ALA 2013 Seattle Midwinter Meeting update: The headline is libraries are reinventing and re-purposing themselves

26 Jan

There is a theme running through the ALA 2013 Seattle Midwinter Meeting which is that libraries are reinventing and re-purposing themselves to meet the challenges of surviving in a digital world where publishing is rapidly changing with more challenges to distribution of content and more diversity in the channels of content production. The Friday sessions attended by moi were all consistent with the theme.

ALA President Maureen Sullivan held a joint press conference with Rich Harwood, the founder of the Harwood Institute. The focus of their comments was the joint initiative between ALA and Harwood, called The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities. See, ALA Midwinter Conversations: Community Engagement and the Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/news/ala/ala-midwinter-conversations-community-engagement-and-promise-libraries-transforming-communi This is how the initiative is described:

Funded through a grant from IMLS, the multi-phase initiative’s goal is to provide librarians with the tools and training they need to lead their communities in finding innovative solutions by advancing library-led community engagement and innovation. The conversations at Midwinter are one step in building a sustainable, scalable national plan.

The press conference aimed to describe the focus of the initiative. Moi was thinking, obviously libraries have to do something with brick and mortar buildings.

Mr. Harwood started off with the theme that Americans are yearning for a sense of community and because librarians are trusted members of the community and libraries are natural centers for community gathering. Both Cooney and Sullivan emphasized that they wanted to work with individual communities emphasizing “don’t want to adopt and not adapt.” This means that they do not want a one-size-fits-all approach to community engagement, but they want to respond to individual community needs. Harwood focused upon the Harwood Youngstown project. http://www.theharwoodinstitute.org/2013/01/change-happens-in-youngstown/

See, Community Conversation Guide http://mediaengage.org/webinars/uploads/file_154520.pdf

The ALA session, ALA and E-books: Prospects and Directions for 2013 was packed. The session dealt with the changing landscape of not just books, but the delivery of information and content. The session was co-chaired by Sari Feldman and Robert Wolven with remarks by Alan S. Inouye. Panelists were George Coe of Baker and Taylor, Matt Tempelis of 3M, and Jamie La Rue of Douglas County Library of Colorado. It emphasized that ALA is advocating for the interest of libraries to have a free and open information flow. ALA has an e-content blog, a toolkit, and has written an “Open Letter to Publishers.” See, http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/e-content/open-letter-america-s-publishers

Wolven described the issues with the various business models that exist. These models differ based upon content, terms, price. There is growing diversity in the channels of publishing and how books or content come to market. The question is what content is available and at what price.

Inouye discussed the future direction of e-books. He emphasized that there are different models for large publishers and distributors; smaller and mid-sized publishers; and the self-published markets. The panel could be summarized as the library market is trying to acquire as much information as possible for a price they consider reasonable. The producers of content and distributors want to control as much of the content as they can and charge up to the point that they don’t kill the goose which laid the golden egg.

Moi attended two other sessions, but the point was still the same. Libraries are operating in a world which is a bit like surfing. One hopes to ride the wave and not get knocked off their board to find themselves treading water or drowned.

Corrected to reflect the press conference attendee was Rich Harwood, founder of Harwood Institute.

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