No question, there’s much at stake in next week’s midterm elections, and turnout is predicted to be at record levels. And though the national races tend to get most of the attention, for libraries, key decisions are made by voters at the local level, stresses John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, the national political action committee dedicated to helping local libraries.
Specifically, Chraskta said EveryLibrary is supporting 10 local library initiatives on Election Day, and is tracking at least 65 more library-related elections around the country. “There are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for public libraries this election cycle,” Chrastka told PW, noting the more than 6,000 legislative seats up for grabs on November 6, including 36 governorships, as well as seats in Congress, state legislatures, school boards, and city councils. With as much as 90% of library funding coming from the local and state levels, either through the discretion of elected officials, or via direct ballot initiatives on Election Day, Chrastka says library supporters have every reason to get to the polls this year—and to stay politically activated.
EveryLibrary, meanwhile, has been running its #votelibraries campaign to raise funds and awareness for libraries. “When people take the pledge to Vote Libraies, they are on record as supporting libraries for this election, and, they are much more likely to show-up again in support of local, state, and federal library funding,” Chrastka says of the campaign, adding that EveryLibrary will be live tweeting library election results using the #votelibraries hashtag on Election Night, and following up with a “snap” election recap on November 7.
And speaking of election recaps, the ALA will also be running one, via a free webcast. “Participants will learn the library-related implications of the 2018 election results; how those results affect library policy agenda, outreach, and advocacy plans for 2019 and beyond; and specific policy and political opportunities for ALA and libraries.”
The free 60-minute webcast starts at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday, November 9. Participants can register here.
Ahead of this year’s election, The New York Public Library has appropriately released a limited, special edition library card emblazoned with the words, “Knowledge is Power.” If you’re an NYPL customer, the card is available in limited quantities at any of system’s 92 locations across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. “Public libraries have always been at the foundation of our democracy of informed citizens,” said New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx, in a release. “This special edition card shares that message, and serves as a reminder to visit your local library, get a card, and start your journey now.”
The New York Times, meanwhile, is polling readers this week: “In your opinion, are public libraries still relevant and important today?”
In other NYPL news, Geekwire, reports on NYPL chief digital officer Tony Ageh’s recent visit to Seattle, where in the shadow of Amazon, he talked about the importance of privacy, and how libraries are committed to privacy in this increasingly invasive digital age. “Every library I’ve ever been to, every librarian I’ve ever spoken to, seems to be far more concerned about [privacy] than I think the public think they are,” Ageh said, in a public interview hosted by the Seattle Public Library. He went on to point out how libraries delete patron records as soon as they are able to, but expressed concern that third party vendors serving libraries “may not have the same diligence and the same concerns.”
The Verge has a good look at how Congress is slowly angling toward privacy legislation, and why some are concerned about what Congress can actually accomplish. Industry leaders say “setting a single federal standard” makes it easier for businesses to comply with new rules. Privacy advocates, however, say a federal standard makes it easier for industry to lobby in Washington D.C., instead of in 50 states: “It has often been state legislatures—not Congress—that have led efforts to protect consumer privacy,” American Civil Liberties Union senior legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in an op-ed last month. “The private sector knows this, and many companies are looking to put a stop to it.”
Wired has a thoughtful look at how we should police online platforms which can become bastions of hate speech, like Gab, where the shooter in the horrific synagogue murders in Pittsburgh appears to have spent a lot of time. “There’s a bigger question at play, though, and it’s the most important one the technology industry has to deal with when it comes to the massacre in Squirrel Hill or the pipe bombs allegedly sent to targets of Donald Trump’s rhetoric. Did the platforms radicalize the attackers? The United States government has a firm belief that jihadists can be radicalized online; can domestic terrorists, too? Would alleged pipe bomber Cesar Sayoc have sent those packages if he hadn’t found Twitter? Would Pittsburgh shooting suspect Robert Bowers have stormed a synagogue if Gab hadn’t sprung up?”
From NBC News, Facebook has reportedly banned far-right hate group Proud Boys, after members of the group were arrested recently after a fight following a speech by Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “Social media services and other tech companies have faced pressure from some users to be more aggressive in enforcing their bars on hate speech,” the report notes, “especially as online threats have evolved into violence in the real world. Other users have expressed concern about the companies becoming more powerful arbiters of speech.”
In American Libraries, ALA executive director Mary Ghikas reports that the hard work is underway to retool the ALA for the next generation of libraries. Sound like it’s going to be a lot of heavy lifting. “Collectively, we are in a moment of challenge, change, and great opportunity,” she writes. “That means the Association must not only be financially and operationally strong, it must also nourish strong collaborations and focus our resources—including the critical work of members, staff members, and allies—on work that moves us toward shared goals.”
Also in American Libraries, a recap of OCLC’s Americas Regional Council Conference, which very much focused on the change that is affecting the work of libraries, and how best to manage it. “What influences change, is control,” OCLC president and CEO Skip Prichard told attendees.
Library Journal has released its Star Libraries for 2018. “This year, 7,361 U.S. public libraries are scored on the LJ Index, and there are 257 Star Libraries, 60 of which were not Star Libraries last year.”
From NewsOK, (OK as in Oklahoma) a nice article on Julie Ballou, who last month took over as the new executive director of the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City.
From the local Brooklyn Eagle, Nicholas Higgins has been named Brooklyn Public Library’s new chief librarian, after serving as interim chief librarian since January. Higgis was named a “Mover and Shaker” by Library Journal in 2017 for “creating an award-winning citywide library-based video visiting service for kids with parents incarcerated on Rikers Island.”
Here’s a well-timed story for Halloween week, via BoingBoing: Librarians have cleverly figured out which books Bram Stoker used in researching Dracula. Using Stoker’s working notes for Dracula, researchers at the library pulled the titles Stoker referenced and were able to nail the list of books Stoker used because the author had “defaced the library books, circling the phrases he later made notes on.”
In the serials market, Europeans are keeping the pressure on, with news this week via Gary Price at InfoDocket of a complaint filed with the EU Competition Authority regarding “Anti-Competitive Practices” of RELX/Elsevier and the Wider Scholarly Publishing Market.
Meanwhile, closer to home, The Daily Iowan reports that library officials have notified faculty of the need to cut more than $600,000 worth of subscriptions. A press release from University Librarian John Culshaw and interim Provost Sue Curry explained what’s driving the cuts: “In recent years and continuing today, scholarly publishing companies have levied annual price increases of 5% to 7% while for the last three fiscal years, the UI’s annual budget for these materials has remained mostly unchanged. Such an environment diminishes our purchasing power, and these cost increases are simply not sustainable.”
On the international copyright front, two posts from Cory Doctorow on the EFF blog: the first on how the new copyright rules under consideration in Europe could undermine things like open access and creative commons sharing. “The idea that creators can be ‘protected’ by banning them from sharing their works is perverse,” he writes. “If copyright is supposed to protect creators’ interests, it should protect all interests, including the interests of people who want their materials shared as widely as possible.”
And the second, on a new proposal in Australia that is causing concern. The current Australian copyright regime empowers rightsholders to secure court orders “requiring the country’s ISPs to block sites whose ‘primary purpose’ is to ‘is to infringe, or to facilitate the infringement of, copyright'” whether the site is Australian or not, Doctorow explains. But that apparently hasn’t satisfied the content industries, and a new proposal, he reports, would enable rightsholders “to demand blocks for sites whose ‘primary effect‘ is copyright infringement,” which apparently would include search engines, who could be forced de-list search results.
And finally this week, something for the kids: The New York Times has released its list of best illustrated children’s books for 2018.