Monday, March 12, 2012

An open letter to Judy Blume

Are you there, Judy? It's me, Turner....

Dear Ms. Blume,

I am a big fan - on many levels. Born in the early 80s, I grew up with your books. They were in my home, in my classrooms and in my public and school libraries. As a child, the covers of your books were comforting. I especially loved the Fudge Series. They helped me recognize that no family was perfect and that relationships between brothers can be difficult, but are still built on love. Important lessons for a ten year old boy.

I will be honest - between middle school and graduate school, I did not think of you or your books that often. But I continued to be an avid reader. You slipped back into my life in 2008 - when I was working at a bookstore and saw that you wrote the introduction to that year’s Best American Nonrequired Reading (I especially loved your pirate photo).  Rediscovering you prepared me for learning of your rock-star status when I entered library school in 2009. Librarians LOVE you - as we should. You have been on the forefront of the fight against censorship and you deserve every award and accolade you have received.

Last week, when it was announced that 13 of your titles are going to be released as ebooks, I felt compelled to write you. As someone who rides public transportation, I am a fan of ereaders. I also believe that offering the opportunity to read in a variety of formats is a good thing - what K. G. Schneider describes as a reading ecology. That said, the way publishers provide ebooks to libraries is causing me anxiety. Especially Random House, who appear to be raising some prices as much as 300%. These prices will take a large bite out of library’s budgets and might hinder our ability to provide an expansive collection to our community members. Some librarians are already thinking of alternative uses for their ebook budget.

I know that Random House is your publisher, and you never want to bite the hand that feeds you. But you are also a champion of libraries, and this is a battle that we are currently fighting.  Even halfway through this letter, I am not sure of my intentions. Ideally, I would love for you to come to our aide - this is a fight that is going to depend on the participation of librarians, readers and authors alike. But I know that defying your publisher in anyway is a dangerous move. I guess I would just like you to be aware of the predicament that we are in. I hope through the technological advancements of retweeting and reposting you might see this letter (I did mail this letter to you through you publisher, but I’ll be surprised if it gets to you...).

Thank you. For all that you already have done. In the past forty years you have influenced American culture and inspired many librarians (including this one) to fight the good fight. Whether or not this letter has an effect, know that you are still a hero. And the battle rages on....


J. Turner Masland

Sunday, March 4, 2012

How do we add bite to our bark?

Photo credit: Surtr via Flickr
ALA President Molly Raphael issued the following statement in response to the announcement that Random House is raising prices of ebooks for libraries

While I appreciate Random House’s engagement with libraries and its commitment to perpetual access, I am deeply disappointed in the severe escalation in ebook pricing reported today. Calling on our history together and our hope to satisfy mutual goals moving forward, the American Library Association strongly urges Random House to reconsider its decision. In a time of extreme financial constraint, a major price increase effectively curtails access for many libraries, and especially our communities that are hardest hit economically.

Also, ALA appreciates the data gaps that exist, and we commit to work quickly and collaboratively to address this concern. We must have better data to inform decisions that have such wide and deep implications.

Finally, we recognize and thank those publishers and aggregators that have worked with libraries on e-book lending models at a time of significant disruption and change. Libraries must have the ability to purchase a wide range of digital content at a fair price so that all readers have full access to our world’s creative and cultural resources, especially those who depend on libraries as their only source of reading material.

Libraries belong at the center of this digital revolution, not on the periphery. We continue to seek partners to further our shared goals of connecting readers and authors well into the 21st century.

I am very glad that Raphael and the ALA are coming out with a statement, but.... I feel that this is all bark and no bite. I agree that libraries need to be at the center of the digital revolution - but what exactly are we doing to stay there? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that the ebook debate will not be solved by a technological solution but through a moral argument. How can we make the publishers agree that open access to information is an American virtue and they should be working with us instead of hindering us? 

I know that these are some big questions, but this is a big issue and I am not sure where the solution lies. I do know that we need to continue  to ask these questions, as well as work together to make sure our voice is heard. 

The Digital Shift has a great guide, Publishers in the Library Ebook Market, for anyone (like me) who needs some more back ground context to this debate. 

As always, Andy Woodworth is lending some valid observations/arguments/agitations/suggestions to this debate. Today he had a great post putting forth the notion that Overdrive should partner with Amazon, becoming a potential major player in providing ebook content for libraries libraries.

What do you think, dear readers? Are there any other writers out there who are putting forth valid arguments in this discussion?  What is our future going to look like? you have to admit, with these big questions and big issues, it's an exciting time to be a librarian...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Logro agridulce

For the past nine months I have had the great pleasure assisting with the creation of the Washington County Heritage Online digital collection. Funded by a LSTA grant, the collection brings together cultural organizations from across Washington County in the creation of a digital photograph collection. Specifically, I have been cataloging images donated by Centro Cultural, the county's foremost Latino community organization. Being trusted with their photographs was an honor, and I am very proud of this collection. Working with another volunteer, we have selected, digitized, restored and wrote metadata for about 900 images - all depicting Centro Cultural's contributions to Washington County.

Photographed by Francisco Rangel. Copyright held by Centro Cultural.
Now that the project is over, it is a little sad for this experience to come to an end. I really enjoyed working in the Pacific University Archives. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to see a project through from start to finish. And I hate to admit it, but I am also going to miss the two hour (one way) bus/train/bus ride out to Forest Grove. It was a wonderful opportunity for contemplation and reading. I think I read more books since starting this gig than I did while working a Borders Bookstore.

Although my time with this collection has come to an end, I know there are many more organizations who are ready and willing to contribute more photographs to this collection, and I am really excited to see watch this collection grow.