The American Library Association's MidWinter meeting, held January 29-February 3 in Philadelphia, confirmed reports that library budgets are on the rise. According to Larry Price, v-p, marketing for Ingram Library Services: "I haven't seen things so upbeat since the Johnson years" [when federal funding caused a library boom].
Exhibitors reported that business on the floor was good, although traffic was slower than usual. Official registration figures indicated that attendance (as of Friday, a grand total of 8673 attendees and exhibitors) was up somewhat over last year's MidWinter in New Orleans.
Exhibitors often blame light floor traffic on the competition from thousands of meetings and programs that keep librarians away from the show floor. After years of trying to get some "noncompete" time built into the schedule, exhibitors were happy to learn that ALA's Conference Committee has begun to examine ways to restructure the conference, including the possibility of building in time for librarians to visit the exhibit floor. A document called "Options for the Future" was presented at the conference and, according to the committee chair, Mary Ann Rupert, it received "cautious support."
The Web Wins
Electronic products dominated the show floor, as they have for many years. Two years ago, the Web was just emerging as a publishing platform for library products. This year's show marked its triumph, with at least one major company declaring that "you will never see another CD-ROM from us." Other companies, however, are continuing to support CD-ROM and still others, such as UMI, are planning to make products available on DVD as well as via the Web.
Because libraries are at the forefront of providing access to the Web, they are also facing challenges from various groups that want libraries to filter Web sites to prevent children from having access to pornographic material. Filtering, however, also results in limiting access to useful material (such as health resources that use the word "sex"), so many libraries are opting not to filter. To help librarians handle challenges from both the media and the general public, ALA's Public Information Office presented a program entitled "Speaking Up, Speaking Out," which suggested that librarians speak in "sound bites" when answering difficult questions from the media.
The next ALA conference will be held in New Orleans (June 26-29); the opening session will feature Colin Powell. More information can be obtained at the ALA Web site, http://www.ala.org/events.