WCLS’ Carmi Parker honored as national library leader

Whatcom County Library System employee Carmi Parker has been selected as one of 46 national library leaders in Library Journal’s 19th annual Movers & Shakers awards. The prestigious honor shines a light on individuals who are advancing the library field. Parker, who administers the library system’s catalog and patron database, was recognized as an advocate for her work to remove publishers’ restrictions on ebook and digital audiobooks for library collections. Her thoughtful and persuasive advocacy ensured equitable access to digital materials for not only Whatcom County readers but library users across the country.

Describing Parker as an “EBook champion” and a nationally recognized content specialist, the Library Journal article traces her work to negotiate restrictive terms with publishers that limited public libraries’ – and, consequently, library patrons’ — access to ebooks and digital audiobooks. The Journal article says:  “In 2019, Macmillan Publishers said they’d sell only one copy of newly released titles to libraries during the first eight weeks of publication, claiming libraries were cannibalizing sales.” Parker coordinated a national boycott, “creating a toolkit including FAQs, talking points, and sample press releases. She sent weekly updates to aid the 1,200 libraries that joined the boycott. In March 2020, Macmillan ended the embargo.”

The article continues: “Parker posits that if public libraries and publishers are to continue cultivating avid readers and creating careers for a diverse group of authors, digital content has to be as obtainable for libraries as print books are now.”

In the nomination form, Parker’s colleagues lauded her accomplishments.  “She believes passionately in the rights of readers to read freely, and the role of libraries in making that experience possible through equitable access,” WCLS Collections Services Manager Lisa Gresham wrote. “Based on her research and market analysis, she also recognizes that libraries creating readers is an essential part of the book ecosystem and actually adds to publishers’ financial stability and author discoverabililty.” Gresham added that Parker’s advocacy on behalf of library patrons was especially important during the pandemic when library buildings were temporarily closed and demand for digital materials was especially high.

In the Journal article, Parker said: “It was important for both publishers and libraries to feel libraries’ importance as a customer and community influencer. The task now is to explore win-win scenarios to improve eLending for all parties.”

WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins adds, “We are extremely grateful that Carmi chose to work for libraries in general and for our county library system in particular. She is a model of professional commitment in service of the public’s right to access reading materials at the library.”