Top 10 Library Stories of 2011
Facing natural disasters, technology issues, and privatization concerns, librarians responded with advocacy and innovation
Posted Thu, 01/12/2012 - 10:44
People’s Library in Zuccotti Park.
These are the top library stories of 2011, as selected by American Libraries editors. Share your top 10 in the comments.
1. Ebook Escapades
HarperCollins imposed an arbitrary 26 loans per ebook license and Penguin refused to let libraries lend its new titles altogether. Even good e-news had a catch: Patrons who could now borrow Kindle-formatted ebooks had to disclose their identities before downloading. Rejecting ebook licenses, Kansas State Librarian Joanne Budler struck a deal to ensure consortial ownership of what taxpayer money buys.
2. Occupying Libraries
Guerrilla libraries sprang up in the numerous camps of the Occupy movement, most notably in Zuccotti Park in New York City, where Occupy Wall Street protesters set up the People’s Library. By the time police cleared the park on November 15, it held more than 5,500 volumes, showing that information is an essential ingredient to any community, however temporary.
3. Rising Above Natural Disasters
Colleagues worldwide coped with sudden calamity. Japan lost lives and libraries in a tsunami. Libraries shifted into community-relief mode in New Zealand and Virginia after enduring earthquakes, as well as on the East Coast after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. It helped that FEMA added libraries to its list of essential post-disaster services. Library associations and library workers aided colleagues with funds and tech assistance.
4. Transforming Libraries’ Image
As e-reader sales soared, “ebooks” and “digital” became mots du jour. When content creators changed the lending rules, librarians responded by seeking digital workarounds. Libraries embraced crowdsourcing as a way to enlist volunteers in deepening digital research potential. ALA launched Library Boing Boing, libraries sprouted hackerspaces and 3D printers, and Chicago’s YOUmedia lab inspired similar teen spaces at other libraries.
5. Taking Copyright to Court
In September, the Authors Guild sued HathiTrust and several universities, claiming that book digitization infringed on copyright and calling into question the fate of millions of scans at research libraries. Authors are seeking a class-action suit against the Google Books project and a judge is weighing whether Georgia State University pirated its e-reserves.
6. Cutbacks: Meet Advocacy
Across the country, advocates united to persuade politicians that libraries matter enough to fight for them. Zombies crawled in Oakland, California (“Zombies love brains”), cute kids and parents held read-ins from Chicago to California, and 200 folks held hands and hugged the New York Public Library. The third trip to the ballot box was the charm for Troy (Mich.) Public Library, and volunteers collected cash in shifts to reopen Central Falls (R.I.) library.
7. School Librarians’ Hard Times
Cuts hit school libraries around the country, perhaps most severely in California, where the number of certified teacher-librarians dropped to 895 this year. Los Angeles Unified School District laid off dozens of library staff, interrogating them for a chance to be reassigned to a classroom. In 2012, advocates will seek support for school libraries in the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
8. Privatization Pushback
Savings-conscious administrators in at least two states got an earful from constituents worried about outsourcing their libraries. A new California law mandates that proponents make their case with hard numbers as of January 1, 2012. Meanwhile, officials of Santa Clarita, California, and Osceola County, Florida, signed library privatization contracts with LSSI.
9. Privacy Concerns Mount
Librarians and technophiles are currently fighting the Stop Online Piracy Act, a sweeping bill that would require internet service providers to police users’ activities for potential copyright infringement. Librarians cheered the September announcement that OverDrive would allow library customers to lend ebooks to patrons with Kindles, but the fine print raised ethical concerns. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom hosted a Conference on Privacy and Youth in March to discuss how best to raise awareness.
10. Digital Destiny
The ambitious Digital Public Library of America began a two-year endeavor in October to find a way to make the US cultural and scientific record available online, while the Europeana Foundation launched a plan to aggregate and distribute the continent’s cultural heritage.