It’s now been a week since Macmillan’s controversial embargo on new release e-books in libraries went into effect, and library supporters this week are continuing to ramp up the pressure. Among developments this week, a meeting between Macmillan CEO John Sargent and a group of state librarians; a statement of opposition signed by 77 elected officials across the U.S. and Canada; and a growing number of libraries announcing their decision to boycott Macmillan titles.
Urban Libraries Council CEO Susan Benton said its Statement on Equitable Public Access to E-Books was issued in direct response to Macmillan’s embargo, although it calls attention to broader restrictions impeding the work of libraries. Developed by ULC in partnership with the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, the statement “serves as a platform for city and county leaders to show their support for the vital role that libraries play,” and it comes after federal lawmakers in the U.S. widened an ongoing antitrust investigation on digital competition to include the library market last month.
"By signing the Statement on Equitable Public Access to E-Books, North America’s mayors and county executives are sending a powerful message they will not stand for the extreme restrictions e-book publishers are placing on public libraries, jeopardize their essential role as engines for democracy,” Benton said, in a statement.
Meanwhile, at a nearly two-and-a-half hour meeting, which took place on November 4, at COSLA's fall membership meeting, in Hartford, Connecitcut, Macmillan CEO John Sargent tried to explain the embargo to a delegation of state librarians. It sounds like it was a cordial meeting, but that there was little new to report—librarians remain opposed to the embargo and highly skeptical of its rationale, and Sargent sounds convinced that library e-books hurt his revenue, and is committed to seeing the embargo through. Next up, Sargent has committed to hearing librarians at the upcoming ALA Midwinter Meeting, in January 2020.
And finally, as we went to press a week ago we’d heard confirmations from about half a dozen libraries regarding their intention to boycott or otherwise limit their Macmillan purchases in response to the embargo. That number is now over 30, and growing.
A library e-book boycott is, of course, an extraordinary measure. But I think back to Sari Feldman’s July PW editorial. “Where will we librarians and library supporters draw the line? When will we say that access terms and pricing have become too oppressive?” I wonder, has that moment arrived?
In a release this week, Multonomah County Library (Oregon) director Vailey Oehlke eloquently captured the thinking behind the Macmillan boycotts.
“This is not a decision we take lightly. It means that the library has chosen to side against one specific company, something I would prefer to avoid. Our decision also means that some library patrons won’t be able to access popular authors in their preferred format and I regret that fact," Oehlke wrote. However, she added, "when you can only buy something from one source and the terms of that purchase become this unreasonable, it’s time to say no more.”
Over at Information Today, a study confirms that libraries are getting considerably less bang for considerably more buck in the e-book space. The report is authored by Michael Blackwell, director of St. Mary’s County Library and project and communications coordinator for ReadersFirst; Catherine Mason, catalog and serials manager and digital downloads administrator for Columbus Metropolitan Library; and Micah May e-books consultant for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).
Via the Tampa Bay Times, the library headline of the week comes from Cirtus County Florida, where the county commissioners denied the local public library funds to buy a digital subcription to the New York Times, calling it "fake news." The move made national headlines this week, and even drew a response from the ALA.
How is Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden doing with her efforts to modernize the Library of Congress? Via C-SPAN, it looks like she continues to do very well, thank you, and you can watch this recent hearing yourself.
For those who just want to the gist of it, via FedScoop, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden told lawmskers that “the library is a different organization from what it was just a short time ago.”
Via The Architect's Newspaper leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina unveiled renderings this week for its amazing new $100 million “library of the future."
In Montana, the Missoulian looks at the new $37.5 million Missoula Public Library scheduled to open it opens in July 2020. "Kids are going to love it. However, parents on a tight budget who lament that they can’t find enough free activities for their kids in the winter might love it even more."
Over at InfoDocket, Gary Price has a roundup of links on the various library budget and bond issues from this week's elections.
from Variety, sorry to hear the new of staff layoffs at Bustle, the online women’s publication which did a fair amount of books coverage. “Bustle’s new editorial leadership will soon be announcing several marquee hires as we prepare for a major site relaunch in early 2020,” the rep said in a statement.
And, no doubt you'll be seeing this on your holds list, but The New York Times has reviewed the Anonymous book A Warning, due out soon from Hachette's Twelve imprint.
The Week in Libraries is a weekly opinion and news column. News, tips, submissions, questions or comments are welcome, and can be submitted via email.