The Floating Library

1 September 2014

From The Floating Library:

Here in Minnesota we live in the land of 10,000 lakes. In all seasons locals flock to the water to recreate and socialize. Yet, long days at the beach or trips in a canoe rarely involve the book arts.

The Floating Library is an experimental public art project that introduces the creative genre of artists’ books and printed matter to people recreating on an urban lake.

A custom made raft designed by architect Molly Reichert features bookshelves built to hold printed matter for perusal and check out on the water. Patrons in canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, skiffs, rowboats, or even inner tubes are invited to paddle up to the Library and browse the shelves from inside their watercraft. Protective covers on the shelves do their best to keep materials dry.

. . . .

The materials featured at the Floating Library are books and other printed matter made by artists. What does that mean? It means you’ll find treasures ranging in form from photocopied zines to letterpress printed pamphlets to hand-stitched bindings to commercially printed volumes to objects that look more like sculptures than books. Some of them are made to last forever, some will fade and tear with time, some are designed for the unique environment of a lake-based library.

. . . .

Despite some logistical snags and a downpour, the first weekend of the Floating Library went off fairly well.

On the logistical side of things, I made a public art mistake of assuming that permission to tie up to the swimming area buoy granted to me last year by a teenaged summer employee of the parks system would stand this year. Not so. After being alternatively tied up to a weedy submerged dock for part of the afternoon, we finally moved into open waters for better visibility. Luckily the wind blew us in the right direction to find the Library’s overnight docking spot. On Sunday we brought an anchor.

On the rain side of things, we learned that the Library’s rain plan is top notch. We got soaking wet but all the books stayed safe and dry in their plastic tubs.

Due to the rain, the patronage of the Library was slow overall, but we did greet several unexpecting boaters and checked out a few books.

Link to the rest, with photos, at The Floating Library

Thief Takes $6K Worth Of Bestsellers From Library, Sells Online

21 August 2014

From CBS Pittsburgh:

 Local libraries have been on alert after some sticky fingers have taken hundreds of books worth thousands of dollars.

A book thief with a fondness for bestsellers has been busy.

. . . .

“Within the last maybe six months or so, that a lot of our new books and bestseller books have gone missing,” said Jill McConnell, Acting Director of the Cooper Siegel Library in Fox Chapel.

The books are apparently being sold over the internet.

“Yes,” says McConnell, “Other libraries have discovered that their books were sold online.”

Link to the rest at CBS Pittsburgh

Why the Public Library Beats Amazon—for Now

13 August 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

A growing stack of companies would like you to pay a monthly fee to read e-books, just like you subscribe to Netflix to binge on movies and TV shows.

Don’t bother. Go sign up for a public library card instead.

Really, the public library? recently launched Kindle Unlimited, a $10-per-month service offering loans of 600,000 e-books. Startups called Oyster and Scribd offer something similar. It isn’t very often that a musty old institution can hold its own against tech disrupters.

But it turns out librarians haven’t just been sitting around shushing people while the Internet drove them into irrelevance. Over 90% of American public libraries have amassed e-book collections you can read on your iPad, and often even on a Kindle. You don’t have to walk into a branch or risk an overdue fine. And they’re totally free.

. . . .

To compare, I dug up best-seller lists, as well as best-of lists compiled by authors and critics. Then I searched for those e-books in Kindle Unlimited, Oyster and Scribd alongside my local San Francisco Public Library. To rule out big-city bias, I also checked the much smaller library where I grew up in Richland County, S.C.

Of the Journal’s 20 most recent best-selling e-books in fiction and nonfiction, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited has none—no “Fifty Shades of Grey,” no “The Fault in Our Stars.” Scribd and Oyster each have a paltry three. But the San Francisco library has 15, and my South Carolina library has 11.

From Amazon’s own top-20 Kindle best seller lists from 2013, 2012 and 2011, Kindle Unlimited has no more than five titles a year, while the San Francisco library has at least 16.

. . . .

Over at the library, the situation is different. All of the big five publishers sell their e-book collections for loans, usually on the same day they’re available for consumers to purchase. They haven’t always been so friendly with libraries, and still charge them a lot for e-books. Some library e-books are only allowed a set number of loans before “expiring.”

Publishers have come to see libraries not only as a source of income, but also as a marketing vehicle. Since the Internet has killed off so many bookstores, libraries have become de facto showrooms for discovering books.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Libraries Are Not a “Netflix” for Books

19 July 2014

From BookRiot:

If there’s one phrase I dislike more than the latest company touting itself as the “Netflix for books,” it’s when the retort is that such a thing already exists and it’s called the library.

The library is not a Netflix for books.

While there are plenty of reasons a company would want to step in and create something as successful as Netflix but for books, the comparison made to how libraries already fulfill this role is a false one at best. It’s a reductive and problematic comparison.

Netflix is a company. Its profit-based goals serve subscribers who pay a monthly fee for different levels of product: they can borrow streaming-only content or a varying number of DVDs in addition to streaming content. Private citizens pay private cash in order to access the goods. It’s not equitable and it’s not meant to be.

. . . .

Libraries — at least public libraries in the U.S. and Canada — are not private companies. Their goals are not on profit and not built upon those who can afford to pay for the services. Rather, public libraries are one of the few institutions where any and all citizens, regardless of their income or abilities to pay, may receive equitable access and service. It doesn’t matter whether you park a Ferrari or a used car in the library parking lot or you walk or take public transit to the library. When you walk in that door, you are treated equally and you are able to do and access the same things as everyone else (minor restrictions apply based on individual libraries, but those are special cases and not the norm).

It is not the goal of the library to make money. Nor is it the goal of the library to create levels of service so that those who can afford to indulge will receive more while those who can’t, don’t. Instead, libraries work to ensure their services reach as many facets of their community as possible. Libraries want to offer what they can to those who have nothing and those who maybe have everything.

The library is the center and the heart of community.

. . . .

Did you know you can walk into a public library and ask for book recommendations? Maybe you’ve seen a print list here or there or you’ve seen that your library has a complicated-looking database that’s supposed to help you find your next book. But librarians — those who work at a reference or reader’s advisory or help desk — are trained to help people find their next books. This is the bread-and-butter of libraries: meeting with patrons, talking with them, and matching them up with what it is they’re looking for, be it a novel about females traveling in space or children’s book that could only be remembered by an obscure element of a cover once seen twenty years ago.

Rather than look at data and offer some suggestions, librarians know how to ask questions to you, the reader, in order to pair you with the exact right next reads. They can ask not just what you’ve liked or didn’t like in the past. They can ask you what you’re in the mood for right now. They can ask you whether you’ve tried this book or that and from there, they can offer you custom suggestions that are built upon your specific tastes — not just the tastes of other people who’ve happened to enjoy horror or thrillers. You aren’t a piece of data that can be neatly stacked and shifted. Your tastes are yours and yours alone, and there is that just right book out there for you. Librarians know how to hook you and that book up personally.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

OverDrive Carries Self-Published eBooks, but Don’t Worry – They’re in a Ghetto

19 June 2014

From The Digital Reader:

When OverDrive and Smashwords announced a deal last month which made hundreds of thousands of self-published available to public libraries, I was thrilled. Besides the potential increase in revenues and ebook sales, indie authors were gaining access to a whole new market with opportunities to find new readers.

Unfortunately, the deal between Smashwords and Overdrive isn’t working out as well as one would like. In fact, I’m not sure how it could be worse.

Maria Schneider, an author who self-publishes under the Bear Mountain Books imprint, writes over on her blog about her dismay over the hassle of finding self-published ebooks at OverDrive:

I was pretty excited the other day to learn that Smashwords, an ebook distributor, would be distributing books to Overdrive. Overdrive supplies libraries with ebooks. I made sure my books were all signed up. Yesterday I saw they had shipped and were available for libraries to order!

I immediately contacted my librarian friend to make sure they could be seen in the overdrive library system. I’ve had several requests from fans who want their library to order my series. I wanted to make sure the books showed up in the system before I shared the news.

Well. Smashwords does ship the books to Overdrive. HOWEVER, in order for the librarian to even FIND the books in the list, she had to spend a lot of time researching. None of the usual methods worked: Title, nope. Author name, nope. OH. Turns out there is a box on overdrive underneath some other menu…labeled “Self-published.” Once she FOUND that menu and clicked that box and did a search, well THEN the titles would show up. The button was not obvious and had she not known me personally and asked someone else about it…they would never have found my titles at all.

No, you did not read that wrong. Overdrive has put self-published ebooks in their own ghetto.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Glinda for the tip.

What happens when a library falls silent

16 June 2014

From The BBC:

At the end of May, Rhydyfelin Library was closed. Library users chained themselves to the shelves, obtained a judicial review and, to cut a complicated story short, a small Welsh town had to fight to keep its books – and, in the last few days, may have managed at least a temporary stay of execution.

It was dramatic. And yet in terms of national media coverage the drama played out silence, perhaps appropriately for a library. Perhaps it was too regional a story.

And maybe library closures do just slide by, because they often are regional affairs and also because some things which happen repeatedly somehow become less newsworthy.

Certainly, if you examine Britain’s library closures the story does get repetitive. According to figures collated by Public Libraries News in the last financial year, 61 libraries were withdrawn from service. The preceding year it was 63, the year before that 201. Some new libraries have opened, but there’s debate, again often inaudible, about how many hundreds of others are threatened. Of those 325 lost libraries, around a third have been taken over by their communities in various ways, often with reduced opening hours and working with volunteers.

. . . .

And Britain isn’t just losing books because of library cutbacks and closures – a perfect storm of combined pressures means we’re losing books on all sides. And that concerns me on more than just the personal level.

. . . .

The child of two academics, I was taught that books should be safeguarded and that wasn’t just some sentimental impulse. As the child of two working class people who’d expanded their employment options through education, I was shown books opened like doors into almost unlimited opportunities. And when my mother took me to our local library – Blackness Library, Dundee, it is still there – I found it a high-ceilinged, soft-scented temple of good things yet to happen. Pensioners there reading the papers, enjoying the warmth and presence of company, adults at desks studying, changing their minds almost visibly and children picking out what were still novelties – stories we’d never met. My first ever means of personal identification was my proof of library membership. I was a citizen of the world because I was a reader.

. . . .

So we hear less often from unusual or marginal voices. Less than 3% of books are translations from other languages, other countries. Our range of bookshops and their stock has diminished. If we have computers we’ll mainly be offered multiple clones of successful books – and food porn, design porn, 50 shades of soft porn. And celebrity memoirs and misery memoirs will suggest that learning about other people involves being asked to stare at their degradation. There are still superb books out there – I just helped award the Ondaatje Prize to Alan Jonson’s excellent memoir This Boy – but with less media coverage and fewer ways to be visible, more and more books simply disappear, or are never published. No burning required.

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Once Forbidden, Books Become A Lifeline For A Young Migrant Worker

2 June 2014

From National Public Radio Storycorps:

In the late 1950s, when she was just 8 years old, Storm Reyes began picking fruit as a full-time farm laborer for less than $1 per hour. Storm and her family moved often, living in Native American migrant worker camps without electricity or running water.

With all that moving around, she wasn’t allowed to have books growing up, Storm tells her son, Jeremy Hagquist, on a visit to StoryCorps in Tacoma, Wash.

“Books are heavy, and when you’re moving a lot you have to keep things just as minimal as possible,” she says.

. . . .

But when she was 12, a bookmobile came to the fields where she and her family worked.

“So when I saw this big vehicle on the side of the road, and it was filled with books, I immediately stepped back,” she says. “Fortunately the staff member saw me, kind of waved me in, and said, ‘These are books, and you can take one home. You have to bring it back in two weeks, but you can take them home and read them.’ ”

The bookmobile staffer asked Storm what she was interested in and sent her home with a couple of books.

“I took them home and I devoured them. I didn’t just read them, I devoured them,” Storm says. “And I came back in two weeks and had more questions. And he gave me more books, and that started it.”

Link to the rest at NPR

The Digital Paradox: How Copyright Laws Keep E-Books Locked Up

1 April 2014

From Spiegel Online:

Many publishing houses don’t allow their products to be lent out by digital libraries for fear of piracy. Articles and books by researchers are also affected. Readers are the ones who have to pay the price.

When the German author Johann Gottfried Seume took his famous “Stroll to Syracuse,” as he entitled his book about his nine-month walk to Sicily in 1802, he made sure to visit a number of local libraries along the way. At the time, it was often impossible to check out books. If you wanted to read them, you had to be mobile.

Today, the situation has come full circle. If a student in Freiburg wants to read the hard-copy version of a book from the university library in Basel, he or she can simply order it via an interlibrary loan. But if only an electronic version is available, interlibrary loans are generally not an option. The student has no choice but to climb into a train and head to Switzerland to read the book on a university computer.

It is a paradox: Books that traveled around the world via interlibrary loan in the 20th century paper era are safeguarded locally in the Internet age. Indeed, it is the sheer ease with which electronic publications can be sent around the world that is now resulting in their being locked up behind digital bars. The book doesn’t go to the reader, the reader comes to the book — just like in the 19th century.

Interlibrary loans were formalized in Prussia in 1893 with the “edict pertaining to lending.” But it doesn’t apply to the new electronic world. Today, publishing houses dictate their conditions to libraries, motivated by their justifiable fear of pirated copies. Unfortunately, it is honest readers who have to pay the price.

Many publishing houses don’t issue licenses for loaning out e-books: Influential German publishers such as Droemer Knaur, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, S. Fischer and Rowohlt, for example, are nowhere to be found on the German-language online lending library Onleihe. That means that important works such as the new definitive World War I study by Berlin-based political scientist Herfried Münkler cannot be checked out electronically. It is a situation that would be unimaginable in the world of paper.

. . . .

There are plenty of absurd examples. Franco Moretti, for example, an English professor at Stanford University, achieved renown with his study “Atlas of the European Novel.” But his research ends at the point when rigid copyright laws, which protect works for up to 70 years after the death of the author, present a roadblock. It is dangerous to scan more current works of literature, Moretti says. “The specter of copyright keeps (them) too protected for us to make inroads. Too bad!”

“Currently, copyright owners are often in a unique position of power,” says Hinte. “A reform and simplification of copyright laws is long overdue.”

In many cases, it is the readers themselves who, through their taxes, pay the university authors whose studies they are then unable to access. It is also likely that many professors themselves cannot even afford a subscription to the journal in which their work is published.

Link to the rest at Spiegel Online and thanks to Peter for the tip.

New York Public Library partners with Zola to offer algorithmic book recommendations

24 March 2014

From GigaOm:

Visitors to the New York Public Library’s website will have a new way to decide what to read next: The library is partnering with New York-based startup Zola Books to offer algorithm-based recommendations to readers. The technology comes from Bookish, the book discovery site that Zola acquired earlier this year.

Until now, the NYPL website had offered book recommendations based on titles other readers were checking out, reviewing or rating, rather than gearing recommendations toward a patron’s own searches or interests.

. . . .

There are long wait times for many new books at the New York Public Library, so a recommendation service like this could be useful to patrons who aren’t able to get the exact book they want right away.

Link to the rest at GigaOm and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Fabulous Libraries

3 February 2014

This is the Austrian National Library in Vienna:


Click Here for an interactive panorama of this library. Drag the image with your mouse to explore. It’s a big file and may take awhile to load.

Here are more amazing libraries and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

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