November 20, 2014

What Happened in Vegas | ALA 2014

ALAwebSlug1 What Happened in Vegas | ALA 2014The 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference & Exhibition, held June 26 – July 1 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, saw some 13,019 attendees. Though this is a pretty substantial drop-off compared with the 20,237 attendees who came to Chicago in 2013, it is higher than the 12,000+ attendees who visited Annual in Anaheim, CA in 2012. Critiques of the location, which has not hosted an ALA annual conference since 1973, included the vast distances between event sites and the expensive transportation—and, of course, the heat, which topped out at 111 degrees. However, those who did attend seemed excited about the exhibit hall’s 800 company offerings, and heavy crowds surging toward the galley giveaways greeted the exhibit openings on both Friday evening and Saturday morning. One vendor told LJ that the mood of attendees was looking up. “People no longer start the conversation with “Don’t talk to me, I have no money,” he said.

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SHOWTIME Vegas showgirls flank the city’s former mayor at the Opening General Session; crowds pour into the exhibits. Photos by Andrew Estey, Studio J Inc./AP Images for Library Journal.

Among the Vegas-style touches were an opening greeting from the city’s former Mayor, accompanied by two costumed showgirls and an oversized martini; orange-man-group style figures at Innovative Interfaces; an aerial silks performer, slot machine, and cash booth at Gale Cengage; and of course, an Elvis impersonator wandering the aisles. The show floor also featured a lot of library-style excitement, including long lines for galleys and signings—Lois Lowry’s practically stretched back out of the convention center. (Unfortunately, many librarians also reported less-fun long lines for pre-registered attendees to get into the conference in the first place.) Also sighted were a variety of new gadgets for maker spaces (and increased support for integrating them into the curriculum), and even a materials handling system from Telelift that trundled upside down like a roller coaster. And after hours, parties celebrating a variety of product launches and industry initiatives filled venues around the Strip and served to mix business with pleasure.

Focus on the Future

The conference theme “Transforming Our Libraries, Ourselves” took many forms as always. While LJ staff could not get to more than a tiny fraction of the 2,500 program items offered, those that we did see were connected by an emphasis on embracing change; an expansive and interactive definition of libraries’ mission; and a focus on embracing technology and making it welcoming to all.

Opening session speaker and game designer Jane McGonigal spoke of the power of gaming to create emotional resiliency, allow users to feel agency, exercise creativity, connect with others, and even fight depression, as well as learn and contribute solutions to real-world problems via games that crowdsource things like scientific modeling and community planning. Citing research on which brain areas light up when playing there is, she said, no such thing as a non-educational game.

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VOICES FOR THE FUTURE ALA Pres Barbara Stripling addresses the Opening General Session crowd, and keynote speaker Jane McGonigal explained the potential of video games to create personal and social change, including through libraries. Photos by Andrew Estey, Studio J Inc./AP Images for Library Journal

At the opening session, outgoing ALA present Barbara Stripling cited the Declaration for the Right to Libraries, which has approximately 100,000 signatures so far, and introduced ALA’s new Center for the Future of Libraries. The demand is obviously high: Saturday morning’s session on the Future of Libraries was packed to capacity with a standing-room-only crowd.

There, Chattanooga Public Library Director (and LJ Librarian of the Year) Corinne Hill struck a note that may be remarkable among the groundswell of calls for data-driven decision-making. “We used to be able to make every decision based on data, but now we need a more humanistic attitude; trust your instincts,” she urged. “Data is still important, but too much focus on collecting data and business plans gets people stuck.” Hill also called on libraries to stop picking up dropped balls from other community agencies if offering those services doesn’t advance the library’s own mission, to build adjacencies to traditional library functions such as delivering access to technology, and to “pick a physical space to fail fast and cheap.” In Chattanooga, that’s the Fourth Floor, which offers access to high and low tech from looms to drones.

Carolyn Foote, a School Library Journal columnist from a one-to-one high school in Austin, spoke to the future of librarianship from a K-12 point of view, calling on school librarians to bridge the gaps between types of libraries; to become trend-trackers for their whole district, not just the library; and to resist the library-as-warehouse mentality.

Pearl Lee from the College of Marin brought the academic perspective, urging librarians to raise the profile of community colleges, which are often invisible in the conversation despite serving about half the college students in the country, and many first generation, poor, and minority students. She urged librarians to tie their efforts and their assessments to the colleges’ larger goals, which are increasingly aimed at a completion agenda—improving graduation rates and employment, and deemphasizing lifelong learning and open exploration in the process. “The days of underwater basketweaving are over,” she said.

Miguel Figueroa, director of the new Center for the Future of Libraries, explained its mission: to bring together interested professionals and stakeholders with experts from outside librarianship; to identify methods and tactics to increase innovation, and to provide a mechanism for libraries to share out the results of their innovations more broadly.

At the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Update panel on Sunday morning, director Susan Hildreth laid out the agency’s granting priorities for 2014 and 2015, with STEM projects including Maker spaces taking a front seat for IMLS funding. Hildreth said that at least $1 million in IMLS funds would be earmarked for STEM-related grants during the 2014 fiscal year. Early learning, which took precedence in granting in 2012-13 will still have a place, though, especially as the IMLS begins a partnership with Build Initiative to more closely integrate libraries and museums into statewide early learning programs.  Hildreth, whose term as IMLS director comes to a close in January, was attending her final ALA Annual Conference in the role and left to a standing ovation from attendees at her final panel.

Immediately following the conference, IMLS also released data files for the FY 2012 Public Library Survey. While this data, on which LJ’s Star Libraries index is based, remains focused on traditional outputs measures, the Public Library Association’s Performance Measures Task Force is continuing its work to develop outcomes based measures, particularly focused on Early Childhood Literacy, Digital Access, and Civic Engagement. On Monday, July 30, the Task Force met to present the draft framework, model remaining activity areas, review data collection models and reporting structure, and discuss whether the PLDS is the right platform for ongoing data collection.

Company news

Among the many exhibitors debuting new products and partnerships on the exhibit floor, ProQuest made several announcements, including the debut of its new Intota next-generation Library Services Platform (LSP). Designed for enhanced management of electronic and print resources in unified workflows, the cloud-based platform is a suite of modular software as a service (SaaS) tools including the collection analytics service Intota Assessment, which the company launched in November 2013.

This more recent release of the core Intota platform melds Intota Assessment with several other ProQuest tools, including the ProQuest global Knowledgebase of electronic, print, and digital resource metadata; the Summon discovery service; the 360 Link link resolver with Index-Enhanced Direct Linking (IEDL) technology; and streamlined Demand Driven Acquisition (DDA) features, together integrating collection management, assessment, discovery, and automated DDA into a single solution. Ultimately, ProQuest plans for Intota to be a comprehensive LSP that could replace a traditional ILS. ProQuest also announced the beta launch of its new ebrary Reader, a new ereader developed for the integrated platform that will unite ebrary and Ebook Library (EBL), companies which ProQuest acquired in January 2011 and January 2013, respectively.

In a move that funding bodies and advocacy organizations will likely view with interest, Autism Speaks recently purchased EBSCO’s PlumX altmetrics service to track the impact of research outputs that its funding has helped generate. Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism organization, responsible for more than $200 million in scientific research funding since it was founded in 2005. Plum Analytics measures more than 20 different types of research outputs including articles and datasets. In addition to tracking alternative metrics such as article downloads, blog post references, or social media mentions, the company also now leverages article-level data and usage statistics from EBSCO’s entire collection of electronic databases. Andrea Michalek, co-founder of Plum Analytics, told LJ that the Autism Speaks deal is one indication that grant-making organizations were beginning to actively use altmetrics to analyze how their funding is used and to demonstrate return on investment to donors.

Gale Cengage, which had previous rolled out analytics for public libraries, is now launching analytics for academic libraries, the company told LJ. In addition, the company has rebranded its Learn4Life offerings as Gale Courses and debuted new Interlink technology, which recommends very precisely related articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals with contextual reference content found within e-books on the company’s platform. Also, look in the coming months for more information from Gale on integrating library-held resources into the college curriculum, a trend LJ is also seeing from EBSCO Discovery Service’s new Curriculum Builder plug in, as well as SIPX and a variety of others.

In an effort to raise the online profile of library ebooks, OverDrive announced partnerships with the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Bing.com. Reviews and other articles about books on the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed will feature embedded samples of those titles that visitors can explore using the company’s browser-based OverDrive Read platform. A “get book” button at the bottom of the embedded reader directs users to the book’s page on OverDrive.com, where they can choose to check availability at local libraries, or in some cases purchase the title from retailers such as Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.com. Or, readers can click a share button to post a link to the OverDrive Read excerpts on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, or an embed code to post the excerpts on their own website. When visitors enter a book title into Microsoft’s Bing.com search engine, a “read this book” option is offered adjacent to the title’s linked data summary information, which will also direct users to an excerpt on OverDrive.

During a conversation with LJ, OverDrive CEO Steve Potash demonstrated the new embedded excerpts, as well as the new enhanced or “fixed layout” ebook features offered with the latest update to OverDrive Read. First announced at ALA Midwinter, fixed layout ebooks enable publishers to reproduce children’s books, comics and graphic novels, cookbooks, and other graphic-heavy titles exactly as they appear in print. Designed using HTML 5 and EPUB 3, these titles can be checked out and read in any browser, and can feature synced audio for readalong titles, embedded multimedia, and other interactive features. OverDrive also announced a distribution agreement with Warner Bros.

3M’s Cloud Library and Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 ebook platform both announced the launch of redesigned apps. Both feature enhanced integration with a library’s electronic audiobook collections, and a streamlined process for browsing and borrowing audiobooks using the app. Axis 360’s new app is part of a broader set of updates to the platform, including a new renewal feature that allows users to extend a checkout if there is no holds list, and enhancements to search by title and author for the platform’s “Magic Wall” interface.

The 3M app also offers several new accessibility features, including gesture-to-read, and enables users to sort titles into personalized categories or flag their favorite content. In addition, some terminology has been updated for ease of use. For example, Tom Mercer, 3M Cloud Library marketing manager, told LJ that the terms “check out” and “check in” had been replaced with “borrow” and “return” which seemed more intuitive to users.

For more vendor news, visit http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2014/06/ala/ala-2014-vendor-news-roundup/.

Book and Database News and Debuts

Gale, part of Cengage Learning, announced several new databases and database files that further the company’s drive to offer digitized versions of archival materials. The new resources are Smithsonian Collections Online: Trade Literature & the Merchandizing of Industry; Smithsonian Collections Online: World’s Fairs and Expositions: Visions of Tomorrow; Nineteenth Century Collections Online: Children’s Literature and Childhood; Nineteenth Century Collections Online: Mapping the World: Maps and Travel Literature; Nineteenth Century Collections Online: Religion, Spirituality, Reform, and Society; The Making of Modern Law: Foreign Primary Sources, Part II; British Newspapers: Part IV, 1780-1950; Punch Historical Archive, 1841-1992; The Independent Digital Archive, 1986-2012; and The Chatham House Online Archive.

The Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were announced, with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit receiving the awards for fiction and nonfiction, respectively. Karin Slaughter gave the keynote address and both winning authors were on hand to receive their medals.

Rowman & Littlefield recently acquired Globe Pequot Press and notes that the move will allow the parent company to triple the number of trade titles it publishes. Linda May, VP of Marketing and Sales at Rowman & Littlefield, explains that the newly acquired press focuses on regional, niche titles, and this is a new direction for Rowman generally. Also increasing are the number of titles in Rowman’s library science line, headed by Charles Harmon. John J. Burke’s Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians is one example of the practical, timely works that will appear this fall.

World Book showed sets of books on Common Core language arts and literacy and on math that are available for various grades—Common Core Math Grade 5, for example—and are written by teachers. The company’s Bright Connections imprint continues to release attractive standalone titles, with the attractive J is for Jazz slated for release in September.

LJ reviewer Michael Bemis had a new book at the show: Library and Information Science: A Guide to Key Literature and Sources (ALA Editions) covers “recent books, monographs, periodicals and websites.”

Travel title publisher Lonely Planet plans to publish more of its “very successful” Pocket guides to cities, expanding the list from 38 to 50 by the end of 2015. Krakow, Marrakesh, Chicago, and Honolulu are a few of the new locales to be spotlighted.

Cambridge University Press announced a new database that will be available for subscription in late summer or early fall. Cambridge Archive Editions Online: Primary Source Collections is being produced in partnership with East View Information Services and features almost 700,000 pages of sources covering “political, territorial, and ethnic issues.” (See archiveeditions.co.uk for more information.)

Elsevier had news at the show, too: the science database giant will release its Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences in late fall of this year. The new product will be available as part of the company’s ScienceDirect database and will include “continuously updated” material from 17 peer-reviewed reference works. (See ow.ly/yKLs9 for more information.)

Transparent Language showed the updated version of its Transparent Language Library, a tool that allows users to learn 85 languages other than English (with multiple versions of some, e.g., “Spanish, Latin American” and “Spanish, Castillian”) and English for speakers of 24 different tongues. The new site will feature links to online communities of the various languages.

Advice of Council

It was an unusually fast three sessions of the ALA Council, despite several slowdowns over procedural matters. Many councilors expressed concern later over the lack of time to debate items on the agenda of the third very short session on Tuesday.

ALA Council enjoyed widespread consensus on what the U.S. government should do: it passed a resolution reaffirming support for net neutrality, one on digitization and preservation of government documents, and one supporting restoring funding to Air Force base and command libraries back to FY2011 levels, all by large margins. A resolution on granting the Washington, DC, government budget autonomy for city services, including libraries, during Federal government shutdowns passed as well.

More contentious debates stuck closer to ALA’s own governance: after much discussion of whether to refer an interpretation on including rating systems in cataloging back to the Intellectual Freedom Committee, the motion failed by five votes, and the revised interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights was adopted, along with 13 more interpretations. Two groups were added to the section on avoiding discrimination: people with gender identity issues and with sensory or cognitive disabilities. Issues of how, where, and whether ALA committees must report were also much discussed, and a measure passed to make ALA committees file biannual reports with the executive director.

Council also passed a budgetary ceiling for ALA of approximately $64 million for fiscal year 2015, including the divisions (just shy of $30 million for the General Fund alone). Council adopted Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Ethics, and passed a resolution that directs ALA to become a signatory to the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development.

The winners of the elections for the Council Committee on Committees (COC) and the Council Representatives to the Planning and Budget Assembly (PBA) were announced.  And at her inaugural brunch, Courtney Young began her presidency of ALA and welcomed new division presidents.

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Comments

  1. Heather Goebel says:

    It would be great if some part of the conference could be shared via video with all of those members who don’t attend. Other organizations do this and it would be a true benefit. Thank you for this report.

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