How Librarians Want to See the Library E-book Market Change

In a blog post this week on the ReadersFirst web site, Michael Blackwell, director of the St. Mary’s County Library (Maryland) neatly summed up the results of a recently concluded survey on the state of the library e-book market. “We have made progress,” Blackwell wrote, “but for librarians, it is time for yet another step.”

No question, the e-book market has come a long way since 2012, when many publishers refused to even license e-books to libraries. Still, the e-book market for libraries remains expensive, and difficult to manage with a host of vendors, and a range of differing models which vary from publisher to publisher.

So what would help the library e-book market make that next step in e-book service? According to the survey’s respondents: flexibility—some 94% of respondents saying that multiple license types would be beneficial.

Blackwell notes that the results and comments “overwhelmingly” emphazise four critical points:

  • No business model currently available is adequate for all library needs.
  • Librarians would like a choice of business model options at point of sale—for example, the ability to choose traditional, metered, or other ways on a per-title basis.
  • Librarians believe that currently available models are preventing from fully realizing the advantages of e-content and thus limit access by patrons.
  • If a variety of models were offered, librarians would likely spend as much or more on content, offering a greater variety of titles and more of less well-known or new authors.

Most interesting is the feedback respondents offered on the types of licenses currently used, which are ranked in terms of preference. And be sure to take some time to peruse the comments, as they are full of constructive ideas on how to improve services.

For me, there were a number of interesting takeaways, including the respondents’ varying perspectives on simultaneous-use models (like the streaming model offered by Midwest Tape’s hoopla). While attractive to many librarians in theory, and liked by patrons (easy to use, no holds), as currently offered they understandably generate a fair amount of anxiety among librarians because of budget concerns.

And while librarians also like the idea of a perpetual access model, not so much when it is the only option. After all, what does a library need with 100 expensive perpetual access digital licenses for a book that is no longer circulating?

Overall the findings here reinforce what I’ve been hearing anecdotally for some time now among librarians, including at a meeting held at this year’s ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. Ideally, librarians would like to be able to mix-and-match different license models on a title-by-title basis to better serve patrons, reduce hold times, and to make the most efficient use of their library’s limited budgets—for example, simultaneous use to meet a period of peak demand; perpetual access to keep a few copies in the collection; and some kind of metered access to provide routine service.

Of course, the elephant in the digital stacks remains price—the comments are pretty clear that high prices for e-books remain a major impediment for libraries.

While they no longer generate the headlines they did a few years ago, e-books remain a hot topic in the library world, where use is continuing to grow. And the survey results here provide an excellent snapshot of where the library e-book market stands as we head in to 2018.

The Last Days of Net Neutrality?

Despite an outpouring of public opposition, the FCC this week moved a step closer toward ending the principle known as net neutrality. In a very informative post on the EFF website, Corryne McSherry explains:

“In a new proposal issued last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set out a plan to eliminate net neutrality protections, ignoring the voices of millions of Internet users who weighed in to support those protections. The new rule would reclassify high-speed broadband as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service” (remember, the FCC is forbidden from imposing neutrality obligations on information services). It would then eliminate the bright-line rules against blocking, throttling, and pay-to-play (as well as the more nebulous general conduct standard) in favor of a simplistic transparency requirement. In other words, your ISP would be free to set itself up as an Internet gatekeeper, as long as it is honest about it.”

The library community has long supported net neutrality, and in a statement, ALA president Jim Neal explained why.

“Now that the internet has become the primary mechanism for delivering information, services and applications to the general public, it is especially important that commercial Internet Service Providers are not able to control or manipulate the content of these communications,” Neal said. “Libraries, our patrons and America’s communities will be at risk if the FCC repeals all protections contained in its 2015 Open Internet Order with no plans to replace with any enforceable rules.”

In her EFF post, McSherry notes that because the draft order repeals net neutrality rules altogether, it paves the way for ISPs to “work more like cable television,” by blocking, or throttling web traffic, or “creating fast lanes that favor traffic from your ISPs’ own subsidiaries and business partners.” For example, your Internet package might conceivably allow you to stream content from your ISP’s own On-Demand service, but charge you extra to stream from Amazon or Netflix.

That, McSherry explains, threatens to turn the open Internet into a “pay-to-play” service where “smaller sites and apps, or startups without major funding will be forced to negotiate with multiple ISPs to avoid their content being buried, degraded, or even blocked.”

The FCC Commission is set vote on the proposed order at the December open Commission meeting on Thursday, December 14, 2017, from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm EST. The meeting will be webcast live on the FCC’s website.

ALA Announces ‘I Love My Librarian” Award Winners

The American Library Association this week announced the 10 winners of the 2017 I Love My Librarian Award, which recognizes librarians for their “outstanding public service contributions.”

The winners were selected from more than 1100 nominations submitted by library patrons nationwide.

Each winning librarian received a $5,000 prize at an award ceremony held November 30 Carnegie Hall in New York, and enjoyed a reception hosted by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which cosponsors the award with New York Public Library and The New York Times.

ALA administers the award through its Public Awareness Office, which promotes the value of libraries and librarians.

“This year’s I Love My Librarian Award recipients are true leaders who are inspiring and implementing strategies to better their communities,” said ALA president Jim Neal.

NYPL Holds First Public Meeting on Schwarzman Renovation

While we were off for the Thankgiving break, NYPL officials hosted the first public meeting on the massive, $317 million master plan for the renovation of the New York Public Library’s historic Stephen A. Schwarzman main library.

“Two things I think we’ve learned in particular,” said NYPL President and CEO Tony Marx, kicking off the November 20 public meeting in the library’s Celeste Auditorium. “One is to listen to our great library staff, library users, and the public at large, and to do that in an interative process—to keep developing plans and perfecting them and refining them as those conversations continue. And the other is to be totally respectful of the amazing iconic architecture of this building.”

The plan is the NYPL’s second recent shot at overhauling its famous main library. In 2014, library officials were forced to abandon a controversial Central Library Plan after a public backlash.

As for first impressions of the NYPL’s latest plan? it’s hard to say. The first round of questions from the public were rather muted, but as the project progresses, and constituents become more familiar with the plan, we expect to hear more pointed feedback.

PW contributing editor Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains Public Library, who attended the hearing, said he views the new master plan as surprisingly conservative, focusing on the needs of “a select group of older researchers and scholars in 2017,” while ultimately putting the burden for library service on the Mid-Manhattan Branch across the street (and currently under renovation). The “elephant in the room” he added, remains the fate of “empty stacks underneath the Rose Reading Room,” which are not part of the current plan. How to best utilize the stacks instead will be studied, library officials said.

A second public meeting is set for December 7.

Another Setback for Copyright Reform? Conyers Reportedly Won’t Seek Reelection, as Calls for his Resignation Grow

Congressional leaders this week are calling on Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to resign amid troubling allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior. In the meantime, sources say that Conyers has decided not to seek reelection in 2018. And he has already resigned his post as ranking member on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, where since 2013 he has worked with Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte on a review of the nation’s copyright laws.

The loss of Conyers raises more questions about the future of copyright reform efforts, as Goodlatte, a 13-term incumbent and the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced last month that he will not seek reelection once his term ends in December of 2018. That means both leaders of the now concluded copyright review will soon no longer be serving in Congress to oversee future policy suggestions.

After more than 20 hearings (including a “listening tour” in various cities and testimony from over 100 witnesses) little has come from Goodlatte’s and Conyers’ copyright effort.

In December of 2016, the Judiciary Committee released its first and only policy proposal from that extensive review, a one-page document on the modernization of the Copyright Office. And earlier this year, the House did manage to push a narrow bill through the house that sought to make the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee (The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act H.R. 1695). That proposal, however, now appears stuck in the Senate.

Beyond the copyright review effort, Conyers has been a staunch supporter of publishers in the copyright realm. Supported by the Association of American Publishers, Conyers, in 2008, introduced the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, which sought to reverse a 2007 mandate that required NIH-funded researchers to deposit an electronic copy of their peer-reviewed manuscripts with the NIH for free online distribution through its online archive, PubMedCentral, no later than 12 months after journal publication. The bill failed to advance.

Yeah, So, About That Amazing New Library in China…

In our last edition, we pointed to the new Tianjin Binhai Library, a 33,700-square meter library, which is being billed by some as the world’s coolest new library. But now readers are pointing out that it may not really be that cool.

“It looks like a book lover’s dream,” notes the website Mashable, “but upon closer inspection, you can tell the rows and rows of books in the library’s main hall are actually rows with images printed on.”

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