Thursday, July 16, 2009

Report from "The Stacks"

I love the enormous trade show that comes with ALA annual. I love the hoopla attached to all things librarian, and in a country where your power can be measured by how hard vendors court you, it's nice to feel like they're still paying attention. While I now have a system (start from the left, up one row down the next, and never, ever, make eye contact with the conspiracy publishers in the small press aisle), I love watching the folks who stop to talk to everyone, who pick up tons of posters to take backs to colleagues at home, and most especially, the first timers who are blown away by scale of it all.

When I was living in England, I went to a library show in London that was billed as the biggest in the country. It made me long for ALA - there were a total of 8 programs the day I went, and the trade show was the equivalent of maybe 2 aisles of what ALA does. While I know a trade-show isn't the be-all and end-all of a professional organization's role (some might even argue it's a distraction), it's one of the many ways the professional infrastructure in the US is more robust than that in the UK.

Before I get in to what I actually found out, a quick impression - the effects of the economic downturn were clearly visible at the show. Fewer quick-and-easy giveaways - I can usually stock up on post-its and highlighters at ALA, and there were none to be found. Galleys were also in short supply, and less easily accessible. For first time ever, I had to wait in line to have face-time with the author to get a book (now that I've skimmed the book, it's clear they're hoping the author's star power will sell the book, which isn't very good, or even very readable).

Which is all an introductory ramble to this post, which is actually about cool stuff I learned and saw on the floor.

  1. Overdrive - Overdrive has started adding Chinese materials, both e-books and e-audio-books. You can see the official press release here; I didn't get much more from the salesperson. Currently, they've got about 300 titles loaded, and given our population in Sacramento, and our uptake of e-materials in general, this feels like a strong possibility for us.
  2. Mango - Mango Languages has been pretty popular amongst staff doing 27 Things. From the Mango staff, I learned they're spiffing up the interface a bit, and they've added a "where to find Mango at a Library near you" feature on their public landing page. They're also adding a bunch of new languages, including spoken Arabic (in the dialect spoken in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine) and spoken Hebrew. I think Mango is a good example of something our customers use primarily in their homes, via our website, rather than in a library facility. This kind of delivery will, I predict, become more important for libraries in the future, and Mango provides a strong product for us to begin designing a new delivery model around.
  3. Furniture - Library furniture is getting more and more beautiful. I didn't take pictures, but I did grab a bunch of circulars. Boats and busses seem to be big themes in play furniture. And the deco and craftsman influences are still holding sway for adult stuff.

So, 30 some-odd aisles, 3+ total hours, and sore feet. I did end up taking a single totebag, from the folks at Bulldog Packaging. One is exactly enough.

ETA: For a sense of the scale of the thing, look at this picture. Though I have to say, from ground level it felt a bunch more croweded.

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