ALA Executive Director: Let’s Work Together to “Modernize” ALA

No question, there are a lot issues in play for librarians as they prepare for the upcoming ALA Annual Conference, set for New Orleans, June 21-26—and the future of ALA is one of them.

In a column in the current issue of American Libraries, ALA Executive Director Mary Ghikas offers an update on ALA President Jim Neal’s call to ALA members to review and consider “the 21st-century effectiveness and agility” of the organization. After getting significant feedback from members, Ghikas reports that members want “a welcoming, inclusive, engaged, relevant, and supportive” ALA, but also say the Association’s “complexity” can make it difficult to navigate, and that ALA must be “more welcoming to new members and new ideas.”

Without question, it’s been an intense few years for ALA that has at once highlighted what librarians can accomplish together as a community, and exposed frustrations and divisions among ALA members.

“As people talk more about these concerns, they talk about silos, bureaucracy, having too many choices, and there being too much ‘noise.’” Ghikas writes. “If we—ALA leadership, division leadership, round table leadership, and staff—worked on this together, members report they would be more likely to step forward to help.”

Members now have their chance to step forward: At the upcoming ALA Annual Conference, and continuing over the next 18 months, Ghikas writes, “we will work together to accomplish the difficult work of negotiating a solution in a highly participative and multifaceted organization.”

Lesley Nneka Arimah Wins NYPL’s Young Lions Fiction Award

Congratulations to author Lesley Nneka Arimah, who at a gala last night took home the New York Public Library’s 2018 Young Lions Fiction Award for her novel What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky.

Arimah was one of five outstanding young authors honored as a finalist including: Venita Blackburn, author of Black Jesus and Other Superheroes; Gabe Habash, author of Stephen Florida (and PW reviews editor); Emily Ruskovich, author of Idaho; and Jenny Zhang, for Sour Heart.

Founded in 2001, the Young Lions Fiction Award is given annually to an American writer age 35 or younger for either a novel or a collection of short stories.

The Young Lions Fiction Award not only celebrates the rising stars in the world of literature,” said Vincent Piazza, Co-Chair of the Young Lions Committee, “it also ensures that readers can look forward to a bright future of compelling and original stories.”

Librarians As ‘Natural Wikipedians’

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with Merrilee Proffitt, a senior program manager at the OCLC and editor of the recently published Leveraging Wikipedia: Connecting Communities of Knowledge, who has just wrapped up an 18-month project aimed at strengthening the ties between libraries and English Wikipedia. The project, “Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together,” is based on the idea that libraries and Wikipedia share a common premise: to provide “free public access to knowledge and resources.” Or, as Proffitt says, librarians are natural Wikipedians.

My Q&A with Proffitt will run in the June 18th issue of PW. But in the meantime, Proffitt was excited to report that as of June 1st, all the course material from the Wikipedia + Libraries project is available online through OCLC’s WebJunction, including stories, the training curriculum, and outcomes from the project.

For anyone looking for a place to start, I suggest the “Librarians Who Wikipedia” page, which includes interviews with people like Susan Barnum, a public services librarian at El Paso Public Library, who has created nearly 300 Wikipedia articles, many in response to patron requests, while also giving special attention to Wikipedia’s coverage of Texas, biographies of women, and women’s history.

U.K. Expands Public Lending Scheme to E-Books, Audio

In an announcement this week, the U.K. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said that beginning July 1, the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme will be extended to cover e-books and downloadable audiobooks loaned from public libraries across Great Britain. The change means that authors are now eligible for payment for e-book lends as if they are with physical books lends.

The U.K.’s Public Lending Right scheme, which is managed by the British Library, provides authors with payment for public library lends, which translates “to more than £6 million of payments made to 22,000 authors, illustrators, photographers, translators and rights holders each year.”

In its release, government officials note that e-lending in public libraries has risen dramatically in the U.K., with more than 6,750,000 works borrowed electronically last year, up from just 750,000 in 2012. “By extending the scheme we are ensuring authors are properly compensated as the e-book industry continues to grow into the future,” said libraries Minister Michael Ellis said. “We want to help our libraries thrive in the digital age.”

Congratulations to the San Francisco Public Library, the Gale/Library Journal 2018 Library of the Year

Here’s a nice way to cap off your career as a library director—by seeing your library win a major award. On June 5, the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) was named the Gale/Library Journal 2018 Library of the Year, a fitting way for longtime director Luis Herrera to end his tenure there. Herrera, the 2012 LJ Librarian of the Year, retired this past February after 13 years as SFPL director.

In a release, acting city librarian Michael Lambert called Herrera a “transformational” leader who helped create “an amazing culture of service and innovation” at SFPL. “Four years ago, we set out to be the premier urban library in the country, and our staff have bought in,” Lambert said. “People have committed themselves to the patron focus service model, and they have committed to being a safe and welcoming library, a preferred destination for all San Franciscans.”

Indeed, more than 6.6 million customers used SFPL’s library facilities in 2017, and the library system enjoys extraordinary political and fiscal support—every SFPL library is open seven days a week with all 27 neighborhood branches open a minimum of 50 hours each, and the Main Library open 60 hours.

“The people of San Francisco are very lucky to have this excellent library at their fingertips, and the library profession is lucky to have it as a model and inspiration,” said Rebecca Miller, editorial director of Library Journal and School Library Journal. “San Francisco Public Library is truly a national leader in developing models of inclusion, demonstrating bold approaches to serving the diverse and underserved segments of it community, and redefining how urban libraries can and should be responsive to the national dialog on democracy.”

As the 2018 Library of the Year, SFPL will receive a cash prize of $10,000 and will be honored at a reception at ALA 2018 in New Orleans.

The Week in Libraries: June 8, 2018

Tragic news today with the death of Anthony Bourdain. This PW roundup of Bourdain’s books shows just how diverse and talented an author he was.

Pew Research reports that Republicans are more exhausted by the news these days than Democrats, but by in large we’re all worn out.

Via The Hill, Senate Democrats are pressing Paul Ryan to hold a net neutrality vote.

Over at The Guardian, Call Me by Your Name author André Aciman picks five books about first love.

In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Julia Ioffe looks at the Russian journalist who faked his own death and the consequences of that for all independent Russian journalists.

JSTOR Daily looks at how America’s libraries once helped patrons prepare for nuclear war, from stocking reference materials to providing fallout shelters. These days, this sadly seems relevant again.

From The Guardian, experts condemn ‘folly’ of pilot scheme using pupils to staff school libraries across the U.K.

And in Michigan, lawmakers make the case for a librarian in every Michigan school.

From Smithsonian: These Portuguese Libraries Are Infested With Bats—and they actually serve a very specific purpose.

From Canada, The Globe and Mail reports on an unpublished Chinese censorship document that reveals a sweeping effort to eradicate online political content.

Mike Masnick at TechDirt reports on the “link tax” under consideration in the U.K.

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