishers would offer print or eBooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.”

I’m sorry…what? Let’s read that part again “publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured”. And…“Publishers would offer print or eBooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.” Now I’m officially uncomfortable and we have turned into shady ethical territory. Consider this: It is one thing when we host a children’s program with a magician and then put out a display of books on magic. It is ENTIRELY another when a book seller comes to the children’s librarian and says “If you will pay to put on a program with a magician- I will SELL you these books on magic at a discount and then you agree to ‘feature’ those books at the program”. How many of us would pull back from that offer instinctively?

But now we read an article with ALA is actually presenting this as a serious idea. ARE YOU KIDDING!?? Libraries are not peddlers of the publisher’s product! Libraries are not about free advertising for authors! Taxpayers do not give Libraries their hard-earned tax dollars to have us craft services and programming to promote a for-profit venture.

“Most fundamental, however, for these meetings is to further develop the library–publisher relationship at the executive and national levels. Publishers and libraries have similar overall goals—to promote and advance reading and literacy—and are allies in many respects.”

And why is it that each time I read about Library/Publisher talks or pilot programs I always see the same New York area libraries represented? Why are the New York area Libraries driving the national agenda and conversation on eBooks? Why are they some of the ONLY libraries to have ‘deals’ with the publishers? Proximity? Hogwash!! We all know how to get on an airplane. I have as much or more respect for NYPL and its neighbors as anyone (I’ll admit it may nearly bordering on a bit of hero worship); but I would like to see a broader spectrum of folks invited to the table for these negotiations.  Perhaps this is a banner that the new Librarian of Congress or ALA’s new Director of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and Freedom to Read Foundation, Jamie LaRue. With his appointment, I have the first high hopes I’ve had for awhile when it comes to serious progress from ALA.

And lets not overlook the bit about similar goals.  Unless it’s a charitable tax write off or a form of promotion, do we really believe the Big 5 have any other goal at the end of the day other than to make money? What better way than to get one of the most trusted of public institutions to hawk their products?

Let’s stop kowtowing to the Big 5. Stop telling them how good we are for their product and begging for scraps. Please ALA, do not sell the soul of the Public Library – the public trust that Libraries are one of the only remaining ‘commercial-free zones’- for a better price on the latest best seller. We are not the pawn of the Publishers. We are not their salesmen. Instead stand up for EXACTLY the reason we Public Librarians are here! To ensure that all Americans, regardless of their means, have access to ALL content/information REGARDLESS of format.

THAT SHOULD BE OUR MESSAGE TO THE PUBLISHERS. We will NOT allow them to throw our ability to create open access to information back into the dark ages because the technology of this bright new century allows them to maintain a strangle hold on content. Access to information is a right of all. NOT just those who can pay. That is why the FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY was created. How DARE we let these publisher disregard this basic tenant of our democracy!

Perhaps in the 10th meeting Libraries will make a stand.

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Libraries need to decide their future before someone else does…!


I was forwarded a very interesting article the other day.

“Clash in the Stacks”

by Carl Straumshein on Inside Higher Ed.

Several library directors at liberal arts institutions have lost their jobs as they clash with faculty and administrators over how much — and how fast — the academic library should change.

None of the dismissals, resignations or retirements are identical. Some have resulted from arguments over funding; others from debates about decision-making processes or ongoing personal strife. One common trend, however, is that several of the library directors who have left their jobs in recent years have done so after long-term disputes with other groups on campus about how the academic library should change to better serve students and faculty.

This is nothing new or revolutionary on its own. We have seen administrators and constituents disagree on vision, direction, or organizational mission and have a parting of the ways before…so why is it of note this time?

Because this time it is tied more to the overall quandary we are having in our profession than about any one individual and their employment. What we are seeing, as outlined in the article, are library leaders leaving positions due to a fundamental philosophical difference with their constituency over what a library should be. But we have spent years on this issue…so why now? Perhaps that is EXACTLY why! We as library professionals have spent YEARS talking about “finding our way” in this new world of information and “redefining our profession” and pondering what “the library of the future” will look like. Well guess what…the future is now…and people around us are tired of waiting for us to figure it out. If we continue on this path we will see more examples of having those decisions made for us.

Picture yourself in line at the Theatre concession stand– Eager to see your movie- the smell of movie popcorn- the laughing happy people all around. There is a parent and child in front of you in line. The parent says to the child “What do you want?” The child stares at all the possibilities-you remember those days fondly when the promise of candy could make your week! And… seconds tick by…. Finally the parent says “Ok, there are people waiting…do you want M&Ms or Twizzlers?” The child ponders this narrowed pool and then asks to see the potential candy options. Your foot starts to tap. The theatre employee pulls out the two bags of candy. The child holds both in his hands and thinks…weighing his options. You sense the couple behind you shifting as the woman whispers “What time does our movie start?” to her companion. You check your watch. The parent is clearly frustrated and says “Pick!”. The child continues to ponder and then just as it appears he has decided he says “Do they have SweetTarts?” The parent snatches up the M&Ms and slaps them on the counter “We will take these”. The clerk looks relieved. You sigh with relief. The parent is annoyed and the child’s bottom lip is now jutting out and quivering. What was a beautiful moment just minutes before has turned into a point of contention. Much like our “redefining of our profession and the future of libraries”, it can be beautiful and monumental and profound…until everyone else gets tired of our journey and is ready for us to “JUST PICK”.

Sensitivity to all the factors and variables in any situation is key to success and satisfaction for everyone. We do not exist in a vacuum. People, communities and organizations fund us and they expect and deserve a clear purpose for that funding. How many years (decades) can we spend “reimagining, redefining, and reinventing” ourselves before they stop taking us seriously?

“For the entire history of libraries as we know them — 2,000 or 3,000 years — we have lived in a world of information scarcity,” said Terrence J. Metz, university librarian at Hamline University. “What’s happened in the last two decades is that’s been turned completely on its head. Now we’re living in a world of superabundance.”

No one is disagreeing that this has been an unprecedented time of change for our world and the way we create, disseminate, store, and use information. But if WE are the information professionals…shouldn’t we be on the forefront guiding everyone along the path rather than in the back office debating ourselves into a second decade of discussion?

“To my mind, all of this hubbub is probably exacerbated by the fact that libraries are trying to figure out what they are and what their future is and what their role is,” said Bryn I. Geffert, college librarian at Amherst College. “Every time you have a body of people going through this kind of existential crisis, conflict is inherent. As you’re trying to redefine an institution, you know there are going to be different opinions on how that redefinition should happen.”

And what happens when we as a profession cannot agree on a course? Someone will start making those decisions for us.

The most recent case, Barnard College, presents a symbolic example of the shift from print to digital. There, the Lehman Hall library is about to be demolished to make way for an estimated $150 million Teaching and Learning Center. The new building means the library’s physical collection will shrink by tens of thousands of books.
As recently as this September, Patricia A. Tully, the Caleb T. Winchester university librarian at Wesleyan University, was fired after less than five years on the job. Tully and Ruth S. Weissman, Wesleyan’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, had for more than a year argued about how the library could work with administrators, faculty members and IT staffers.

“We just seemed to have different ideas about the role of the libraries,” Tully said then.

We must stop pounding our fists and debating options and get ourselves together on one page. Nuances of difference are expected – many libraries embraced coffee shops while others still cringe at the notion. Some libraries carried paperbacks far before others. But for the majority of our history as a profession there was a basic common ground on which we all stood. A united front of who and what libraries are and do. We have to get that back! That will require a common ground. A common vision. A united message.
We have a vehicle for that…The American Library Association. So where is their steadying hand, their leadership, their guiding presence? Nowhere useful. They are right there in the weeds with everyone else. We can find them putting together committees and task forces on emerging trends, library innovation, and library future. AKA- More discussion, more debate, more option, more ideas…no action.
We need ALA to step forward and take the leadership role and be the advocate and public spokesman for this issue. They need to rally the profession and move us all forward. As individuals we can only have so much effect. We blog, we advocate, we transform our corner of library land and try to shine a light for others. And in being that light in the dark we see good people losing jobs. Why? Because there isn’t a firm enough professional support system backing the most innovative efforts!

Other library directors have made less publicized moves, stepping down in silent protest as their roles are shifted farther down the university chain of command. Others yet have experienced the opposite, receiving support from their administrations to rethink the role of the library only to be met with opposition from faculty and other librarians. In addition to those named in this story, Inside Higher Ed interviewed three other former library directors.
“These are top-quality, innovative, forward-thinking people,” Metz said of Norberg, Tully and colleagues at other liberal arts institutions who have left or been asked to leave. “There must be other visions that they’re running up against that have a different definition of success.”

And, while this article is only focused on Academic libraries, the same situation can be found in public and school libraries across the country. ALA must make a stand. Lead. Guide. Provide the support these innovators need to ‘back their play’ while they stand on the front lines of this fight for the future of our profession and libraries. Warranted or not at this point, ALA is the Libraryland equivalent to the American Medical Association. Other professional and our constituents assume (right or wrong) that ALA plays a similar guiding and regulating role within the Library profession. Therefore, until ALA assumes a position on the future of Libraries and Librarians and advocates for that future publically, these cutting-edge innovators will continue to find themselves standing alone.

“There will be some institutions that decide that they don’t need libraries — that they don’t need librarians,” Tully said. “However, all the functions that now occur in libraries are going to continue to need to occur somewhere. The IT department or whoever is going to take those on, and then slowly they’re going to be hiring people who have library expertise, library backgrounds in order to do those things…. I think it’s a matter of breaking free of the library being some irrelevant, old-fashioned thing that used to be important but isn’t anymore. The way we get information has changed, but our need for information and our need for guides to that information continues.”

I’ve made my position abundantly clear.  I believe the mission of Public Libraries (sorry academics and schools- you have your own champions)  “is to provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.” But regardless of the path we choose, we must decide who we are and where we are going…or someone else will make our choice for us. Hopefully, at some point, ALA will lead the charge.

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eBooks and the 21st Century Library: How Libraries have (almost) sold their soul


In my 2+ decades in this profession I have often worried about the struggles facing our profession and Public Libraries in general.  If I allow my imagination to run amok I ponder the eventual demise of the free public library at the hands of politicians slashing budgets or an apathetic citizenry… What I never imagined was the notion that one day- sitting at my desk- inquisitively researching a library topic that I would discover that we had sold our soul.  In hindsight, maybe I should have seen it coming….

 

It started innocently enough- I was sent the following article that intrigued me and set me off researching:

http://gigaom.com/2014/06/27/the-right-to-resell-ebooks-major-case-looms-in-the-netherlands/

Like many librarians and administrators eBooks are definitely on my radar.  As a reader and consumer they are at the foremost of the online products I buy!  I knew there were controversy’s but honestly- I was taking the “sit back and let them fight it out” approach.  And let’s be frank…I’m busy and have to pick my issues.  I didn’t realize this should be the top of my list.

If your are curious- below are the links I followed in my research:

http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/the-used-e-books-controversy/

http://ownersrightsinitiative.org

http://gigaom.com/2012/12/15/the-right-to-resell-a-ticking-time-bomb-over-digital-goods/

http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/bea-panel-suggests-publishers-still-clueless-about-library-e-books-and-piracy/

http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/06/22/libraries-patrons-and-e-books/

http://tempest.fluidartist.com/ebook-library-lending/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/57603-bea-2013-is-e-book-lending-good-for-authors.html

 

To summarize so that you don’t have to read them all if you haven’t (this blog is a long one- pace yourself!)- in broad strokes and boiled down to its simplest (and yes- simple and broad means I won’t hit everything):

The primary hot issues appeared to be- permanence, access, ownership, and availability.  A BIG issue in the string I was following seemed to boil down to “licensed” vs “owned”.  Who owns it? What can you do with it?

Advocates of resale:

You bought it. It’s yours- do what you want with it-resell it, loan it to a friend, etc.

Opponents of resale:

You licensed it.  It’s yours to read and keep- but nothing more. For if we open the door to resale then piracy will run rampant- technology cannot stem the tide, publishing will meet its demise as the world spins out of control!

(Side note: Props to Marilynn Byerly because they are due to anyone who can work the coming Zombie Apocalypse into an article on eBooks. And yes I said ‘coming’…you’ve all been warned…no excuses!! )

So based on my read of the issues at hand- I begin to formulate the following opinion:

As someone who has made their life’s work about the free access to information and thus, inherently, the loaning of materials to many people… GET IT STRAIGHT SELLERS/PUBLISHERS.  You are either selling the book or loaning it.

  • If you  sell someone something it becomes theirs to do with as they will.
  • If you loan it, then you can set parameters for use.

Publishers can’t have their cake and eat it too.  If making it clear to buyers that you are loaning the eBook rather than selling it cuts into sales then that is simply the way it is.  If and informed buyer  chooses not to plunk down their money because of that information- tough nuggies.  But when sellers use terms like “buy”, “bought, “digital edition” in the purchase process they should not wonder why BUYERS believe they have BOUGHT the book.

Sell ebooks or loan them or both…decide!!

And when these issues continue to be on the table- is it any wonder that librarians continue to worry about the ownership and right to items in their collection that are in a digital format? We are all experiencing the effect of those slimmed down reference collections that seemed like such a great idea- right up until our access to those pricey online databases started to dwindle.

Those were my thoughts on the topic…and in fact, I thought I was finished and about to put “The End” on my blog…but then I noticed that all the info I was surfing seemed a tad old.  So I went looking for new news!  And what I found was so chilling it made Byerly’s Zombie Apocalypse pale in comparison.

Now perhaps it was due to the massive avalanche of information all at one time, like watching all the Game of Throne for the first time one season after another over a weekend marathon when you finally get “On Demand”.  But the articles I started with in 2012 and 13 seemed concerned, questioning, strong…  Librarians actively working to carve out a Library ‘clause’ in the business of eBooks.   Librarians outlining our expectations in this world of eBooks for access, retention, collection, buy-power, and managing our collections vs being TOLD how we would manage our collections. Yeah! Go us!!!

And then somewhere along the way it was as if we ‘drank the Kool-Aid’.

When I went looking for ‘new news’ I found VERY new… Something I had yet to stumble upon or hear about from any of my regular sources in Libraryland.

April 24, 2014

“Brooklyn Public Library Strikes deal with Simon & Schuster” :

Due to financial ‘woes’ the Library has struck a deal with Simon&Schuster to participate in a ‘pilot’ program that will bring the publishers entire collection of eBooks to the Library’s Patrons! Eventually rolling out to the NYC and Queens Borough Systems.

This seems great! So why is my blood running cold?  Ahh…the rub…

Only ONE of each title will be available. When it is checked out, patrons will be asked if they would like to BUY (or is it license?) the book instead.  And in return, the library will get 2% of the profits!!

This reminds me of some other model where the first taste is always free and everyone in the selling chain gets a bit of the profit…hmmm… can’t place it…

 

Head swimming- I sat back in my chair stunned.  How have I not heard about this?? How is the Library community not standing on tables somewhere screaming??!!  How did we sell our negotiating position in the world of eBooks without any of us feeling a disturbance like a “million voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced?”

Better yet- how did we sell our foundation of free and open access like a 30sec time slot during the Super Bowl??

http://www.teleread.com/library/brooklyn-public-library-strikes-deal-with-simon-schuster/

WHERE IS ALA???

And then I find them- providing an encouraging smile while we tentatively hold our solo cup of KoolAid

June 26, 2014

ALA Pres Barbara Stripling announces on the first day of annual conference that the program will go national!

“Today represents an important milestone for improving the ability of libraries to serve the public in the digital age. America’s libraries are the quintessential institution in connecting authors and readers. We have always known that library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books—with the library serving as a critical de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.”

REALLY?? Because I thought America’s libraries existed to provide equal open access to enable an informed citizenry that can self-govern???  Now I find out we are a marketing service for authors and publishers?  Well, to be fair, Ms. Stripling couldn’t have been more blunt! I at least appreciate her honesty about the sell out.

She goes on in her statement to say that these conversations began in 2012 and the players had very different perspectives on the lending of eBooks. But that much has changed and ALA is pleased they have moved the effort from a pilot to a ‘mainstream business’ for the company.  Again, thank you for your honesty Ms. Stripling.

http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2014/06/ala-applauds-simon-schuster-nationwide-expansion-library-ebook-lending

But wait! As with any good Zombie Apocalypse tale there has to be some hope! The band of hold outs rushing up in their Mad Max vehicles and big weapons just as the zombies close in on the bedraggled band of non-zombies (yes, dear reader I watch to many movies…but back to the point).  This tale can still have that too!!

June 28, 2014

http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/simon-and-schuster-mandates-libraries-act-as-retail

“…libraries have public trust because they are funded by community dollars. People have disclosed that they feel that libraries are leveraging their public trust in order to become a bookseller.”

Over a century of public trust risked for 2%….really? Is that what it is worth to some?

Now Read that last bit:

“The buzz around ALA was uniformly nasty.  Librarians do not want to play the role of showroom or bookstore.  Others claim this is a slippery slope with the potential to lose the public trust.”

Librarians:  If you have thought to yourself, as I did, “This can’t be happening!!” You are not alone! “Uniformly Nasty!!” GO US!!! Throw out that KoolAid.  Stand up and be counted.  So many times we think, as I did, “I’ll let the ‘big players’ sort this out” or “I can’t really do anything about this issue. ALA and the big systems have gotten the ball rolling”.  NO! Enough! THIS  is too much!!

The selectors, the management teams, the administrators, the librarians in every library small or large have the ultimate power to stop this.  Stand on our ethics.  We are not bookstores.  We are not a marketing service for the publishers. And HOW DARE anyone- including and especially ALA-  try to tell us otherwise!!  We are the FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY in everytown.  We are entrusted by the public to create the one space they know will never be a pawn of the marketplace or swayed by commerce or make any decision based on profitability.

The zombies are banging on the locked door.  Grab your pen and when the invoice or email or option to sign up comes…strike it down!

 

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