According To Blake: Stories That Shaped 2004

Submitted by Blake on Tue, 01/04/2005 - 13:12

Here's my list of stories that stood out last year. I struggled with the order, deciding to leave the list number free. Many of the stories felt like they were just as important as many others.

Google and Their Army of Scanners: Without a doubt the single biggest story of the year, and the one with the longest lasting impact, and also the one that has already been discussed to death. Love it or hate it, Google is going to have a huge effect on libraries in the coming years. This will prove to be the story that shapes 2005 or 2007, but it was the biggest story of 2004.

Politics: It was one of the biggest election years ever, and the library world was not immune to showing off some political heat. Conservatives, convinced the Bush administration is doing gods work butted heads with liberals convinced Bush is the devil incarnate. The end of the free world is coming soon, that much everyone can agree on, we just can't agree on who's going to bring it. Librarians for Bush, Librarians against Bush, Radical Reference, and Laura Bush all helped make 2004 the most politically charged since, well, since the last election at least.

Library Budgets: More important than Google, but not as exciting as politics, budgets were big (bad) news around the world. Buffalo almost bit the dust, and Salinas California did, things continue to look bleak for the public library budget. Public libraries must ramp up their marketing in 2005 or face increasingly lean budgets that will only drive more people towards Google.

Technology: RFID, search engines, ebooks, wireless and some other cutting edge technologies will continue shape libraries in the years to come. While the printed word is sure to be with us at the end of 2005, we now face real competition from privately run corporations in an area where we once held a near monopoly, access to information. Librarians are working to move into the future as quickly as possible, all the while trying to balance issues such as copyright, privacy, long term viability of storage mediums and budgets.

Copyright & Legal Issues, past present and future: From the Patriot Act to Fair Use and copyright. Most of the legal stories from this year were negative. CIPA, the ERate problem and various other legal stories contributed to a glum year for libraries in the courts and on Capitol Hill. It remains to be seen what the conservative grip on everything political in the US will mean for libraries before the next election.

Censors: Conservatives were increasingly unhappy with what they found on the web and in their local libraries, and they weren't about to let something like the 1st amendment stand in their way. If they don't like it, it's no good for anybody, especially if it's part of the dreaded homosexual agenda. "Compassionate conservatives" unleashed their compassion by banning gay marriage, and banning (or attempting to ban) books with any hint of the gay agenda. Of course conservatives don't have a monopoly on censorship like they do on power. Conservatives happily point out the liberal media elite along with liberal campus elitists continue to censor stories on religion and conservative values. Let the "I know you are but what am I" debates begin.

Filtering: The issue that never dies, filtering proves it will be a hot button issue so long as there are children and an Internet in libraries. I'll probably be taken to task for even separating filters from censors by some, but filters continue to take center stage in the battle against evil. Balancing the desire to protect the kids from the internet, the need to ensure everyone has access to information, and the need to set some kind of standards is a tricky proposition that will most likely be a big part of our news for years to come.

Blogs: The number one word of the year, 2004 saw us bloggers gain at least a toe hold in mainstream society. Pundits argue, writers write, bloggers blog, everyone it seems has an opinion on the importance of blogs today, and in the future. For an increasing number of people blogs are a primary source for much of what we learn about the world around us. It remains to be seen if our numbers can grow, or if what we are learning (and sharing) is worthwhile, or even accurate. Bloggers even got a spot at the big party conventions, and we had one librarian at the Democrats table.

Ashcroft: Love him or hate him, he made headlines all year in the library world. His "hysterical librarians" comment will continue to echo through our halls long after he's been replaced. We can only hope his replacement proves to be half as entertaining and confrontational to librarians. We can also hope he's just as effective at keeping our country attack-free in 2005.

Open Access: Was 2004 the year open access finally got some traction? Maybe. Projects like DSPace, and with a push from the NIH a flood of open access journals, and prominent defections from the old world journals, 2004 might have been the tipping point for the Open Access folks.

Open Source In Libraries: Was 2004 the year open source finally got some traction? Probably not, but we're getting there (The Linux librarian might say yes). We now just need to convince some of the bigger libraries (and library organizations) these are projects worthy of their support and further funding. Open source is still not accepted in mainstream library decision making, but with high profile projects like Firefox and Thunderbird finally hitting 1.0, we may see open source taking a bigger role in 2005.

Graphic Novels: Librarians, libraries and the American public finally caught on to the wave that swept through Japan years ago, Manga. Incredible hand eye coordination and some active imaginations are moving comics from the back shelf to required reading for many American teenagers.

The Librarian Movie: You probably hated it, Rochelle sure did, but if watching a beautiful woman in a tank top run around in the jungle for 2 hours isn’t entertainment, I don't know what is! Noah Wyle is sure to sign up for a sequel, and if we're lucky a mini-series. If nothing else it showed just how insecure many librarians are with our "professional image."

Harry Potter: The boy wonder continues to make headlines for doing what he does so well. With book 6 not due for another 6 months Hogwarts fans were clamoring all year for any new tidbit of news on Harry and the gang. In 2004 you'll have to be satisfied with a movie, and a few DVDs, more than most books can even dream about.

Library Crimes: I don't know if we just reported more stories than previous years, or the number of library related crimes really did jump this year, but it's been a banner year for library who dunnits. From the deputy librarian to sleeping burglars, pepper spray and map thieves, libraries worldwide have become a target of increasingly expensive crimes.

Coffee & Cell Phones: A popular topic for discussion, cell phone blockers and in-library coffee shops made our lives a little quieter and a maybe little jumpier. Rochelle called this the "Continuing book-storization of Libraries," which also included the confusion by patrons about thinking it's perfectly okay to let your cell phone play "What do you do with a drunken sailor," and cut off a librarian mid-reference interaction.

Nancy Pearl: The only librarian to be immortalized in doll form, Nancy made the rounds on NPR and made headlines from Seattle to Washington. Our obsession with the "librarian image" will never die.

Rory Litwin Vs. LISNews: Only a big story to the LISNews crowd, The Juice Vs. The LISNewsterz. Rory took me to task, the LISNews community took him to task, and our relationship ended badly.

Honorable Mentions: The Clinton library, Marion County (FL), The Misspelled Mural, The mis-numbered Clock and the odd Michigan Patron Information story.