As some 10,000 librarians, publishers, authors, and vendors gear up for the 2013 ALA Midwinter Meeting, in Seattle, January 25–29, it’s a perfect time to take a look at the year that was for libraries—and the year to come.
Among the annual highlights of the 2013 Midwinter Meeting are the much anticipated announcement of the ALA’s Youth Media Awards, including the coveted Newbery and Caldecott medals; a bustling exhibit floor; and, once again, a strong author presence.
In the Auditorium Speaker Series, on Saturday, January 26, Steven Johnson, author of the bestselling Where Good Ideas Come From and Everything Bad Is Good for You, will discuss his most recent book, Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, which argues that a new model of political change, influenced by the success and interconnectedness of the Internet, is on the rise. And on Sunday, January 27, ALA president-elect Barbara Stripling will have a conversation with Caroline Kennedy, public advocate and bestselling author, as well as the recently announced honorary chair of the 2013 National Library Week. Both talks will begin at 10 a.m. at the convention center auditorium.
As librarians gather for Midwinter, they do so with some cause for optimism. On the e-book front (see our newest columnist, White Plains librarian Brian Kenney, with The P&L Sheet: ALA Preview 2012), there has been some minor movement in recent weeks. Macmillan, for example, has indicated it is preparing a pilot project to begin e-book lending. And Penguin recently announced that it was expanding its e-book pilot to more vendors and more libraries. Of course, there is still much to be done.
Frustrated by the lack of progress in 2012, the library community in 2013 appears determined to leverage its greatest asset—the reading public—to help spur things along. Last week, the ALA announced the release of a “media kit” to help librarians talk about the issue with patrons and to their local media. “Everyone needs to know that libraries offer e-books and 21st century library services,” reads the ALA’s accompanying release, “but that we are unable to offer all the e-reading choices our patrons need because some publishers refuse to work with us.”
On the legal and legislative side, meanwhile, 2012 was a year of major victories for the library community. Faced with a slew of lawsuits that threatened to rein in fair use, libraries prevailed in each case. Although appeals loom, much of the uncertainty that faced libraries regarding digitization and fair use is suddenly on the verge of becoming settled law.
And on the policy side, the dramatic defeat of SOPA in 2012 announced the arrival of a powerful new coalition in Washington when it comes to information policy—a coalition poised to assert itself in the legislative battles of 2013 (see Overruled: PW Talks to ARL’s Brandon Butler: ALA Preview 2012)—and the possibility of more meaningful copyright reform (see PW contributing editor Peter Brantley’s essay and conversation with Derek Khanna, author of the Republican Study Committee’s controversial report on fixing copyright, Change You Can Believe In: ALA Preview 2012).
Also in 2013, the Common Core standards will begin to change the way teachers teach, putting renewed emphasis on literacy and carving out a greater role for nonfiction in the classrooms. (We catch up with Booklist’s Gillian Engberg and AASL president Susan Ballard to talk about what Common Core might mean for libraries and publishers in Core Values: ALA Preview 2012)
The Seattle Example
As the ALA ramps up its public campaign to rally support for an e-book solution, Seattle serves as the perfect backdrop. As PW’s Check It Out! columnist Nancy Pearl writes in her column Check It Out with Nancy Pearl: ALA Midwinter and Favorite Northwest Books, when it comes to its libraries, Seattle “walks the walk.” Despite a sluggish economy, Seattle voters this fall approved a $122 million library levy to supplement funding for its libraries. This on the heels of the 1998 bond measure in which residents voted to spend $196 million to renovate every branch library and to build the landmark, Rem Koolhaas–designed Central Library.
That’s nearly $300 million Seattle has voted to raise for its libraries in the past 15 years. The message from Seattle: public support is out there for libraries. And in 2013, whether on the e-book issue, in the halls of Congress, or in schools, librarians must resolve to put that public support to good use.
Also in ALA Midwinter Preview: Standing Up for the Community: PW Talks with Terry Plum: ALA Preview 2012