On November 20, James Billington, the 13th U.S. Librarian of Congress, died at the age of 89. And though Billington received his share of criticism toward the end of his tenure, the tributes that have poured in since his death are a reminder that he was a giant among scholars and researchers, who had a major impact on the Library of Congress. In a statement, Billington’s successor, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, said Billington “left an indelible legacy” on the institution he led for nearly three decades.
“With his vigor for philanthropy and tireless efforts to expand the reach and impact of the Library, he achieved so much to advance the Library of Congress as an enduring place for scholars and learners,” Hayden said. “He will be remembered as a visionary leader, distinguished academic and, most of all, a great American. On behalf of the Library of Congress staff and its many users, we salute this great public servant.”
Under Billington’s leadership, The Library of Congress doubled the size of its traditional collections, and created the Library of Congress online. He also acquired numerous treasures, including the only copy of the 1507 Waldseemüller world map (“America’s birth certificate”) as well as “hundreds of other collections of great Americans ranging from Thurgood Marshall to Irving Berlin and Jackie Robinson.” He was also a skilled fundraiser, raising more half a billion dollars in private support for the library.
The New York Times pointed out Billington’s remarkable academic achievements at the time he took over the LC. “He was 58 at the time and had studied, written and taught Russian history for most of his life, notably at Harvard and Princeton. He was fluent in Russian and skilled in Polish, German, Italian, French, Yiddish and Dutch. He had also led the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution for 14 years and advised President Reagan on Soviet Russia.”
And The Washington Post offers some of Billington’s own cogent observations:
Reflecting on the era in which he led the library, Dr. Billington remarked that “it’s significant that we call it the Information Age rather than the Knowledge Age… Our society is basically motion without memory,” he told The Post, “which, of course, is one of the clinical definitions of insanity.” In books, he saw a remedy. “We treasure books because they are the individual’s portable, affordable link with the memory, mind and imagination of the rest of humanity,” he once said in a speech, “a moral antidote, if you like, to the creeping passivity, parochialism and shortened attention spans of our video culture.”
And the Library of Congress has also created lists of Billington’s achievements. Including a “Complete Biography and Overview of Achievements” page.
How Library E-Books Can Create Awareness and Drive Sales: Project Panorama Releases First Report
Representatives from the American Library Association will be in town next week to meet with publishers and other groups—and just in time, comes a new report that shows library e-books can indeed generate reader awareness, and spark retail sales. The “Community Reading Event Impact Report” is the first from Project Panorama, the OverDrive sponsored initiative that seeks to measure the impact libraries have “on book discovery, author brand development, and sales.”
The report summarizes the effect of a 2018 OverDrive Big Library Read e-book club selection, Flat Broke With Two Goats: A Memoir, by Jennifer McGaha. The takeaway? The report concludes that the library promotion “aligns with” significant increases in associated social media activity and retail print/e-book sales.
“This is the first of several library impact research projects that the Panorama Project is working on,” said Cliff Guren, the project’s lead, in a release. “The report demonstrates how we are using library and retail data to develop a better understanding the impact of the country’s public libraries on book discovery, author/brand development, and retail sales.”
Among the findings from the campaign:
- 5.6 million page views globally of the e-book title details page in public library digital catalogs.
- An increase in the title’s Amazon Kindle sales rank—from below 200,000 prior to the library e-book club campaign to 7,833 at the close of the event.
- Over 13,000 Goodreads additions for the title during the campaign.
- 818% growth in e-book sales from March to April, 2018.
- 201% growth in print sales from March to April, 2018.
- Sustained retail sales above pre-campaign (January–March 2018) volumes
The report comes as Macmillan is testing a four month emargo new e-book titles in libraries, and as other publishers are reconsidering their e-book terms of sale.
ALA, Google Announce New Grants, Expanded Partnership
In a major announcement, the American Library Association’s Libraries Ready to Code initiative, sponsored by Google, announced 250 new “micro grants” for school and public libraries. The $500 awards are designed to “help plan and implement coding activities during Computer Science Education (CS Ed) Week 2018 (Dec. 3-9). And that’s not all: the awards come as part of expansion of ALA and Google’s gropwing partnership, which includes an additional $1 million investment in funding to libraries.
“We are thrilled by today’s announcement of Grow with Google’s new initiative to enhance the role of libraries as digital community centers,” said ALA president Loida Garcia-Febo, in a statement. “It is exciting to see what started three years ago as a collaborative exploration has grown into a broad range of investments in America’s libraries that promote computational thinking, fuel innovation and advance our nation’s workforce.”
Also in the news from the ALA: Next Tuesday, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (S. 1010), a Senate companion to House bill (H.R. 1695) will be voted on by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. ALA is urging librarians to let their Senators know they oppose the bill. If passed, the law would politicize the Register of Copyrights position, making it a presidential appointee. “While the Senate Rules and Administration Committee might not vote in our favor on Tuesday, we must make sure they hear from us,” ALA officials say. “Please send an email today.“
The New York Times has a piece on one of the Library of Congress’s latest acquisitions: Billy Strayhorn’s personal archive, which includes an original manuscript of “Take the A Train,” as well as “compositional sketches that were never completed and a revealing look at the royalty earnings of one of the 20th century’s most revered composers.”
Also from The New York Times, a piece on New York’s new “Cocktail Library.” I mean, it is happy hour after all.
Her book has only been out for two weeks, but PW reports that former First Lady Michelle Obama already has the bestselling book of 2018.
In a sign of the times, USA Today reports that a a vandal struck a Little Free Library named for former first lady Michelle Obama in the Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, crossing out her name and scrawling “Trump’s” on the box. It was at least the fourth time the book-sharing box has been struck this year, the Washington Post reported Monday.
From the New Scientist, an editorial in support of open access Plan S. “The academic publishing business model is indefensible,” the piece argues. “Practically everybody–even the companies that profit from it–acknowledges that it has to change. And yet the status quo has proven extremely resilient.”
Cambridge University Press has announced a major open access deal with higher education and research institutions in Sweden. The three-year ‘read and publish’ deal has been agreed with Bibsam, a consortium of 85 higher education and research institutions, led by the National Library of Sweden, “means authors from institutions affiliated to Bibsam can publish their publicly-financed research articles in the Press’s hybrid and fully Open Access journals, and can access the Press’ full collection of nearly 400 journals.
Cengage, reports that its Cengage Unlimited digital subscription plan is doing well since its launch this past August. CEO Michael Hansen reports more than 500,000 subscribers so far.
The Des Moines Register asks: where have Iowa’s teacher-librarians gone? The state reportedly has 40% fewer librarians than 20 years ago.
And on the EFF blog, Cindy Cohn weighs in on recent revelations that the company used so-called “smear merchants” to attack organizations critical of the platform. “Facebook’s smear campaign should spur policymakers and the rest of us to ask serious questions about Facebook’s power as our information supplier,” Cohn writes. “And once those questions are answered, we should take the steps necessary to restore a healthy information ecosystem online.”
Meanwhile, the AP reports that Germany’s antitrust agency has begun an investigation of online retailer Amazon over complaints it’s abusing its position to the detriment of sellers who use its “marketplace” platform.