The Week in Libraries: November 10, 2017

How Did Libraries Fare on Election Day?

As is true of every Election Day, there were a number of local ballot initiatives involving libraries facing voters across the country. So, how did libraries make out on November 7? According to EveryLibrary’s John Chrastka, pretty well.

“Overall, it was an amazing Election Night for libraries,” Chrastka reported on the EveryLibrary blog on Wednesday. Though several results were still outstanding, EveryLibrary tracked 37 libraries on the November 7, 2017 ballot in 16 states. And as of now, it appears that 27 communities passed their library measures, three lost, and six are still ‘too early’ to call.

Among the big wins: New Jersey voters approved a statewide New Jersey Library Construction Bond, a $125 million authorization for state matching funds for local construction projects. Similar measures passed in Denver, Dallas, and Houston. Check out the EveryLibrary site to see the full list of winners and losers.

And if you’re if you’re planning on being at the upcoming Miami Book Fair, come hear more about the state of libraries today and learn more about EveryLibrary’s efforts from Chrastka himself, who will join yours truly and a great slate of panelists in a discussion on the state of public libraries in America. The discussion will be moderated by Christopher Kenneally, host of the Copyright Clearance Center’s Beyond the Book podcast series, and will also feature the director of the Miami-Dade Public Library System, Ray Baker. The panel is set for Sunday, November 19 at 11 a.m. in Room 7106 (Building 7, 1st Floor) on the Miami Dade College campus, which houses the fair.

No question, libraries are facing significant challenges on the national level in the age of Trump. But the old adage “all politics is local” is especially true when it comes to public libraries, so if you’re not already engaged with EveryLibrary’s work, take this opportunity to check them out, and donate while you’re at it.

Since 2012, EveryLibrary has helped bring 72 libraries to the ballot and helped secure over $255 million in stable tax funding for these libraries-—incredible work. In 2018, Chrastka says he expects EveryLibrary to support another 20-plus library initiatives.

A Literary Lion: Carla Hayden Is Honored by WNBA and NYPL

This must have been a fun week for Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. On Monday night, she was honored by the New York Public Library at its annual Literary Lions Gala—along with some pretty good company: Tom Brokaw, Michael Chabon, Colson Whitehead, and Robert Wilson.

And, on Tuesday she accepted her 2017 Women’s National Book Association Award at an intimate gathering at the new (and incredible) Pen & Brush Gallery in New York’s Flatiron District. Again, Hayden, accompanied by her mother, was in some rariified air—acclaimed novelist Louise Erdrich was also honored this year by the WNBA. The award, founded in 1940, is presented every two years to a living American woman who “has done meritorious work in the world of books beyond the duties or responsibilities of her profession or occupation.”

Last week, I wrote how the library community has been energized by Hayden’s work since taking office last fall. This week shows that her impact is not just confined to the library world—Hayden is energizing the entire literary and publishing worlds.

ISPs, Search Engines Ordered to Block Pirate Site Sci-Hub

A U.S federal court has ordered that Internet Service Providers (ISP) search engines block access to the pirate site Sci-Hub. The order comes after the American Chemical Society (ACS) won a default judgment against Sci-Hub, which proudly bills itself as “the first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers,” and states as its goal the “cancellation of intellectual property, or copyright laws, for scientific and educational resources.”

The order is the latest legal ruling against the site, as Elsevier also won a default judgment against the site and was ordered to pay $15 million in damages (ACS was awarded $4.8 million in their suit as well). Of course, the site, founded by Kazakhstani neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, operates from Russia, meaning that there is little hope of ever collecting any money.

More interesting is what the order to block the site might mean. In practical terms, observers say it likely won’t be difficult for Sci-Hub to evade the order and force ISPs and search engines to play whac-a-mole. As of today, the site was still easily found online. Still, as one observer told the magazine Science, the order is notable. “This case could set precedent for the extent third-parties on the internet are required to enforce government-mandated censorship,” Daniel Himmelstein, a data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the magazine.

A “Reckoning” Coming For Scholarly Journal Publishing?

Coming off Open Access week, Patrick Burns dean of libraries and v-p for information technology, Colorado State University, has a piece up at The Conversation that suggests why, court rulings notwithstanding, sites like Sci-Hub are able to operate—the current system, Burns writes, is not financially sustainable, and not serving the needs of researchers.

The 123 members of the Association of Research Libraries alone report spending about $1 billion per year purchasing subscriptions to journals, Burns writes, with journal inflation costs greatly outpacing the consumer price index.

“Efforts like [Sci-Hub] to bypass paywalls are only symptoms of the problem,” Burns concludes. “Unsustainability embedded in the current economic model for journal publications is the source. If we are to maintain healthy education and research environments, changes are incipient and imperative.”

arXiv Celebrates its One Billionth Dowload

Now that’s a milestone: This week, arXiv.org, the popular scientific pre-print database, surpassed 1 billion downloads. “The arXiv is providing the latest results in science at more than one per second, and has done so since before the web came into existence,” said Steinn Sigurdsson, scientific director of arXiv, which is supported and stewarded by Cornell University Library. “We are proud of the over 1 billion e-print downloads, and look forward to providing scientists worldwide with many more.”

The repository was started some 26 years ago at Los Alamos, by Paul Ginsparg, professor of physics and information science. The milestone comes as arXiv, funded by the Simons Foundation, Cornell University Library and around 190 member libraries, is in the process of updating its aging code without changing its primary mission: fast, free and open access to the latest scientific research.

ALA at the Sharjah International Book Fair

Once again, the American Library Association is hosting a library conference at the Sharjah International Book Fair, with ALA president Jim Neal among those presenting. According to the Gulf News, Neal told attendees that “the most important role of libraries was the work that they do to support public interest, saying that users depend on them to maintain those core information values and to fight for them in the public arenas.” The complete agenda featured a wide range of issues, including public, school, and academic libraries.

Texas Library Association Still Working to Help Libraries Hit by Hurricane

The Texas Library Association (TLA) this week announced that $102,600 from the organization’s Disaster Relief Fund will be awarded to 25 libraries impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Grants range from $2,500 to $15,000 and can be used for technology, facility repair, collections, furnishings, or other needs related to storm damage. Academic, public, school and special libraries were eligible to receive assistance.

As of October 31, more than $160,130 has been donated to the TLA Disaster Relief Fund by 1,100 individuals, organizations and corporations. TLA continues to accept donations which will be used to fund future grants.

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