We’re back—happy 2020! And what a busy final few weeks of 2019 it was, with a slew of major headlines all breaking in the final days of what was already an eventful year. Let’s catch up, shall we?
First, some good news: though 2019 began with the Trump administration once again proposing the permanent elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), IMLS wound up with a $10 million increase in the final budget, including a $6.2 million bump for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the largest increase in LSTA funding in 12 years.
In American Libraries, ALA’s Kathi Kromer breaks it all down.
I’ll just highlight two points: First, this doesn’t happen without the outstanding year-round advocacy work by rank-and-file librarians. So, well done.
And, second, library supporters will have to continue their good work in 2020. I'm willing to bet that the Trump administration will again propose the elimination of IMLS in its 2021 budget proposal. But as Kromer writes, the efforts of librarians and library supporters are paying off where it counts: with legislators.
“As advocates continue to demonstrate the impact libraries have on our communities—including policymakers’ voters," Kromer states, "ALA is in a stronger position than ever to start the FY2021 budget cycle.”
Which is a good time to remind readers that ALA’s 45th National Library Legislative Day is set for Washington, D.C., May 4-5, 2020.
More news to catch up on from our break: On December 10, The American Library Association announced 10 winners of the prestigious I Love My Librarian Award. The recipients were nominated by patrons nationwide and chosen from the nearly 2,000 nominations received this year. Each librarian receives a $5,000 cash award, a plaque and a travel stipend to attend the awards ceremony, which will take place on Jan. 25, 2020, at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Philadelphia. The award is made possible by the Carnegie Corporation, and is co-sponsored by The New York Public Library and the New York Times. You can meet the winners here.
Back on the government front, in December I reported for Publishers Weekly on a rumored executive order that would potentially achieve with the stroke of a sharpie something that librarians and open access advocates have been pushing for legislatively for years—free access to journal articles and research funded with taxpayer dollars. Public access to taxpayer funded research has been an ongoing battle in Congress for the past two decades, and the battle lines remain the same as in past years: the Association of American Publishers is strongly against Trump issuing such an order. Open Access advocates, like SPARC, remain in favor of whatever might get the job done.
The Scientist this week has a great article on the state of play in open access that hits at the complex waters the Trump administration may be preparing to wade, or cannonball, into.
No question, the open access battle lines have shifted in recent years, with Plan S in Europe, and the University of California holding the line in its open access demand with Elsevier. Still, I question the wisdom of using an executive order to mandate public access, and I'm doubtful this will come to pass. After all, if Trump does sign such an order there will surely be lawsuits, as well as uncertainty, and chaos—after all a future president could simply undo this executive order with another executive order. That's no way to run scholarly communication.
At the same time, in the last decade we've seen multiple public access bills—FRPA and FASTR—for example, bills that garnered bipartisan support and would very likely have had enough votes to pass if they ever got to the floor. If Trump is truly serious about public access to taxpayer-funded research, wouldn't he rather sign a bill into law that has been fully debated and considered, rather than a tenuous executive order? And if I'm a former co-sponsor of one of these public access bills, might I read the news of this rumored executive order as an invitation to try again?
I also reported in Publishers Weekly last month that Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has appointed Maria Strong as acting register of Copyrights and director of the U.S. Copyright Office, succeeding register of Copyrights Karyn Temple, who is leaving for the Motion Picture Association. Strong's appointment will begin January 5, 2020. The nagging question I've raised in my coverage is whether Temple's departure might give new life to a recent legislative effort to take the Register position out of the purview of the Library of Congress, and make it a presidential appointment. Perhaps Trump considering a unilateral executive order on public access will help illustrate for publishers why opponents of the bill say politicizing the Register of Copyrights position is a bad idea.
It's a new year, which means new stuff in the public domain, via Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain: "These works include George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, silent films by Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, and books such as Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, and A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young. These works were supposed to go into the public domain in 2000, after being copyrighted for 75 years. But before this could happen, Congress hit a 20-year pause button and extended their copyright term to 95 years."
Big news over the holidays in the library e-book market as private equity firm KKR announced (on Christmas Eve!) that it has struck a deal to acquire leading library e-book vendor OverDrive from Rakuten USA. No one really knows what this all means, but Marshall Breeding in American Libraries has some well-considered thoughts. One fascinating element of the KKR deal: it was engineered by Richard Sarnoff, who, while serving as an executive at Random House, crafted the ill-fated Google Book Search Settlement with help from Macmillan CEO John Sargent.
Also from American Libraries, an update on the efforts to convince Macmillan to reverse its embargo on library e-books. "What comes next is uncertain, but Macmillan CEO John Sargent will be hosting a forum at ALA Midwinter, and has reportedly "requested the opportunity to speak at PLA’s conference in Nashville, in February."
Meanwhile, the resistance to Macmillan's e-book embargo continues to generate local action, and headlines. This week, the Duluth News-Tribune (Minn.) reported on a letter sent by four Duluth city councilors co-signed and sent a letter to Macmillan denouncing the company's embargo. "This runs the risk of making libraries into a secondhand source of reading materials," one of the letters authors explains, adding that "the concern is that you're now pushing library users into a different parallel than other consumers."
Via Gary Price at InfoDocket, news of some big promotions at Library Journal: Rebecca T. Miller has been named Group Publisher of Library Journal, School Library Journal, and The Horn Book; Meredith Schwartz is now Editor-in-Chief, for Library Journal; and Kathy Ishizuka has been named Editor-in-Chief, of School Library Journal. Well-earned, and congratulations!
Also from InfoDocket, as reported in Indy Week, news of a new collaboration between the Chapel Hill Public Library and Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture that will offer local musicians a chance to feature their music in a new streaming service for North Carolina musicians, called Tracks. "Chapel Hill joins a growing list of communities with similar projects, including Austin, Seattle, and Nashville," Indy Week reports, adding that musicians "will be paid $200 in exchange for having their albums included in the library and Tracks will receive non-exclusive rights for five years."
Axios reports on where the legislative action will be in 2020 on a host of issues: statehouses.
And the action in the statehouses will almost certainly mean more action on Net Neutrality, reports American Libraries, and perhaps even stronger protections than those repealed by the FCC in late 2018. In New York, for example, governor Andrew Cuomo has vowed to make net neutrality a reality. "A free and open internet is one of the great equalizers—allowing every person the same access to information and helping protect freedom of speech," Cuomo said, in a recent release. "While the federal administration works to undermine this asset, in New York we are advancing the strongest net neutrality proposal in the nation so big corporations can't control what information we access or stymie smaller competitors."
From Nieman Lab, Barbara Gray, chief librarian and an associate professor of investigative research methods at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, offers an inspiring resolution for the new year 2020: that "local nonprofit media, j-schools, and civic tech projects will continue to ally with one of our most trusted institutions —libraries—to empower citizens to build the communities they want.
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.