Unnecessary Choices

July 28, 2010

Members of the American Library Association have been talking a lot about books these days, the future of the book as a delivery mechanism, as opposed to a quaint artifact. Readers of American Libraries have responded by writing some provocative articles for the August 2010 issue about the future of the book in a digital age.

What is often puzzling about these discussions is the assumption that we are being forced to choose between books and digital media—and that we must do it now. But we have also gone through a century of evolving media—movies, radio, television—none of which died as another was born. What they did was, well, evolve, find new niches, and create educational, interesting, and entertaining content that people wanted and needed.

Ralph Raab, a teacher of music, computers, and study skills for 20 years, argues in “Books and Literacy in the Digital Age” that you have to be literate to use the internet effectively and be able to do the kind of extended, focused reading that books make easy and enjoyable—once you’ve learned how.

In “Party On! at Your Book Discussions,” Alan Jacobson, who teaches computer classes and leads film and book discussions, reinforces the notion that millions of people find reading books a thoroughly enjoyable pursuit that should lead not just to discussion but to celebration!
In their article “Up, Up, and Away: A Bird’s Eye View of Mission Marketing,” Donald Dyal and Kaley Daniel observe that “libraries must test their steel with legions of entertainment and information-gathering competitors, and unfortunately many show up in the battle line with marketing strategies borrowed from George Armstrong Custer’s playbook at Little Big Horn.” They are here to change that.
In Trends, librarian Anna Hartman talks about the Read to Your Breed program at her library, which pairs reading-challenged kids with a lovable pooch that likes to listen. Alicia Santamaria explains how Raising a Reader programs connect early literacy skills with school success, delighting children in libraries every day with books, library cards, and book bags. Rocco Staino of the New York Library Association reports on an evening of discussion about censorship with some playwrights who’ve experienced it, including Edward Albee and Terrence McNally. AL Associate Editor Sean Fitzpatrick takes a look at ProQuest’s new platform, and Senior Editor Beverly Goldberg takes stock of the financial situation as many libraries reach the end of FY2010. And just for contrast,  Ted Strand talks about how Loyola University Chicago’s bookless, all-digital Information Commons reduces energy consumption while serving as a popular social and study destination for students.
Rounding out the August issue is an overview of the June ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., with emphasis on the spectacular advocacy rally for libraries on the Hill.



Librarians Head for the Hill to Rally for Reading

ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., attracts 26,000 enthusiastic professionals.