With the ALA Annual Conference there always comes increased media attention on libraries and librarians. And, with the conference in the third biggest media market, that means, more non-library folks are seeing coverage and possibly paying attention.
To that end, there were two big announcements yesterday to kick off the conference and make the most of all of the free media attention.
The first has to do with the on-going battle between publishers and libraries on allowing libraries to have better access to ebooks for our patrons. The ALA has taken the lead in opening the dialog and trying to get publishers to see that while library patrons get ebooks for "free," the pay back for the publishers in terms of getting new readers who will buy books and spread the word to friends about books they like is more than worth letting us have ebooks for checkout. So far there has been a lot of meetings and only a bit of action. In fact, the best place to follow the whole story and all of its developments over time is on the No Shelf Required blog.
However, yesterday the ALA took a new plan of attack which they announced for the start of the annual conference. Instead of continuing to try to persuade the publishers, the ALA is now going right to the authors themselves. As reported on No Shelf Required:
CHICAGO —Today, Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association (ALA), announced the launch of “Authors for Library Ebooks,” a new initiative that asks authors to stand with libraries in their quest for equitable access to e-books. Bestselling authors Cory Doctorow, Ursula K. Le Guin and Jodi Picoult are helping kick off the campaign.
The campaign represents an extension of the ALA’s advocacy strategy to ensure all people have access to the world’s knowledge and literature through our nation’s libraries—regardless of format. Over the past 18 months, ALA leaders have met with major publishers, distributors, authors and representative associations to seek sustainable solutions for library e-book lending.
“The heart of the issue is that access to authors’ works through libraries is being restricted— hurting discovery, reading choice, literacy and the simple love of reading,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan. “Many e-books are still not available to most libraries at any price. Of those we can buy, the library frequently pays 150-500 percent more than the consumer price, forcing libraries to purchase fewer copies for library readers.
“We’ve made some progress over the past year, but not far or fast enough to meet the growing needs of our communities,” Sullivan added.
Libraries support authors in a range of ways, including:
- Exposure. Libraries help authors get noticed through author events, book clubs, readers advisory and features on library websites;
- Sales. Research shows that library loans encourage people to buy books. Many libraries now even provide an option for people to click and “buy-it-now” from their websites.
- Respect. Libraries honor authors’ work by protecting copyright and paying for the content they lend.
- Love of reading. Libraries help grow readers – and writers.
“My first job was at a library, and one of the things that I remember so clearly is the wide range of people who came in our doors every day. Young, old, rich, poor—libraries encourage exploration and a love of reading,” Picoult said. “Whether it’s a digital file or a paper copy, I want readers to find my books—and all books—in their libraries! I stand with libraries—and I invite other authors to join me in the campaign for library e-books for all.”
Both Le Guin and Doctorow also have written and spoken about the need to improve access to e-books and innovate in ways that support reader choice and reader privacy.
Developed by the ALA’s Digital Content & Libraries Working Group, theAuthors for Library E-books campaign encourages authors to sign on to a statement of shared values, to discuss the issue with their publishers, and raise awareness of their concerns through their websites, social media and other communications channels.I think this change in tactics might actually get us somewhere. I spend so much time trying to explain to patrons why we have so few ebooks. They get mad when I tell them it is an issue with the publishers. They know it is not us, but I get so frustrated that we can't fix the problem. This idea gets the authors on our side. The pressure they put on publishers holds much more weight.
The second announcement is a fun one. Library Reads is going to begin this Fall with a monthly top-ten list of the books librarians love. From their website:
Join Us for the Launch of LibraryReads
The Nationwide Library Staff Picks List
Coming in Fall 2013
Every day library staff share books they love with their users. Now, you can reach beyond the library walls to tell the rest of the country about the books you can’t wait to share.LibraryReads – a new program, launching this fall, harnesses the value of “library staff picks” into a single nation-wide discovery tool, a monthly list of ten newly released must-reads.
Any worker, from any public library, no matter if you are a professional librarian or not can sign up to be a part of the program. Click here for details.
Personally, I have enough going on with the blog to get involved with Library Reads right away, but I do have some staff who I think would be perfect for it. They are people I am trying to encourage to go to library school or build their skills as they move up the professional ladder. Once I am back from the conference, I will be talking to them about Library Reads.
This is a great way for you out there to get involved more. I know you are already reading. Get out there and spread the word about your favorite new books.
I will be back shortly with a new review; it is almost done. But come back over the weekend for more ALA reports and pictures from the conference [hopefully].