Important takeaways from ALA in New Orleans:

  • The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is not a mile long. It is, however, almost exactly one kilometer long, or 5 furlongs, or about 1200 steps. Naturally, ALA’s meetings were divided between the two ends.
  • You can spend three enjoyable days in New Orleans without setting foot on Bourbon St. or entering any establishment that serves Hurricanes.
  • Book a hotel that gives you a couple bottles of free water every day.
  • If the only hot sauce on the table is Tabasco, you’re in a tourist trap.

Actual library stuff that percolated up in multiple meetings:

Data Analytics is the new “Web 2.0”. Every library is convinced they need it, every vendor is selling it, but nobody can quite define it. As the hoopla gets cranked up there are a few people starting to grumble apprehensively about mis- and under-served user communities, mis- and abused data, and looming privacy concerns. The LITA President’s program had a great talk about how dangerously flawed data-driven decision making can be, because of the inherent multiple gaps and distortions in the data available to work from.

DRM for library e-books needs to change from models that protect the publishers’ interests at all costs to something that actually takes the user into consideration. The current model is particularly bad for e-textbooks, and ultimately silos content at the expense of discovery and the quality of the user experience (see next). The simplest change may just be to remove DRM. This doesn’t need to be [entirely] confrontational: some major vendors are on board with this.

E-content UX still sucks. Still. Sucks. Licensing e-content needs to actively promote user interests by making that content more like a library collection than a set of links to multiple vendor websites. Public libraries especially need a better e-book ecosystem. The lesson we should learn from Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, and YouTube is: free does not beat nearly free + really convenient. (But actually free + really convenient would be a winning combination.)

User authentication needs to be brought into this century. This is coming both from libraries and vendors. My prediction: the 1990s assumption that all access is IP-authenticated will start to go away in the next 12 to 18 months for larger vendors; and I expect to see those vendors continue in that direction to do away with IP access entirely. The new model will be one of several options for an actual, functioning single sign-on using campus credentials.