ALA Annual 2023: yet another trip to Chicago without an attached visit to my hometown of Decatur, IL. Next time I swear I am going to stay an extra couple of days and rent a car. It’s been several years, which is too long, even if Decatur is what it is

At “Finding a New Normal: Library Policies and Practices,” librarian-panelists from multiple countries described their libraries’ pandemic experiences and subsequent transitions to a post-pandemic existence. Catherine Barnes from the University of South Australia described the dilemma of having library workers who couldn’t get to the building because state borders had closed, bisecting a town and separating workers from the physical building. Remote work it is! Similarly, libraries in the Philippines had to navigate a hodgepodge of policies across many, many islands.

At “40+ Sure-Fire Ways to Spark a Love of Reading,” Shannon Anderson, children’s book author and teacher, talked about how important libraries were to her growing up, and how important they remain to her now as an educator. She categorized kids into three groups as readers: 1) I love reading!, 2) Reading is boring, and 3) Reading is too hard. My older daughter, 8, is the first; my younger daughter, 6, might be the second. She is scientifically minded. At Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago, my mother-in-law heard her tell her older sister that she was giving up fiction. That’s fine, I guess, but good luck dodging Animal Farm.

Steve has already written about the session “Metadata Rights of Libraries: A Panel Discussion,” in which librarians and a lawyer discussed OCLC’s claim of copyright over “its” metadata. I’ll briefly add that Amanda Sprochi, who was a panelist and teaches cataloging at the University of Missouri, said “There is no cheating in my class;” if you can find the metadata elsewhere, by all means, use it. This sums up the longstanding cataloger/library ethos of sharing metadata freely, and explains how fundamentally off-base OCLC’s claims felt to many (all?) people.

Two librarians from Arkansas State University, April Sheppard and Wendy Crist, discussed DEI issues at “Thinking Outside of Your Positionalities: Centering Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Your Library.” They made many interesting points: studies have shown that people who openly express bias have less trouble overcoming it than those for whom it is subconscious; by the time the program began, bias had probably already happened in the room; the brain ignores evidence that contradicts preconceived notions. Sheppard also talked about negativity bias, in which we tend to focus on the negative over the positive. This is a problem I have, one I am constantly trying to work on. Crist talked about “auditing our virtual spaces” for accessibility. She highlighted the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, which can be used freely to assess visual accessibility of websites. ESPN fares poorly; LOC’s catalog fares much better.

Finally, at the best session at the conference, organized by me (and the Core Acquisitions Committee, which I chaired), librarians from three institutions discussed current issues in e-resource licensing. “Challenges and Solutions in E-Resource Licensing” was our title. Attendance was great considering our late Monday morning time slot, as we counted around 70 people in a room that held 100; I was afraid everybody would have already skipped town, as indeed many of us did right after our session. Lisa Sallee from Ocean State Libraries (Rhode Island) spoke expertly about the challenges of providing effective ebook access in a public library context. Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe from the University of Illinois (my alma mater) discussed the need for libraries to push for patron privacy provisions in e-resource licenses, limiting how user data can be used, sold, etc by vendors. There’s a white paper about this. Alice Daugherty from the University of Alabama gave an overview of the importance of licensing and mentioned some common problematic clauses. (For some reason I seem to have listed those presentations in reverse order.) I appreciated our speakers’ participation, as well as that of our committee members. Since then I have rolled off into the sunset.