American Library Association officials this week reported strong attendance for the 2019 ALA Annual Conference, which concluded on June 25 in Washington, D.C. Preliminary figures put total attendance in Washington at 21,460 (attendees and exhibitors) up sharply from the 17,599 in New Orleans for the 2018 show, and just below the 22,702 in ALA’s hometown of Chicago in 2017. Notably, exhibitor numbers were up sharply at this year’s conference—6,827 compared to the 5,176 on hand in New Orleans last year (and even surpassing the 6,510 in Chicago, in 2017).
American Libraries has comprehensive coverage of the show, which included a rousing keynote from bestselling poet and middle-grade author Jason Reynolds, and an inspiring pitch from author Eric Klinenberg to make increased support for libraries an issue in the 2020 elections. Klinenberg, author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, appeared with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. And while he acknowledged the library’s key role in creating a literate, informed electorate, he really honed in on the library's ever-expanding commitment to serve their communities.
“I think there's an expectation from city managers that they can cut and cut, and librarians are always going to do more,” Klinenberg said. “One of things that’s happening is that cities and local governments are using libraries as a safety net, right? So, you cut programs for mental health care, you cut funding for programs for the homeless, cut funding for education, cut libraries out of elementary schools, cut programming for senior centers, and for elderly people more generally. And every time you cut one of those things, the people whose lives are immediately affected wind up where? In the library. I want to applaud libraries for taking on all that work. But at the same time, I want to demand from our government leaders that we invest in those other areas as well, so that librarians don't have to be everything.”
Meanwhile, some of the biggest headlines of the ALA Annual Conference came out of the ALA Council meetings.
In one resolution, the ALA Council voted to strip Melvil Dewey’s name from the organization’s highest professional honor, the Melvil Dewey Medal, citing Dewey’s well-documented history of racism, anti-Semitism, and serial sexual harassment.
And, with diminishing access to e-books and digital content a major concern among many librarians at the show, the ALA Council approved a measure to ramp up its advocacy efforts. The “Resolution on E-book Pricing for Libraries,” not only calls for a broader public awareness campaign about the barriers libraries face to digital access. it calls for ALA to urge Congress “to explore digital content pricing and licensing models to ensure democratic access to information.”
[Editor's Note: The Week in Libraries column will be off next week for the July 4th holiday]
In passing a resolution this week at the ALA Annual Conference, the library community is now poised to ask the government to weigh in on the actions of the major publishers in restricting digital content in libraries. Meanwhile, as Publishers Weekly reported this week, publishers want the government to weigh in on Amazon and other actors in the tech sector.
"As essential participants in local markets and the global economy, our members invest in and inspire the exchange of ideas, transforming the world we live in one word at a time," reads the comment submitted this week by the Association of American Publishers to the Federal Trade Commission's hearings on competition and consumer protection in the 21st Century. "Unfortunately, the marketplace of ideas is now at risk for serious if not irreparable damage because of the unprecedented dominance of a very small number of technology platforms. In order to mitigate this crisis and protect the public interest, AAP urges the Commission to exercise much-needed oversight and regulation, particularly as to circumstances where technology platforms stifle competition and manipulate consumer outcomes."
The submission comes in the same week as a critical story from the New York Times characterized Amazon's book business as "lawless" and ripe for government action. "Booksellers that seem to have no verifiable existence outside Amazon offer $10 books for $100 or even $1,000 on the site, raising suspicions of algorithms run wild or even money-laundering. The problem of fake reviews is so bad that the F.T.C. has already gotten involved."
Amazon, meanwhile, responded with a blog post. "Amazon offers customers millions of books and we work hard to ensure customers have a great shopping experience. The Times cites a small number of complaints and we recognize our work here isn’t done."
The Supreme Court this week temporarily blocked the Commerce Department from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. And, as the Washington Post reports, President Trump now wants to delay the Census. The American Library Association, which filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, praised the Supreme Court's decision to block the citizenship question. “The American Library Association agrees that there is a ‘substantial mismatch’ between the Commerce Secretary’s decision and the rationale he provided for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census," said ALA President Wanda Brown, in a statement. "We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to at least temporarily block the addition of the question. ALA has consistently opposed the addition of the question on the 2020 census form. ALA will continue to work in coalition with civil and human rights organizations to carefully review the implications of the case and actively advocate for a fair, accurate and inclusive census.”
From Southern Maryland News, more drama over a Drag Queen Story Hour, as a 42 year-old man was arrested at the St. Mary's County Library for running into a room full of adults and kids and screaming hysterically.
Vice reports on the far right's increasingly frightening tactics to stop Drag Queen Story Hours, and how organizers are refusing to back down. "Despite the violent rhetoric and threats, Drag Queen Story Hour appears to be here to stay. There’s nearly 30 Story Hours planned for the next month alone." The Daily Beast has more: "Extremists have encouraged harassment against Story Hour participants, and even established channels dedicated to collecting the personal information on people who attend, known as doxxing."
For the first time since 2015, the House Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing for the Copyright Office, the first with new permanently-appointed Register of Copyrights Karyn Temple. Billboard has a roundup. And you can watch a replay of the hearing here.
The Hollywood Reporter rounds up some interesting IP-related cases from the Supreme Court's recent term, including news that the high court will not hear the ReDigi appeal, meaning that it's pretty much the end of the legal road for ReDigi, the upstart tech firm that sought to create a marketplace for reselling used iTunes files.
The Trump Administration this week rescinded the appointment of Robert Tapella to lead the Government Publishing Office (GPO). No reason was given, but GovExec reports that it comes amid allegations of "cronyism, and mismanagement."
A great read in The Guardian about what a host of new proprietary streaming services means for consumers, with major implications for libraries. "Watching television is about to get very, very expensive."
And on the subject of streaming, via Gizmodo, The New York Public Library this week announced that it is discontinuing access to streaming service Kanopy. It was a victim of success. As NYPL writes, "the cost of Kanopy makes it unsustainable for the Library." And I can't help but note this passage from the Gizmodo piece: "Kanopy seems to have operated with much the same aggressive pricing as other digital goods, like e-books, which threaten to bleed library budgets in new and creative ways."