ALA President’s Open Letter on Ebooks and Publishers doesn’t get us very far

Maureen Sullivan, ALA president, just posted an Open Letter to America’s Publishers. Go read it, then come back and discuss.

On the one hand, it’s a fine letter, addressing all the appropriate stuff. On the other hand … I think I’m confused. Here’s why:

The letter doesn’t really seem to be addressed to America’s Publishers. Instead, it seems to be addressed to libraries and librarians. Most of the letter gives the normal “aren’t libraries awesome” stuff.

And then, in the last two paragraphs, that’s when the letter actually gets to the point. Here’s our big call to action:

“We librarians cannot stand by and do nothing while some publishers deepen the digital divide. We cannot wait passively while some publishers deny access to our cultural record. We must speak out on behalf of today’s — and tomorrow’s — readers.The library community demands meaningful change and creative solutions that serve libraries and our readers who rightfully expect the same access to e-books as they have to printed books.”

“So, which side will you be on? Will you join us in a future of liberating literature for all? Libraries stand with readers, thinkers, writers, dreamers and inventors. Books and knowledge — in all their forms — are essential. Access to them must not be denied.”

Did I miss something? Our big directive from ALA is this:

  • Librarians cannot stand by and do nothing
  • We can’t wait passively
  • We must speak out
  • Library community demands change

??? All Maureen/ALA is asking libraries to do is to … “speak out???” Nothing about the issues, nothing about results, nothing about concerted efforts…

So really – I’m glad maureen is ALA president, and I’m glad ALA is starting to do something about ebooks. But I’m not sure that simply asking libraries to randomly “speak out” about the issue is useful.

Why not something more concrete, like “everyone call Penguin on October 1 at 2pm, and ask for the same thing”? And then provide some some talking points to use during the phone call?

How about something more specific saying what ALA is doing about the issue, and giving us something to take back to our library boards?

Help me out here – what could we as libraries and librarians do that is more than just “speaking out?” Let’s create some better, more specific next steps for ALA. I think we can do better than this!

Starbucks Cards and Libraries – Would it Work?

I sometimes pick up those cool Starbuck’s Free App/Free Song/Free Book cards when I’m at Starbucks buying a coffee. I think those cards are pretty cool, and I think they just might work in a library setting, too.

What if libraries did something like this – created some cards, and pointed to free content, like:

  • Project Gutenberg free ebooks
  • Free music via your Freegal account (or fill in the blank if you have another music database)
  • Free event – have the card be the ticket to the event
  • Free game – point to something on the web, or actually make an app-based game and point to that.

This idea is sort of like those signs I saw at the Denver airport awhile back.

So … thoughts? Do you think it would work in a library? I’d love to know!

And an aside – yes, I know the video is sorta jumpy. Sorry about that! I should have used the Focus Lock feature, and didn’t think about it. Next time!

Sign the Petition at ebooksforlibraries.com!

Ebooks in libraries got you down? Feel like you can’t do anything about it, or that you don’t have a voice? My library wants to help!

We have created a petition website – ebooksforlibraries.com. Visit the website, watch the video (also embedded in this post), and more importantly – fill out the petition today!

What’s going on? Pretty simple:

  • Libraries are having trouble getting ebooks from the largest publishing companies. These publishers are adding restrictions and price increases, or simply not selling ebooks to libraries at all.
  • This means that library customers can get a print copy of a book from a library, but can’t get that same book in an ebook format. And that’s just weird.
  • Goal – we need 10,000 e-signatures from readers.
  • Once we hit that magic number, we plan to mail the completed petitions to each of the big six publishers. Why? We want to communicate directly with publishers through this petition process, with the intent of establishing formal and consistent communication between publishers and readers.

One other thing – you can help!

  • Fill out the petition!
  • Share the petition – on your website, in Facebook, in Twitter, etc.
  • Point to the petition in your buildings – put up signs, mention it in your library’s newsletter, etc.

Why do this? Our ultimate goal is to get books, in all formats, to our readers. This helps authors, publishers, libraries … and most importantly, our readers.

Social Media as Place

My last post about those billboards reminded me about the difference between a library’s normal forms of content (books, DVDs, music CDs, etc) and social media.

What’s that difference?

  • Content – a book, a video, etc – is something you DO. You read a book, you watch a movie.
  • Social Media is a place you visit in order to DO. You visit Facebook in order to share something with your mom.

Think of social media as a crowded room in a pretty social setting. A bar, a party, hanging out with friends, etc. You go there to talk, to share, to listen. It’s a place you visit so that you can do something.

There are a couple of cool intersections though. Things like this:

  • Go to Twitter (a place) to talk (something to do) about a book that everyone’s reading (content).
  • Visiting the library (a place) to use the computer to access Facebook to reconnect with a friend (something to do).

So librarians … use your mad powers of social media to connect with your customers to talk about your content. Then see what happens.

image by Bigstock

Content Creation, Media Labs, and Hackerspaces

Skokie Public Library's Digital Media Lab

I’ve been thinking about content creation and libraries lately. Right now, we collect content – hence our shelves of stuff. Yes, we do many other things too. But if you look at our buildings, they have been, by and large, designed for collections of stuff – for collecting content.

Some libraries are changing that focus (or at least adding on to it) by enabling customers to create their own content in a variety of ways … and it’s pretty interesting stuff!

I’ll lump what I’m seeing into three loose categories:

  • Digital Media Labs
  • Hackerspaces
  • Coworking spaces

Digital Media Labs: These spaces have content creation tools that allow customers to create and share video, music, photography, and design projects. Customers have access to computers with editing software, cameras, camcorders, microphones, and musical keyboards.

The best examples I’ve seen of this so far are Skokie Public Library’s Digital Media Lab and Chicago Public Library’s YouMedia project. Skokie’s lab has a greenscreen wall for video projects; Youmedia includes a small recording studio space.

Hackerspaces: “A hackerspace … is a location where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, or digital or electronic art (but also in many other realms) can meet, socialise and/or collaborate … hackers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things” (from Wikipedia).

Basically, hackerspaces tend to be public spaces with tools – 3D printers, drill presses, etc. And people make stuff there. Who’s doing this? Well, Allen County Public Library and Fayetteville Free Library are, for starters.

Coworking Spaces: Coworking is a pretty simple concept. Independent workers, freelancers, small business owners, etc. gather in a shared space to share ideas, team up on projects, and get some work done in a more social setting. It’s an alternative to meeting at home or a local coffee shop.

Libraries have unofficially done this for years (how many of you have heard of a patron who runs his/her business from the library? I’ll bet some of you have). But some libraries are going a step or two further by embedding librarians in these spaces, or even offering coworking spaces as part of their services. Meg Knodl, a librarian at Hennepin County Library, is doing this – here’s an article on what Meg is doing. Helsinki City Library has created some coworking spaces – read more about it here.

For more info, check out these articles:

Question – is your library doing something like this? If so, let me know in the comments!

Photo by Skokie Public Library