My participation so far suggests it will be a provocative, content-rich program offered in a new way, at a rock-bottom price—which is so important with the need for communication within the library profession so high and training/travel budgets so low. The proceedings will be recorded and available to registrants for a few months, so for the cost of a hardcover book, ($30 for individual, $60 for site access) libraries will get tons of information in a format they can refer back to after the event.
But … moving on to the unspeakable …
My job puts me at the heart of many information technology developments,1 though before receiving LJ’s summit invitation I hadn’t thought all that much about eBooks and libraries. (Perhaps it felt too much like work.) After researching and reflecting awhile, my conclusion is that libraries will not enjoy the same success with eBooks as they’ve had with print books; it’s an entirely different domain with entirely different dynamics.
Library Journal staff and our panel have done some advance work before the conference and it’s given me a taste of what it will feel like to deliver this assessment. So far it has felt really crappy. Had me totally bummed out the other day, in fact. I coped by reminding myself I could be wrong. I also slipped into resignation, thinking “whatever is going to happen will happen no matter what I say or do“. Sitting with these difficult feelings and observing the way my mind subconsciously sought consolation gave me empathy for all the people whose livelihoods and professional/social networks depend on the existing library ecosystem.
Our library dilemma is really, really hard for everyone carrying water, in whatever way we carry it. As my advocacy work has spread beyond my local area, I’ve been thinking more about my role in all this. Perhaps the water I carry is to voice things others cannot say. Perhaps it’s to articulate the many ways (here and here, for example) that libraries matter. It may also be to offer ideas and catalyze discussions about how our libraries can play as vital a role in this age of info abundance as they did in the years when information was scarce.
So yeah, I was a pretty gloomy patron last Friday. Fortunately, a good night’s sleep helped refresh my perspective and reorient me toward opportunties for our public libraries. Tomorrow I’ll offer another example of a 21st century library service the public needs and would support while Google, Amazon, Apple and other well-organized stakeholders duke it out in the eBook domain. Hope you check back for it.
1I’ve held various roles in the technology field since its widespread emergence in the late 1970s. For the past four years I’ve been employed as a technical project manager by a prominent publisher. Most of my time these days is spent as the PM and SysAdmin for a physician community website, though I’m also working on iPhone and iPad initiatives as well. The cool thing about my job is that I’m in the middle of everything from conception, to prototyping & implementation through to support. I work with product development, technologists, operations, marketing and sales, and the executives who demand tangible contributions to the mission and the margin. I also sometimes work directly with customers, which is really illuminating.