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Looking ahead: Special reports in the 2015 Library and Book Trade Almanac

The future of libraries and publishers attracts a lot of debate and writing. But what have we learned overall from the efforts to date? This question of synthesis and looking ahead is the theme of the “Special Reports” in the just-released 2015 Library and Book Trade 2015 Library and Book Trade Alamanac (LBTA) or Bowker Annual (LBTA), formerly known as the Bowker Annual, for which I served as the consulting editor.LBTA-2015

In her article “Re-thinking the Roles of U.S. Libraries,” Larra Clark brings together three major activities that focus on the future of libraries. Amy K. Garmer leads the Aspen Institute effort on the future of libraries, whereas Miguel Figueroa is the founding director of the new Center for the Future of Libraries of the American Library Association (ALA). An important thinker of the future of public libraries is consultant Roger E. Levien, who previews some thoughts from his forthcoming book. But however impressive and insightful our learning may be, it is useless unless decision makers understand the roles and capacities of future libraries—active communication and a proactive stance with these decision makers are essential to ensure that libraries may fully contribute to communities and campuses in the decades to come.

School libraries represent an important library segment in the midst of fundamental change. Christopher Harris and Barbara K. Stripling in “School Libraries Meet the Challenges of Change,” explain how school libraries (and librarians) are in the digital crossroads of schools. School libraries are well placed to keep up with advances in digital technology and services and disseminate and incorporate them into pedagogical practice. Also, school libraries and librarians are centrally situated to coordinate digital resources to maximize their efficient and effective use, with the goal of empowering all students.

Digital preservation is a topic of great importance to the library community as discussed by Melissa Goertzen, Robert Wolven, and Jeffrey D. Carroll, who focus on ebooks. While emphasizing the long-term stewardship of the nation’s cultural heritage, the digital format changes the rules by also creating urgency in addressing the matter, because unlike with analog materials, without proper current action, digital files may not be around for retroactive preservation. To move forward, libraries will need to build more effective relationships with publishers and other key stakeholders.

Finally, James LaRue discusses “publishing” in the context of contemporary libraries. In “New Publishing and the Library: E-books, Self-publishing, and Beyond,” he explores a number of the newer directions in libraries such as libraries as publishers; collecting self-published works; 3D printers; and libraries as booksellers. LaRue also reviews the problems with current business models for the library ebook market, especially those centered around high prices for the more popular titles. Despite the challenges, LaRue is optimistic for libraries as they navigate through the disruption in the publishing marketplace.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve as the consulting editor for this edition of the Library and Book Trade Almanac. It is quite the challenge to select the few topics for focus from the many possibilities. It is then a further challenge to identify the best authors for a given topic and then to obtain their agreement to write, as the most knowledgeable people tend to have many demands on their time. I am deeply grateful to the authors, LBTA editor Dave Bogart, and Information Today Inc. for their contributions and support in completing this Special Reports section.

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Alan Inouye

As of November 2018, District Dispatch is no longer being updated. It is now being archived for future use. Please visit for the latest news.

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