hail and farewell

FriendFeed, my primary social network, is going away in a few short days — not because of an argument or a lack of interest or a complete meltdown, but simply because Facebook, which owns FriendFeed, has decided not to keep it going. I’ve gotten to know many fine people through FriendFeed, and while I’ll find them elsewhere, it won’t be the same. And the Library Society of the World, though it will doubtless also find another place to meet, won’t be the same either. Joe asked us what we’d learned, and since that thread will vanish in a few days, too, I’m going to repost my answer here:

Before I became a librarian or ever thought of it, I was an activist. I organized and demonstrated and got arrested and generally worked my tail off to try to change the world and make people’s lives better — sometimes those of my colleagues; sometimes those of people I’d never met. When I started working in libraries, I felt I lost a lot of that. I still believed in the work, but, like most of us, I was caught up by and stymied in the bureaucracy and politics that are the reality of most institutions, especially large, slow moving ships of state like libraries. The LSW gave me back what I’d been missing — purpose, immediacy, common cause with people who were smart and scrappy and passionate — people who did stuff. FriendFeed, as a social network, was just like the LSW — small, often overlooked, sometimes prone to crashing, and yet fast and collaborative. Suddenly we had the people and the place, and we were on fire — raising money for the Louisville Free Public Library after it flooded, taking down Clinical Reader, planning unconferences with people we’d never met, fighting for the good and making lifelong friends. That’s what this place and you people have given me — or given back to me. I’m eternally grateful.

And then, because I’m always looking for this quotation when discussing the LSW, or any movement I’ve been a part of that I’ve loved, I’ll add this, from Michael Rossman’s The Wedding Within the War:

We conducted a long struggle, assuming responsibilities we should not have been made to assume, heartbreakingly alone until the end, taking time out from our studies and our lives to do a job that should not have needed to be done. And we comported ourselves with dignity and grace, on the whole unexpectedly so, and with good hearts and trust and kindness for each other.

Confronting an institution apparently and frustratingly designed to depersonalize and block communication, neither humane nor graceful nor responsive, we found flowering in ourselves the presence whose absence we were at heart protesting.

why I’m with #teamharpy

I do not know Lisa Rabey or nina de jesus. I don’t know Joe Murphy, either, although I was on an elevator with him at the Computers in Libraries conference in 2009, but we did not speak. I am therefore, I suppose, utterly qualified (as a relative outsider) or not remotely qualified (being out of the loop as I am) to talk about Team Harpy. But I’m going to talk about it anyway, because it’s important.

Meredith already wrote up a nice summation of the reasons one might want to support Team Harpy and the reasons one might feel a bit edgy doing so. I’ve had some online conversations — or listened to some, to be more accurate — about that edginess. That feeling that while it was dumb for Murphy to sue these women, it was also ill-advised for them to make accusations that seem based not on first-hand experience. I’ve heard people wonder if Rabey and de jesus are the best witnesses, or the most reliable, or, you know, even good.

I don’t know them, and, until this started going down, I’d never read either of their blogs or followed them on Twitter or really even heard of them (as I said, I’m a bit out of the loop these days). But here’s what I do know: to quote another person I never thought I’d quote, you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want.

We know that harassment at conferences is a problem. We know that. Sarah Houghton has written about it at length. We’ve got codes of conduct for conferences (and, rather astoundingly, controversies around them, as you can see in the comments here). We know this. What we have to do is fight it.

Before I became a librarian, I spent a long, long time being an activist. If you’ve spent any time trying to change the world, you know that trying to change the world is a lot like living in the world. Some people are brilliant, most of us are ordinary, and some people are kind of odd ducks. I got arrested with one guy who later got a Fulbright and one guy who dropped out of college shortly thereafter. Some of the people who fought the Vietnam War went on to win elected office. Some of them tried to levitate the Pentagon. Some of them went nuts. Some of the people who fought for universal suffrage were against abortion rights. Some of the women who fought for women’s rights were worried about having lesbians in the movement. These aren’t admirable qualities, but they’re true, because the people who fought these fights were human. Some people decided they’d rather not fight with humans, only with saints. Saints are in short supply, so they sat the fights out.

I am not putting Lisa Rabey or nina de jesus in any of these categories — as I said at the beginning of this, I don’t know them. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter. They are the ones who stepped up to fight this thing. We who care about it owe them our support. And if I go down, that’s the side I want to go down on — the side of the people who did things, human, foibled, flawed — but the ones who fought.

fighting surveillance @ your library

My friend and Radical Reference colleague Melissa just published a great article about how your local library can help you resist the surveillance state. You should go read it!

And then, since several people who have read it have asked me about it, here’s the privacy brochure I made for my library. Please feel free to steal, adapt, or otherwise use it to help explain library policy to your patrons. (And here it is as a Publisher file, if you’d like to be able to edit it.)

an open letter to the Edwin Mellen Press

I should have written this a long time ago. My delay comes not from hesitation or indecision but from illness, and for that, I apologize. My thoughts may be late in coming, but they are no less sincere.

I am a librarian. My father, John M. Crossett, was a Classics professor. He was also, albeit not until after he died, an Edwin Mellen Press author. The Press published the Festschrift his former students and colleagues compiled in his honor and later the translation and commentary of Longinus’s On the Sublime that he did with James A. Arieti. Although I have been in touch with many of the people involved in both publications, the words and opinions here are my own.

Dale Askey is also a librarian. Several years ago, he published a blog post critical of the quality of the scholarship and books put out by Edwin Mellen Press. The blog post has since been removed, but Edwin Mellen Press sued both Askey and his current employer. Mellen has now dropped at least one of those lawsuits, citing, among other things, “social media pressure,” and, among others, that it is “a small company” and “must choose its resources on its business and its authors.”

I signed a petition asking Mellen to drop the lawsuit.

I know, at least by name and reputation, many of the people involved in the social media pressure, although I also know there are many more.

Librarians, like many professionals, are often quick to spring to the defense of one of their own, and we have done so in this case — the case of a man in trouble for having an opinion.

My father was a man of many opinions. Many of those opinions made him unpopular in the times and places that he taught. But his ideas — in the form of those who did admire him — found a home at Edwin Mellen, and I am grateful to the Press for that. My copy of Hamartia, inscribed by its editors to me, is one of my most cherished possessions.

There are few things my father and I would have agreed on (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, gay marriage, abortion, and the Western canon spring immediately to mind as points of divergence). But I believe that he would agree with me on this one thing: a lawsuit is no way to respond to criticism. The proper response in a scholarly community to a disagreement is not to sue to but to argue. Make your case. Support your argument with examples from the text, from critics, from experts, from data.

John Milton, one of my father’s favorites, one of mine, and, I daresay, one of yours wrote

For Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous Dragons teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. And yet on the other hand, unlesse warinesse be us’d, as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, Gods Image; but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the Earth; but a good Booke is the pretious life-blood of a master spirit, imbalm’d and treasur’d up on purpose to a life beyond life.

Mellen has made a promise to keep all its books in print, and it has done so, thus preserving some life-blood that is quite precious to me, but I am just me. The quality of Mellen’s books as a whole, their place in libraries, and their contributions to scholarly discourse I leave for others to judge — I am a public librarian, not an academic. But as I judge books by their contents, I judge men and women by their characters. Dale Askey had the courage to voice an opinion. Edwin Mellen Press, on the other hand — you had the cowardice to try to shut that down. You believe Dale Askey tried to kill a good book, but he did not. He burned nothing; he destroyed nothing. You, on the other hand, are attempting to kill off the voice of a man. No one who claims to work in the tradition Milton defended, no one who “remains resolute that all have the right to free speech,” has any right to shut down a disagreement with a lawsuit — not, at least, if they wish to be found to be of good character.

Publishers Still Hate You, But They Want to Look Nice

I’m really glad that Simon & Schuster has agreed to make “an exception to their current national eBook sales policy for libraries” for my humble little state so we can have ebooks of the selection for this coming year’s statewide reading program.

I’m a lot less glad that there’s a policy Simon & Schuster needs to make an exception to at all. As American Library Association President Maureen Sullivan put it, “It’s a rare thing in a free market when a customer is refused the ability to buy a company’s product and is told its money is ‘no good here.'”

The Iowa librarians who persuaded Simon & Schuster to make this exception had, apparently, quite a bit of persuading to do:

Simpson and Martin provided answers to a series of questions asked by S&S such as the history of the AIR [All Iowa Reads] program (now in its 11th year), how many Iowans read the AIR selection, how many copies are sold, names of past AIR titles, circulation numbers. “We gave the data we have,” said Martin. “While we don’t know the exact number of circulations of our selections, we do know that Iowa libraries own a total of 300 to 400 copies of each of the previous AIR titles.”

The rest of the press release from the Iowa Center for the Book has a similarly librarianly, conciliatory tone. I don’t feel conciliatory. My gratitude toward Simon & Schuster is real, but it is neither wide nor deep. It shouldn’t be necessary to supply data to a publishing company to demonstrate that libraries buy books and patrons read them. We’ve been buying books from publishers for centuries now. It shouldn’t be necessary to beg, as a publicly-funded institution, to buy something that is freely available on the open market. Publishers ought to care about readers all the time, not just when someone begs them to make an exception.

I’m a librarian, and, as one of my library school professors said, librarianship is not a refuge. I’m a fighter, not a begger. Who’s with me?

some kinds of help

I read The Help a few years ago. I’d like to say I purchased it for the library because I knew it was going to be big, but I suspect it had more to do with my interest in reading about the Civil Rights era and wondering how a southern white woman would handle the topic. I haven’t seen the movie and probably won’t — I rarely see movies at all, and I tend to stay far, far away from anything the entire rest of the world is talking about (and oh, how our patrons are talking about it).

I have, however, been reading with great interest the reviews of the movie that my friend Cecily has been posting, because they both confirm what I thought — that this is a movie designed in large part to allow white people to feel good about themselves — but also add to my understanding of the vast gaps in my understanding of race and what it means and how it feels.

Any time I’m at a conference or something that offers a diversity workshop or session or training, I go. I don’t do this to get accolades (oh, who am I kidding? I always want accolades — I don’t know any white person who doesn’t want to be cool like that) — but I do it also because I’m endlessly fascinated by the ways in which we fail to perceive the experience of others and how that failure has consequences for so many people.

Yesterday in the mystery book discussion group I run here at the library, we were talking about Tom Franklin’s book Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. It’s about a white boy and a black boy who are secretly friends for a brief time as teenagers and who then grow up — the black man to be a local baseball star turned town constable; the white man to be a recluse whom everyone suspects of murder. Of course everyone talked about how it’s so unexpected to have those roles reversed. Sigh. Sigh that we think of them as “roles,” sigh that we so automatically have an idea of who should be cast in which part, sigh that we think our noticing that we have that expectation means we are enlightened people.

And everyone wanted to talk about The Help, which almost everyone had read and everyone was planning to see. Everyone who had read it liked it — hell, I liked it well enough — it’s a good story, it’s got likeable characters and some that you just love to hate, and, as I mentioned, if you’re white, it’s exactly the sort of book that lets you feel really good about yourself. So when someone asked what I thought, that’s what I said. That it was a story that worried me a bit because it was too easy to dismiss as a story. That it’s like the narrative of the Civil Rights Movement that says “Rosa Parks wouldn’t give up her seat and Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and now everything is better!” That it was a little sad that in 2011, we were all going to see black actresses play domestic workers.

And that got us into a bit of a discussion of current problems — of the cabdriver someone had who said no, he couldn’t make a right on red, of the coworker someone else had who wasn’t allowed in a gated community. At moments like these I always wish I had an endless supply of copies of Peggy Macintosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, and then I think what a total snob I am for thinking that I’m doing a better job at humanity just because I’ve read the thing so many times.

I love to read about the Civil Rights era because it was so complicated. It’s like the line in Matthew about “I come not to bring peace but a sword.” Some days I’m all about Gandhian nonviolence and some days I’m down with by any means necessary. Some days I get furious at the black kids in SNCC for kicking the white kids out, and some days I think it was completely necessary. And I think about how Dr. King’s dream was Malcolm X’s experience when he went to Mecca, but how pretty much none of us live in that world most of the time. And then I read and think some more, and some more, and try to live my days with grace.

my take on the swartz situation

I’ve been responding here and there on FriendFeed with my thoughts on the whole Aaron Swartz situation, but I’ve got enough of them that they merit their own blog post.

As I’ve noted before, I am not a lawyer, and I have no thoughts whatsoever on the probably legality or illegality of what Swartz has been accused of doing. And as Nancy Sims has clearly documented, his legal case is not a copyright case — and I am in no sense a copyright expert.

But the Swartz case fascinates me nonetheless, because it is puzzling and because it poses huge, potentially revolutionary questions about scholarship, ownership, and access.

But let’s start with the puzzling:

  • Aaron Swartz is a fellow at Harvard and thus presumably has access to JSTOR there. He decided, however, to do his data scraping via guest access at MIT.
  • JSTOR does allow for special use cases if you need to get a whole bunch of stuff, but he did not ask them about this project. (I’m unclear on whether their special use would extend to 4 million articles, of course.)
  • The prosecution claims that Swartz was going to release these 4 million articles publicly, but there’s no evidence of that. Swartz has done big data-mining things for scholarly articles before, but there’s no evidence that he was or was not going to do something similar with these articles.
  • Swartz himself hasn’t released any statements about his intentions.

So, puzzling indeed.

Then there are the possibly revolutionary questions that I, at least, think his action raises — or makes more visible. These questions have been around for years, and, as Barbara Fister notes, librarians have done just about everything but set themselves on fire in an attempt to get other people to notice.

  • For whom is scholarship intended?
  • Who owns — or more properly, who should own — scholarship?
  • What constitutes fair and reasonable access to scholarship, and how does the computer age change that?

I’ll continue to follow Swartz’s case because, hey, I love a good internet scandal. But what I really hope will happen as a result it is that more people will focus on those questions — and that more things will change.

oh, you mean organizing skills!: activism as management metaphor

Long before I ever imagined becoming a librarian, I was an activist, and being an activist, as it turns out, has taught me how to be a librarian — or more precisely, perhaps, how to be a manager librarian.

Like many people, I had to take a required management class in library school. I loathed this class. I loathed it from day one, when the adjunct professor started talking about Dilbert and reading Peter Drucker to us. I did not go into librarianship in order to make a profit. I did not go into librarianship in order to talk about Who Moved My Cheese?. I did not go into librarianship in order to bandy about terms like “human resources.” (I quote the great Utah Phillips: “You’re about to be told one more time that you are America’s most valuable natural resource. Don’t ever let anyone call you a valuable natural resource? Have you seen what they do to valuable natural resources in this country? Have you seen a strip mine? Have you seen a clearcut in the forest? Have you seen a polluted river?”)

They stuff they teach in management courses doesn’t resonate with me. It makes me ill. And I’m guessing I’m not alone. I think a lot of us went into librarianship because we didn’t want to participate in the market economy (and then, of course, we discovered database licensing and realized we were screwed on that point, but that’s another matter for another time). We may have made our peace with the fact that we do have to buy and process things in order to share them with our communities, but damned if we’re going to start saying utilize for use or making everyone read Good to Great or idolizing the Starbucks corporate model.

I talk about the reader’s advisory approach to life a lot (to the point that I was sure I’d written a blog post about it, but apparently I haven’t). If you do any reader’s advisory, you know that the first premise is that “x is a great book!” is a very unhelpful way to help people figure out what to read next. You have to figure out what they’re looking for in a book, what appeals to them, and try to find things that line up with that. It’s a refreshing approach to literature if you’re coming out of academia (and particularly out of a writing program). I try, then, to extend that idea as much as possible to the rest of life. If one set of metaphors doesn’t work for me, or one activity, can I find something that will?

And that’s when I hit on it: every skill I needed as a library manager was something that I’d actually learned as an activist and organizer.

I attended my first political meeting at age fourteen, in August of 1990. Saddam Hussein had invaded a country called Kuwait, which I’d known until then only as one of those tiny places in the Middle East — a place the New York Times described as “a family-owned oil company with a flag.” The United States was pondering intervention, and I was opposed to the idea, so when my friend called and said there was a meeting about it at the university that night, and did I want to go, I said sure.

In high school I protested a war, I helped defend an abortion clinic, I marched against the Ku Klux Klan. I wrote letters to editors and Congressmen. I sat at tables and sold buttons, and I stood on street corners and handed out leaflets. I worked as a marshal at marches, wearing a white armband and walking along the edge of the crowd to help keep things moving and to help prevent fights with hecklers. I went to lectures and read newspaper articles. I watched the vote to authorize the use of force in the Gulf on my friend’s television on January 15, 1991, and I listened to Neal Conan reporting about the start of the ground war on my Walkman while at a meeting at Schaeffer Hall a month later. And I went to a lot of meetings.

I went to tiny meetings like that first one, eight or so people in a room trying to take an amorphous idea, a feeling, and turn it into a movement with a name and a purpose. I went to bigger meetings where we argued about points of unity. I went to meetings where we made signs (the cement floor of North Hall, the sound of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and  the scent of permanent markers will be forever wedded in my memory). I went to meetings where we planned teach-ins and meetings where we planned actions.

I’m 35 years old now, and off and on for twenty years I’ve been spending part of my time this way — as an antiwar activist and later as an anti-sweatshop and labor rights activist. That activism has taught me skills — how to plan an event, how to write a press release, how to engage people, how to speak in public, how to listen to people and how to talk to them — and it’s given me lifelong friends, and it has, perhaps more than anything I’ve ever done, made me who I am.

There are, I suppose, other ways to learn to deal with disappointment and rejection and failure. There are other ways to learn to find your voice, other ways to learn to wade through bureaucracy (getting money into and out of the UI Students Against Sweatshops student business office account at the University makes any budget cycle irregularity I have dealt with since seem simple), other ways to figure out how to inspire people to join a cause or to work together. But I learned all these things — all of which are crucial to my day-to-day work — not from any management guru, but from my comrades.

When I hear people talking about leadership and project management and teamwork, I often think I have no clue what they mean, and that these are skills I totally lack. Then I start to think about it, and I realize oh no, I do know. They mean organizing. And that? That I do know how to do.

So when people ask for my favorite management book, I say Rules for Radicals. When they want to know where I look for examples and inspiration, I say the Civil Rights Movement (and I mean the real stories, not just the Rosa Parks sat on a bus and Martin Luther King had a dream and now everything’s hunky-dory version — read the accounts of organizing the Montgomery bus boycott, and you’ll learn a lot about working with other people).

accompaniment in the library

One of the first things I learned in library school (despite my sometimes disparaging comments about the general state of library education, I did learn some things there) is what I now think of as the IANALIANADIANAA disclaimer. I Am Not A Doctor I Am Not A Lawyer I Am Not An Accountant. If you work in a public library, you know the drill: I can help you print off a list of workers comp attorneys in the area, but I can’t give you any advice about your workers compensation case. I can help you search MedlinePlus, but I can’t give you a diagnosis or advice about your prescriptions. I can show you where the tax forms are, and I can even print more off for you, but I can’t do your taxes.

Those are all easy enough: my legal knowledge is close to nonexistent; my knowledge of medical conditions, despite being the daughter of a doctor, is limited solely to psychiatric disorders; and I have a computer program do my taxes.

But often I get questions at the desk that are looking for other kinds of advice, and these are harder to interpret.

At my first-ever library job, I worked regularly at the children’s desk. I got a lot of questions from adults, though, perhaps because the actual reference desk at that library was a fortress-like monstrosity with staplers and scissors chained to it, or perhaps because I was closest to the copy machine. One evening a young woman came in with a paper she was writing, wondering if I could proofread it.

I was fairly certain that this was outside the bounds of “other duties as described,” and that I was in fact supposed to tell her that I could not do that for her. But it was a quiet night in the library, and it was a short paper, just a page long, and I used to teach freshman composition. I said okay. I did a quick job, fixing just proofreading stuff, since that was what she had asked for, but she clearly needed more help. I asked what school she went to. It was a community college nearby, so while she went to use the computer, I did a little sleuthing. Sure enough, they had what sounded to me like a writing center. I jotted down the information, and before the patron left, I gave it to her, suggesting she stop by or give them a call. She thanked me.

Then I emailed the contact person I found listed on the page for the center, just to let him know I’d sent someone there, and hoping that it was the right place. He wrote back the next day, and I still remember his words. “It breaks my heart that students don’t know about the center.” I told him I’d do my best to spread the word.

Over the years as a librarian I’ve gotten a lot of questions from patrons that hover on the boundary between providing library reference services and providing advice. I’m not, I suppose, supposed to tell people that their resume would look better if they formatted it differently, or that yeah, it does sound as though the situation with their landlord does sound like a case for the tenant-landlord association. And I don’t go right out and tell them these things, or walk around looking for those situations. But I can’t claim never to have answered such a question.

The other night I went to hear a talk by the historian Staughton Lynd. He spoke about the organizing mistakes of SNCC and of SDS‘s ERAP project*, and about the philosophy of accompaniment. He realized, he said, that after he got his law degree and went to work with steelworkers and later prisoners, that he suddenly had skills to offer to a fight that belonged to both of them, not just some amorphous idea of how he wanted to help people and do good. And he talked about something his wife Alice said at the time, when she was doing draft counseling: “The meeting between the draft counselor and the draft counselee is a meeting between two experts.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more perfect definition of library work, and I got to tell Alice Lynd that after the talk.

In her case, she was the one who knew all about draft boards and regulations and the requirements for being a conscientious objector, but the draft counselee was the one who was an expert on his own life, on what it would mean for him if he had to go to war, on what it would mean for his family and his own conscience.

I am an expert on searching databases and using basic computer programs. I am an expert on circulation policies. But the patrons are the experts on their own lives — on their job searches, on their quests for knowledge, on the books that got taken with a non-custodial parent after a divorce, on the experience of having a relative or friend in the prison system whom they’re trying to locate.

I always tell people that I went into librarianship on the theory that at least it would do no harm, and that’s true, but that’s not all of it. I went into librarianship because I have the skills for it, and because, as it turns out, those are useful skills. They’re skills that allow me, even for just the few moments of a reference transaction, to encounter another expert, and to work together with her. I am, daily, humbled by that experience, and I hope I always will be.

*Remind me some day in my copious spare time to contribute to some of these Wikipedia articles.

hearts and minds and ebooks

Like just about everyone else in libraryland in the past few weeks, I’ve become immersed in the HarperCollins ebook expiration outrage known on the internet as #hcod. (That stands for HarperCollins Overdrive, but of course we in the Library Society of the World like to think that the Cod of Ethics is in there too. The Cod of Ethics disapproves, by the way.) (For those not in the know, HarperCollins announced a couple of weeks ago that starting March 7, all ebooks published by HarperCollins purchased through Overdrive — one of the main vendors of ebooks to libraries — would vanish after the 26th checkout, and libraries would have to repurchase them.)

We’ve had all kinds of reactions here. We’ve had sputtering outrage. We’ve had manifestos. We’ve had videos. We’ve had graphics. We’ve had long posts about the nature of print and digital materials. We’ve had numbers run. We’ve had roundups of posts. We’ve had discussions of the news and the reactions and the posts and discussions of the discussions!

I’ve been reading and following and muttering and despairing along with everyone else. Then Monday my coworker had the brilliant idea that we should display some of our “best loved” books — things that had circulated over 100 times, and we got it all together in the course of the day due to a fortunate set of circumstances involving my office furniture getting partly replaced and a table needing a new home that was perfect for a display and a lot of other details I won’t bore you with.

Then I saw some numbers Jason Griffey posted about book circulation at his library. His conclusion? At his academic library, if they applied the HarperCollins ebook rules to the physical collection, they’d have to replace 126 books.

So that got me curious about our collection. Our display was limited to adult books that had checked out over 100 times (there were 220 of those). But what would it be like if I applied the same parameters Jason used?

Here’s the breakdown:

We have 88,680 circulating books in our collection. 23,083 of them have checked out over 26 times.

So yeah. . . if HarperCollins ebook rules suddenly applied to the physical books in our collection, we’d have to replace over 23,000 books.

We would have to replace over one third of our book collection.

If you break down the numbers further, you find that that would mean over 50% of the children’s collection and about 23% of the adult collection. Anyway you look at it, though, it’s still 23,083 books. And that’s a lot of books, and a lot of money. My fiction budget for the year is about $21,000.  It’s generous, but it would not go far if I had to replace even just the adult fiction books in that list.

Griffey and others have noted that, obviously, these kinds of numbers will vary greatly between libraries and types of libraries. Others have pointed out that arguing with these numbers is not ultimately what this argument is about. And I agree with them, to a certain extent.

We are not going to win this with numbers. Libraries are a part of the book market, but we’re pretty clearly not a big enough part of it to make an economic boycott work — and an economic boycott would have the added problem of potentially keeping things from our patrons, which we are not into.

No, this isn’t an economic argument, or a how many circs has your copy of Catch-22 made it through argument.

It’s a hearts and minds argument.

And I don’t mean the publishing industry’s hearts and minds. While some of the individual people involved must have such things, the gigantic corporations they work for, despite their “corporate personhood,” do not.

I mean the public’s hearts and minds.

This is a battle about winning — and rewinning — the hearts and minds of the public. It’s a battle about reminding them what libraries have always done for them. We not only provide information and entertainment — we also preserve it. We made it available to you free not only of cost but also free of licensing agreements, entanglements with corporations, and invasions of your privacy.

We need to remind our public of how we have done that. We need to tell them about how we are currently trying to do it. And we need them to understand what we need in order to be able to go on doing it in the future.

I don’t know yet all the things we will need, but I know that among us all, we do.