Budget Deal Could Be Good News for Libraries

As we wrote last week, the budget battle is heating up—and this week, there was some unexpected news: a bipartisan budget deal. On Wednesday, Senate leaders unveiled the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, a two-year budget proposal in which lawmakers proposed spending increases of more than $300 billion through FY2019. And early this morning, the budget passed both houses and was signed into law.

The whirlwind deal came just days after the ALA Washington Office told librarians and library supporters that the Trump administration, as it did in its FY2018 budget proposal, was expected to target library and arts funding. But suddenly, librarians are feeling a bit more optimistic, at least about the federal budget.

"We are pleased that Congress has passed an FY2018 spending agreement that includes an increase in federal funding for domestic priorities, which, we hope, will include library funding," said ALA president Jim Neal in a statement. "While this budget agreement is a positive step towards resolving the FY2018 budget, ALA continues to call on Congress to include funding for libraries as it writes the final spending bills in the coming weeks."

Although the omnibus bill passed this week includes topline numbers, as Neal notes, specific funding lines have yet to be filled in. But presumably, a two-year budget deal which adds some $300 billion to the federal budget will be able to find (and perhaps even add to) the $236 million requested for library funding, funding which, notably, had already passed the House’s version of the FY2018 budget, and enjoys strong support in the Senate.

Of course, anything is possible in today’s climate. And there are already rumblings in the House and Senate about the deal, on both sides of the aisle, as the recent tax cuts are already projected to swell annual deficits to more than $1 trillion next year.

Neal urged librarians to stay engaged. "One lesson from this long FY2018 appropriations process is that when libraries speak, decision-makers listen," he said, adding that this is "a time to honor the power of our advocacy."

It is also, he went on, a time for the library community to strengthen its resolve.

"The White House will soon release its FY2019 budget, and we’re expecting even deeper cuts than proposed last year," Neal said. "To protect federal library funding, we need to remind Congress that libraries bring leaders and experts together to solve difficult problems, that we deliver opportunities, from academic success, work-readiness and literacy to housing stability and historical preservation. We need to invite elected leaders into our libraries to see what we do and what we can do for their constituents with a small investment of federal dollars."

The 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting Kicks Off in Denver

Librarians, publishers, and exhibitors arrived in Denver this week to temperatures that reached the low 60s—but fear not, the weekend is calling for some more typical Rocky Mountain weather. No worries, an outstanding professional program and a strong slate of author appearances will keep librarians happily indoors.

The main author program will officially kick off this afternoon with a conversation between Marley Dias and Patrisse Cullors. On Saturday, February 10, the Auditorium Speaker Series will feature acclaimed author and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers, and poet Elizabeth Acevedo will deliver the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture. On Sunday, February 11, Junot Díaz will discuss his new kids book, Islandborn. And on Monday, February 12, Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy!) and Gregory Mone will keynote the closing session. And of course, there will be hundreds more authors appearing in the exhibit halls, and in the professional program.

Perhaps the most buzzed about session at this year’s conference will be the ALA President’s Program, on Sunday afternoon. Usually, the session involves a keynote speaker, but in a departure, this year’s event will instead be a debate on an important question in today’s fractious political climate: “Are libraries neutral? Have they ever been? Should they be?”

And, of course, the big news out of midwinter is always the announcement of the Youth Media Awards. The ceremony will take place from 8 to 9 a.m. on Monday, February 12. The ALA Youth Media Awards, including the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King awards, are recognized worldwide as the most prestigious awards celebrating children’s and young adult literature and media.

And on Sunday, February 11, from 5 to 7 p.m., the ALA’s adult book awards, the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, will be announced.

This year’s shortlist for fiction: Jennifer Egan for Manhattan Beach (Scribner); National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward for Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner); and Booker Prize–winner George Saunders for Lincoln in the Bardo (Random House). The nonfiction finalists are Daniel Ellsberg for The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury); David Grann for Killers of the Flower Moon (Doubleday); and Sherman Alexie for his memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (Little, Brown).

In Memoriam: John Perry Barlow

Very sad news via the Electronic Frontier Foundation this week: EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow died in his sleep on February 7. Barlow, a rancher and lyricist for the Grateful Dead, was an incredible thinker, author, and an Internet pioneer. His 1994 Wired article, “The Economy of Ideas” remains one of the most important touchstones of the digital age—and it is worth a re-read today.

I still vividly remember my first interview with Barlow, in early 2002, when I was a reporter at Library Journal. Much of what we talked about that day, some 16 years ago, long before smartphones, or social media, still rings true today.

LJ: As cyberspace develops, do you think libraries will maintain a physical role in their communities?

JB: Oh, absolutely. In fact, I think physical libraries will be even more important in the future. Communities need that physical element. But libraries will have to be places where people do more than go to get books, because a lot of what people want they will be able get online. Libraries will be places where people will go to exchange ideas, and librarians will be even more essential than they are now, guiding people to information, knowing where to find it. I look at the potential for librarians and for libraries as being venues for all manner of salons, where the objective is not silence but conversation.

RIP, John Perry Barlow.

EveryLibrary Adds New Board Members; Seeks to Expand Effort to Support School Librarians

Library advocacy group EveryLibrary this week announced that it has added two new members to its board of directors: Harmony Faust, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Gale, a Cengage Company, and J. Turner Masland, Access Services Manager at Sonoma State University Library in Sonoma, CA.

Harmony and Turner join current board members John Chrastka, Erica Findley, Patrick “PC” Sweeney, Brian D. Hart, and Peter Bromberg.

“We are thrilled to welcome Harmony and Turner to the Board and look forward to collaborating together on the strategic direction and daily management of EveryLibrary,” said John Chrastka, founder and executive director at EveryLibrary, in a statement. “The unique perspectives and depth of experience they bring fits perfectly with our current team as we celebrate and reflect on our first five years as an organization and plan for the future.” Chrastka also acknowledged Mel Gooch, as she recently ended her term of board service.

Operating as “a national political action committee for libraries,” EveryLibrary has done great work in communities across the nation helping library supporters succeed at the local level. The group is holding its its annual meeting in Denver tonight, February 9, where it will review EveryLibrary’s 2017 Annual Report and seek input in its 2018 agenda for library advocacy—including a plan to boost school librarians through the SaveSchoolLibrarians program.

The SaveSchoolLibrarians program officially launched last June, with support from Follett Learning, with the goal of “restoring school librarians to schools and districts, and expanding funding for school library programs in their states.”

'The Public’ Premieres at the Santa Barbara Film Festival

Days after the world premiere of Emilio Estevez’s The Public at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, librarians seem largely pleased with the portrayal of their profession in the film, which takes place in the Cincinnati Public Library during a particularly harsh winter.

In a review on Public Libraries Online, Brendan Dowling writes, “The library is portrayed as a civic institution pulled in many directions that ultimately endures due to the perseverance of its employees. In a pop culture landscape where their profession is all too often reduced to a caricature, librarians may take comfort in The Public’s attempt to show a more nuanced portrayal of their world.”

On EveryLibrary's Medium platform, Oleg Kagan had similar praise: “Despite the public’s dramatic flourishes, everything in the movie that is related to libraries comes across as deeply authentic,” he wrote. “The naked man singing at the all-glass window? My laugh during that scene was the loudest and the longest in the theater, not because it is funny (though it is), but because it’s true. Any librarian who has spent time working at an urban library will watch the public with many a knowing nod. Estevez clearly did his research. In fact, I would be surprised if some of the film’s scenes weren’t directly inspired by true events.”

Not Fake News: New York Times Reports Surging 2017 Revenues, Driven by Digital Subscriptions

President Donald Trump may have to rethink his Twitter bashing: because the "failing" New York Times, as the president like to tweet, is actually surging. On a conference call this week, the newspaper reported strong fourth-quarter earnings, driven by digital subscriptions.

On a conference call with reporters, New York Times president and CEO Mark J. T. Thompson reflected on a "strikingly successful" 2017, and the company's digital transformation, which says a lot about where journalism is likely headed in the digital age:

"More than anything, our strategy as a company is to double down on high-quality journalism, to invest in it and support it in every way we can. We believe that this uncompromising commitment is not just good for democracy and society, but the only way of building a successful digital news business. And in 2017, it paid off for our tens of millions of users and for the Company itself.

For the year, revenue grew 8%, compared to 2016, and adjusted operating profit grew 18%. Much of that was driven by very strong digital subscription revenue growth, more than $100 million of new revenue in a single year. And if we step back and look at the numbers, we can see how the economics of the Company are changing.

Since 2015, we've defined ourselves as a subscription-first company. In 2017, subscriptions for the first time in the history of The New York Times Company, delivered more than $1 billion of revenue.

We still regard advertising as an important revenue stream, but believe that our focus on establishing close and enduring relationships with paying deeply engaged users, and the long-range revenues which flow from those relationships is the best way of building a successful and sustainable news business."

To Weed or Not to Weed?

The Associated Press reported this week on an ongoing trend in higher education: the shrinking of physical collections at university libraries. The article looks specifically at the case of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania library, in Indiana, PA, which recently announced a plan to remove tens of thousands of books from the stacks.

As expected, the news was met with some dismay from scholars in the community. One professor called the decision "unbelievably wrongheaded" and a "knife through the heart.”

Other universities have received similar responses. The article notes the case of Syracuse University, which opted to build its own storage facility near campus to store 1.2 million volumes after faculty and students by and large objected to a plan to ship books to a warehouse four hours away.

Of course, the students at IUP, who largely favor electronic resources for research over print volumes, don’t seem to mind all that much. In the words of freshman Dierra Rowland, "If nobody's reading them," she said, "what's the point of having them?"