Meet Corilee Christou, LibraryCity’s new director of library and publisher relations

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corilee-reading-to-her-granddaughterCorilee Christou, a veteran of the library and publishing scenes as well as a grandmother passionate about literacy, is the new director of library and publisher relations for LibraryCity and LibraryEndowment.org. She will also advise on strategy. Another title sums it all up: library evangelist.

LibraryCity is the small informal group calling for a national library endowment. In her new role Corilee will explain the endowment vision to librarians and publishers. The endowment initiative is a heartfelt grassroots cause—LibraryCity is all volunteer. But along the way, opportunities would grow for librarians, publishers, and writers through expanded markets.

Visit Amazon and you’ll see review blurbs from Publishers Weekly. That deal is just one of the many Corilee has helped make happen over the years to the advantage of all involved.

Among other jobs, Corilee was VP of new media licensing and business development for Reed Business Information, the one-time parent company of Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. She has also worked for LexisNexis and other information-related companies as well as for public, K-12, and academic libraries.

Corilee will continue her work as a rights consultant for C2Consulting and a columnist for Information Today.

She lives in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area. The photo shows her reading Jon Agee’s Little Santa to Karsyn, her five-year-old granddaughter there. Yes, LibraryCity is keen on paper books as well as the digital variety. Corilee reads both old-fashioned books and the digital ones (on a Kindle Fire).

You can reach Corilee at consultc2 @ gmail com. Ahead is her biography along with an explanation of why she is volunteering.

* * *

Books & music, music & books. It all began with The Cat in the Hat, and continued through the Beatles landing in the United States, whose debut changed the music scene and music buyer population for all time. Books and music were always part of my life starting with story books read to me by my mother and ultimately affected significantly by technological disrupters, most notably the transistor radio.

I grew up in Belmont, Massachusetts, home of Mitt Romney, a small suburb bordering on Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to both Harvard and MIT, and my first jobs were at the local Belmont school and public libraries. As an undergrad, I attended Brandeis University, majoring in Classical Civilization and minoring in WBRS FM, the Brandeis radio station. After graduation, I spun vinyl as a disc jockey at several local radio stations. By the early 80s, radio began to change becoming less “progressive,” and with playlists now becoming more restrictive and dictated by the pop culture of the day. It was time to make a change. Much as I loved sharing information about news, events and music, I also loved helping listeners find information, and what better place to do pursue this than as a librarian?

I landed at MIT’s Dewey Library, as a reference assistant, while I pursued my MLS at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. After graduation, my first professional librarian position was at Suffolk University’s Mildred F. Sawyer Library, supporting undergraduates and the Masters in Business program.

Still enamored by new technologies especially the emerging online database marketplace, I left Suffolk for Nexis, the small but growing news database created initially by then Mead Data Central to support the current events research needs of its then lawyer and librarian user population. I began training librarians to use the service and ultimately created a team of librarians, the Information Professional Consultant group whose role was to work directly with the librarian user base to help them use the LexisNexis (LN) services efficiently and effectively. But in the end it was content and copyright that called out to me, and soon I started working for the LexisNexis Strategic Relations area managing and signing new licenses content worldwide.

After the sale of the Mead Data Central’s online products and services to Reed Elsevier, and several years pursuing non-US content for LexisNexis, Reed Business Information, the b2b arm of Reed Publishing, tapped me to be the VP of Licensing and Brand Development for its US, UK and Australia operations. Several thousands of frequent flier miles and outbound licensing arrangements later, I left RBI for library work, going full circle as a part-time reference librarian for the MidPointe Library System, consulting with publishers on licensing and maximizing their digital revenue, and writing about copyright and copyright policy and issues for Information Today.

As the Grateful Dead song goes, “what a long strange trip it’s been,” but in actual fact, strange and disconnected as my career may seem, one key point still remains: as a child I was exposed to books, to reading, and to the local public library. Children still need to develop a love for books and for reading regardless of where and in what format. It is the core of their entire learning experience.

Computer literacy, news literacy, whatever kind of literacy—nothing can happen without basic reading literacy. Not everyone can afford to buy books, but everyone can afford a free library card. As more and more school libraries close or scale back as is the case in Chicago and now in Boston, with Public Libraries’ budgets being cut to the barest of bones, the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation phasing out its Global Libraries initiative, and the IMLS budget threatened, the need for a national digital library endowment becomes even more compelling not just for the libraries and their users, but also for the publishing community. The endowment would help publishers retain and grow markets whether it be for books or ebooks bought for a library—or for individual purchases by avid readers (perhaps looking for the next great literary classic after becoming hooked on the latest George R. Martin tome while browsing a library).

The endowment would be a win for all. Publishers, writers, and other content creators would not just receive fair compensation. They would also benefit from the additional money available for libraries to promote books in appropriate media that matched the subject matter of the books. As a side effect, the commercial side would also benefit. My granddaughter, a natural reader, picked out Little Santa because a TV show sparked her interest in Christmas. Fine. But even better, what if imaginative, endowment-financed spots on TV had been around to guide Karsyn to specific books on topics matching those of the shows? The usual public service announcements in spots donated by the media are fine, but we also need this other approach, and libraries on their own could never pay for it. The endowment could especially go for shows seen by kids or young parents.

The resources exist for this and many other endowment-financed activities. Just ten Americans are together worth half a trillion, and the top 400 are worth $2.4 trillion. A mere fraction of that could pay for a $15-$20 billion endowment within five years. Imagine all the possibilities that the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge could open up.

Today public libraries in the U.S. can spend only around $1.2 billion per year on books and other content. LibraryCity believes in balanced copyright law, fair to all, but by itself that is far from a complete solution. Libraries also need money. By better being able to promoting literacy, they will grow the book market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumers in 2013 spent an average of only “$29.20 on books not purchased through book clubs.” Total entertainment expenditures reached thousands of dollars. More importantly, the typical 15-19 year old spends fewer than eight minutes a day on recreational reading on weekends and holidays despite the well-documented benefits of reading for fun. The medium doesn’t matter as much as whether the kids are reading. Ebooks, however, can help.

At the same time, the endowment would make more money available for the education, hiring, and professional development of digital-savvy librarians to help children and others discover and enjoy books—especially in minority communities. Minorities are significantly underrepresented in both the publishing and library words. This is one of many areas where I believe an endowment could make a major difference.

(Updated January 17, 2017.)

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