Monday, March 07, 2011

What do publishers dislike more than libraries?

There was a meeting of Ohio's metropolitan library directors in Cleveland last Friday. Of course the state budget and SB 5 dominated our discussions. We also talked about the future of eBooks.

During our discussions we touched upon a recent Harvard workshop on a Digital Public Library of America.

I didn't attend that conference and from what I've been told there weren't any public librarians invited to speak. I understand that it was more academic in nature and didn't address in-the-trenches work of ensuring access to the most popular eBooks for the public library patrons. One critic described a plan for a national eBook library as successful as one for a national swimming pool.

One of the big take-a-ways from this meeting on Friday and a number of discussions I've had with others around the country recently is that publishers don't like libraries. They unfortunately don't see the added value we bring to promoting their authors and triggering traditional sales.

The eBook market doesn't guarantee a place for libraries, particularly in the exploding realm of best sellers and popular non-fiction. Some publishers still refuse to allow licensing of their works to public libraries. No sales. No licensing. No access.

I am certain Amazon, which finds itself at a competitive disadvantage in an eBook reader market where everyone else supports library lending, would rather see library licensing die.

There are places for national repositories of eBooks. Unfortunately, for the titles public library patron's desire the most, the publishing industry isn't convinced that to share its crown jewels is in its best interest. As long as the publishers think that libraries will bastardize retail sales, they will keep the door closed or demand onerous restrictions to access.

The idea of a national eBook library can take two forms. If it is just a collection of historical, out-of-copyright, free-to-the-world works, then the publishers can disregard it as a literary graveyard -- something to value and honor, but nothing spend their days thinking about. Researchers and genealogists will value it and high school students forced to read and analyze Herman Melville's "Bill Bud" will find it of use.

But if the idea of a national eBook library is one that contains free access to copyrighted materials, then this is the worst fear of the publishers. Q: What is the only thing that publishers dislike more than libraries? A: It is consortia of libraries. Their nightmare is that only one copy of a book is sold. A national consortium of all libraries can just keep lending its one copy to every library patron in the country.

Of course there are plenty of ways in which publishers can keep that from happening. The easiest way is for them to stop selling access to libraries. For public libraries, popular materials will get harder and harder and hard to obtain. Technological barriers still exist and are getting bigger for some public libraries are charged to serve. For every American with an iPad or a Kindle there are hundreds and hundreds who aren't even in the game. Some publishers are dropping physical formats (e.g. CD-ROM versions of audio-books are being replaced by downloadable only versions.) Physical CDs for and DVDs for video are expected to disappear sooner than they demise of the physical book. With eBooks we are already seeing a new form of digital divide.

In the past libraries have paid dearly for content. They must continue to do that in a digial world. Today there are millions of copies of recent best sellers and popular non-fiction that are sitting on shelves scattered around ten of thousands of public library branches in this country. Six months or a year ago these were in hot demand. They had read value then. Now they collect dust. Such is the inefficiency of the physical book. But for best sellers and popular non-fiction this is exactly what the publishing industry wants and needs.

This inefficient but time honored mechanism for the sale and distribution of physical books represent a significant revenue stream for publishers. But in a digital environment, that doesn't exist. They have their nightmare scenario. Advocating a national eBook library may only fuel that fear.

HarperCollins recently announced that it will limit licenses for eBooks to 26 downloads per copy. This is not very popular with most librarians who hoped to buy one copy of an eBook and then be able to lend it in perpetuity. But some form of revenue generation (and re-generation) has to emerge. The alternative is that we won't have access to eBooks at all.

We would still have access to a national eBooks library. Have you read "Billy Bud" recently?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Rage is not a solution to eBook market changes

Today's post at is a must read. As I shared with some friends yesterday, threats of boycotts and other reactions aren't going to help find solutions.

I cannot help but think how much of a game changer some of these recent developments may herald. It's not just the ereaders but the impact of a frictionless economy driven by the technology. Libraries haven't been seen as a competitor to local bookstores in the past because of scarcity and other limitations of time and space in the physical world. Bookstores offered volume and instant gratification and we've always had depth. I don't think that is true any more. As Amazon continues to kill the physical bookstore market, I am willing to bet they don’t see libraries at anything but direct competitors as we are both offering exhaustive title lists and strive to offer the most sought after titles on the day of first release.

This may launch to some pretty different market forces, some of which may not be kind to libraries or publishers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why librarians need to think hard about Spotify

Have you ever heard of Spotify? I think this service might be the harbinger of the death of music purchasing. Other articles I’ve read point to as THE company that has Apple’s iTunes people worried. Here is a good description of the service.!5502815/why-its-worth-getting-excited-for-spotifys-us-launch

I am curious as to what the library field thinks about this service (and others that may come along.) and the impact this might have on library collections of music.

Here is how I see things might evolve. With Spotify coming to the United State later this year, music listeners will be able to get free accounts to stream millions of free music tracks. With a few notable exceptions this will include all of the major labels. Listeners will be able to play and replay these tracks on demand as often as they like. This really distinguishes Spotify from other music streaming sites such as Pandora.

The service is free but the quality is inferior to purchased music on CDs or purchased on iTunes The record labels are reimbursed partly through advertising. But most of the company’s profits will come from premium subscriptions where paid subscribers get better sound quality. They can also download their tracks to their mobile devices and thus play music even when they are not connected to the Internet.

So how does this affect library service offerings? I may be old fashion but I have had problems with public funds being spent to give away free music using the Freegal model. It's nice to get free music. But there is no community resource. I could accomplish the same thing by purchashing iTunes gift cards and giving them away to my patrons. In fact, I think to do that might be cheaper than Freegal.

With my patrons able to access music from Spotify without any cost, I have a greater problem giving public funds to Freegal since the only difference seems to be the right to download and keep copy. The free Spotify accounts can only listen online, so access is more limited, but it certainly is hard to justify buying music for people to copy for free in today’s tight budget picture.

Some might argue that our traditional CDs are being taken home and copied by our patrons and we would be stepping away from this use of our collections. Well our patrons cannot do this legally. They can make copies of music they buy, but not music they borrow from the library. I am kind of relieved to know that I might be able to step away from abetting criminal behavior by abandoning the purchase of physical CDs.

Others may argue that Freegal and traditional library collections can be accessed ad free. True! But we don’t seem to have trouble offering periodic literature with ads ( a.k.a. magazines).

I am playing the devil’s advocate here. There are real differences in how we as libraries help our patrons bridge the digital divide, but if a growing majority of our patrons can access more music more easily with more functionality (e.g. playlists) than by use of library purchased music collection, we will see use of our collections drop.

My library’s community is not rich, but 60% of residents have access to broadband Internet service. When that saturation rate reaches 80% or 90% and other “in the cloud” music vendors are also giving away all of the world’s music for free how can we justify significant purchases of music for what may become a very small population.

We’ve heard pundits talk about how in the future we will see the demise of physical media. We know that it is coming. Spotify may be the fast track to that future.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Opening the eBook Market

It is fashionable to declared Digital Rights Management (DRM) dead. And maybe in the world of music it is. For eBooks in the library marketplace, however, DRM is alive and well. The book publishers who may be more conservative than the music industry in trying to protect their intellectual property are willing to stymie sales in electronic formats to maximize their sense of security.

In the ideal open-yet-market-driven eBook environment there won't be DRM, but regardless of whether DRM lives on, the closed vertically integrated world of eBooks sales to libraries presents a bigger problem; it is that environment that needs to change. For libraries to both offer electronic collections and maintain their role of building collections for the long term we need a layered environment where the purchase of materials is separated from the where those purchased materials are hosted. Further, library patrons deserve distinct choices for the programs and devices they use for readings.

eBooks buying

“Purchasing” eBooks may be overstating the actual relationship to the materials we select and offer our patrons. The concept that libraries buy-to-own eBooks is more conceptual than factual. We select titles; we pay different prices for titles that seem to have a relationship to the hardcopy price of the title. However, marketing materials and licenses agreements we sign don't give one that warm and fuzzy feeling. It might be better to refer to these as titles we have licensed access for our patrons.

Libraries spending upward and beyond $100,000 per year for these collections and the cumulative investment in eBooks and downloadable audio books with our vendors may only last as long as the vendor stays in business and as long as we are willing and able to pay the annual hosting fees of that vendor. With that being the case vendors are building a captive environment, making it difficult if not impossible for us to walk away from.

Libraries should be able to select eBook vendors in an open environment, separate from other considerations such as where those titles are hosted and how patrons might access them. In an open environment libraries might buy books directly from individual authors or publishers, but more likely from brokers such as Overdrive, B&T and Ebsco. Libraries should find these vendors competing for my business by offering low prices but also by offering better tools to aid in the acquisition, cataloging and management of digital content. We should be able to buy my eBooks from one or all of these sources.

The one title per simultaneous user model is something the publishers feel comfortable, particularly with the most popular titles. This model is a strong carry over from the hard copy world and may be difficult for publishers to deviate from when granting licenses. However, other options should be available. Similar to rental collections, licenses for selected copies of best sellers might be limited to only a six month period. They get loaned out just like those that are licensed indefinitely, but the library will pay marginally less to have access to them for just six months. Naturally the hosting servers will know when those copies expire and adjust the number of copies available to a library's patrons as the rental copies expire.

Hosting eBooks for posterity

In licensing books a library has the responsibility to ensure that for titles it selects it will ensure that appropriate restrictions (i.e. DRM) are in place. We currently rely on our vendors to provide the secure environment so to meet our licensing agreements with the IP owners. There is a real convenience to that. However libraries may have greater needs to take ownership of that responsibility. In a truly open environment libraries should be able to make choices of which vendor(s) are choose to host eBook titles and collections independent of which vendors from which I choose to buy content. With the library taking responsibility for copyright and license enforcement, the library also has flexibility:

  • The library chooses which vendor will host its e-content. This might be a locally managed host or it might be a host operated by a consortium of libraries. The library might also choose a single vendor to host their eBook collections. Overdrive, Ebsco, OCLC, B&T and maybe even Amazon or Google might compete to host my collection.
  • The library could elect to move that content from one vendor's server to another as it see fit in the best interest of its patrons as long as it operates within the original restrictions of the license agreement with the IP owner.
  • Most importantly, by taking ownership of the decision of where and how to host all of its eBooks, the library has a better chance of integrating the various collections it has chosen to license from individual authors, publishers and brokers. Currently eBooks from one vendor are intellectually organized in a completely different context from that of other vendors. With the mechanics of downloading of materials differ we are creating unacceptable confusion on the part of library users.

Freeing our patrons

For libraries to compete with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google and other eBook stores they must offer the best possible user experience to their patrons. We can help achieve this by offering the end user a level playing field when it comes to e-readers. Additionally libraries shouldn't be penalized for offering choices of formats for the same title.

Library patrons should have choices of eBook reader hardware and software. As users check out copies from the library the eBook server should automatically offer them the format they want. Libraries should never have to make a priori decisions to buy x number of copies in one format and x number of copies in another format from the same vendor. We had to do it with DVDs vs. videotape copies, and with large print vs. standard print copies, but with digital content this should not be necessary.

Within the server software the file format it produces would be decided upon request of the client hardware/software. As users check out a copy of a title, they (or their client hardware/software preferences) will select the format and an appropriate DRM for that device. It would be applied on the fly. Never again should a patron see an available copy encoded for a specific format sit on the electronic book shelf while all available copies for their device are checked out. The mix of formats checked out to patrons might change from day to day, but the hosting server would ensure the total copies on loan would not exceed what is licensed.

Library patrons shouldn't be forced to use just the client e-reader provided by the hosting service. In fact, as e-readers devices become more intelligent, users may have many different choices. Today ePub-formatted books hosted by Overdrive can be opened by Adobe's Digital Editions and by Overdrive's iOS and Android Media Console clients. But other client software exists. BlueFire is an example. Seeing such choices emerge is a step in the right direction, but currently it takes a pretty sophisticated user to elect alternative clients. Selecting a different client should be as simple as selecting from a dialog box. For instance, as long as the original licensing and DRM requirements are satisfied, then a patron could choose one client for daytime reading and another for nighttime reading – even on the same device.

New yet-to-be-developed public domain or commercial clients that integrate an e-reader with social networking features such as Facebook and Twitter updates might be the preferred client by some, while consistency with previously purchased eBooks might make it a better choice for other library patrons.

Moving Forward

The current vendors in the library eBook marketplace may cringe at some of the above suggestions. They may see profits erode as they are forced to compete more aggressively where they haven't had to before. However, these recommendations are not offered to drive them out of business. Publishers may have to charge more per title if libraries will never have to buy replacement copies. They may also have to pay more per title if they buy fewer copies because they doesn't have to buy different versions just to accommodate the odd eBook reader. Hosting fees may have to rise substantially if a library wants a vendor to host all of their eBooks not just the eBooks they buy from that vendor. Individual library patrons may actually want to pay for a superior e-reader client or it may choose to make due with a free or shareware reader. Certainly how various players make money may change but ultimately more eBooks will be purchased and more revenues and profits will ensue.

Libraries want book authors, publishers, and brokers to succeed. If they cannot make appropriate revenues libraries won't have an opportunity to offer eBooks to their patrons. Opening up each segment of this market to competition will foster better products, better support and a better user experience. Libraries will probably have to pay more, but their collections will be better integrated into their service model and libraries will have a longer more secure future for the collections they are investing in today.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The (not so) Big Lie

It has been easy for us librarians to talk about the increased relevance of public libraries today. We can talk with conviction about the work we are all doing to improve early literacy and kindergarten readiness. We’ve been major contributors to workforce development with our massive expenditures in public computing access and free classes. I share the pride.

“We have been busier than every. We’ve seen more than a 25% rise in use since our last levy…” was a part of our battle cry during last November’s levy campaign. And it is true that library visits, reference transactions, program attendance and other measures of output have risen substantially since 2004, but it has been circulation statistics that we cited during the campaign. Again, I share the pride – but with hesitancy.

Circulation counts, a key measure in rating and ranking systems such as HAPLR Index and even more so in the LJ Index, have been a strong factor in making management decisions over the past century of modern public library service. Our collection development staff uses them to decide how to allocated materials budgets and branch staffing decisions are often driven by how many items are borrowed by location. As a tool for seeking community and funding support, circulation is an easy measure to understand. It invokes warm and fuzzy feelings with images of a smiling young children assisted by helpful and professional staff.

In recent years our library implemented a more enlighten series of policies to ensure that we aren’t creating barriers to access. In particular we lowered overdue fine rates 90% for videos and eliminated them altogether for children’s books. We also increased the number of times someone could renew items. Circulation shot up dramatically, by nearly 10% in one year alone. Our rust-belt stained Midwestern economy certainly helped drive up circulation in the past year, but the most dramatic increases came before the recent recession.

The reason for my hesitancy to applaud with enthusiasm boasts of record increases by my library and my peer institution is because in the back of my mind I’ve increasingly seen these statistics as tainted. I worried that that the increases in circulation are driven too much by renewals. I have assumed that most of these increases in circulation are a measure of an increase in Internet savvy patrons taking advantage of our “renew all” button on our web site. I don’t take much pride in the fact much of our library’s increased circulation could be because it’s easier to click a web site button than dig under the car seat looking for that long finished audio book.

Counts from our IT staff confirm this. We have seen a 146% increase in online renewals by patrons. We are also beginning to see a drop in the number of staff assisted renewal that may be done on site or via a phone call. Last year staff assisted renewals dropped 8.3%.

These trends are great to see from a library efficiency perspective. As with our self-charge circulations which now exceed 90% at most of our branches, we are able to redirect library staff away from routine activities such as scanning barcodes to more meaningful contributions such as being in the stacks providing readers advisory services.

There are other benefits for these more lenient renewal policies. Certainly the number of patrons owing fines is probably less, thus reducing the number of expensive and often confrontational interactions at the circulation desk and satisfaction with library services is probably less.

I have no qualms about extending renewal limits. They allow us to have larger and thus more diverse collections than our shelf space provides. We have to weed less. However, these counts are increasing losing their value as measure of library success or staff effort. They may help with boasting rights and they help me get stars, but they mask the real gains that libraries have made.

It took some extra digging on my part to find out that we have been we have seen steady increases in first time circulation. No, it hasn’t been the 25.5% that you’ll find reported to the State Library, but we have seen a substantial 16.8% increase since our last levy. Still something to boast about, but more importantly these are numbers I don’t fee are tainted.

What I don’t know is whether those inflated circulation counts are consistent around all of our branches. Are the online renewal statistics disproportionately attributing activity to our suburban branches because they have a higher penetration of patrons with Internet access? Am I deploying resources to these locations at the expense of urban branches? I am certain I can get branch level counts of first time circulation but I have to admit that I just don’t know.

Library Journal asked its Star libraries to suggest what new measures should be used to improve the Index. I didn’t suggest any new class of statistics. I only ask that the existing measures be changed to better reflect what matters. Dropping renewal counts from circulation statistics is one change that would make me proud.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 27, 2008

The New LJ Index is a long time coming

I applaud LJ for taking on the New LJ Index project. Coming from a library that has often ranked quite high in the HAPLR Index you would think that I would be quite satisfied with a continuation of this index as a mechanism for peer comparison. However, I have always seen this input-dominant index as flawed. Even when the Dayton Metro Library ranked as high as 6th in its population group, I resisted the urge to breast beat.

The LJ article asks for what changes and new outcome measures are needed. The first step I would suggest is that existing measures be better defined or better methodologies be developed and mandated for collecting and reporting data. Two measures in particular come to mind: circulation (as separate from renews) and patron assistance counts. These are two bread and butter measures of output used by libraries, but my scanning the PLDS rankings on these measures in years past and speaking with library directors and staff at some of the top ranked libraries show that different library policies and practices skew the numbers substantially enough to make them ineffective for the task we would all like to assign them.

Recommendation 1: Libraries should only report first time circulation counts.
I can understand how renewal counts could be reported as supplementary information but renewal counts are becoming less significant in measuring library service. All ILS systems now can easily report first time circulation counts separately from renewals. The growing number of people who can renew their materials online has risen dramatically and now this form of renewal outstrips onsite renewals by a large margin. This is significant as online renewals require no staff assistance. My point is that differing policies on renewals have a bigger impact on circulation count than many other factors such as item limits and loan periods and could have a bigger impact than quality of collections and library hours of availability. Counting only first time circulations is a more accurate measure to use in any peer comparison.

Recommendation 2: Give up on distinguishing reference from other service transactions.
Distinctions between reference and directional transactions have always been subjective. Due to the way in which libraries count and report those transactions, they have proven to be an unreliable measure. Most state and national surveys instruct libraries to eliminate directional counts or at least report them separately, leaving the implied “professional reference assistance” as the outcome being reported. This doesn’t happen. There are such blurred lines between the various types of transactions. Is computer assistance in one category or the other? How about assistance in using self serves circulation computers? When does a query about where to find books on a topic stop being directional and starts being readers advisory? Since the qualitative aspects of distinguishing between these various types of transactions leave them unreliable, why don’t we just report all patron contacts?

Why do I suggest these two changes as a start? Recent experience at the Dayton Metro Library illustrates challenges LJ will face in coming up with a better way to measure library outputs.

The easiest way to increase circulation is to increase your renewal limits.
During the past year the Dayton Metro Library implemented a number of policy changes under an umbrella program labeled the “Urban Initiative”. In 2006 we had a record year of overall circulation but at the same time we saw circulation at most of our urban branches drop. An ad hoc task force brainstormed those causes and triaged them into those that we could impact and those we could not (e.g. the trend of declining urban populations). Twenty-one recommendations were approved by our Board of Trustees and during the past 18 months we have implemented most of those recommendations. Among the changes: reduced fine rates for videos from $1.00 per day to 10¢ per day; elimination of overdue fines for children’s materials; an amnesty on existing overdue fines; purchase of more urban literature; more spending on promotions; and more aggressive outreach to urban schools.

I have been pleased to see substantial successes. Circulation has risen by double digits system wide with a 14.9% YTD increase over 2007 as of May. Better yet urban branch library circulation has also risen by 19.1%. Pretty impressive for a declining population base!

However, I noticed that the systematic door counts didn’t mimic these increases. In recent years we installed electronic door counters in order to systematically and accurately measure this outcome. With those counters in place we have been able to document only a small increase in visitors. What would explain the differing trend lines?

Obviously we must be seeing a large number of items circulated per visit. Or are we? I looked at our circulation statistics another way and was surprised that a substantial percent of the increase in circulation was due to patrons exploiting another change that came about as a part of our urban initiative. One of the more subtle changes was to raise the number of times a patron can renew an item. If an item is not needed to fill a reserve a patron can now renew it up to five times. The previous maximum was two renewals.

Not only were we seeing a dramatic increase in renewals overall, we were seeing a substantially greater increase in renewals performed online. Looking back at recent months I found that when renewals are removed first-time borrowing increased system-wide only by 10.3%. That number is still impressive and more closely coincides with the more modest increases in door counts. However, our big jumps in renewals included a whopping 68% increase in online renewals. Online renewals explained most of the rest of the jump in our circulation. I only see online renewals increasing both as users become more connected and as libraries adopt fewer restrictions. First time circulation as the measure of output is a step toward a better measure.

Counting only reference transactions is like counting only those with right answers!
My recommendation about counting and reporting of reference transactions is driven by the inherently subjective and inaccurate methodologies used to create these counts. We recently changed our internal reporting practices in order to improve the usefulness of the data. However we found that the subjective nature of the categories and the sampling procedures we employed did not solve the inherent unreliability of the counts.

The Dayton Metro Library recently began counting our patron assistance transactions differently, using more categories that better illustrate the kinds of staff skills assistance needed by our patrons. These categories distinguish between assistance in using equipment such as computers and copies separately from questions and help with library services such as how to book a meeting room.

After a few cycles of collecting this data, we saw that the grand total of all kinds of assistance was consistent with what we have reported using the old categories. This spring we had a 5% increase in patron assistance transactions (including traditional reference and directional questions). That corresponded with the 10.0% increase in first time circulation we have experienced during the past year.

Unfortunately we also saw unexplainable differences by location. We had branches that were increasing their circulation dramatically but their patron assistance counts were down by as much as 50%. Other locations reported more than a 60% increase in assistance transactions but only a slight increase in circulation. None of these can be seen as consistent with other output measures for these locations such as door counts. Looking back over prior years, we saw these same inconsistencies. It leaves me with little faith in these numbers. Even the distribution of the six types of transactions within a particular location defies explanation. It convinces me that our staff is having troubles consistently counting these transactions. Imagine how inconsistent the counts are between libraries?

I don’t admit this lack of faith in our numbers as a criticism my public service staff. They have been asked to measure a complex task with a flawed measuring stick. We not only have a very subjective way of categorizing our transactions, we reinforce those inaccuracies by the methodology we use to sample and project this outcome.

We count our patron assistance activities during two weeks per year, one in the fall and the second in the spring. I suspect that most other libraries do something similar. Some of the inconsistent results may be due to the differences in school schedules, weather, and other external factors. But you have to suspect that staff moods, management promotion, and other internal factors have a bigger impact. I also suspect that this flawed sampling strategy is adopted by libraries because it is too burdensome to do throughout the year and because they also have so little faith in the numbers. It isn’t worth the bother.

Don’t mistake my comments as a lack of appreciation of the work of our public service staff in aiding our users. We recently asked in a survey what our patrons think of our facilities. Over half of the free text comments we received weren’t about the buildings; users took the opportunity to tell us they just loved our helpful, courteous and knowledgeable staff. These staff members deserve a better means of measuring this aspect of their work. Until that better mechanism is devised and until it is used consistently across the country, we should at least minimize the subjectivity and inaccuracy we introduce with arbitrary divisions between reference and directional and only report the total number of contacts we have with our patrons. It is a start.

I’ve focused on two of the most predominately used counts of library outputs. Both are flawed and can be improved. Certainly more discipline in defining all of our outcome measures is needed. We also need to reject flawed sampling strategies if we are to establish reliable output measures.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Libraries in the self-publishing millenium

I don't know how many of my fellow librarians have read OCLC’s most recent report on the Library "brand" and it is perceived by the general public:
Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources (2005)

In a sentence, libraries are seen as primarily a source for books; that the content we have is not really any better than what they can get from the open Internet and since libraries are generally seen as difficult to use and not readily accessible most users are satified with what they find through Google search.

Each of us can respond, "That's not my library and those aren't my patrons."

Well, it is all of our libraries and all of our patrons to a certain degree.

The message of this study intersects with another trend that isn't directly discussed in the report but will increasingly challenge libraries. I am speaking of how libraries have had a nearly complete focus and dependence on published content at a time when user-produced content is exploding. I am not talking about just book publishers, but other media as well. Magazine, journals, reference databases, video and music are also being challenged by blogs, wikis, and popular media content sites such as It is not just newspapers that are scared; it is the broadcast and cable networks and all forms of media libraries have aligned themselves with for decades. When published content was the only game in town, the roles and boundaries of libraries were well defined and secure. Our future roles and opportunities to add value in this new environment are much less clear.

Wired Magazine has an interesting article on crowdsourcing in its last issue. Crowdsourcing is a phenomenon where content is getting cheaper but more importantly it is generated on demand because of the increasing ease to directly connect to masses of individuals as content producers; bypassing the traditional publishers of content. If there is a message in the OCLC perceptions study and this Wired Magazine article, people are increasingly willing and increasingly able to find the information that satisfies their perceived needs through content that is not reviewed, selected, purchased, stored, recommended or used by libraries and librarians.

We are letting our traditions and biases limit us. Here is a clear case in point. OPLIN: The Ohio Public Library Information Network and the largest thirty or so public libraries in Ohio have been trying to buy statewide licenses for content from the usual suspects in the publishing world. World Book online is a popular title that many of us buy in print and online. We add it to our catalogs and our federated search tools. But we don't offer the same access to, now the most popular reference site on the Internet. Few libraries promote it and I suspect many many librarians don't use it.

Clearly our bias is aimed at what we perceive as "authoritative" content and librarians find comfort in what is being created by the traditonal publishers as these traditionally published materials are far easier to evaluate for accuracy, timeliness and other criteria we teach in our library instruction classes and which we use in pruchasing mateirals.

But where will our comfort come from when the majority of mateirals no longer come from traditional publishers?