Here’s my summary of last week’s North Carolina Library Association conference. Overall, I thought it was a great conference, and I was glad I attended.
Christopher Harris, editor for the American Libraries e-content blog, gave a very good update on the e-book industry, although it was mostly geared toward public libraries. Some of my favorite sound bites and key concepts:
- Don’t stress out about change. “Stuff is constantly changing; let it flow.”
- The last disruptive technology we saw was the iPod and mp3’s. Experts (audiophiles) hate mp3’s because of the lower sound quality, but for the average user, an iPod & earbuds sure beats walking around with a phonograph or boombox. Librarians need to avoid being the nay-saying experts.
- If all we’re doing is providing e-books, we’re in trouble because it can be outsourced at a much lower cost. Libraries can be filters and help users avoid “analysis paralysis,” like shopping at Trader Joe’s, where much of the selection has already been done for you.
Harris encouraged us to be willing to experiment with new models of purchase and access, and to think with our “math brains” instead of our “emotional” brains. For example, we all got up in arms when Harper Collins announced a 26-loan maximum, but Harris pointed out that for a $20 book that amounts to about $0.72 per loan. “How much per loan does a print book cost?” (in labor and building/shelving costs), he asked. Harris reviewed the current license models used by some of the “Big 6″ publishers. He pointed out that Macmillan does not sell to library consortia, and said (almost angrily), “That’s where we should plant our flag!” because resource sharing is much more important than a 26- or 52-loan limit.
Harris’ parting advice:
- Use the E-book Toolkit available on the ALA Transforming Libraries website.
- Talk with authors. Most of them don’t realize how difficult it is for libraries to get their e-books. You can refer them to authorsforlibraryebooks.org.
The next day, I attended a panel discussion and found out that NC LIVE is already working on a new model for shared e-books. I confess I didn’t understand all this very well, and it’s all still in Beta, but I’ll try to keep this general in hopes that I won’t go too far off track. NC LIVE has been working with Wake County Public Library to develop a shared platform for library e-books. Note that it will be the platform technology that is shared, not necessarily the e-books. It will be up to individual libraries to implement the platform (developed by NC LIVE) on their own websites. The vision is that each member library will be able to purchase e-books and place them on the NC LIVE platform, either shareable or private to the purchasing library. NC LIVE has started negotiating with several NC publishers to make their e-books available on the platform. It wasn’t clear to me whether those are e-books that NC LIVE will purchase, or if they’ll simply be available for member libraries to purchase. Target launch date for the platform is January 2014. There will be some content from one publisher (John Blair, based in Winston-Salem) available at that time, and NC LIVE hopes to have additional content from other publishers available by July. For now, the only access model for these e-books will be single concurrent user.
Digital/Digitized Library Collections
I went to a couple of presentations on digital collections available via the State Library. See http://digital.ncdcr.gov/. There’s a lot of good stuff available for NC historical research, such as family bibles, wills, property records, cemetery photographs, a Civil War Roster index, an index of the Raleigh News & Observer covering 1926-1992, and an archive of all NC government websites. I also went to a session that gave an update on NC ECHO [http://ncecho.org/], which searches across the digital collections of various libraries, museums, and archives in North Carolina (including Digital Forsyth, for example). NC ECHO uses the OAI-PMH standard to gather metadata from the various collections, then builds a searchable index of all these collections.
Electronic Resource Management Systems
I formed and participated in a panel discussion about E-Resource Management Systems (ERMS). Our panel included librarians using an open-source ERMS (me, talking about CORAL), a ILS-vendor’s ERMS, and a content-vendor’s ERMS. It was fun (in an e-resource-managing-geeky sort of way) to see how the strengths of the systems varied according to provider. The presentation was well attended, and I received some positive feedback afterward.
I won’t try to summarize the keynote addresses, but here are a couple of my favorite highlights:
In speaking of our responsibility to present readers with all sides of a controversial topic, ALA President Barbara Stripling pointed out that in a print environment, libraries could place all the relevant resources together on the shelf, so readers have to “at least trip over” other points of view on their way to the books they’re looking for. But in an online environment, it is too easy to limit yourself to resources that you already agree with, so libraries have a responsibility to teach users to look for those other points of view.
I’m sure others will offer a better description of ACRL President Trevor Dawes’ address, but the point that stood out the most to me was his explanation of why Financial Literacy is one of his main areas of focus. Dawes said that student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt in the United States. (Actually, that happened in 2010, but Yikes!)
If you’ve read my past conference summaries, you won’t be surprised that I had some productive conversations with vendors in the exhibit hall. I talked with the Gale rep about the Cengage bankruptcy, and was again assured that it’s “business as usual” for Gale; she compared the bankruptcy to refinancing a mortgage (yeah, I know it’s more complicated than that, but I still thought it was a good analogy). The Reference USA rep gave me a heads up on a new data visualization feature, and told me to contact our sales rep about it (I think it’s available at no additional cost, waiting to hear back). I got an update on the new Alexander Street Press platform for streaming music & video, which is scheduled to be released later this week (but they’ve already had to push it back once). And I had another license-unjamming conversation with a publisher (like happened at ALA earlier this year). I had gone months without hearing a reply, then talked to the sales rep at the conference on Thursday, and I heard back from the license contact within a day!