Ten Stories that Shaped 2003
Inspired by a Washington
Post article reviewing the year's events, here are some of
the library happenings that made headlines in 2003.
Update: 1/1 10:49 EST by JH: The list has been tweaked, thanks to some comments and a good night's sleep.
10. ALA Conference Overshadowed by SARS
Although a few exhibitors pulled out, the Annual Conference in
Toronto failed to live up to the media hype over the small SARS
outbreak there. Some of the LISNews.com
crowd met there for dinner.
A long-awaited release of the fifth book helped the series reach the 250 million mark in book sales. Despite an endorsement from the Vatican, the books remain the target of book burnings by misguided zealots.
8. More Librarians Discover Weblogs...
This year the LIS
Weblogs category at the Open Directory grew from around 80
sites to almost 350 listings. More and more individuals and
organizations are discovering the benefits
of publishing blogs.
7. ... But Not All Librarians are Computer Experts
The ex-director of the University of Pennsylvania Library pled
guilty for downloading child pornography on his work computer.
Librarians in Kansas
were also fired for viewing pornography at work. A Washington
librarian was let go after the discovery of her personal
6. ALA's Blundering Site Redesign
In April, the American Library Association
shelled out big bucks for a site overhaul. The new URLs were
rather unwieldy, and several other basic usability guidelines
were violated. Everyone, everywhere, was quite appalled. Eight months later, the old archived site may still be
the best way to find some materials.
5. The Lighter Side
Millikin University showed us some PEEPs
in the Library. A new librarian
action figure provoked a love-it-or-hate-it response from
many. Tori Amos released a compilation CD titled Tales
of a Librarian. McDonald's had a beef with a new "McJob"
dictionary definition. And perhaps inspired by the popularity of
librarians struck provocative poses for fundraising calendars in
3. Open Access Publishing
New efforts in noncommercial publishing, such as Public
Library of Science Biology, allowed heavyweights like Cornell
to hit Elsevier
and other for-profit publishers where it hurts. The Open
Source movement has also been focused on libraries.
2. Technology Isn't Everything
Remember e-books? Although the technology behind electronic books crept ahead
this year, the gadgets have failed
to crack the mainstream marketplace. Umberto Eco gave a
talk in November on the continued importance of physical
In contrast, virtual reference services made a strong showing this year, both from non-library services such as Google Answers and library-sponsored reference such as the QuestionPoint system at the Library of Congress.
searching is on the horizon: tools allowing simultaneous searching of multiple collections and resources through a single interface hold great promise for simplifying the overwhelming library search interfaces currently in use.
1. Privacy Issues
While campaigning for the USA PATRIOT Act, Attorney John
Ashcroft decried the "hysteria"
that librarians were spreading about the law. He later said that
the Department of Justice had never invoked Section 215 of the
Patriot Act to obtain library records.
Confusion remains over what police powers are being used to
monitor the people's reading habits. In late 2001 a man was detained
at Philadelphia International Airport for carrying a book. This
July someone was visited
by the FBI for reading an article titled "Weapons Of
Mass Stupidity" at a coffee shop. And just yesterday the FBI
warned citizens to be on the lookout for people carrying almanacs.
It remains vital that libraries have policies
and procedures in place to preserve patron privacy.