April 25, 2018

2002: Muted by Money Worries

By Andrew Albanese, John Berry, Lynn Blumenstein, Susan DiMattia, Brian Kenney, Norman Oder & Michael Rogers

A salaries initiative galvanizes librarians and CIPA’s a win, but the economic crisis and legacy of September 11 pose challenges

The economic repercussions of the September 11 attacks—which took a toll on libraries in 2001—were compounded in 2002 by a continued economic slump. It wasn’t the most auspicious time to launch a salaries initiative, but new American Library Association (ALA) President Mitch Freedman found much support among the rank and file.

The legacy of September 11, including an increased emphasis on public safety and the ominous (yet unclear) impact of the USA PATRIOT Act, blunted even a clear victory for libraries, the successful litigation against the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The concentration on 9/11 issues, combined with political deadlock, meant a slow-moving Congress. Library champions at the state and federal levels confronted revenue shortfalls and political gridlock, but they maintained support for library funding, freedom of expression and access to information, and the field’s cherished exemptions to copyright. Libraries have traditionally been a bipartisan concern, and while fiscal support fell with the economic decline, library use exploded anew, just as the fruits of a library building boom—such as new mains in cities like Nashville and Memphis—became evident. As libraries directly served more people, they became more visible to politicians of all persuasions. After all, library users, of all Am
erican constituencies, are among the most likely to be voters.

Budget Woes

Many libraries were hurting, even those with ample funds for construction. The Seattle Public Library, beneficiary of a $196.4 million bond issue and a hefty amount of private fundraising, found itself so short on operating funds that it closed for a week in August and planned for another week-long closure this month. In traditionally well-funded Ohio, libraries lost seven to eight percent in state aid. This led to cuts in materials budgets and talk of branch closures, as well as new proposals to raise revenue.

In Ohio, at least, libraries were not singled out; most state agencies were cut 15 percent. In some cases, notably state library agencies in Washington, Minnesota, and Virginia, libraries were targeted. After Gov. Gary Locke tried to close the Washington State Library (WSL), a compromise moved WSL under the aegis of the Secretary of State, but Locke later slashed the library’s budget 17 percent. In Minnesota, the state library agency was decimated, though librarians around the state have organized to restore the Office of Library Development and Services.

Academic libraries were under pressure as well. Public
universities encountered shrinking state budgets, and private ones contended
with contracting endowments. In Missouri, for example, state funding for higher
education—about 12 percent of the state budget—was cut nearly 37 percent, and
libraries felt the pinch. The passage of a huge bond issue in California was
good news (see News, p. 16).

President Bush’s budget for Library Service and Technology Act (LSTA) funds contained only a modest increase for FY02 – 03. Library advocates placed more hope in a five-year reauthorization of LSTA. Before September 11, 2001, ALA called for $500 million; after that, advocates looked to the $350 million proposed in the Senate. However, after the Democrats lost the Senate last month, the number probably will be closer to the $300 million proposed in the House.

Libraries likely will face more budget constraints, necessitating hard decisions and creative revenue ideas.

Salaries and Recruitment

For salaries and recruitment, rhetoric outpaced performance. Though Freedman catapulted the salary issue to the forefront, the initiative met not just a lagging economy but also bureaucratic roadblocks; ALA’s new Allied Professional Association, organized in part to spur salaries, barely got off the ground. (In better news for ALA, the new executive director, Keith Fiels, presided over a smooth transition.)

A healthy new union contract at the Los Angeles Public Library suggested progress. Still, the Minneapolis Public Library’s stalled search for a director proved that a salary capped at $120,000 isn’t attractive—one finalist, Multnomah County’s Ginnie Cooper, instead went to the Brooklyn PL for some $80,000 more.

The salaries issue remained shackled to the subject of recruitment. Though salaries for 2001 graduates sprang back to beat inflation, as shown in LJ‘s annual salary survey (“Salaries Rebound,
Women Break Out
,” LJ
10/15/02, p. 30 – 36), and enrollment is growing, a good number of graduates opt for higher-paying jobs outside the library field. And the profession is graying.

However, having a librarian in the White House helped: First Lady Laura Bush gave library recruitment its biggest boost in many years via a $10 million initiative for library education. The funding, managed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, targeted an assortment of recruitment methods, with library schools required to partner with public libraries. This pilot program, if successful, will continue throughout the Bush administration.

Despite the economic downturn, the salaries issue won’t go away, and ALA President-elect Carla Hayden will be pressured by the rank and file to take up the salaries banner.

Privacy Under Pressure

How much did 9/11 change library procedures? At the Public Library Association conference in Phoenix in March, Leigh Estabrook, director of the Library Research Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reported on a survey of U.S. public libraries conducted three to four months after September 11. Some 39 percent of the 1,028 libraries responding, especially the larger ones, had reviewed building security. Seven percent reported monitoring patrons’ Internet use, and nearly 15 percent see circumstances in which privacy could be compromised.

More than four percent—a weighted average as opposed to the initial report of eight percent—said that local or federal law enforcement agencies had requested information about patrons. That doesn’t necessarily mean those authorities were acting under expanded powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Act.

How much law enforcement has used those new powers isn’t clear. The Freedom To Read Foundation, ALA’s sibling organization, along with three other groups, filed a lawsuit October 24 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to learn how many subpoenas have been issued to libraries, bookstores, and newspapers.

A branch of the Charlotte-Glades Library System, FL, was evacuated for three hours on July 29 after a sheriff’s volunteer reported an Internet user he deemed suspicious to local police, who then found chemicals of unknown origin in the visitor’s backpack. The chemicals turned out to be paint thinner and jewelry cleaner, and the homeless man was surfing a web site about an ancient battery, not bombs. This proved an isolated case of—take your pick—vigilantism or excessive post-9/11 caution.

Pressures on privacy—and dissent—may increase if the country goes to war. Still, a substantial mainstream constituency—especially on consumer issues—has emerged for privacy.

DC Doings

CIPA would have required libraries receiving federal funds for Internet access to filter “harmful to minors” material from all terminals as well as obscenity and child porn from all terminals—essentially filtering throughout the library.

If the May 3 legal decision overturning CIPA was clear-cut, based on legitimate speech blocked because of “the crudeness of filtering technology,” the societal question was not. The three-judge federal panel noted that the trial record demonstrated that many minors seek to access pornography at the library. The case has been appealed by the Justice Department to the Supreme Court.

In the CIPA case, some prominent librarians testified for filtering—a sign of the lack of consensus within librarianship. Still, in May, the National Research Council issued a report that concluded that neither filters nor any other quick fix supplies the answer.

After years of seeing the pendulum swing away from fair use and toward the interests of the content industry, librarians logged progress on copyright. In October, the Supreme Court heard Eldred
v. Ashcroft, a challenge to Congress’s latest 20-year copyright extension. Though the court may lack the basis to overturn the extension, the justices seemed troubled by Congress’s approach to copyright issues. Two congressional representatives, Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), introduced bills that would reverse some of the draconian elements of the sweeping Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998.

In addition, a string of government proposals may significantly impact public access to government information. These efforts include the closing of PubSCIENCE, the Department of Energy’s database of abstracts and texts in the physical sciences, and the discarding of paper copies of the public’s collection of paper patents at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A proposal to allow government agencies to bypass the Government Printing Office (GPO) has also disturbed librarians,

Expect a decision on CIPA and a fight over the GPO. UCITA—a proposed uniform law for software transactions that would enshrine shrinkwrap licenses—lurks in state legislatures. The copyright issue will remain an uphill battle, but growing public recognition of the concerns should help the library community.

Virtual Reference Reaches Forward

Libraries around the country began new services, and others expanded. In June, the Library of Congress (LC), in partnership with OCLC, launched its national service QuestionPoint. Both LSSI, Inc., which offers software and outsourced service, and 24/7 Reference, the first cooperative service, reported growth. The types of service expanded as well. In Ohio, CLEVNET’s KnowItNow24x7 partnered with local healthcare providers to offer medical information. LSSI recently unveiled chat services in Spanish.

While usage statistics are reported to be rising, services must prove their value, even as librarians serve patrons outside their local jurisdiction or school. Librarians acknowledge they must do more to attract users, such as installing persistent buttons on a library or institution’s web site. Session transcripts provide a new level of accountability, and though the digital transaction allows personalization, privacy may be compromised.

Commercial reference providers have come and mostly gone in the past few years, but two new entrants may have more staying power. In April, Google unveiled Google Answers, in which “more than 500 carefully screened researchers” answer questions. Also, the not-for-profit Wondir Foundation, with an advisory board including two prominent librarians, is developing a new service to connect “people with questions” to experts and enthusiasts.

As more people use the web, librarians will continue to move services as well as collections online. Expect increased pressure from nonlibrary reference providers.

E-books Repositioned

E-books have gone through an almost opposite evolution from CD-ROMs, which were successfully translated into web-based products. Designed initially for consumers, digitized books failed to find readers, and many big publishing houses quickly folded their highly-touted e-book tents.

Software developers in the library market, however, learned from the mistakes made by print publishers. OCLC’s purchase of the bankrupt netLibrary, which had a solid product but a poor business model, in the closing days of 2001 heralded a second act: e-books as a reference resource. After that, ABC-CLIO began releasing all its titles simultaneously in paper and e-books. Recently, Gale signed a 50 e-title deal with netLibrary and hopes to release all its titles in both formats.

Some titles may still work as e-books, or Adobe Systems believes so: the company released Content Server 3.0 to enable secure distribution of PDF-based e-books. Titles from major publishers range over nonfiction categories and even include some fiction.

While libraries continued to expand their electronic collections—such as LC’s National Digital Library Program and the University of Virginia’s Electronic Text Center—vendors also brought significant content to the market this year. ProQuest completed the digitization of the first two titles in its Historical Newspapers program: the New York Times
and Wall Street Journal.

Gale, which is currently digitizing the London Times
all the way back to 1785, last year announced an ambitious digital publishing program: the Eighteenth Century, in cooperation with the British Library and others.

With such major players pushing ahead, we should see additional vendors digitizing materials or mounting e-book programs.

Distance Ed and the “L” Word

More and more library education programs accredited by ALA offered all or some courses online. Some still require students to take a portion of their courses face-to-face, while others allow students to complete all studies online, including orientation sessions.

Some faculty prefer distance education, since it liberates them from inconvenient classroom schedules and limitations. Others, however, complain that teaching online requires much more work and that students lack support and resources they would get on campus. Still, distance ed has made librarianship accessible to new blood and in some cases has dramatically increased minority enrollment.

Librarians debated the proper positioning of library education programs. Practitioners still aimed angry darts when programs dropped the “L” word (library) from their names. Library educators, such as Dean Mike Eisenberg of the University of Washington’s recently dubbed Information School, became defensive. They said the carping by practicing librarians hurt the programs both on campus and in the field, since librarianship remained central to their curricula. Practitioners held that, since most of the graduates still work in libraries, the programs should keep library
in their names. Some urged ALA to make it a requirement for accreditation, though the ALA Council rejected such a resolution at the annual conference.

Expect more debate on the “L” word, as well as closer examination of distance ed.

Special Librarians: Mixed Message

Did special librarians gain ground? A Factiva report concluded that the search for free business information on the web isn’t worth it, implying that special expertise is needed to use fee-based resources. Still, an Outsell research report verified that average budgets of corporate information centers are at pre-2001 levels and that those running them must serve more users and provide higher-value services.

While one out of four survey respondents have reached executive or director ranks, there are fewer specialized librarians overall. As the head of one prestigious corporate library in New York City said, it is an employer’s market because so many experienced people are out of work.

Such turmoil was reflected within the Special Libraries Association (SLA). In January, SLA’s new executive director, Roberta Shaffer, following on earlier staff cuts, announced a plan for staff reassignments. In February, after only five months on the job, Shaffer resigned. The process to hire a permanent executive director did not begin in earnest until last month.

Members voiced explosive reactions when, at the Winter Meeting, the SLA board proposed taking on sweeping powers. After protest, members agreed to a milder bylaws revision. A branding/name change initiative was stalled, suggesting it would be hard to find a name to appeal to the diverse members. Membership in SLA fell in 2002, while associations for law and medical librarians remained solid.

Special librarians will have to acquire expanded competencies, reassert their worth, and do more with less.

Scholarly Innovation

As in previous years, journal prices went up, monograph sales declined, and librarians confronted ever-tightening budgets. But as digital technology reshapes the way scholars, students, and researchers work, creative, library-driven solutions are emerging.

The past year saw the launch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s DSpace institutional repository, which aims to “capture, distribute, and preserve” campus intellectual output, and the Association of Research Libraries’ efforts to promote other alternative publishing models. Also, pioneering e-book efforts included the American Council of Learned Societies’ history monograph program and the Columbia University Press/American Historical Association’s Gutenberg-e project, which publishes monographs on the web.

SPARC, which supports increased competition in scientific journal publishing, expanded to SPARC Europe, with the hiring of its first director, David Prosser, formerly of Oxford Univ. Press.

Change is coming slowly but steadily, so look for more innovation and partnerships.

Author Information
Andrew Albanese is Associate Editor; John Berry is Editor-in-Chief; Lynn Blumenstein & Susan DiMattia are Contributing Editors; Brian Kenney is Senior Editor, netConnect®; Norman Oder is Senior News Editor; and Michael Rogers is Senior Editor, InfoTech, LJ