ALA 2014, Las Vegas: I have never experienced heat like that in my life. A stroll down the street felt like reentry into the atmosphere; except in reverse, in that you are exiting terra firma in favor of somewhere surreal and inhospitable to human life…yet oddly fascinating. ALA 2014 will remain memorable for me on multiple fronts.
Number one, it was my first. While ALA is bigger than AALL (the annual law librarian conference), one doesn’t so much perceive it. The exhibit hall must have been larger, and I enjoyed meeting reps from several of our vendors. There was an entire aisle devoted to comic book/graphic novel publishers, which was pretty cool, and certainly very un-law-like. The variety in subject matter represented by the various vendors was impressive, and fun. One could spend the whole conference in there.
Without my exactly planning it, a central theme of my conference program schedule ended up being ebooks: their rising cost, challenges in managing them, and, unmistakably, their importance. At a program on the rapidly rising cost of DDA short-term loans, representatives from ProQuest, Wiley, and Oxford took the stage alongside librarian Alison Scott from UC-Riverside and attempted to explain recent and upcoming hikes in short-term loan rates. They emphasized that we have all essentially been in a pilot period during which the ebook market was shaking out, and what publishers have found is that present DDA models give away too much access for too little money in return. In other words they aren’t profitable enough to counterbalance reduced print book sales and cover costs. It’s a tough sell to librarians, to be sure, but I do respect the publishers’ willingness to try.
How are libraries supposed to afford such substantially higher STL prices? There we come to an impasse. Ms. Scott referred to this as a “moment of evolutionary punctuation” and disequilibrium not only in library budgeting but in the academic library’s mission at large. However, we as customers do have the somewhat weird advantage (if you can call it that) of a relationship of mutual dependence with the publishers and vendors in question. At the same time I was struck by the fundamental opposition of interests between the two sides. It’s an interesting predicament, and one that I do believe will have to resolve itself, both at the broader ebook market level and the local library budgetary level. We can’t cut everything; but if necessary we can cut some things. That is me bravely standing my ground, cautiously. (I actually believe we’ll be alright.)
I sat in on the meeting of the ALCTS Acquisitions Organization and Management Committee, which I am on as of 7/1. (I’ve also joined the ALCTS Planning Committee, but I couldn’t make that meeting.) I’m excited to be involved with ALA at this level. It’s a way for me to meet colleagues at other institutions; a chance to broaden my awareness and affect the profession; and an excuse to attend Midwinter, which next year is in my home state of Illinois (Chicago). The OMC discussed programming ideas ranging from the highly relevant to the yeah-let’s-not-do-that, as well as a short webinar series. I was glad that Lauren suggested I attend this meeting even though I wasn’t officially yet a member; it allowed me the opportunity to put in my two cents.
To sum up the rest: I attended sessions on RDA enrichment of existing AACR2 records (which we at ZSR will be doing too, via Backstage); Kanopy’s streaming video PDA service and its potential for high return on investment of video funds; with Carolyn, ebook workflow and the importance of the handoff from acquisitions to cataloging as well as a clear line for reporting access problems; and others. I know several of us went to the talk “The Quiet Strength of Introverts” by Jennifer Kahnweiler. Given that many back here in Resource Services would likely call themselves introverts (as did most librarians in the lecture hall by a show of hands), this seemed like a fitting last-day session for the conference. Ms. Kahnweiler used the example of Fred Rogers as a quiet influencer; I can’t think of a better person to emulate. Introverts are red-hot right now. I’ve also seen a Ted Talk on the same subject, and there are books. We seem to be having our day in the sun, whether we sought it or not.