Tuesday, September 25, 2012

RE: An open letter to America’s publishers from ALA President Maureen Sullivan

As many in the library community have already noted; ALA President, Maureen Sullivan, posted "an open letter to America’s publishers" yesterday.

After reading it, I was struggling with the thought of forwarding it on to anyone in particular.  Until, that is, I read David Lee King's consideration and realized "yeah... that's what I was thinking!  Kindof ... Sortof ... maybe... maybe not... hmmmm????"

The ALA president's message was posited as an open letter to America's publishers and it refers heavily to three of the largest which still refuse to offer access to their digital books in public libraries.  My initial reaction to the title was "about time."  After reading it I was kind of thinking "umm ... huh?"  The message is intended for the publishers, and should be read as if you're one of them, not a librarian.  However, it does become a little mixed and in places seems like it's intended to be for the librarians and not the publishers.  After working my way through that thought process, I then applied some strategic thinking (which wasn't nearly as painful as I'd feared).

I savvy that there may actually be some purpose to this somewhat abstract message to publishers.  The ALA President is formally stating what many of us in libraries and technology land have been discussing for a few years now.  Let me digress...

ALA's Office of Information Technology Policy (OITP) developed an EBook Task Force (on which our own Robert Bocher participated) which gave us things like "Frequently Asked E-book Questions from Public Librarians."  And for about a year now, the recently formed Digital Content and Libraries Working Group (DCWG) has been  working on subjects like library education, outreach, digitization, and have focused primarily on licensing and business models for digital content.  Over the summer they've published some documents, such as the digital content "Tip Sheet" which may prove helpful to libraries.

Here are a few additional resources from\about the DCWG:
... end digression, and back to my understanding (well ... "hope" is probably more accurate).  I think|choose-to-believe that this letter is a precursor to one or more nationally organized calls to action, backed by some sound thinking on the part of groups like OTIP's DCWG and  EBookTask force.  It sounds (just enough to keep me interested) like Ms. Sullivan is preparing people on both sides of this table for some action.  This gives me hope, but I must remain honest with myself.  The biggest challenge I still see lying ahead for the ALA and library community in general is to figure out an effective way to game the players who're holding all the aces ... and most of the face cards.

Joshua Klingbeil - IT Director
Wisconsin Valley Library Service

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