Five years ago, in a 2010 BEA preview article for PW, Sachem (N.Y.) Public Library’s Lauren Gilbert playfully dubbed librarians the Rodney Dangerfields of BookExpo America—the “dowdy, poor relations” who get no respect at the publishing family reunion that is BEA. “I was amused by the special librarian-friendly welcome mats in selected booths,” she observed, “which made me wonder what that implied about the others?”

The years since Gilbert’s 2010 article have been an eventful period in library-publisher relations. In 2012, those relations hit a historic low, as publishers denied or greatly restricted library e-book lending. But the relationship has since rebounded: all of the major publishers now allow e-book lending, there are more competitors and e-lending models emerging, and, through the American Library Association’s Digital Content Working Group, direct lines of communication now exist between library leaders and top-level publishing executives—an unprecedented, valuable development. It’s fair to say that library-publisher relations are on something of an upswing—and that upswing can be seen in this year’s BEA show program, with a number of panel discussions and events for librarians.

Among the highlights, ALA executive director Keith Michael Fiels will moderate a discussion titled “The Power of Partnerships: Libraries, Vendors and Publishers” on Thursday, May 28 (11 a.m., room 1E14), where topics will range from e-book issues to ways that publishers, vendors, and libraries can better collaborate.

On Friday, May 29 (10 a.m., room 1E14), fans can meet Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, co-creators of the popular library-themed comic strip Unshelved. Librarians and booksellers are urged to come with their “best true work story,” one of which Ambaum and Barnes will choose to turn into a comic strip right from the stage.

Also on May 29 (1 p.m., room 1E07), join this reporter, along with Skokie Public Library director Carolyn Anthony, Midwest Tape v-p Jeff Jankowski, and EarlyWord editor Nora Rawlinson for a discussion titled “Public Libraries: The Publishers’ Discovery (and Revenue) Friend in the Digital Age.” That discussion will build upon themes discussed at last week’s PW Discussion Series event, “The Case for Libraries,” at which marketing consultant and Forbes contributor David Vinjamuri argued that by working together better, publishers and libraries can form a bulwark that protects our pleasure reading culture in the face of fierce digital competition for consumer attention. “When you think about who your competition is, I would suggest it is not each other,” Vinjamuri told librarians and publishers in the room, calling libraries a “keystone species” in the reading ecosystem. “While libraries are not the biggest customer of publishers, they are potentially the most important,” he stressed, because libraries allow “the whole ecosystem of reading to flourish.”

And don’t miss the popular Association of American Publishers Annual Librarians’ Buzz Book panels, where publishers share with librarians the titles they are most excited about for the forthcoming season. Part one is set for Thursday, May 28, at 1:45 p.m., and part two will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 29—both in room 1E14.

Of course, panel discussions are just one part of the BEA experience. BEA is a great place to meet friends and network. And perhaps the most stunning sight at any BEA is seeing librarians become water buffalo on the show floor, waiting patiently in long lines with 40-pound bags of books over their shoulders in order to meet authors or hear about titles that might drive demand in their libraries.

On that score, be sure to visit the Publishers Weekly BEA Librarians Lounge (booth R420). Put down those heavy book bags, pick up a complimentary refreshment, read a good galley, or enjoy exclusive programming, including presentations, special galley giveaways (print and digital), raffles, tech demos, author chats, and meet and greets with PW editors, all courtesy of our sponsors.