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Alan’s NYC Adventure

I spent much of last week in New York City as part of the American Library Association (ALA) advocacy effort regarding ebooks. These meetings with publishing executives are described in my post on the American Libraries magazine’s E-content blog. However, I also engaged in some other activities during this trip.

I had the pleasure of participating in Jim Neal’s retirement celebration, held at Casa Italiana, Columbia University, which saw hundreds in attendance to pay tribute to him. As many of you know, Jim is a long-time, strategic, and highly-respected contributor to the library community at the national level. Among his many contributions, he has served on ALA’s Executive Board for three separate tenures, including one presently, and is a former treasurer of the Association.

Jim Neal speaking at his retirement party.
Jim Neal speaking at his retirement party.

Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, kicked off the formal program to recognize Jim’s contributions as vice president of information services and university librarian. Several other Columbia University officials participated in the praise, including our close collaborator Bob Wolven, an associate university librarian and former co-chair of the ALA Digital Content Working Group. Bob commented on Jim’s extraordinary energy and initiative, noting that if Jim received some lemons, he would not make lemonade—instead he would develop a plan for a multi-division business and demand more lemons.

In 2015, Jim will become university librarian emeritus, an honor bestowed only two times previously in the university’s history. Jim will remain active in the field and so ALA and the national library community will continue to benefit from Jim’s strategic guidance in copyright policy and other areas for some time to come. As he is a member of the Policy Revolution! Initiative’s Library Advisory Committee, I am relieved to learn that we will continue to benefit from his counsel in our efforts to reshape national public policy for libraries. While on campus, I also had separate meetings with Jim and Bob to discuss broad issues in digital content and information policy.

I Love My Librarian event.
I Love My Librarian event.

The award ceremony for the I Love My Librarian award took place last week and so I was able to attend it, held at the offices of The New York Times. Of course, I expected to hear about the exemplary library work of the awardees, but the intense level of emotion exhibited at the event was a bit unexpected.

For these librarians, their work extends far beyond a job, becoming a calling—and their patrons see it that way as well. This award is extremely competitive, with over 1000 applications received that ultimately yielded 10 awardees.

Finally, I made it to Connecticut for an evening. My first stop was the Darien Public Library to meet with Amanda Goodman, a staff librarian and member of the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) advisory committee.

Darien Public Library December 2014
Darien Public Library December 2014

I got a looksee at the library’s four 3D printers and its fine children’s library. I then met up with Dr. Roger Levien, author of our policy brief Confronting the Future. Roger is working on a new book on the future of public libraries and we discussed varied aspects of his developing analysis in the context of related work in the field.

Trips are great, but then they end and you end up back in the office trying to catch up. I don’t ever seem to catch up—I’m just trying to keep the backlog under embarrassing levels!

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Alan Inouye

Alan S. Inouye is the director of ALA's Office for Information Technology Policy. Previously, he was the coordinator of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee in the Executive Office of the President and a study director at the National Academy of Sciences. Alan completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.

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