Three Library Predictions for 2012

After covering the lessons learned in 2011, I want to look ahead to 2012. In considering current trends and trying to read the library tea leaves, I opted for just a few predictions for the upcoming year. In addition, I’ve rated them in the likelihood they are to occur.

#1: Here Come The Embargoes!

Publishers and other content creators are looking for ways to push people towards their revenue streams (namely, to buy the book or movie). In their estimations, the only way to do this is to have later release dates for books and movies for libraries. Penguin Group has removed its newest content from the digital library shelves (with the idea of adding them back in at a later date) and Warner Brothers is delaying releases to libraries for four weeks. Given the relatively minor ripples of reaction to these moves compared to the HarperCollin’s limited 26 checkouts shitstorm, my hunch is that publishers will move towards holding back digital editions for a few weeks in order to (in their thinking) push people towards buying the book. None of the Big Six publishers have pursued a limited checkouts idea and that move is coming up on its one year anniversary. But, in holding back content for a few weeks, it will skirt the issue. Sure, libraries will get it a little later than everyone else, but they’ll still get it.

(Of course, far be it from me to point out that one of the things that really moves sales is a quality product (when it comes to movies) or getting people to talk about authors and their latest releases (when it comes to books). I guess we can use our free marketing and shelf space for other things.)

Likeihood: 80%

#2: A Shift to Community over Collection

While some of this is based on content being under siege from the previous prediction, I feel that it will be an impetus to revamp the form and function of the library. While it will not be the bookless library of the Cushing Academy, the shift of a physical reference collection to digital combined, the expansion of digital collections (think backlist), and pressures to demonstrate greater value to the community will take the libraries being constructed now and those being renovated to eliminate shelf space in favor of other space use. Digital creation labs, community use rooms, or even just an expansion of seating and reading areas are just a few ways that the library will be finding new uses for their current spaces.

To repeat myself, I don’t think libraries will be eliminating the physical collection. I do believe that the expansion of ereaders (one in six people and growing) compared with already existing space considerations will put less physical objects on our shelves. In doing so, it will means that there will be more space for other activities and purposes.

Likelihood: 50%

#3: Overdrive gets competition

I’m mildly shocked that they didn’t get direct competition last year, but I think this year could see a viable competitor to Overdrive. Although, given the beating Overdrive took with the HarperCollins business and Amazon just about eating their lunch when it came to the Kindle lending program, I’m not too sure how eager anyone would want to be to step into the ring. However, if they can provide greater assurances for content security to the Big Six than Overdrive, than it eat Overdrive alive.

This is, of course, if publishers don’t withdraw into their intellectual property fortresses and stop library lending altogether.

Likelihood: 25%

In looking in my crystal ball this year, I didn’t have anything that really stood out. I think some things will stay the same (library association members running for office will offer platitudes how awesome libraries are and how they’d love to be their president without contrasting themselves with their opponents, people complaining about ALA and lack of jobs, and a whole lot of time will be wasted in committees, workgroups, and task forces while social politics trumps their efforts). It’s this lack of other trends that makes for few predictions when composing a list for this year.

In taking a quick look as to how I did last year, I made seven predictions. I’d say I got one right (there are more paywalls to content. Thanks NYT!) and the rest were just “I’m sure it sounded good at the time, but what the hell was I thinking?” Otherwise, I recall something I read earlier last year about how predictions of pundits tend to be worse than average. It seems their ideology tends to get in the way. In keeping this in mind, I’m going to get out of the way.

Any predictions you’d like to share for 2012?

9 thoughts on “Three Library Predictions for 2012

  1. I think embargoes would be a whole lot more palatable if libraries were capable of letting me place preorders (note: this is different from holds), but then I start thinking about the data streams and standards involved and I have to go into a corner and cry.

    • I think it’s a viable option for publishers, movie companies, and music makers because they can always say, “Well, we *are* giving them the content, just not right away! Blah blah blah jobs blah blah blah America blah blah blah good for the economy.” There isn’t a good counter to that, or at least a good viable one.

      • Indeed. And I seem to recall LibraryThing Tim pointing out somewhere that the pre-ebook economic model of libraries relied on being able to use inconvenience for price discrimination — the high-priced hardcover for people who can’t wait, then the paperback, then the free-to-end-user circulations bought at the price of inconvenience (having to wait for your holds to come through, having to go physically to the library, etc.)

        I don’t really have a problem with wait times and price discrimination dovetailing a bit. It just bugs me that, when I hear about some new book on the radio or Twitter or whatever, I am routinely incapable of placing holds on it, because library software can’t devour those data streams. An embargo system would just make that worse. (“as far as the library is concerned this book does not even exist until a month or two after it comes out, so don’t bother looking for it, we don’t have it AND we can’t let you place it on hold”? sigh.)

  2. Predictions; meh. I hope yours are more right than I am about Mitt Romney ending up as president this November coming. Analysis in tedious detail as to why from 2 months ago:

    On a more related issue; do you or anyone have any idea what his policy is, or will be, on libraries, library funding, and literacy in education? Have done searches but can’t find anything he’s said about libraries. Maybe I should ask a librarian 🙂

    • I’m sure that’s nowhere on anyone’s radar except to say it is good but something that is expensive and taxpayers shouldn’t pay for it.

      Unriddle that.

  3. My prediction is more wishful thinking: I predict (hope) that we as a profession will become less insular and invite “outsiders” to our national conferences, which will add a much needed new perspective and diversity of opinion to our professional dialogue.

  4. Embargo in order to make people buy the latest bestseller? If you want to read the latest and hottest title right now, you always had to buy them. Most of the titles of the New Times Bestseller list have a looooong waiting list at the NYPL (e- and paper-editions). This has not changed in library land. But those people, who do not have the money to buy the book, then have to wait even longer in order to get it.

  5. Pingback: Articles of Interest « Evil Corner

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