"There's no mayor in the country who wouldn't want over 20,000 librarians with credit cards," said San Francisco's mayor, Willie Brown, as he welcomed librarians to his city for the American Library Association's annual meeting, June 14—20. Unfortunately, the show's sheer size, which ALA pegged at 24,000, means this may be the last time the conference attendees will enjoy the City by the Bay (the midwinter meeting, a smaller show, has a wider range of cities from which to choose). ALA executives said that the city does not have enough hotel space to accommodate the show, and they are considering moving the 2011 show to another location.
One of those hotels, the Marriott, was a source of tension at the show because of ongoing labor disputes with the hotel management. ALA had chosen the Marriott as the headquarters hotel in 1997, before the labor issues arose. President Nancy Kranich stated in an "Open Letter" to ALA members: "We are sensitive to the fact that some ALA members may be uncomfortable with using the Marriott because of unresolved labor issues," but she noted that ALA opted to continue with events because of the expense involved in changing them, and that contractual obligations meant that "no matter what action we take, the Marriott will get paid." Many ALA members, including the president-elect, Mitch Freedman, refused to cross the picket lines. Others marched with the union members before attending their meetings inside the hotel. The Coretta Scott King awards breakfast was canceled less than three weeks before the show, after the organizers received a direct request to change the location from Mrs. King herself.
Library Budgets Grow
An upbeat spirit on the show floor was directly related to reports that, with few geographic exceptions, library budgets continue to grow. And although libraries are spending more money on electronic equipment and digital information, they are also buying more books. George Coe, CEO of Baker & Taylor Library Services, said his company's library business continues to expand: "Our business is up considerably over last year. This is a great show for us."
Librarians had more than 350 children's author and illustrator signings to choose from, including Ian Falconer, Olivia (Atheneum/Schwartz); Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, Baloney (Henry P.) (Atheneum/Jackson); David Almond, Heaven Eyes (Delacorte); and Lemony Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events (HarperCollins); as well as this year's Newbery and Caldecott recipients, Richard Peck, A Year Down Yonder (Dial) and David Small, So You Want to Be President? (Philomel). The largest children's publishers each had 25 to 30 authors in tow, attesting to the importance of the library market to children's publishers.
On the other hand, despite the increasing number of adult books purchased by libraries, few trade publishers brought their adult titles to the show. Significant exceptions were Random House, whose booth was often jammed despite its large size; HarperCollins, which gave out bound galleys for many adult titles throughout the show; and Algonquin Press. Since few publishers bring adult authors, several groups organized 12 author events, including a Mystery Luncheon (co-sponsored by Library Journal and Warner Books) and the first annual NAPRA Authors Awards.
Electronic Resources Abound
From auto repair information (ALLDATA Online, which provides information to professionals, and launched a library version at the show) to Pr0Quest's online database with full-page images of the New York Times back to 1851, librarians were inundated with new products. Since libraries still have large collections of books and journals on microfilm, Canon was showing a scanner that will convert them into electronic files that can be printed or e-mailed.
In contrast to the recent BookExpo America, where publishers' interest in e-books had clearly lagged, librarians packed every ALA program on the subject. Informal audience surveys revealed that the majority of libraries are already circulating e-books, despite the fact that most digital rights management systems render them difficult for multiple lending.
Librarians cast an envious eye toward user-friendly book sites such as Amazon. They are frustrated when they hear students contend, "I don't use the library any more, I use Google," and they worry about the unreliability of much of the information students find on the Web.
In response, library vendors have created products that turn the online public access catalogue into a Web portal, incorporating library material, full-text and Web access into each user search. Sirsi's iBistro, for instance, incorporates vetted and catalogued Web sites into the catalogue. Academic libraries, under the leadership of the Association of Research Libraries, are working to create "Scholar's Portals" for various disciplines, incorporating tools to allow students to gain access to multiple research libraries and the best resources on the Web.
The small group of Spanish-language publishers and distributors found a ready audience on the show floor. REFORMA, the 30-year-old national association to promote library and information services to Spanish speakers, held a day-long conference as part of the show, attracting more than 200 people. The new magazine Críticas (sister publication to Publishers Weekly), which reviews Spanish-language material in English, was well received, with distributors affirming that it is helping to create a market by giving librarians the information they need to serve their Spanish-speaking communities.