Today several of us on the library staff were able to attend parts of the Library Journal/School Library Journal webinar on e-books and libraries. There were a lot of good statistics about current e-book usage in libraries, and lots of good ideas and lots of questions. But not many answers.
Many of the questions were questions that I’ve been thinking of myself: with the rise of e-books, what happens to people who can’t afford e-readers? What about the different formats of e-readers that don’t talk to each other? How can libraries incorporate e-books into their budgets and their collections? How is the advent of e-books going to affect the structure and existence of libraries? What about the long waiting lists for popular e-books at libraries, when the e-book medium is perceived by the public as being an instant one – instant gratification? How can libraries explain the need to wait on a list for a certain e-book title, even though that is the way it works for a popular, recently published print version of a book? And, more specifically for library staff, how to decide which titles to spend limited available funds on? And which e-book formats are worth investing in?
I had two favorite parts of this e-book summit: several speakers mentioned that libraries will need to change their focus from being solely book-based, and these speakers mentioned that libraries can pump up their programming (storytimes, book groups, etc.) in order to retain a wholly relevant place in the community. As a programming-ambitious children’s librarian, that’s a lot of what I do.
And the other favorite part for me of the webinar was M.T. Anderson’s closing address. It was very similar to the closing address that I heard him present at the children’s literature summer institute at Simmons this summer, but I was glad to hear it again. Anderson is an intelligent, wise speaker, and his talk on e-books is dense and packed with information and meaty thoughts to digest; a second hearing only helped my understanding. I won’t attempt to summarize his nearly one hour talk in a few sentences here, but I will say that I left both hearings of Anderson’s address feeling hopeful about the future for books and libraries and authors and literature. Change is nothing new, and change could bring great things to our culture. It could also bring unpleasantness, but despite Anderson’s balanced presentation (both hopeful and pessimistic), I came away feeling good about my career and my passion for books. A good way to end an enlightening day.