Ten Stories that Shaped 2006

Another year, another recap! Read on for a look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly library stories of 2006.

Another year, another recap! Read on for a look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly library stories of 2006.

Honorable Mention

In case you missed it, the Cynthia Wilson interview about her “I am a Librarian” project was one of LISNews’ best features this year.

Dishonorable Mentions

If only there was just one! From people stealing maps and rare books to heckling, committing arson, and crashing a car into a library, libraries had their share of unfriendly visitors this year.

10. New UCLA Slogan: "Get Tasered @ your library"

Unless you were living under a rock last month, you probably heard that a troublemaking student was repeatedly tasered (by police) in a UCLA Library computer lab. After some administrative waffling, multiple investigations into the event are underway.

Of note is how and why this story broke: a YouTube video of the harrowing incident made it to the Digg front page. Who needs traditional media anyway?

9. Ding Dong, Gorman Tenure Ends

This June’s ALA presidential regime change constituted a shift from a cantankerous curmudgeon to a barefoot blogger. Just remember to vote Flynn Carsen in ’07.

Also, while not breaking an attendance record, the annual conference in embattled New Orleans seemed to be a success.

8. Library Weblog Explosion, Redux

Many bibliothekenbloggens launched this year. Entries of note include Library Juice, A Librarian’s Guide to Etiquette, and Typo of the Day. Even the venerable John Berry joined the blog people this fall.

To help with information overload, the custom search engines LISZEN and LibWorm recently debuted.

7. EPA Library Closure

Many were up in arms over the Bush administration’s shuttering of the Environmental Protection Agency’s library. This may become the subject of a politicized fight taken up by the Democrats.

Look for the location of the next presidential library to be unveiled early next year too.

6. Library 2.0 Meme

From despised buzzword to a popular topic in the literature, talk of L2 abounds. (And don’t worry, as LCSH makes room for FRBR and RDA, we’ll still have plenty of acronyms.)

While libraries struggle with how to renovate traditional library services with new technologies, the success of the for-profit social software LibraryThing and the growing slew of library wikis beckon for more libraries to innovate. After all, you have nothing to lose but your overpriced OPAC systems (oh and maybe privacy).

Bonus: Quote of the Year

Speaking about new technologies, Stephen Abram let loose that, "It’s a rare speech I don’t give where someone doesn’t come up to me afterwards and say, ‘I’m retiring in three years. It’s so good I don’t have to learn this stuff.’ I’d really wish they’d just leave our profession."

While the ALA trolls for ways retiring librarians can work for free, I certainly look forward to the day when technical expertise will not be shunned.

5. More Elephants in the Room

Remember when we used to say, "relax, it’s not like they’re going to start scanning whole libraries…"? Well, this year Google and Microsoft and Yahoo! all signed on more scanning partners. Like never before, there is tangible evidence that digital libraries are wave of the future.

2006 also saw the launch of Microsoft Live Academic, another open scholarly index, and Microsoft Live Book Search, another collection of digitized books. And while RLG, Ex Libris, and ProQuest found themselves involved in
mergers, that’s small potatoes compared to the paltry sum paid for of YouTube.

4. Censorship

Here’s a news flash: libraries and librarians face challenges to controversial materials.

This perennial entry has it all: the same old textbook battles and Harry Potter mania; the Muhammad Cartoons and MySpace concerns; collection bias allegations; the curious case of what to do with the O.J. book; and everyone’s favorite cause for moral panic, penguins.

3. ‘Net Neutrality

Many have said that the Internet became a success because the technology was far ahead of any legislative efforts to control it. But the frontier has been settled, and just as DRM and licensing restrictions are stifling our ability to share information, pro-business lobbyists are fighting for everything from content toll systems and e-mail delivery surcharges to bans on municipal wi-fi.

Enter the Network Neutrality movement, intended to save the Internet from such meddling practices and regulations. And so the battle begins. If there were such push polls and smear ads around when libraries were first created, however, would these issues have prevented them from getting off the ground?

2. P is for Privacy

In early 2006 the supposed "sunset" clauses of the USA PATRIOT Act were extended and then renewed (complete with a signing statement). Meanwhile, a group of "John Doe" librarians in Connecticut successfully challenged a National Security Letter demanding patron records and communications. There were also two cases of librarians getting in hot water for exercising their legal rights by refusing to deliver patron data without a subpoena.

Lest you think all librarians have a clue about privacy, in a bizarre footnote, a library in Florida found itself without volunteers after mandating urine drug tests for all workers.

1. The James Frey Fallout

Last year John Seigenthaler, Sr. instigated a reality check on Wikipedia’s truthiness. This year the other shoe dropped. An investigation into the Oprah Book Club pick A Million Little Pieces ended with James Frey’s tearful admission of fabricating his memoir and an almost unprecedented offer of refunds by the publisher.

Similar scandals involving "JT LeRoy", Kaavya Viswanathan, several journalists, and many scholars prompted publishers to remind readers that "fact checking is too costly". Food for thought when considering why wikis and other new kids on the block may be worth examining.

So, what was your most memorable story of the past year? Please share your remembrances below.