The Library Is Dead. Long Live the Library!

20 October 2016

From The Millions:

“Close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription,”Forbes contributor Tim Worstall wrote in July 2014, arguing that his native U.K. might thus save a lot of taxpayers’ money.

Given that the amount of new digital content produced in 2011 amounts to several million times the combined contents of every book ever written, it is easy to see why technology-fascinated experts and non-specialists alike have propagated the idea that libraries will soon fall prey to Google, Amazon, and other technological giants. However, public libraries around the globe are increasingly disproving hardcore pessimists like Worstall and others who find libraries irrelevant in the modern age. Simply put, these pessimists make a fundamental mistake: They look at libraries as reactionary spaces filled with nothing but shelves.

Another feature of the modern age is the expanding gulf between the information rich and the information poor. According to the Pew Research Center, adults with more education, higher household incomes, and more technologies connected to the Internet “are more likely to be participants in today’s educational ecosystem and to use information technology to navigate the world.”

The digital divide poses numerous challenges in affluent countries like the United States, as well as in poorer and smaller countries like Bulgaria (where I come from).

. . . .

“With all these technologies, libraries are becoming more important because the process of critically sifting out information and finding the right information will be growing more important,” explains Spaska Tarandova, director of the Global Libraries Foundation in Bulgaria. “The freedom of space requires that one has basic skills in evaluating which resource is reliable [and] which one is the product of someone’s imagination and speculation.”

Many people, particularly the young, have a fundamentally incorrect understanding of information literacy, says Elitsa Lozanova-Belcheva, a researcher and professor at Sofia University who has also worked as a librarian. Young people, she says, interpret information literacy as the ability to do a simple Google search, write and read emails, and chat with friends on Facebook. These and other activities are a long way from information literacy, she says, and that’s why most people should go through training to master more of the resources available online.

. . . .

Public libraries in Bulgaria and many other countries benefit the less privileged members of the communities outside the capital city. Lozanova-Belcheva agrees with Tarandova that libraries can help bridge the digital divide. She explains that this divide is still more serious when one takes into account ethnic minorities, such as the Roma in Bulgaria, and citizens with disabilities who face a greater risk of social exclusion. Properly maintained public libraries empower minority communities by providing access to modern technologies and the training to use these technologies for education- and work-related purposes.

In addition to information and computer literacy, libraries have discovered another promising niche: e-government.

“Over the past few years, libraries have come to serve as an intermediary between [citizens and authorities] through e-government services,” says Lozanova-Belcheva, explaining that some libraries in the U.S. have e-government librarians who help users navigate the sea of administrative and oftentimes incomprehensible language of modern-day bureaucracies. “Global trends show that users themselves prefer to use e-government services through the library because they trust this institution.”

E-government services, through which citizens can access administrative information and contact public institutions and officials from a distance, have now left the confines of American libraries and have popped up in their counterparts in Bulgaria.

. . . .

This spring, the regional library in the city of Varna, in cooperation with a local robotics school, organized a 3-D printing and modeling course. The library, which in March became the first public library in Bulgaria to introduce self-checkout, offered several three-hour editions of the course in the span of a few months. During the course, participants, who had to be at least 12 and bring their own laptops, learned to model 3-D objects such as a simple cube, a favorite character, or a practical tool for daily use.

For its part, the regional library in the town of Stara Zagora has launched a service unique for Bulgaria: bibliotherapy. Eleven certified consultants, who have completed training organized by the library and funded by the Global Libraries Foundation, consult library users and assist them in finding books that address some of their troubles. “With this service, readers receive special attention, enough time to share the problem that bothers them, conversation confidentiality, and a specially selected book,” explains Nadezhda Grueva, director of the Stara Zagora Regional Library.

Link to the rest at The Millions

Time Lapse

15 October 2016

The New York Public Library is a lovely place.




Lords to debate library ‘crisis’ and independent bookshops

4 October 2016

From The Bookseller:

Campaigners have called for the House of Lords to intervene in the “crisis” in the public library sector and to pledge its support for independent booksellers ahead of a debate about the significance of libraries and bookshops in UK society.

Organised by Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue magazine, the debate will see speakers – including Penguin Random House chair Baroness Gail Rebuck – discuss the cultural, civic and educational significance of local libraries and independent bookshops in the United Kingdom in the House of Lords on Thursday 13th October.

. . . .

Earlier this year, a report by the BBC found that the widespread library closures across the UK have resulted in the loss of almost 8,000 jobs in the last six years. The investigation revealed that the amount of volunteers in use in libraries has almost doubled since 2010, rising from 15,861 to 31,403. In this time, the number of paid staff fell from 31,977 to 24,044, which is a drop of 25% for the 182 libraries that provided comparable data. The report also found that a total of 343 libraries have closed in the same time period. This number of closures in England is higher than the government’s official estimate of 110 closures.

. . . .

Elizabeth Ash, trustee of the Library Campaign, hopes that the discussion will see the issues affecting the library service “properly debated”, including discussions about the loss of “so many libraries” and also the drop in funding to support the remaining libraries, which has “led to the loss of library workers who are vital to delivering and effective library service” and to “reduced opening hours” and “depleted stock”, Ash said.

She concluded: “The current focus of local politicians on open doors without proper consideration of the level of service being offered needs to be addressed. We’d not accept many of the models being proposed in our schools, for example, so why should we for libraries?”

. . . .

In 2014, The Bookseller reported that the number of independent bookshops in the UK had fallen below 1,000 for the first time due to rising rents and rates, less trade as high streets suffer and competition from supermarkets, online retailers and readers migrating to e-books. By November 2015, the number of indie bookshops had fallen to 895. Although while Tim Godfray, c.e.o. of the Bookseller’s Association (BA), described the figures as “deeply depressing” he also said that the rate of decline was slowing.

Giles Clifton, head of corporate affairs at the BA, said he hoped the debate would bring attention to two issues of concern for booksellers -fair competition in the book market, and the heavy and disproportionate tax burden bookshops face compared with some of their main international competitors.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Library Loans Are a Double-Edged Sword

22 September 2016

From Digital Book World:

Denmark experienced rapid growth in digital lending from libraries between 2011 and 2015. At first this was a welcome source of new revenue for publishers. But by the middle of 2015, the digital lending market had grown even larger than the commercial market for digital book sales. Similar to the New York Public Library app, SimplyE, the national Danish library launched its own digital lending app, eReolen, which considerably simplified ebook borrowing, allowing users to borrow and read in just one click, increasing the amount of digital books borrowed.

Mofibo, the leading subscription service provider in Denmark, told book business news outlet Bogmarkedet that 16 percent of the provider’s customers said the reason they terminated their subscriptions was that they were able to get the same books for free at the library. At this point, an increased opposition from publishers and local resellers of ebooks started moving from the director’s office to the media.

. . . .

By late 2015, the third largest publisher in Denmark, Politikens Forlag, stepped in and said that they were willing to completely withdraw their books from the libraries if a new way of lending digital books was not found. At that time, the publishing director of Politiken Forlag, Lene Juul, said to the newspaper Berlingske(loosely translated): “The lending of digital books has grown rampant. The trend at the eReolen, where books can be lent for free to the consumer, is a slippery slope that has to be stopped now, because it can have devastating effects for the development of the book market in general.”

In Denmark, the libraries have a legal right to lend books without having to get permission from publishers. However, this is not the case for digital books, and by late 2015 the publishers decided to use this to their advantage. Many of the largest Danish publishers, like Gyldendal, withdrew their books from the libraries by the January 1, 2016.

. . . .

It would appear that the withdrawal of the large publishers had the desired effect. Digital books sold now account for about 67 percent of the market relative to library borrows in Denmark.

In neighboring Sweden, lending has continued uninterrupted for several years, and an estimated 72 percent of all ebooks consumed are borrowed from the public libraries. This has put pressure on the market, driving down the prices of digital books. Today the average sales price of an ebook relative to its paper cousin is 28 percent lower (including VAT), and that is even taking into account that physical books have a VAT of 6 percent compared to the 25 percent on digital books.

When looking at possible solutions for finding a natural equilibrium between the public sector and the private market, publishers have begun campaigning for the introduction of limits on the amount of loans made by libraries. One of the suggested solutions is to introduce “friction” when users borrow books. However, it is never a good solution to structurally disappoint the public by making them wait months for their books or use a complicated borrowing process.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Timberland libraries now offer access to self-published books

4 September 2016

From The Olympian:

There are two ways to publish a book these days.

The first is through the six prominent publishing companies that are still the recommended route to maximum exposure.

The other is through independent publishing, an approach authors take when they haven’t signed with an agent or a publishing house, but still want their work to be read.

And there was no middle ground until SELF-e became the compromise.

SELF-e is a website that lets libraries distribute the work of independent authors, and offer an array of genres and content for subscribing patrons.

The Timberland Regional Library system has joined thousands of other libraries across the country in providing SELF-e offerings, said Timberland public relations specialist R.J. Burt.

“One of the barriers for writers is being recognized enough to be picked up by a large publishing house,” Burt said. “Libraries have broken down that barrier for writers, so they should certainly use it.”

. . . .

Publishing on SELF-e is not only free but effortless, said Kim Storbeck, a library collections development specialist. After authors upload a book to SELF-e, there is a vetting process that takes roughly a week.

Barring any infractions of its policies — such as plagiarism, libel, or including hate speech — the book will be placed on the “Indie WA” list. This list is featured at participating libraries in Washington.

If a book is attracting an audience, editors from Library Journal will review the work and possibly add it to the national collection. Books added to the national collection, or a SELF-e selection, will circulate through every participating library in the nation.

. . . .

Readers can access SELF-e through Biblioboard, a companion site that libraries use as a digital library. Created in 2011, Biblioboard offers public and school library patrons unlimited access to content from publishers, historical databases, academic institutions and local organizations, Biblioboard Chief Business Officer Mitchell Davis said.

“SELF-e is one our most popular aspects of Biblioboard,” said Katie Davis, a Biblioboard library relations manager. “And indie publishing is not dying. It’s growing.”

Link to the rest at The Olympian

A Cry for Help

31 August 2016

From Trey Veazey, a first-year elementary school librarian in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

Anyone who knows me knows that To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book (as well as my favorite film). That masterwork has become such an integral part of my life. If I could be any fictional character, it would be Atticus Finch. I share a birthday with Harper Lee. I once played Boo Radley in a community theatre production. In fact, I have the Radley tree tattooed on my arm. If my son Henry was to be a girl, we had planned to name him (her?) Scout. I’m even listening to Elmer Bernstein’s film score as I write this.

All of this meandering is to reinforce the power of books & reading in my life, & this is only in reference to one book. There have actually been countless ones that have left their imprint on me, & like others similar to me, many of those impressions were made during my childhood.

. . . .

 This is how I show my students that I love them — by putting books in their hands, by noticing what they are about, & finding books that tell them, “I know. I know. I know how it is. I know who you are, & even though we may never speak of it, read this book, & know that I understand you.”

. . . .

We were at school for 2 days, & then, the rains came. You might’ve heard. 

In the spirit of school, I have to tattle on myself to say that I broke the rules. After the water receded, I sneaked inside the building to check on the status of my library. I knew that there was damage. I knew that it was likely that over 500 of my own personal books — years of classroom library building & Scholastic points — would be ruined, unusable, destroyed. I was expectant that the box of books that I had begun gathering for my next Milk + Bookies drive would never be unpacked. In my mind, I knew all of this. In my heart, I was unprepared for the visual confirmation.

As I tried not to fall down in what was surely sewage water, I began to take note of the titles that made themselves known to me amid the destruction. The books were telling me something.

Unspeakable things have happened, yet you must move forward.

The sadness is heavy, but joy lies within your own strength.

A challenge is only the beginning. (Also, you’re not dead.)

Molly Lou Melon was very specific. Stand tall, man. Stand tall.

Others have persevered through far worse than this. 

. . . .

When I returned to the library over a week later, there were no more lessons to be learned. Reality had set in.

The books were gone. I would have no chance to save titles on higher shelves such as my signed edition of Dear Hank Williams from when Kimberly Willis Holt visited my school or a brand new copy of Counting Thyme that I bought for the library after tearing through it on the beach this past summer or all of the graphic novels I’d spent the last year collecting because my students couldn’t get enough of El Deafo, The Dumbest Idea Ever!, Roller Girl, & Sunny Side Up. I don’t want to talk about the ones that I haven’t even gotten to read yet like The Seventh Wish or Jack & Louisa: Act 2. I tried to tell myself that they were “only books,” but anyone who has ever loved a book knows that there is no such thing as “only books.”

So, why am I writing my first blog post in over 10 years? Why am I reminiscing about every wonderful book that comes to mind? Why am I tearing up as the strings in Elmer Bernstein’s orchestra swell to perfection, conjuring up a young Mary Badham complaining to Gregory Peck about school? The answer is simple. I need help.

We are relocating. We’ve been ushered over to a building that was built in 1937. That means my new school is the same age as And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. It also means that, in my first year as a librarian, I have a library without any books.

Access to books is the key to educational success. Our library doesn’t have books. Our classrooms don’t have books. Many of the homes of our students don’t have books. Like the tears that rolled down our faces both in silent & violent measures, they became a part of the flood before being swept away as we looked toward rebuilding & recovery.

How does one recover without books? I know not the answer to this, & so, I plead to you. Help us. There are kids in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that are hungry for knowledge & desperate to know that good remains in the world.

If you are an author/illustrator/publisher & would love to have your books in the hands of readers, please consider sending us those books. 

If you are someone with a generous spirit that doesn’t happen to write children’s books, we are in need of new or like-new books, both fiction & nonfiction, that would appeal to readers in PreKindergarten through Grade 5. If you are someone who would prefer to help in a pecuniary fashion, be assured that your funds, directed through the proper channels, will help to revitalize the library with magazine subscriptions, music, films, & chocolate. All others, feel free to send good thoughts. After this emotional & literal depletion, we are in dire need of good thoughts.

It has taken me over a week to muster the determination to conjure up this post, & while it’s possibly — ok, almost certainly — of an absurd length, it is my heart on display. It is a written manifestation of what I feel every time I walk into my public library — that there is a place for me, that there are others who care, & that the world is a naturally good place. I know all of these things to be true because of books (& family & movies & music & honey buns).

. . . .

 Trey Veazey
Glen Oaks Park Elementary School
2401 72nd Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70807
This is the address of our temporary location (formerly known as Banks Elementary). We are not guaranteed to receive any books sent to our home site on Lanier Drive. 

Link to the rest at Trey Veazey and thanks to Dave for the tip.

For visitors to The Passive Voice from outside the United States, an extremely powerful storm caused catastrophic flooding that inundated about 100,000 houses plus businesses, schools, etc., in Louisiana, a state located on the Gulf of Mexico in the southern United States.

Louisiana is not a wealthy state. Out of the fifty states, Louisiana ranks 44 in median household income.

Here are some photos of school and library damage in the Baton Rouge area:




Additional photos of Louisiana flood damage are here and a description of the flooding is here.

Adult library usage falls ‘significantly’

15 August 2016

From The Bookseller:

There has been a “significant decrease” in the proportion of adults who engage with public libraries across all demographic groups for the first time since records began.

A report on public library engagement comissioned by the government department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has revealed that 33.4% of adults had visited a public library in the year April 2015 to March 2016, down from 33.9% a year earlier, and down from 48.2% in 2005/06. The report revealed there has been a “significant decline” in the proportion of adults who used a public library in all individual English regions since 2005/06, when records began, with the South East region seeing the largest decline, from 51% in 2005/05 to 31.9% in 2015/16.

The research also found that the gap between ethnic groups using libraries is increasing, with a higher proportion of adults from BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) groups using a library in the year April 2015 to March 2016, than adults from the white ethnic group (45.6% compared with 31.6%). The divide reflects a “significant” decrease in the proportion of adults from the white ethnic group using public libraries since 2013/14, while the proportion of BAME adults using libraries has remained stable.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The Librarian Who Changed Children’s Literature Forever

6 August 2016
Comments Off on The Librarian Who Changed Children’s Literature Forever

From Slate:

They called her ACM, but never, ever, to her face. Her staff at the celebrated Room 105 of the New York Public Library were expected to observe strict decorum at all times, but those who passed muster got to see the giants of the first age of children’s book publishing walk through the door to pay court to Anne Carroll Moore, superintendent of the Department of Work With Children for the NYPL from 1906 to 1941. Beatrix Potter considered her a close friend; she could summon William Butler Yeats to appear at her library events. Carl Sandburg described Moore as “an occurrence, a phenomenon, an apparition not often risen and seen among the marching manikins of human progress.”

The first half of the 20th century was a formative era for the relatively new enterprises of children’s libraries and children’s book publishing, and Moore was one of its undisputed doyennes, if not quite its absolute ruler. Authors, editors, and publishers sought audiences with Moore for advice and, above all, for her blessing on their latest offerings. In addition to presiding, unofficially, over children’s librarianship across the nation, Moore wrote a regular column reviewing new books for the New York Herald Tribune and, later, the Horn Book, a highly influential journal devoted to children’s literature, co-founded by one of her many protégés. Her end-of-year lists were sacred anointments of the chosen titles; she was reputed to be able to make or break a book, much as the New York Times’ theater critic was said to determine the fate of a new play. The only thing more terrible than having your book dismissed by Moore with her signature opprobrium—“Truck!”—was the rubber stamp she kept in her desk that read “Not Recommended for Purchase by Expert.”

. . . .

Until the late 19th century, libraries weren’t even considered a fitting place for children under 10, and the first children’s rooms, installed in the 1890s, were initially meant to cordon off noisy young patrons so they didn’t bother the adults. Moore pioneered the children’s room as we still know it today: a homey space with plenty of comfortable, child-size chairs, art on the walls, space for events like storytelling, which Moore almost singlehandedly made a regular feature at libraries. All children’s librarians adopted her credo of the Four Respects: respect for children, respect for children’s books, respect for one’s colleagues, and respect for the children’s librarianship as a profession. None of these was a given before Moore and her cohort came along.

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

Syria’s secret library

28 July 2016

From The BBC:

When a place has been besieged for years and hunger stalks the streets, you might have thought people would have little interest in books. But enthusiasts have stocked an underground library in Syria with volumes rescued from bombed buildings – and users dodge shells and bullets to reach it.

Down a flight of steep steps, as far as it’s possible to go from the flying shrapnel, shelling and snipers’ bullets above, is a large dimly lit room. Buried beneath a bomb-damaged building, it’s home to a secret library that provides learning, hope and inspiration to many in the besieged Damascus suburb of Darayya.

“We saw that it was vital to create a new library so that we could continue our education. We put it in the basement to help stop it being destroyed by shells and bombs like so many other buildings here,” says Anas Ahmad, a former civil engineering student who was one of the founders.

. . . .

The siege of Darayya by government and pro-Assad forces began nearly four years ago. Since then Anas and other volunteers, many of them also former students whose studies were brought to a halt by the war, have collected more than 14,000 books on just about every subject imaginable.

Over the same period more than 2,000 people – many of them civilians – have been killed. But that has not stopped Anas and his friends scouring the devastated streets for more material to fill the library’s shelves.

“In many cases we get books from bomb or shell-damaged homes. The majority of these places are near the front line, so collecting them is very dangerous,” he says.

“We have to go through bombed-out buildings to hide ourselves from snipers. We have to be extremely careful because snipers sometimes follow us in their sights, anticipating the next step we’ll take.”

. . . .

The location of the library is secret because Anas and other users fear it would be targeted by Darayya’s attackers if they knew where it was.

. . . .

There is one child who visits the library every day, however, because he lives next door. For 14-year-old Amjad it is safer there than being above ground, and over time his enthusiasm for the place has earned him the role of “deputy librarian”.

. . . .

I ask him, in a besieged town that has only had access to two aid convoys in nearly four years, wouldn’t it make more sense for the library enthusiasts to spend their time looking for food rather than books?

“I believe the brain is like a muscle. And reading has definitely made mine stronger. My enlightened brain has now fed my soul too,” he replies.

“In a sense the library gave me back my life. It’s helped me to meet others more mature than me, people who I can discuss issues with and learn things from. I would say that just like the body needs food, the soul needs books.”

Link to the rest at The BBC and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

The Street Librarian

25 July 2016

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