“I’m dying,” says Emilio Estevez, as a throng of librarians queues up outside a theater at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, eager to see a screening of Estvez's forthcoming movie, ‘The Public.’ The film, scheduled for an April 5 release, is set in the Cincinnati Public Library, where a crisis unfolds after a group of patrons turns the library into a homeless shelter to escape an extreme arctic blast. Yet despite strong reviews from librarians after previous screenings for librarians, including at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans last June, Estevez says he’s still "terrified" ahead of each librarian screening.
“I stood through all three screenings in New Orleans, pacing in the back of the theater, sweating, terrified,” Estevez says, “because I thought if we don’t get it right here, with social media being what it is, if it goes out that the movie sucks, or the ‘same stereotypical depiction of librarians once again, thanks Hollywood!’ well, that’s the nightmare.”
At this point, it seems like Estevez doesn’t have to worry. The reviews from librarians have been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the first question put to Estevez after the first screening in New Orleans, he recalls, was ‘how did you get us so right’?” The answer: Estevez has done his homework.
"The Public" has been a 12-year labor of love for Estevez, the seed for which was planted when he first read Chip Ward’s 2007 essay “What They Didn't Teach Us in Library School: The Public Library as an Asylum for the Homeless,” in Tom’s Dispatch. Estevez wrote, directed, and stars in "The Public" alongside a strong cast, including Jeffery Wright, Jena Malone, Gabrielle Union and Alec Baldwin. And Estevez says he has relied heavily on librarian input throughout the process, including from multiple screenings at ALA conferences and in various public libraries around the country, which he used to tweak the film’s final cut, an effort that mainly involved getting the run time under two hours, and eliminating enough F-bombs to avoid the box-office killing R rating.
In addition to librarians, festival audiences have also given the film high marks. “The reaction in Toronto was a standing ovation, and ‘thank you for making this film.’ Then we took it to the Toronto Public Library for a private screening, same reaction,” Estevez says.
But despite, the strong reception, Estevez still seems genuinely nervous ahead of the latest showing Seattle—and in talking with him, it becomes clear why: He’s not only invested in the movie, he’s invested in libraries. He’s invested in the message.
"The film is very entertaining, unexpectedly so, I think—I mean, public libraries, mental health issues, homelessness—people might think, yeah I could see that on the news,” he says. “But then you see them watching the film, it’s engaging. It’s entertaining. I think that was the real sleight of hand with this film.”
In addition to good reviews from librarians and festival audiences, Estevez says he also got another meaningful nod of approval: from Chip Ward, who, Estevez said, told him he’d “written a song for the unsung.”
For librarians who weren’t able to make a screening in New Orleans, or last week in Seattle, you’ll have more chances soon. Estevez says the plan is to continue to screen the film at public libraries—including in libraries doing some of the most innovative work with their city's homeless populations, including the Denver Public Library, and The San Francisco Public Library.
And no doubt, many librarians this week are getting a sense of what makes the film's story so compelling. Nearly a quarter of the country this week was blanketed in what’s being called a once-in-a-generation blast of arctic air, raising concern for the homeless population.
American Libraries, has a great rundown of the speakers who graced the stages at Midwinter, and some interesting news of out the ALA council, including news that ALA has an interested buyer for its headquarters in Chicago. Also, some interesting survey feedback on both the ALA Annual and Midwinter conferences.
Check out Publishers Weekly, too, for coverage of what was a busy, bounce back year for ALA, with a roughly 13% increase in attendance over last year's Midwinter Meeting in Denver.
Like Michelle Obama, who opened the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans last year, could Melinda Gates have the next mega-selling memoir? The Midwinter Meeting kicked off with an inspiring opening keynote by Gates, who spoke passionately about the fight for gender equality, and her own transformation into a gender equality activist. Gates' memoir, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, is due out in April, from Flatiron Books.
After a few years of relative calm, e-books and digital content were once again a hot topic at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Among the takeaways, the ALA's ASCGLA division released a wide-ranging paper drawn from its National E-book Summit, held last year at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. Download an epub version.
In addition, a session convened by the ReadersFirst coalition focused on some of the more immediate challenges facing libraries, such as Macmillan's contested "experiment" with embargoing frontlist e-book titles from its Tor imprint, and concerns over Amazon, which is signing more and more exclusive content which is not available to libraries, especially audio content under its Audible division.
In another e-book session, Cliff Guren and Steve Potash updated librarians and publishers about the Panorama Project, the nascent research initiative launched by OverDrive to collect data on how libraries “impact book and author discovery, brand development, and retail sales.” Guren offered a quick presentation and took questions on how Panorama is collecting data and going about its work. And in his introductory remarks, OverDrive CEO Steve Potash told librarians why he started the project: because libraries are simply not getting credit for the work they do on behalf of publishers and authors. “We’ve had progress,” Potash said, “but there is still a lack of hard, objective data and information to educate every publisher and every agent and every author that it is in their economic interests to appreciate, to leverage, and to love the channel of libraries and librarians.”
In Seattle, librarians took time out their Midwinter Schedules to librarians also took time out from the show for a rally at Seattle’s famous main library, the latest stop in a series of rallies hosted around the nation by ALA president Loida Garcia-Febo as part of her “Libraries=Strong Communities” initiative. In honor of the event, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a proclamation, dubbing January 26 “Take Action for Libraries Day.”
From Inside Higher Ed, some alarming news out of the ALA Midwinter Meeting. "A scholarly communications librarian at New York University set off an uncomfortable debate among fellow librarians about the racial views and values of the American Library Association after sharing that she was verbally attacked by a white colleague at an ALA meeting this week." The librarian, April Hathcock, writes about the incident, and the ALA's response on her blog.
More disturbing news from local TV affiliate NBC 10: a Philadelphia library says it will go ahead with a planned "Drag Queen Story Fun Time" despite threats and opposition from conservative Christian groups.
And, the same in Houston. The Independent reports on a conservative radio host who, reportedly armed with a gun, "barged into a Texas library in an attempt to stop a drag queen reading books to children."
Today is a huge day for net neutrality supporters, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today heard oral arguments in a legal effort to overturn the FCC's repeal. Ars Technica has a great piece on the issues in the case, as well as links to the petitioners' joint brief and the FCC and Department of Justice's defense of the repeal. Audio of the oral argument was streamed live, and an archived version should be available soon on the court's website.
In a statement, the ALA Washington Office issued a statement reiterating its support for net neutrality protections. “ALA is committed to equitable and open access to the internet, and we believe the courts will rule in our favor," said American Library Association (ALA) President Loida Garcia-Febo. "Among other errors, the FCC ignored the impacts on libraries and institutions of higher learning in its decision to eliminate the 2015 Open Internet rules. This arbitrary decision has imperiled the internet as an unbiased platform for research, learning and information sharing, and that decision should be reversed. We will continue to fight for strong, enforceable net neutrality protections in every venue available.”
From Inside Higher Ed, academic libraries are buying fewer books than they used to, according to the "Library Acquisition Patterns" report, issued by research service Ithaka S+R. In addition, Amazon was not found to be a significant vendor of academic e-books.
From Kansas State University student newspaper, the Daily Collegian, comes a report that the K-State Libraries have announced a moratorium on purchasing any new books, journal titles, databases or other subscription-based materials until the end of the fiscal year due to budget constraints. The article says that staffing positions in the libraries have been reduced by 30% in the last five years, "in part to try to make up for the cost of subscription increases."
From Science, a report that only 15% of the 5987 science and medical journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) would fully comply with Plan S, the initiative primarily by European funders to make all papers developed with their support open access by 2020.
What happens when you quit Facebook? The New York Times cites a A new study, which concludes that quitters will see "more in-person time with friends and family. Less political knowledge, but also less partisan fever. A small bump in one’s daily moods and life satisfaction. And, for the average Facebook user, an extra hour a day of downtime."