No Chicago hot dogs or deep dish pizza, but no standing in a long line with hundreds of people and trying to find a seat for the opening session when you do the Digital Experience version of the ALA Annual Conference. Banned books was the theme, with a number of dignitaries who spoke leading up to the keynote speaker, Judy Blume, who has been the object of book bans for decades. Carolyn and Lauren both attended, having read Blume’s books as youngsters. Blume lives in Key West, so events in Florida featured heavily in the interview. Also Dolly Parton was awarded an honorary membership in the ALA. She was praised for her Imagination Library and she sang the line “I will always love you” in a recorded acceptance speech. ALA’s Executive Director, Tracie Hall, partnered with Chicago Today on NBC to form a banned book club and the TV show hosts announced that NBC is taking the concept national. A good opening session makes you proud to be a librarian and this one did that well.

An interview with Grammy-winner and North Carolina Music Hall of Fame member Rhiannon Giddens acquainted us with her children’s books based on song lyrics: “Build A House” and “We Could Fly” (coming in November). Her activism, range in musical genres, and being an NC native living abroad, makes us think of her as the Nina Simone of our time. After a quick check with Alicia Lemar, she will order these titles in the new fiscal year for our Education outpost in Tribble.

Lauren’s other notes:

I heard a fresh perspective on familiar trends at Future of Digital Collection in a Post-Pandemic Public Library. The EUCLID public library system in Cuyahoga, Ohio went from 4% to 90% digital circulation after the pandemic started, which had a lasting impact, causing them to redirect funding to things like Hoopla and Overdrive. The panelist, Kacie Armstrong, Director, said foot traffic has not yet increased to where it was pre-Covid so they are staying on this trajectory. Cleveland Public also had an increase in digital circulation since the pandemic and they use ebooks and e-audio only through Overdrive, not Hoopla. (Last year our blog post noted that Hoopla was cited as a source containing controversial content such as disinformation about COVID-19. NC LIVE provides it.) 38% of circulation is digital but print circulation is rising. ​​Jené D. Brown, Division Librarian – Emerging Technologies & Collections said the Los Angeles Public Library also had increases in digital circulation and of the $19M collection budget in FY22, $12M went to digital collections. Alan Inouye, Senior Director, Public Policy & Government Relations of ALA says book-banning issues have eclipsed the issues of restrictions on use and inflation on ebooks of late. Wendy Bartlett, Collection Development and Acquisition Manager, Cuyahoga County Public Library gave a word of praise for HarperCollins working on adjusting pricing models to try to find something that works for libraries. She said in some genres of the collection where there is less print use, they are taking out shelving ranges and putting in computer desks instead. The trend towards digital raises a concern of a divide for people of color. One reason is that smaller, rural libraries may not have the funding to get into the digital arena. Another is that some people have phones where they cannot download the app to use ebooks. With streaming video, Brown doubts libraries can compete with consumer-directed services and Bartlett suggests that since we’ll never get Disney or Netflix, look for the niche things (as independent bookstores do) such as with Kanopy. DVDs still circulate, but it is getting hard to buy desired new content on DVDs. Panelists discussed how non-book collections (music and video) require more promotion. There was a plea for vendors to do better with metadata and authority control and a recommendation to get holdings for ebooks into OCLC Worldcat so that they are discovered in Google searches.

At the ALA Membership meeting it was good to hear that our association’s financial health has improved. Much of that was from grants and donations. Executive Director Tracie Hall underscored that membership needs to grow.

Linked open data (LOD) is still being pursued and progress is being made. In a Share-VDE update we had a demo of a beta site and a new identity editor tool, JCricket, that is expected to be complementary to existing tools such as Sinopia. The ontology being developed is downloadable now and is designed to work with Bibframe and RDA and can link to external sources such as VIAF too. The Share-VDE community is international, but of note, the Library of Congress, Duke, Vanderbilt, Penn and Cornell are participants. Participants get MARC records enriched with URIs. The tools and data are multilingual. A mockup showed how Penn expects to use Share-VDE alongside their main catalog and we saw a demo of how one can find specific topic ideas for a research paper based on the general assignment from the professor. (I can login to show anyone who wants to see.)

The Library of Congress update also covered progress with LOD and included a brief Share-VDE update in addition to others. Gloria Gonzalez from EBSCO explained how we’ve reached the point of library catalogs being visible via Google and went over BiblioGraph. She also showed a list of libraries moving to FOLIO, including the Library of Congress (this year, according to an online audience member). I did not know that EBSCO had purchased Zepheira which was one of the early Bibframe developer partners with the Library of Congress. (A press release from LoC says the system will be tailored for their needs:

Carolyn’s other notes:

This year’s Digital Experience included several sessions on the topics book challenges/banning, censorship, and misinformation/disinformation. The session Reconsideration Committee: Strengthening our Response to Customer Challenges featured two librarians from the Tulsa City County Library (TCCL) who spoke about their system’s Reconsideration Committee, whose purpose is to review challenged library materials and provide a response in writing to concerned patrons. Some of the points addressed in this session included:

  • All library staff should be trained on intellectual freedom. When confronted with a challenge, library employees need to remain neutral (i.e., no arguing, agreeing, or disagreeing).
  • Having a well written collection development policy that outlines the selection criteria used allows a library to best explain why an item meets or doesn’t meet the policy and its inclusion or exclusion from its collection.
  • Responses to challengers should come from a place of positivity and gratitude for their concern.
  • Consider using separate reconsideration forms for books and media.

TCCL’s Reconsideration Committee has 30 members (24 are library employees from all departments and locations and six are community members). All are required to attend training which is a 30-minute online class with voiceover and a brief ALA video explaining intellectual freedom. When a challenge is made, a review committee (i.e., Lead reviewer who has an MLIS, 2-3 staff members, and 1 community member) is formed and a review packet (i.e., challenged item, professional and mainstream reviews, holdings info of TCCL and WorldCat, circulation history, and a redacted consideration form) is distributed. Based on the reviews of each review committee member, the lead reviewer drafts a letter using a template which is then forwarded to the Systemwide Products Director for editing before mailing the letter to the concerned patron. While library employees may provide feedback for the library’s collection in terms of cataloging and age group appropriateness, they are not allowed to request a reconsideration of an item in the collection. The reason being they are working in a library that serves the entire community. When successive challenges to an individual title are made, the response letter is revised to address a patron’s specific concerns. Once a title has been reconsidered, there is a 3-year moratorium before it will be reconsidered.

Lessons and Tools on Well-Being for Your Library, from the New York Times featured 4 panelists who work on the Well Desk which provides coverage on health and wellness issues. Grounded in science and research, the evidence-based reporting and articles produced by the Well’s team of journalists and editors are written to inform readers in a clear and actionable way but also doesn’t promote undue fear or contribute to the suffering that exists in communities. Some interesting topics covered by, and tips received from the panelists included:

  • When a loved one is upset and you want to help them but not make things worse, ask them “Would you like to be helped, heard, or hugged?”
  • In the next few weeks there will be an article published on what happens when we give thanks for things in our life and how to be specific when expressing gratitude to others.
  • The Surgeon General’s advisory about loneliness — how do we combat loneliness and create meaningful connections and relationships in our lives.
  • Reader challenges have been successful (e.g., happiness challenge, walking challenge). Walking has many health benefits, and there are different kinds of walks one may take (e.g., adventure walk; workout walk; awe walk where one looks for small elements that can inspire one’s daily life).
  • Panelists brainstormed ideas on how topics covered by the Well Desk could potentially translate to real-life applications for libraries.
    • Gratitude circle – A safe space where individuals meet and can discuss what they’re grateful for on a regular basis. It could be empowering for some and build a habit.
    • Dedicated yoga practice at the library – the library as a site for accessible fitness.
    • Walking book club – the idea that moving forward makes ideas flow better – get a little exercise and discuss the book.
  • One LSU academic librarian spoke of their library partnering with Student Health to develop programming that addresses the loneliness issue being experienced by 18-22 year olds. How does one make friends when most of one’s friends are online? They are trying to get a Student Health hub in the library and have staff available to address student mental health crises.

Elizabeth Novosel, a University of Colorado at Boulder librarian, presented on Supporting Invisibly Disabled Students in the Library Classroom. Interesting points made in her talk included:

  • We all need to be sensitive to language concerning disability. Person First (person with a disability) or Identity First (disabled person). Which term is best? Invisible, hidden, or non-apparent disability.
  • 20% of students in higher education have a disability, but only 1/3 of them inform their college.
  • Recommendations for making instruction accessible to students in higher education included: using methods of universal design for learning which can be time consuming in class preparation; limiting content in instruction sessions; slow down when presenting and simplify – check in with students for comprehension; make class materials accessible.
  • Per a session attendee, an ALA Disability Round Table is in the process of being established.