2015: Year in Review

A look back at the stories that affected libraries

January 4, 2016

2015 Year in Review


James BillingtonLibrarian of Congress Moves On

James H. Billington (left) retired as Librarian of Congress after 28 years. During his tenure, LC launched the National Digital Library and National Book Festival, among other accomplishments. Billington’s decision came after the Government Accountability Office issued a report identifying weaknesses in LC’s information technology planning.





New York Public Library’s Mott Haven branch
New York Public Library’s Mott Haven branch

Wi-Fi Hotspot Lending

Libraries in California, Illinois, Missouri, and New York have added mobile Wi-Fi hotspots to their collections for patrons to check out. Nonprofit broadband providers Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen filed a lawsuit against Sprint in November to stop the company from shutting down its WiMax network—used by 429 schools, 61 libraries, and 1,820 nonprofits.



0116YIR-googleGoogle Books Ruling

Ten years after the Authors Guild sued Google over its scanning project, a US appeals court ruled on October 16 that Google’s mass digital indexing of books to create a searchable online library constituted a legal “fair use” of copyrighted material rather than an infringement.




0116YIR-3609The cumulative number of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that started or are scheduled to start by the end of December 2015. MOOCs debuted in 2011 with fewer than 10. (SOURCE: Class Central, a MOOC aggregator)


Carla Hayden
Carla Hayden

Safe Havens

Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore stays open amid protests after the high-profile death of Freddie Gray in April. Eight months earlier, Ferguson (Mo.) Public Library also provided community refuge following the death of Michael Brown. Pictured: Pratt Library CEO Carla Hayden hangs an open sign in the library window during the civil unrest.



San Francisco Pride
San Francisco Pride

Librarians Celebrate Marriage Equality

The Supreme Court’s decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the US was announced on June 26 as thousands gathered at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in San Francisco.




0116YIR-mergerLibrary Tech Consolidation

In April, Rakuten bought OverDrive. Then in early October, ProQuest acquired Ex Libris, forming the largest entity in the library technology industry, and Bibliotheca purchased 3M Library Systems North America, including 3M’s global Library Systems business. As commentators debate what this flurry of activity means, they believe the trend is likely to continue.



0116YIR-65The percentage of Americans who say that closing their local public library would have a major impact on their community. (SOURCE: Pew Research Center’s September report titled “Libraries at the Crossroads”)



Skip Prichard
Skip Prichard

The Final Catalog Card

OCLC printed its last library catalog cards on October 1. The company had printed 1.9 billion cards since 1971. Pictured: Skip Prichard, OCLC president and CEO, files a card from the last batch of catalog cards printed.





Sonia Manzano
Sonia Manzano

Good-Bye, Maria

Sonia Manzano announced at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference that she would be retiring from Sesame Street after 44 years with the show, and American Libraries broke the national story.




0116YIR-kentuckyKentucky Libraries Not Guilty

A court of appeals ruled that two Kentucky libraries did not break the law when raising property taxes. The decision reversed two circuit court rulings that threatened the future of many libraries in the state.




A Win for School Library Programs

On December 10, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the first piece of federal legislation in more than 50 years that uses federal funding for effective school library programs.


0116YIR-28The percentage of Americans who believe there are books that should be banned, reflecting an increase of 10 percentage points since 2011. (SOURCE: Harris Poll)




0116YIR-securityLibrary Security Threats: Internal and External

Libraries across the US initiate “active shooter” training, while some discover the biggest problem is internal. Valuable collection items that went missing led to resignations and firings at Boston Public Library in summer.





0116YIR-surveillanceALA Stands Up to Surveillance

ALA denounced the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, a bill to reauthorize the “library provision” of the Patriot Act, and filed an amicus brief defending privacy in a challenge to NSA surveillance.




0116YIR-diversityDiversity in Youth Literature

Following the launch of We Need Diverse Books in 2014, librarians are helping to drive awareness for better representation in children’s literature. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom reported that a significant proportion of all challenged books address issues of race, sexuality, or disability, or include characters who are nonwhite, LGBTQ, or have disabilities.




0116YIR-librariestransformLibraries Transform

ALA’s new public awareness campaign was unveiled in October. The campaign’s goals are to increase public awareness of the value, impact, and services provided by libraries and library professionals.


A woman using the card catalog at the main reading room of the Library of Congress, circa 1940.

The Evolving Catalog

Cataloging tech from scrolls to computers

A music therapy student (a violinist) demonstrates how she experimented playing the Turkish spike fiddle before finding more official instructions.

Music without Borders

Loaning out world-music instruments to expand patron horizons