Year End, 2012

Without trying, I’ve ended up on a blog vacation lately. I think the rationale falls between being on a downcycle of interest in writing (it happens) and a lack of interesting library topic matter. Yes, there are things afoot in the library world, but they are things that have not compelled me to put fingers to keys for the sake of blogging. I still continue to share links (on Twitter and now trying to revive my Facebook Page), but nothing has really cried out to me, “Hey, you should write about this!” I had been thinking about writing a year end post for over a week now, with different starts and points that I wanted to make ranging from cautious optimism, unmitigated gloominess, and pure navel gazing. Rather than continue the internal debate, I just decided to start typing and let the chips fall where they may.

As I look over at my project and idea board, it stands relatively empty and unchanged for the last month or so. The only “active” project on there is a note for EveryLibrary and it is there to just remind me to check in every now and again with its progress. Thanks to my highly selective personal amnesia and a finely developed sense of situational unfairness to myself, it made me wonder whether I had done anything this year. It was a review through my calendar that reminded me that I had helped organize a very successful local unconference (Handhelds in School Libraries), spoke at another conference (Computers in Libraries), attended the bi-annual Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia, hit the road with Sophie Brookover for the New Jersey Library Roadshow as part of Snapshot Day, and ran a rather robust adult program schedule at my library that included a seven week summer program series featuring local authors and artists as well as teaching weekly computer classes. So, as it slowly dawned on me, I have a warped sense of accomplishment. Some might find this list to be exhausting (a small few might think of this as the “before breakfast” list), but I finally came to terms that I had done something and that I will be exiting this year having made a difference.

To be honest, I’m pretty much enjoying not having much on my professional plate. My attentions have been focusing elsewhere lately, mainly to learning more country line dances as well as adding in swing and ballroom. In some respects, I’m finding it to be a much more satisfying pursuit as it starts to push the work-life balance backs towards equilibrium. I took two big vacations this year where there was nothing library related happening and it was (without a doubt) truly glorious. I am looking forward to a lot more of this kind of fun in the coming year.

In looking towards the new year through the professional lens (perhaps the obligatory portion of every year end post you’ll read from libraryland), I believe that next year will hold a lot of the same from this year. Ebooks? With the remaining large publishers in the process of merging, yep. Copyright? With the Wiley case heading to the Supreme Court, yep. Intellectual property (on the heels of SOPA and RWA bills) will be back in a bigger way. Budgets, especially those in school districts? Indeed. Database pricing and access (along with vendor practices) as seen as in Jenica Rogers vs. the ACS? Yeah. Combined with a reheated ongoing relevancy (non-)crisis, I think next year will look a lot like last year.

Awhile back, I wrote a post about librarians picking needless fights. I’m starting to rethink parts of what I wrote then. I think the departure point from last year to this one should be librarians picking more fights. Not frivolous ones like the Amazon lending service, but bigger ones that will start nailing asses to the wall on important issues like copyright reform, fair practices in eBook lending, vendor negotiation transparency, open access, and digital content rights. It needs to go beyond the underlying anger and frustration that dwells within online petitions and cosigned press releases statements. The transition that needs to happen is moving from well mannered “I wish they wouldn’t do that” anger to downright pitchforks-and-torches prom-scene-from-Carrie naked hostility. If the road to whatever collective future libraries have involves paving over obstacles set up by these organizations, then the line from the profession has to be “move or learn to breathe through asphalt”.

I’m guessing there will be some people reading this who will advocate for the continued use of the softer touch, let’s-be-partners approach that has been flailing away for the last couple of years. You are more than welcome to continue this fruitless strategy, begging to become an equal partner with groups that have no interest in libraries other than as subordinate customers. And when this fails yet again, I will be polite enough to mouth the words “I told you so” rather than speaking them. It is time to go beyond them to the content creators (authors, publishing faculty, etc.), customers and constituents, and even the laws that control the intellectual property realm.

I’m hoping for a bloodier, it’s-on-like-Donkey-Kong year for library issues. The long time simmer is vastly overdue to reach a boil. Libraries aren’t going anywhere and it is high time to raise our flag high again in disputed territories.

Happy holidays and a happy new year, folks.

5 thoughts on “Year End, 2012

  1. I, too, long for our profession to stop being so darned polite. The only seat we have at the table is note-taker. While that’s an important role in any meeting, it is also one of received decisions, not decision-making. I’m tired of hearing that all we do is shush people. I’m tired of hearing that all we do is printed books. And, frankly, I’m feeling more than a little burnt out by the long and frustrating hours of trying to teach computer classes to people with IKIA Syndrome (I Know It Already, which they most certainly don’t.). I’m also looking forward to returning to paid employment. Not the kind in which I’m supposed to be excited and grateful to be able to serve all the time, but one which actually pays the bills. Seriously, ALA, if that’s what you think it’s all about for everyone, it’s no wonder that large portions of membership believe you’re out of touch at best, and only looking out for libraries’ interest to boot.

    Above all, I’m tired of it being my fault. My fault that someone can’t talk on their cellphone while I’m teaching class. My fault that someone can’t eat their McDonald’s meal over the computers I can’t afford to replace — and then my fault when the inevitable roaches appear for the leftovers. My fault when someone patently unsuited for a class lies and tells me they’re ready for it, thus ruining the learning experience for everyone. My fault when someone reponds to a reasonable request by making a scene or going to my director. My fault when the library can’t afford 25 copies of some piece of software someone believes we should teach (plus the training to learn how it works and the time to write the classes).

    Not that there aren’t patrons who appreciate what I do, but they are often drowned out by the people who will never be satisfied with what is there as long as one free possibility remains.

    Tired of it all? What was your first clue?

  2. Hear, hear! I think a knock-down, drag-out fight is long overdue. Librarians have been more than patient, and have worked hard at the ‘let’s help each other’ stance long enough.

    I’ve always been in favor of people working together. Now I’m pissed, and ready to fight that smarmy fake “we value libraries” line. What publishers are saying and what they are doing are completely different. Enough already!

    Stop putting roadblocks in our path, and face the fact that publishing woes are not the fault of libraries, never have been and never will be.

  3. Conference organizers and presenters: requesting more hard-hitting content sessions covering copyright/reform, open access, and digital content rights, less 50 crafts in 50 minutes for ages 5-50. Seems like a lot of the manners and meekness come from not knowing any better. I’m not insulting anyone’s intelligence, I’m saying when we all get together we have the chance to realign our professional priorities, and good information provides in-roads and on-ramps to these issues, precisely because we’re all plenty smart and capable. More cowbell, you know?

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