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

Abandoned Wal-Mart now a Library

28 June 2016

From 99percentinvisible:

Big-box stores promise convenience and jobs for suburbs and small towns, but have a mixed reputation with designers and citizens. Many see big boxes as icons of unsustainable sprawl, reinforcing car culture with highway-oriented access and expansive parking lots. These boxy buildings not only take up vast amounts of land but often also require infrastructure around them to be overhauled. Later, when their super-sized occupants leave: a giant empty structure is left in their wake, which can be difficult to reuse unless a similar retailer takes its place.

. . . .

In one Texas town, a vacated Walmart has become the biggest single-story public library in the United States.

. . . .

The open floor area was strategically split into various sections, including public meeting spaces and computer labs, as well as an auditorium, bookstore and cafe. On the ceiling above, the designers left structural and mechanical elements exposed, coating them in white paint. Below, bright carpets, colorful floors and modern details distinguish various occupied zones and transitional areas. New colors and materials have transformed the entry and exterior.

. . . .

Big boxes have been turned into everything from commercial gyms, markets and offices to institutional museums, schools and churches.

Link to the rest at 99percentinvisible

Are Libraries the New Bookstores?

27 June 2016

From Writer Unboxed:

Last year I was about halfway through my book tour in Ohio when I noticed something strange: I had not yet laid eyes on a bookstore.

I was traveling with my father and my sister through northwest Ohio. My novel Thieving Forest, which prompted the tour, took place in this area in 1806, when it was known as the Great Black Swamp. Today the swamp is mostly drained except for a few state parks and forests, and what has taken its place is farmland. Miles and miles of farmland.

“Hey, have you noticed there are no bookstores anywhere?” I asked my sister.

She said, “But there are a lot of libraries.”

That was a good thing, since I was on a book tour of libraries—eight of them. Every reading I held except for one (there’s always one) was extremely well attended with an audience full of avid readers. They had interesting questions, insightful comments, and we always engaged in a lively discussion. It was every writer’s dream. And then, after each reading, my sister and I sold my books—at a discount, since there wasn’t a bookstore’s cut to consider. The readers were happy and I was happy, too.

It turns out that just because there were no bookstores didn’t mean there were no readers. They were all at the libraries.

. . . .

Authors are becoming aware of the benefits of reaching out to libraries and making their books and themselves available. For one thing, nearly every library has at least one book club, if not two or more. What author doesn’t want to promote their book to as many book clubs as possible?

But book clubs aren’t the only ways that libraries promote books. According to Holly Kabat, the Acquisitions Editor at Medina County District Library and the librarian who organized a reading for me in Cleveland, “Libraries spend a lot of money and time, including training staff and coworkers, on best marketing practices. . . We want your books to circulate as much as you do!”

. . . .

“Academic, public and school libraries are experiencing a shift in how they are perceived by their communities and society,” according to the latest State of America’s Libraries report from the American Library Association. “No longer just places for books, libraries of all types are viewed as anchors, centers for academic life and research and cherished spaces.”

Libraries are becoming what’s known as “Third Spaces”—a social area apart from home or work. Even in the most rural of areas, I was told that people drove for miles to attend libraries events. And in fact I witnessed that first-hand as I read from my novel in crowded rooms.

. . . .

Don’t wait: contact libraries as soon as your book is released.According to librarian Holly Kabat, “Libraries rely heavily on their “new” section for continual circulation, because a lot of patrons don’t look beyond displays, and a lot of members don’t have an interest in books that aren’t new releases, for whatever reason. It is very rare that I buy a book with a pub date more than a year or two past the current date.” Also, keep your request short, giving a concise summary of the book.

Ask friends to request your book from their library, especially if they live in different cities and/or different states. Libraries listen to their members, and often have automatic requests built in to their web site—you can request without leaving your couch!

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

In PG’s experience, libraries often have much better facilities for readings/gatherings than most bookstores do.

Timberland libraries now offer access to self-published books

21 June 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.

Olympia author Ned Hayes, 47, published his first novel on SELF-e in 2015. “Coeur d’Alene Waters” went viral and was added to the national collection.

. . . .

“In this new world of publishing, I think these options give authors more flexibility to move outside genre boundaries and seek new audiences for their writing,” Hayes said in an email to The Olympian. “I appreciate the flexibility of being able to control my own publication rights and my own promotions for this book.”

Link to the rest at The Olympian

Cory Doctorow: Peace In Our Time

11 May 2016

From Cory Doctorow via Locus:

E-books are game-changers, but not in the way we all thought they would be. Far from taking over print, e-book sales have stagnated at less than a quarter of print sales and show every sign of staying there or declining for the foreseeable future.

But e-books continue to be a source of bitter controversy that divides publishers from two of their most potentially useful allies: writers’ groups and libraries.

Below, I’ll present two thought experiments for how libraries and writers’ groups could find common cause with the Big Five publishers, using tech projects that would make a better world for writers, readers, literature, and culture.

First up, libraries. Libraries are understandably exercised about the high prices they’re expected to pay for their e-books – as much as 500% more than you and I pay on the major online services. To add insult to injury, HarperCollins makes libraries delete any e-book that has circulated 26 times, on the bizarre grounds that:

a) Its print books are allegedly so badly bound that they disintegrate after 26 readings (this is not actually true); and

b) This defect in the robustness of physical books is a feature, not a bug, and should be im­ported into the digital realm.

. . . .

Publishers have a much bigger e-book problem than library pricing: Amazon’s dominance in e-book sales. Worse than that: Amazon is also a publisher, one that competes head to head with the Big Five, chasing the same authors to write the same books for the same readers.

Amazon knows, in realtime, how publishers’ books are performing. It knows who is buying them, where they’re buying them, where they’re reading them, what they searched for before buying them, what other books they buy at the same time, what books they buy before and after, whether they read them, how fast they read them, and whether they finish them.

Amazon discloses almost none of this to the publishers, and what information they do disclose to the publishers (the sales data for the publishers’ own books, atomized, without data-mineable associations) they disclose after 30 days, or 90 days, or 180 days. Publishers try to fill in the gaps by buying their own data back from the remaining print booksellers, through subscriptions to point-of-sale databases that have limited relevance to e-book performance.

. . . .

Here’s my thought-experiment: what if libraries cloned Overdrive in free, open source code, which every library in the world could use, and which libraries could pay independent contractors to patch and improve. Rather than paying an annual fee for Overdrive that pays for the soft­ware and dividends to Overdrive’s investors, the libraries would adopt the model that has made Drupal and WordPress so successful: paying independent contractors for service and upkeep, and collectively shar­ing the benefits of the incremental improvements made through these transactions.

The openness of the platform is key, because that’s what lets the libraries assert that they are able to collect aggregated statistics on usage and circulation that are sufficiently zoomed-out as to not compromise patrons’ privacy, but are still full of the key insights publishers need to compete with Amazon, their best and biggest frenemy, publisher, and retailer rolled into one.

. . . .

It’s critical that we make sure these deals ben­efit writers, because e-books are also a hot potato in writer-publisher dynamics. The Author’s Guild has taken a public stand demanding that writers to get 50% of net proceeds from e-books as a standard deal – double the current rate. Publishers have not taken this call very seriously so far.

But there’s a way to triple the writer’s share of e-book royalties, with­out costing the publishers anything, and, in so doing, take away some of Amazon’s market dominance.

That way is to allow writers to retail their own books.

The standard deal looks like this: retailers get 30% of the gross book price, and writers get 25% of the net (17.5% of gross) as a royalty. If writers were the retailers, their royalty would jump from 17.5% of gross to 47.5% of gross, for the books that they sold.

How could this work? Groups like the Authors Guild, and even its rival Authors Alliance (a group that calls for more liberal copyright rules, on whose advisory board I sit), or even both together (this being one of the few areas in which they can both agree), could raise a grant from a foundation to create an e-book retail platform that writers could host themselves, plug into their WordPress of Drupal sites, or embed as a widget on Facebook and Tumblr. This platform would allow writers to retail their own e-books, and would have a central hub, ‘‘Fair Trade E-books,’’ where readers could, with one search, find the writer’s store for whatever books they were seeking.

Writers who sell their own e-books offer two things that Amazon can’t match. The first is the assurance to readers that when they buy from writers, they help the writers they love triple their earnings, while not spending a penny more. The second is the ability to buy books from a single store, regardless of geographic location.

. . . .

The Big Five would have to come to the table, of course: they’d have to offer retail accounts to their own writers, which would incur some real accounting expense on their end. But as this service is born digital, the accounting tools could be built into the retailing software, developed in consultation with the Big Five, to plug right into their accounting systems.

Link to the rest at Locus

PG says there’s some notable hand-waving in this plan.

First, a bunch of programmers, working for free, will clone Overdrive. Presumably without violating any software patents or copyrights of Overdrive. While Overdrive drops into a deep sleep.

Second, a bunch of non-profit organizations notably short on programmers or programming expertise get a grant from a foundation to build an ebook retail platform that would compete with Amazon.

Of course, it’s dead simple to sell ebooks better than Amazon does. That’s why Amazon’s days as an etailer are numbered. Nook and Kobo have been eating Amazon’s lunch. Beating Amazon would be a cinch for the Authors Guild and some foundation-grant programmers.

Large organizations with deep pockets and the ability to hire lots of very smart people (Walmart – Annual Sales: $482 billion) are losing to Amazon. Amazon’s ecommerce platform is a work of sublime genius. And getting better every day.

PG is sure Cory means well, but an alternate universe would be necessary for his plan to succeed. With time travel back to Bezos’ place of birth.

Russian culture ministry denies reports of book burning

10 May 2016

From The Guardian:

The Russian ministry of culture has denied that a widely reported book burning ever happened, after the Russian Writers’ Union (RWU) submitted a petition to the government voicing concerns about the destruction of books.

In January, Russian authorities were reported to have burned 53 books and removed more than 500 other volumes from two university libraries in the north-western Komi republic, on the grounds that they contained sentiments “alien to Russian ideology”.

Most were textbooks published with money donated by the Soros Fund, run by hedge fund billionaire and outspoken Putin critic George Soros. The Open Society Foundation and the Open Society Institute’s Assistance Foundation, both financed by Soros, were declared “undesirable organisations” and forced to stop their work in Russia in November 2015.

A spokesperson for the education authorities in Komi later said reports of book burning had been misinterpreted by the media, and that the books had been withdrawn from circulation and stored in a warehouse. Culture minister Vladimir Medina later said that burning books was “totally unacceptable”.

. . . .

A spokesperson for Russia’s ministry of culture told the Guardian via email that the RWU’s fears were “groundless” and that book burning “could be regarded as censorship which is prohibited by the Russian constitution”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Uganda, where a book can cost a month’s salary

9 May 2016

From The BBC:

The hunt for a good book in Uganda’s capital is not for the faint-hearted; in fact it feels like a black market.

People look for friends going on a foreign trip to help them buy books, which are either not available or too expensive in Kampala.

One book which I have been wanting to read is Nothing Left To Steal by South African journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika.

But it costs around 140,000 Ugandan shillings ($42, £29) in bookshops here – which can buy a week’s worth of groceries for a family.

On internet shopping sites the best-selling memoir goes for less than a third of that price but deliveries to Uganda are not straightforward.

I did splurge once on a book by Guinea’s revolutionary leader Ahmed Sekou Toure. It set me back $60 – the pan-Africanist in me got the better of me that day.

Waitresses in downtown Kampala barely earn $60 in a month.

. . . .

It is in this environment that Rosey Sembatya has decided to start the Malaika Children’s Mobile Library.

“My sister has four children now and I’ve been finding it very difficult to buy them books because they’re quite expensive,” she says.

“So I sat back and thought maybe there is need to create something that can make story books accessible and available at a quite cheap price.”

. . . .

The library is in the spare room of a two-bedroom house she rents.

There are a couple of hundred books stacked on shelves and a long desk.

From here motorbike taxis, known as boda bodas, whizz around the capital delivering a week’s worth of reading for children.

Ms Sembatya used up her savings to start the library and says she tries to keep the cost down.

For a $30 annual fee, each child can borrow three books a week.

. . . .

But Uganda does have a fairly robust publishing industry.

Fountain Publishers is one of the biggest in East Africa, but like most companies here its focus is on academic writing.

. . . .

“Our biggest sellers are the curriculum books. Schools and students cannot afford to go away minus curriculum books,” Harrison Kiggundu, the firm’s senior marketing officer, told me.

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

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