ALA Names Mary Ghikas Executive Director Through 2020

The American Library Association (ALA) this week announced that its executive board has appointed Mary Ghikas as executive director through January 2020, effective immediately.

Ghikas, a highly respected and longtime ALA executive (most recently serving as senior associate executive director of member programs and services) has been serving as interim executive director since August 1, 2017, following the retirement of Keith Fiels.

It’s a great move for ALA, as the search process for Fiels's replacement has bogged down over whether or not candidates should be required to hold an MLIS degree. However, in the current climate of political uncertainty, with libraries facing “the challenge of a lifetime” as Fiels put it last year, this is not a time for ALA to be without a strong leader in place.

“Mary provides knowledge, experience, and stability to the association during this important period of transition as she leads critical work in infrastructure, organizational development, and technology for ALA,” said ALA president Jim Neal, in a statement.

The search for a new executive director, ALA officials added, will begin again in spring 2019 after the position description requirements have been finalized. The plan is for the ALA Executive Board to name a new executive director after the fall board meeting in October 2019, with the new executive director officially starting at Midwinter 2020. Ghikas will stay on board to “support the orientation and transition process through the ALA Annual Conference in June 2020.”

Ghikas has been with the ALA since 1995.

Critics Question Facebook’s ‘Fix’ for the Fake News Problem

Can Facebook fix the fake news problem? Last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the company was committed to finding a solution to the rising tide of “sensationalism, misinformation and polarization” in today’s networked world.

“Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don't specifically tackle these problems,” Zuckerberg wrote, “then we end up amplifying them.”

But this week, Facebook’s first steps toward mitigating the fake news circulating on its platform is drawing criticism—most notably, tweaks that will de-emphasize news articles in people’s feeds, and employing a user survey to rank news sources based on how trustworthy they find them.

“There is no way to know, yet, if outsourcing discernment—if that’s what polling a random collection of two billion people is—will cut down on the amount of propaganda, lying, and deception on Facebook, or if such a survey will simply replicate existing ideological divisions,” observes Sue Halpern, in the New York Review of Books. “But it is also unclear where the more than 50% of Facebook users who get their news from the site will get it now, if anywhere, since there will be so much less of it.”

This diminution of news might be a way for Facebook to walk away from the public sphere—or, at least, appear to walk away—at a time when it has been taken to task for its overweening influence there.

Indeed, Halpern makes the case that Facebook’s changes appear to be geared more toward helping the company, than helping its users.

“This diminution of news might be a way for Facebook to walk away from the public sphere—or, at least, appear to walk away—at a time when it has been taken to task for its overweening influence there,” Halpern notes. “As Slate’s chairman and editor-in-chief, Jacob Weisberg, told The New York Times, downgrading news content also benefits the company in those countries where independent journalism is outlawed.”

In the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal raises five questions that “jump out” about Facebook’s plan—the most interesting is how useful, or harmful, basing their "fix" on a user survey might be.

“From the description of the survey, it seems as if this approach may be able to sniff out the magnitude of a publication’s ideological commitments,” Madrigal writes. “But publications with similar ideologies can have very different editorial standards and resources. National Review and Mother Jones might be partisan publications, but both maintain a level of rigor that should factor into their authoritativeness in any reasonable system. Will it?”

Rupert Murdoch, meanwhile, thinks Facebook should pay a carriage fee. “If Facebook wants to recognize 'trusted' publishers, then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies,” Murdoch said in a statement on Monday. “The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services. Carriage payments would have a minor impact on Facebook's profits but a major impact on the prospects for publishers and journalists.” Because, there's no fake news problem on cable TV, right?

Meanwhile, Business Insider reports from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where George Soros took aim at Facebook and Google, arguing that social media abuses have "far-reaching adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy" and are fueling rising inequality. In a blistering speech, Soros suggested that without regulation, we risk “an alliance between authoritarian states and these large, data-rich IT monopolies” that could result in “a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined.”

Combating fake news is an issue the library community is deeply vested in—and yet, Zuckerberg doesn't seem to have seriously considered that librarians might be part of the solution. In his post, he said Facebook executives “considered asking outside experts,” for help with their strategy, but decided against it.

He should reconsider. There is no more trusted institution in America than libraries, and no better place to turn when it comes to issues of information literacy.

A Matter of Trust: Two Polls Look How Americans View Journalists, and Librarians

Over at Poynter, David Beard, a research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, asks “what do librarians have that journalists don’t?”

The article was written in response to the results of two recent public opinion polls: the 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation Survey on Trust, Media and Democracy, which found that only 33% of Americans have a positive view of the news media. And, a Pew Research poll, released in August, found that “78% of Americans feel that public libraries help them find information that is trustworthy and reliable.”

He then turns to library advocates and experts like Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, and Laura Saunders, an associate professor in library science at Simmons College, for insight on the divide. “[The Library's] mission is not to exploit us or make money off us," Johnson notes, "so they’re ahead of the game right out of the gate.”

The consensus: "moving closer to librarians" might enhance journalism’s standing. As we were saying, Mark Zuckerberg, perhaps there is something here for Facebook to work with?

OverDrive: Record Number of Libraries Surpass One Million E-book and Audiobook Checkouts in 2017

Another year, another record broken. This week OverDrive, the leading provider of e-book lending services to libraries, announced that 58 library systems notched over one million digital lends in 2017, up from 49 that reached the mark in 2016.

Among the top 10 library systems in the 2017 “Million Checkout Club” two exceeded four million digital checkouts, and seven exceeded 3 million. The top 10 digital-circulating library systems for 2017 are:

  • Toronto Public Library (+19% growth over 2016)
  • King County Library System, Washington (+13%)
  • Los Angeles Public Library (+23%)
  • New York Public Library (+20%)
  • Seattle Public Library (+12%)
  • Hennepin County Library, Minnesota (+15%)
  • Cleveland Public Library (+11%)
  • Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (+12%)
  • Multnomah County Library, Oregon (+28%)
  • Cuyahoga County Public Library, Ohio (+10%)

The bump in the number of public libraries reaching record circulation is the result “of innovative projects and campaigns designed to raise awareness and engagement,” OverDrive officials said, including the Sacramento Public Library’s introduction of a new “Instant Digital Card” where new patrons can “use their cellphone number to access the collection in less than 30 seconds.” And the Austin Public Library created “targeted web graphics in English and Spanish, increased the number of titles readers can borrow, and frequently updated curated lists for readers, often on a daily basis.”

Visit the OverDrive Blog to view the full 2017 “Million Checkout Club” list.

South Carolina State Library Wins the 2018 Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Visit Award

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) awarded the 2018 Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Visit Award to the South Carolina State Library, Columbia, South Carolina, for their annual Talking Books Services Art Gallery event for students who are blind or visually impaired. In addition to the recognition, the library will receive $4,000 to fund a visit from author/illustrator Kathryn Otoshi.

In the press release for the award, 2018 Grant Administration Committee chair Hanna Lee noted, “The committee was impressed by South Carolina State Library’s commitment to serving underserved populations in innovative and effective ways.” She added “Given the relevance of Otoshi’s art, and message, and the organization, and experience of South Carolina State Library, we are confident that this event will be an inspiring and empowering experience for everyone in attendance.”

For Our Fellow ‘Book Obsessives,’ a Look at a Famous Publisher’s Library

In the New York Times Book Review, Maria Russo has a fun look at the library of legendary Random House publisher Howard Kaminsky, who died last summer, accompanied by some of Kaminsky’s friends’ thoughts on his collection.

“It’s a weird thing about book obsessives: We’re kind of like thieves, and certainly voyeurs,” notes Knopf editor Gary Fisketjohn in the piece. “We go into people’s houses and immediately want to scope out their books, to see what sort of creatures they are.”

What Did You Do For #LibraryShelfie Day?

This week, librarians took to social media to celebrate the annual #Libraryshelfie day.

We can't resist sharing some of our favorites. Enjoy!

From the New York Public Library.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library in Baton Rouge, LA, handed out selfie sticks to patrons.

University of Glasgow Library, in Scotland.

Staff members lined up in the stacks at the Piano Public Library, in Texas.

A "shelfie" from a different era from Warwick University Library, in England.

And the Queens Public Library here in New York even got their President & CEO Dennis Walcott involved.