Libraries

For anyone who doesn’t get why old book smell is special, meet these two scientists

19 September 2017

From Upworthy:

Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlič remember how it smells to enter the library of Dean and Chapter.

The library is nestled above the main floor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, tucked away behind the southwest tower. Coming through the long stone corridors of the cathedral, a visitor is met with a tall wooden door, usually kept closed. The outside world might be full of the smell of fumes from central London’s busy roads or the incense that wafts through the church, but once you open that door, a different smell envelops you. It’s woody, musty, and a little bit familiar.

“It is a combination of paper, leather, wood … and time,” said the pair.

. . . .

Bembibre and Strlič are scientists from the University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Heritage. Many people might find the aroma of an old, yellowing book nostalgic, but for Bembibre and Strlič, it can be so much more.

For them, what we smell is just as much a part of our heritage as what we see or hear — and they’re on a mission to preserve it.

. . . .

For their latest work, the pair used both high-tech chemistry and an old-fashioned human nose to document the smell of books.

Volunteers were asked to describe either the aroma of the cathedral library (woody, smoky, vanilla) or antique books (chocolate, burnt, mothballs). Bembibre and Strlič then combined these descriptors with analyses of the faint, airborne scent-laden chemicals (known as VOCs) that the items or locations were giving off.

The pair then synthesized these findings into the Historic Book Odour Wheel, which pairs the chemical signatures and human descriptors together. Using it, you can see that a book with a rich caramel smell might be impregnated with the chemical furfural or one with an old-clothing funk might be giving off the chemical hexanal.

. . . .

“Our knowledge of the past is odourless,” the authors write in their paper. But our lives aren’t.

Link to the rest at Upworthy

PG prefers the aroma of cinnamon rolls in the oven.

Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World’s Oldest Continuously Run Libraries

6 September 2017

Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. (Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons)

From Smithsonian:

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, a sacred Christian site nestled in the shadow of Mount Sinai, is home to one of the world’s oldest continuously used libraries. Thousands of manuscripts and books are kept there—some of which contain hidden treasures.

Now, as Jeff Farrell reports for the Independent, a team of researchers is using new technology to uncover texts that were erased and written over by the monks who lived and worked at the monastery. Many of these original texts were written in languages well known to researchers—Latin, Greek, Arabic—but others were inscribed in long-lost languages that are rarely seen in the historical record.

Manuscripts with multiple layers of writing are known as palimpsests, and there are about 130 of them at St. Catherine’s Monastery, according to the website of the Early Manuscript Electronic Library, which has been leading the initiative to uncover the original texts.

. . . .

To uncover the palimpsests’ secret texts, researchers photographed thousands of pages multiple times, illuminating each page with different-colored lights. They also photographed the pages with light shining onto them from behind, or from an oblique angle, which helped “highlight tiny bumps and depressions in the surface,” Gray writes. They then fed the information into a computer algorithm, which is able to distinguish the more recent texts from the originals.

. . . .

But perhaps the most intriguing finds are the manuscripts written in obscure languages that fell out of use many centuries ago. Two of the erased texts, for instance, were inked in Caucasian Albanian, a language spoken by Christians in what is now Azerbaijan. According to Sarah Laskow of Atlas Obscura, Caucasian Albanian only exists today in a few stone inscriptions. Michael Phelps, director of the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, tells Gray of the Atlantic that the discovery of Caucasian Albanian writings at Saint Catherine’s library has helped scholars increase their knowledge of the language’s vocabulary, giving them words for things like “net” and “fish.”

Other hidden texts were written in a defunct dialect known as Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a mix of Syriac and Greek, which was discontinued in the 13th century only to be rediscovered by scholars in the 18th century. “This was an entire community of people who had a literature, art, and spirituality,” Phelps tells Gray. “Almost all of that has been lost, yet their cultural DNA exists in our culture today. These palimpsest texts are giving them a voice again and letting us learn about how they contributed to who we are today.”

Link to the rest at Smithsonian

If you click on either image in this post, you’ll see a larger version.

This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).

Print Book Use Is Falling Faster in Research Libraries

27 August 2017

From The Scholarly Kitchen:

In late 2010, I was thinking quite a bit about book use in research libraries. The conventional wisdom was that “no one uses print books anymore” in libraries like mine, and indeed annual data provided by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) showed a pretty clear decline in book circulations: between 1991 and 2008 (the most recent data available at that time), the number of initial circulations in ARL libraries had fallen by over a quarter. And when I ventured into the book stacks in my own library I usually found them spookily deserted.

. . . .

But I was haunted by a passing comment a colleague had made to me a few years earlier, noting that the conclusions we draw from library usage data can easily be confounded by changes in the library’s user population. It occurred to me that if we really want to understand what’s happening with regard to library patrons and printed books, we need to take into account the changing nature of our patron base. And the simplest and most consistent change in that population is growth over time: university enrollment tends to grow from year to year.

The question I decided to examine, then, was: how much of the change in individual patron behavior is being hidden by raw circulation data? Clearly, if the size of your patron base is growing while circulation numbers remain the same, that means that the average patron is using the printed collection less; and if the circulation numbers are actually falling while your patron base is growing, that means the average patron is using the library at a more steeply-declining rate than the circulation data suggest.

. . . .

ARL libraries had seen a fairly steady number of initial circulation transactions between 1995 and 2008, with totals hovering between 36 and 40 million. However, during that same period the aggregate circulation rate fell by almost 50% —a significant change in patron behavior, and one entirely masked by the raw circulation trend.

. . . .

What came next was, for me, even more interesting: I had a great deal of trouble getting my study published. I submitted it to a journal with a particular interest in collection development in research libraries, and it was rejected. Then I submitted it to a journal focused on library management; no luck there either. I eventually decided to submit it in an abridged version to a less formal venue, and the report was published in Library Journal under the title “Print on the Margins: Circulation Trends in Major Research Libraries.” The data set was too large to embed into the article, so I pulled out a few noteworthy institutional examples and provided a link to the full data set for those wanting to investigate further.

That piece was published in mid-2011, and over the past couple of years I’ve been feeling a growing sense that it was time to revisit the ARL data and see what’s happened in research libraries since.

. . . .

In 2009, what had been a fairly steady state in initial circulations between 1995 changed dramatically, and there has been a hard and steady decline ever since. Between 2009 and 2015, total initial circulations in ARL libraries fell by almost half (from 36 million to 19 million).

. . . .

[A]ny library that is seeing a steep decline in the use of its print collection should probably let that trend inform a serious examination of its space and budget allocations. (And given that the average decline in circulations per student since 1995 has been so dramatic — from 25 to 7, a 72% decrease — there are lots of research libraries seeing steep declines.)

Link to the rest at The Scholarly Kitchen

Great to See Major Publishers Embrace Alternative Ebook Models in Public Libraries, But Let’s Give Credit Where Credit is Due

20 August 2017

From No Shelf Required:

This month, libraries across North America that work with hoopla digital will be able to provide access to some 15,000 (backlist) titles by HarperCollins, one of the ‘big five’ publishers that have resisted working with non-traditional ebook business models and adhered to the one-copy-one-user approach, resulting in less-than-ideal user experience for public library patrons. The news came the day before the official launch of the American Library Association conference in late June and has already received ample coverage, much of which has revolved around statements that with this move HarperCollins was changing the game, breaking new ground, and giving libraries something exciting to look forward to.

While HarperCollins deserves credit for being the first of the Big Five (others include Penguin Random, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) to go a step beyond the restrictive one copy-one user model (it was also the first to provide ebooks to libraries when others weren’t ready), HarperCollins isn’t the first publisher to embrace alternative models and certainly isn’t the one that is breaking new ground with this move. In fact, as many already know, hoopla has offered the cost-per-circulation model (which pays publishers per ‘loan’ instead of paying fixed fees to acquire titles) for a few years.

. . . .

I’ve had the privilege of working with vendors that cater to all types of libraries and have seen first-hand how difficult it is to crack the public library market in particular. My experience has shown that the vast majority of libraries are simply not ready or are not willing to work with new (unfamiliar) companies providing high-quality services (and models that are actually revolutionizing access to books) if, and particularly if  a) they are not established and don’t have a proven record in the library field; b) they are not based in North America (not always the case but very often) and c) they do not work with the Big Five (because public library patrons want those bestsellers the most, an argument that certainly carries weight).

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required and thanks to Paul for the tip.

Getting started with the Libby app to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your library

14 August 2017

From Overdrive:

Our new Libby app is the easiest way to get started with digital books and audiobooks from your public library. Libby is available for Android, iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch), and Windows 10.

. . . .

Step 1

Install the Libby app from your device’s app store.

Step 2

Open Libby and find your library. You can search by library name, city, or zip code.

Step 3

Browse your library’s collection and borrow a title. When prompted, sign in with a valid library card.

Step 4

Borrowed titles appear on your Shelf and download to the app automatically when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, so you can read them when you’re offline.

From your Shelf, you can:

  • Tap Open book or Open audiobook to start reading or listening to a title.
  • Tap the cover image, then Send to Device to send a book to Kindle.

Link to the rest at Overdrive

PG says this looks a lot simpler than working your way through most library websites.

Draft2Digital Adds Overdrive to the Fold

1 August 2017

From Draft2Digital:

One of the most frequent questions we hear from D2D authors is, “How can I get my books into libraries?”

We’re pleased to announce that, starting today, Draft2Digital now distributes to OverDrive, enabling our authors to place their books into one of the most trusted and far-reaching library distribution services on the planet.

. . . .

  • Lower minimum pricing—Set your price as low as 99 cents
  • Better royalties—Earn 46.75% of your list price
  • No contracts or limitations—Distribution with OverDrive is opt-in, and you can choose to include or exclude your books right from your Author Dashboard

The next time you log in to Draft2Digital, you’ll see a pop-up that will let you include all your books at once, making it easy to start distributing right away! If you’d prefer to wait, you can opt in one book at a time, any time.

Link to the rest at Draft2Digital

 

The Rare-Book Thief Who Looted College Libraries in the ’80s

24 July 2017

From the Atlas Obscura:

On the evening of December 7, 1981, Dianne Melnychuk, serials librarian at the Haas Library at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, noticed an unfamiliar gray-haired man of early middle age lingering around the card catalog near her desk. He had attempted to appear inconspicuous by way of nondescript, almost slovenly dress, but at almost six-and-a-half feet tall, with a 225-pound frame, he stood out.

Something about him rang a bell. Melnychuk discreetly followed him up to the sixth level of the stacks, and carefully observed him from the end of a row of shelving. In spite of the glasses he wore that evening, his face clicked in her memory.

A few months earlier, a photo of this man, who went by the name James Richard Shinn, had appeared in an article published in Library Journal. Patricia Sacks, director of the Muhlenberg and Cedar Crest College Libraries, had shared the article with her staff with an accompanying memo: “Take a good look at the face,” she wrote, “and, more importantly, keep your eye on strangers whose behavior may be a tipoff.”

James Richard Shinn was a master book thief. Using expert techniques and fraudulent documents, he would ultimately pillage world-class libraries to the tune of half a million dollars or more. A Philadelphia detective once called him “the most fascinating, best, smartest crook I ever encountered.” And yet, despite the audacity of his approach and the widespread effects of his crimes, Shinn has been relegated to a footnote in book history.

. . . .

Shinn’s motel room contained 26 stolen books and a file full of inventory cards for another 154 volumes. He was well-educated in book history, restoration and binding, and the tools of his trade filled the room: color-stained cloths and Q-tips with jars of shoe polish, used to color-match and conceal library markings on book spines. A folder of facsimile title pages, used as replacements when a book’s true title page was stamped or contained other identifying marks. All were designed to remove libraries’ marks and render the stolen works unidentifiable and thus saleable to unsuspecting book dealers and collectors.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

Best Excuses for not Returning Library Books on Time

20 July 2017
Comments Off on Best Excuses for not Returning Library Books on Time

From Book Riot:

The best part about being a librarian is being able to help community members with their information needs. Patrons frequent their public libraries to check out new books, make prints, fax papers, apply for jobs or simply to visit their favorite librarian.

. . . .

So, I would be lying if I told you I did not like my job. The truth is, it is the most rewarding career I could imagine. Most patrons are so genuinely thankful for the assistance their librarians provide that they know they can always turn to them for help with the most difficult questions. However, when it comes to turning in books late and racking up fines, some patrons do not mess around. They hate racking up fines and hate it even more when they have to pay those fines.

. . . .

“I couldn’t find the keys to my car that day.” So I guess you could not find them every day after that either? I wonder how you got to work or dropped your kids off at school. Hmmmm.

“I didn’t know they were due that day. I never bring back my books late. I’m always on top of things like that.” ::Checks account, sees a long history of returning books late::

. . . .

“I’m a taxpayer and I shouldn’t have to pay fines.” What would this world come to if you weren’t held accountable for paying your late fees? Yes, you can speak to a commissioner or the mayor if you would like.

But my all-time favorite has to be: “It was just too hot that day to return my books.” Listen, I know it’s Texas and 110 degrees but “too hot outside” is not an excuse I can mark on your account. You have to give me something better than that.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

A Childhood of Reading and Wandering

19 July 2017

From The Literary Hub:

There are ecological reasons to question how books are made out of trees but metaphysical reasons to rejoice in the linkage between forests and libraries, here in this public library, in the town I grew up in, with the fiber from tens of thousands of trees rolled out into paper, printed and then bound into books, stacked up in rows on the shelves that fill this place and make narrow corridors for readers to travel through, a labyrinth of words that is also an invitation to wander inside the texts. The same kind of shade and shelter that can be found in an aisle of books and an avenue of trees, and in the longevity of both, and the mere fact that both, if not butchered or burned, may outlive us.

In the most egalitarian of European—and New Mexican—traditions, forests were public commons in which common people could roam, graze flocks, hunt and gather, and this is another way that forests when they are public land and public libraries are alike: as spaces in which everyone is welcome, as places in which we can wander and collect, get lost and find what we’re looking for.

The United States’s public libraries sometimes seem to me the last refuges of a democratic vision of equality, places in which everyone is welcome, which serve the goal of an informed public, offering services far beyond the already heady gift of free books you can take home, everything from voter registration to computer access. I’ve joked for a long time that if you walked up to people in the street and asked them whether we could own our greatest treasures collectively and trust people to walk away with them and bring them back, a lot of people would say that’s impossibly idealistic and some would say it’s socialist, but libraries have been making books free for all for a very long time. They are temples of books, fountains of narrative pleasure, and toolboxes of crucial information. My own writing has depended on public libraries and then university libraries and archives and does to this day. I last used a public library the day before yesterday.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

60 Library Systems are on Pace to Hit One Million Digital Checkouts in 2017

18 July 2017

From Overdrive Blogs:

Last year, a record 49 different OverDrive digital library collections hit one million checkouts and we’re excited to announce that it looks like, once again, a new benchmark will be set. Records are meant to be broken, after all. In 2015, the number of library systems hitting one million checkouts was 33 and two years later we’re within range of doubling that amount. When we reached the end of June, 60 digital collections had surpassed 500,000+ circulations and another ten are just off that pace. In fact, 15 of them have already passed the one million checkout threshold.

The Million Checkout milestone is both a great achievement and a marketing tool for our library partners. Many libraries boost their marketing efforts during the holidays to promote the service and reach that goal. Neighboring libraries have even created friendly competitions to see who can circulate the most eBooks, audiobooks and other digital content. These events often spark inspiration for other libraries to say, “Next year that will be us!” While we love this gumption to plan for next year, there’s still time to reach new heights in 2017.

Link to the rest at Overdrive Blogs

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