Monroe County Library Book Cart Drill Team

21 May 2018

Thanks to Sean for the tip.

Learn from the Past in a Cozy Scottish Reading Room

18 May 2018

From Ozy:

Tucked away in a mews in central Edinburgh . . . is a two-room, book-lined haven, complete with a fireplace and (fake) tulips on the mantelpiece. Also on the mantel: a portrait of Charles Ponzi, who gave his name to the most famous of schemes and bilked thousands of people out of their money in the 1920s.

It’s people like Ponzi (and former currencies like the tulips, which caused a massive financial bubble in Holland in 1637) whose stories animate the Library of Mistakes, a friendly warrior on the side of good governance that seeks to serve as a resource for anyone interested in learning from history’s great financial errors. For Russell Napier, the professor and investment professional who founded and keeps the library of about 4,500 books, it’s a way of fighting back against not just specific idiocies but also against a financial profession that’s turned largely to teaching by the numbers rather than focusing on what history has taught us works … and what doesn’t.

. . . .

What doesn’t was illustrated in the 2008 British financial crisis, which Napier says was the inspiration for the library. When it comes to financial education, he explains, it’s “easier to sell the surety of numbers” — getting people to trust you with their money, whether at a personal or systemic level, is easier with algorithms, equations, things that seem unchangeable. But finance doesn’t just run on numbers. Napier, who’s taught financial history for years, argues that it’s through stories — and specifically through cautionary tales — that we’ll find a way to navigate both micro- and macro-economic disasters, avoid getting scammed and maintain sane policies and practices that govern finance.

. . . .

But the Library of Mistakes is catching on. A sister library opened in Pune, India, in 2016, and another is planned to debut in Lausanne, Switzerland, before the end of the year — the first that’s expected to include non-Anglophone texts.

Link to the rest at Ozy

How to Run Storytime Without Boring Everyone to Death

16 May 2018

From The Literary Hub:

For eight years I worked Storytime at a public library. When I mention this to people I get very mixed reactions. Sometimes, they’re impressed. They’ll ask about the crafts and the kids; they tell me it sounds like a rewarding experience. Others get a look on their face like they bit into a raw onion. Oh, they’ll reply, grimacing. How was that?

I mean, I get it. It’s a tough gig. I have to say, it’s easier looking back at Storytime with a sweet sense of nostalgia than when I was doing the actual work, peeling dried Elmer’s glue off my only good work pants and singing Raffi at nine in the morning to a bevy of screaming toddlers. Working children’s services sometimes means dealing with a bunch of sugared-up kids who got into a box of Lucky Charms cereal (I recognize that look—I also eat Lucky Charms to get amped). But it also means thinking on your feet and getting way outside your comfort zone. By that I mean you’ll probably have to kneel on the floor, and if you’re wearing a skirt, everyone is gonna see your underwear and four different kids will point it out loud enough for everyone in the library to hear.

When it comes to children’s programming, you quickly learn what will fly and what’s going to completely bomb. Most things don’t go over so hot. The notion of sitting in a rocking chair while a bunch of dimple-cheeked kids rest quietly at your feet is a lovely dream, but the odds are they will have already heard the book you’re reading, and they’ll decide it would be a cooler time to get up and play a game of tag or throw crayons at each other. When I first began planning Storytime programs, I chose books with beautifully detailed pictures and sweet plots about baby animals. This backfired spectacularly.

You don’t know how long a page can drag on until you hear a kid in the front row yell “I’m BORED” at the top of their lungs when you’re one paragraph into a 25 page book. You start speed reading. You’ve never read so fast in your entire life. Is the book funny? Is the story compelling i.e. does it talk about garbage or something gross? Does it involve using the bathroom? You’d better pray it does.

. . . .

Parents bring their kids to Storytime for several reasons: they’re trying to get out of the house, they genuinely like the programming, and they want to spend time with other parents who’ve got the same deer-in-headlights look. It’s an opportunity for them to commiserate and make friends.

. . . .

Sometimes these mashups didn’t work, but a lot of times they did. When a mom cried after her kid made her a bouquet of egg carton roses for mother’s day during one of my programs, I teared up, too. It was cool to see something work, to see it affect others positively. (Don’t tell anyone I cried).

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

The Long and Winding Road To Drm-Free Ebooks In Academic Libraries

26 April 2018

From No Shelf Required:

The issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been around for as long as ebooks have been around—and not only ebooks, but digital content in general, including online journals, movies, TV shows, games, and software. DRM is usually discussed in the context of copyright and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which makes circumvention of measures that control access to copyrighted works a civil offense (in some cases even a federal crime). But DRM isn’t copyright. It refers to actual technology—a code or a set of codes—applied to restrict the digital use of copyrighted materials. In the publishing world, it is a way of ‘protecting’ digital books against copyright infringement and piracy, which have been a major concern to publishers since the advent of the Internet. By using protection—usually via three DRM types, Amazon for Kindle, Apple’s FairPlay for iBookstore and Adobe’s Digital Editions Protection Technology—publishers (or copyright holders) are able to control what users can and cannot do with digital content.

This means that people buying ebooks, whether for personal or institutional use, are paying for usage, not possession (as has been the case for centuries with print books). When encrypted with DRM, ebooks cannot be easily (if at all) copied or printed, viewed on multiple devices, or moved from one device to another. Further, they can only be downloaded a certain number of times (even when legally bought online) and, if necessary, blocked in certain territories around the world (or made invisible to users in certain countries). Such restrictions have given publishers and authors some peace of mind over the past two decades, but they have resulted in many inconveniences for legitimate users, including lay readers who purchase digital content on sites like Amazon and researchers who access digital content through libraries.

. . . .

These same restrictions, many believe, are one of the essential reasons for the popularity of ebooks in the consumer market is stagnating. Apart from the fact that users tend to prefer print over digital when reading for pleasure (vs. when doing research), various DRM-related limits placed on ebooks— including territorial restrictions and inability to copy, print, and share—have only contributed to the overall decline in consumer ebook sales in recent years. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January 2018, only seven percent of Americans read digital books exclusively, while 39 percent read print books, and 29 percent read both print and digital.

. . . .

[S]ome trade publishers have been embracing the concept of DRM-free ebooks from the very beginning, including technology publishers like O’Reilly and Microsoft and genre fiction publishers like Carina Press, and On the academic side, many publishers have been providing DRM-free titles on their own platforms for a number of years—including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, SAGE, Springer/Palgrave, Elsevier, Wiley, De Gruyter, Brill, and Emerald, among others—but, until recently, they have not been giving large aggregators like EBSCO the option to distribute their titles DRM-free.

. . . .

In the world of research and academic libraries, the main issue has not been the preference of one format over the other, if for no other reason than for the fact that the sheer volume of academic titles published every year, is overwhelming. Based on the number of titles profiled by GOBI Library Solutions, a major library services vendor, at least 70,000 academic titles are published annually in the English language alone. Since the advent of the first library ebook platforms and subscription databases about 20 years ago, academic librarians have had their ‘hands’ full keeping up with the onslaught of digital resources, while experimenting with ever-evolving ebook business models and understanding their short-term and long-term repercussions. Indeed, the key ebook issue in academic libraries has to this day revolved around the effects of various business models on budgets and libraries’ ability to build sustainable digital collections for their institutions.

. . . .

A survey published this spring by Library Journal—whose goal was to investigate academic student ebook experience in four-year colleges, universities, graduate programs, as well as two-year or community colleges—found that 74 percent of students accessing ebooks through libraries believe there should be no restrictions placed on ebooks; 66 percent prefer to use ebooks with no restrictions; and 37 percent have taken a principled stand and only use ebooks that have no restrictions when conducting research.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

The Library Book

21 April 2018
Comments Off on The Library Book

From EW:

After years and years of research, [Susan Orlean] has written The Library Book: an account of the most devastating library fire in American history that doubles as a true love letter to one of our most prized institutions.

Orlean reopens the case of the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, which either destroyed or damaged more than a million books. Weaving her life-long love of books and reading with the fascinating history of libraries and the sometimes-eccentric characters who run them, Orlean investigates the fire to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives.

. . . .

She also delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from a metropolitan charitable initiative to a cornerstone of national identity. Along the way, she reveals how these buildings provide much more than just books — and that they are needed now more than ever.

. . . .

“My sweetest memories are of going to the library with my mother when I was a kid, browsing the stacks with her, savoring even the smell of the books and the way they felt in my lap when we were driving home and I had my chosen few piled on my lap.”

Link to the rest at EW

The Secret Codes Hidden in the Books of a Scottish Library

10 April 2018

From Atlas Obscura:

Georgia Grainger had only been working at Charleston Library in Dundee, Scotland, for six weeks when she was met with a mystery. One of the library’s customers, an older woman, approached her with a question and an open book. “Why does page 7 in all the books I take out have the 7 underlined in pen?” she asked. “It seems odd.” The customer opened the book to the relevant page and showed Grainger—sure enough, the 7 had been scored through with a pen. Another book, which the reader planned to take home that day, had exactly the same markings on the same page. This hyperlocal mystery (Charleston has a population of just 4,323 people) has captivated many thousands more around the world, after Grainger tweeted about what she’d discovered.

Immediately after learning about the marked 7s, Grainger says, her mind started to race through the wildest of possibilities. “I’ve got a bit of an overactive imagination, so I started coming up with all sorts of theories,” she says. “Spy rings, secret romances, serial killers, the usual!” She began checking other books for the mysterious markings. Most didn’t have it, but many in a similar genre did. These, Grainger says, are “wee old women” books—often romances set in wartime Britain, which are particularly popular with older patrons at the library. “They’re quite soft, gentle romances,” she says.

. . . .

The mystery remained unsolved, until her manager returned from an arts-and-crafts session she was hosting for children. In a tweet, Grainger wrote: “I decided to tell her about the serial killer in the library. And that’s how I found out that a lot of our elderly clientele have secret codes to mark which books they’ve read before.”

These days, the Charleston Library’s computers will automatically flag up whether a customer has taken out a book in the past, but many of the library’s elderly clientele have been doing it since long before electronic systems were in place.* They might underline a page number, draw a little star on the last page, or write their first initial somewhere in the book. “Then when they pick it up, they can check!” Grainger says.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

The Strange Magic of Libraries

9 April 2018

From The Paris Review:

Our era is a digital one, to be sure, but libraries of physical books are still holding on defiantly, even triumphantly. According to the Library Map of the World, there are over two million public and school libraries on planet Earth. Of these, 103,325 are in the U.S. and 12,570 in my native Australia. Globally, the number of private libraries is much larger still—because who is to say that even a humble shelf of Penguin or Pocket paperbacks doesn’t qualify as a private library?

The census of American libraries spans a wonderful diversity of institutions, from modest municipal book rooms and mobile libraries to the grand collections of such hallowed places as the Morgan, the Folger, the Huntington, and the Smithsonian. Surveys of library users reveal a passionate attachment to these institutions, one that is voiced in very human terms. The word love is an emotion often expressed toward libraries, and not just on “Love Your Library Day.” Libraries are places in which people are born—as authors, readers, scholars, and activists. (Think Eudora Welty, Zadie Smith, John Updike, and Ian Rankin.)

Public libraries are of and for the people. Fundamentally democratic, they usually do not ask visitors to justify their presence or pay an entry fee. Fewer and fewer such nondiscriminatory and noncommercial spaces exist in our towns and cities today.

. . . .

There is a magic, too, of creation. How many great and minor works were inspired by and assembled inside library reading rooms and amongst the stacks?

Libraries have a strange potency that is hard to capture in the arid, bureaucratic calculus of inputs, outputs, and outcomes. Throughout much of the Western world, though, that calculus dictates how public funds are spent.

Fortunately some rules are made to be broken. In the U.S., Canada, and Australia (but less so in Britain) public libraries continue to be well resourced. We seem to have an innate sense of the value of libraries and the need to preserve them—notwithstanding the impossibility of counting all of their outputs.

Throughout history, the loss of libraries in war and conquest has been an appalling constant. In 2003, for example, priceless books and manuscripts were looted from Baghdad’s Archaeological Museum, National Archives, and National Library. Losses included six-thousand-year-old clay tablets, medieval chronicles, calligraphic manuals, and an irreplaceable collection of Korans. In an especially bitter twist, some of the lost books had survived an earlier onslaught, in which Mongol invaders threw plundered books into the Tigris to build a makeshift bridge of paper and parchment.

The destruction of books has always carried a peculiar power. There is no better way to extinguish a culture than to destroy its books. Even seemingly routine disposals—of old newspapers, magazines, journals, dust-jackets—can cause bitter angst and trigger a protective reflex.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG recently discovered (alas, online and not in person) The Abbey Library of St. Gaul. Here are a couple of photos (click on photo for a larger version):

Abbey Library of St. Gaul, Chippee on Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


Wikipedia – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The Natural Enemy of the Librarian

7 April 2018

From Triple Canopy:

I have worked in Elmer Holmes Bobst Library and Study Center, New York University’s main research library, on Washington Square Park, for twenty-four years. I have always found the design of the building beautiful—more so than just about any other library building I have been in. Every day I walk through the revolving doors and gaze immediately upward toward the series of cascading bronze stairs, which ascend twelve stories. I stand in the ten-thousand-square-foot chasm, which is encircled with clinical precision by shimmering catwalks. The pattern of black, white, and gray marble on the ground floor resembles an Escher drawing viewed through the lens of the Italian Renaissance. The stark simplicity of the railings and the harsh, clean lines remind me of a Mondrian painting. My chest feels a little lighter and my head swims a bit, as when stepping into a cathedral and being drawn heavenward.

. . . .

Nearly every day, however, I hear someone complain that the atrium is a “waste of space.” This complaint goes back to 1965, when a group of head librarians from around the country were invited to review the architect Philip Johnson’s design. Among the librarians was Ralph Ellsworth, the director of libraries at the University of Colorado, who voiced his objections to Martin Beck, NYU’s director of planning. The enormous atrium meant that the floors would be U-shaped, which would minimize the amount of storage and inconvenience readers, he asserted. He called the design “a throwback to the 19th century conditions” and “a fantastic architectural anachronism,” comparable to Boeing putting “buggy whip holders on the front of a B-727.”

Ellsworth’s vitriolic letter set the tone, and librarians continue to vehemently denounce the building to this day. They allege that Johnson, like so many architects, failed to appreciate the purpose of the building or draw on the knowledge of librarians. They resent that the needs of researchers, and imperatives of storage and preservation, were deemed to be less important than the desire for grandeur and monumentality. And, unknowingly, they express an abiding tension between practical design and aesthetics, between librarians and architects, which has a curious history.

. . . .

In The Evolution of the American Academic Library Building (1997), Kaser argues that libraries should be designed to preserve materials, facilitate functionality, and attain beauty, but he admits that “very few have done all three.” As Kaser explains, there were no academic libraries in the United States until the mid-nineteenth century. Early American colleges tended to be small and religious, so at Yale and Brown, for example, the library shared space with the chapel. (Round libraries, such as the one designed by Thomas Jefferson for the University of Virginia in 1826, were also common.) In 1840, the University of South Carolina erected the first freestanding library, a classical edifice with four imposing columns at the facade. The next were built, in the Gothic style, by Harvard in 1841 and Yale in 1846. Harvard’s library was modeled after Kings College Chapel, built in Cambridge in 1446, and Yale’s on Trinity College, built in Dublin in 1732; both chapel-like structures exemplify the influence of ecclesiastical architecture on library design. While the earliest continental libraries were rectangular with perimeter shelving, the Classical and Gothic revival libraries in the United States featured an “alcoved hall with double-faced book presses extending inward between the windows in the two longer halls,” writes Kaser. Some libraries added clerestories with galleries that allowed for more shelving and also gave the impression of cathedrals.

. . . .

Librarians and architects were already at odds in the late nineteenth century, when librarianship and architectural practice were being professionalized. (The American Library Association was founded in 1876, the American Institute for Architects in 1856.) Many librarians felt that architects ignored their needs and created buildings that emphasized grandeur over functionality. William Frederick Poole, the librarian at the Chicago Historical Society and the founder of Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature, was one of the most outspoken opponents of such designs, which he saw as wasting space and pointlessly imitating churches. At a meeting of the ALA in 1881, Poole delivered a fiery speech against the “vacuity” of the new Peabody Institute Library in Baltimore. “The nave is empty and serves no purpose that contributes to the architectural effect,” he argued. “Is not this an expensive luxury?”1

Poole went on to propose that additional floors be created and that books no longer be relegated to the aisles, which would allow for the storage of 717,000 instead of 150,000 volumes. He suggested that books be classified according to “four grand divisions or departments of knowledge,” with each getting a separate floor and reading room, accessible by elevator. Then he returned to the long-standing relationship between libraries and religious edifices:

Why library architecture should have been yoked to ecclesiastical architecture, and the two have been made to walk down the ages pari passu, is not obvious, unless it be that librarians in the past needed this stimulus to their religious emotions. The present state of piety in the profession renders the union no longer necessary, and it is time that a bill was filed for divorce. The same secular common-sense and the same adaptation of means to ends, which have built the modern grain-elevator and reaper are needed for the reform of library construction.

Link to the rest at Triple Canopy

PG will not prognosticate on the future of the physical library, but personally finds it far more convenient to locate books online than in a physical edifice.

That said, PG things physical libraries should be grand and glorious.

Here are a few he likes:

The Library of Congress, Washington, DC


Bodleian Library, Oxford


Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence


Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence


Austrian National Library, Vienna

The Disappearance of Books Threatens to Erode Fine Arts Libraries

22 March 2018

From Hyperallergic:

Public libraries are experiencing a surge in use that few could have predicted even a decade ago. This renaissance has renewed interest in the library as a space for access to books, to technology, and to art. But libraries are no longer solely filled with books. Many are shifting to become multi-use and more digitally driven spaces. Yet as libraries create access to a digital future, the books that have traditionally inhabited them are being displaced at an alarming rate. This leaves many asking: Does acceptance of digital resources mean that the books must go? And what is at stake when artists, art historians, students, and the public can no longer engage in the act of browsing the stacks as part of the process of creating and researching art?

While the philosophical debate over what a library should be rages across the country and beyond, some institutions are shifting from philosophy to action, removing books to make way for other initiatives. At the University of Texas at Austin, around 75,000 fine arts books, journals, and other materials have already been moved by the College of Fine Arts and the University of Texas Libraries, as Hyperallergic reported in December. Many of the removed materials now reside in an off-site location near UT’s J.J. Pickle Research Campus or the Texas A&M joint library storage facility.

At many libraries, the prime real estate occupied by books is being requisitioned to make way for new digital humanities initiatives like virtual reality experiences or “Makerspaces” cordoned off for 3D printing. In the case of UT-Austin’s Fine Arts Library, books and other analog materials were removed to accommodate a new space called The Foundry. As the mission page for the collaborative space notes, this is a joint initiative of the University of Texas Libraries and the College of Fine Arts meant to be available to all UT students, faculty, and staff. Yet the success of such 3D printing labs is often precarious and dubious. As many librarians and digital humanists have pointed out, installing a Makerspace in your library is not a panacea.

Link to the rest at Hyperallergic and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Why Japan’s Rakuten Is A Hidden Contender In The Ebook Market

18 March 2018

From Forbes:

Quick, name a massive ecommerce company with an outsized share of the ebook market across the globe.

If you didn’t come up with “Amazon,” I don’t know why the rock you’re living under doesn’t have wi-fi. Chances are, however, that you can’t name the one company with the second-largest share of the ebook market. Here’s why surfacing that company is tougher than it looks, and why that company might be the Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten.

First, let’s discuss the oft-overlooked data point that makes all the difference when determining how many ebooks are being consumed: Digital distribution to libraries. The two ebook-tracking watchdogs used by most as a benchmark for industry statistics — Nielsen BookScan and Bookstat (formerly known as Author Earnings) — both focus on units sold. As a result, they don’t take digital libraries seriously. Rakuten OverDrive, a digital management service for publishers, libraries and schools, isn’t represented in the latest Author Earnings numbers on the download numbers for Amazon, Apple iBooks, or the Barnes & Noble Nook, which stand at 406 million, 44 million, and 19.4 million, respectively. OverDrive’s numbers? 225 million total digital downloads, representing 155 million ebooks and 68 million audiobooks. Granted, the OverDrive numbers are from 2017 and the Author Earnings report uses 2016 data, but OverDrive’s numbers are still above all but Amazon by a wide margin. Nielson, meanwhile, counts a book sold to a library as a single sale — no matter how many downloads it goes on to earn.

Mark Williams of industry watchdog The New Publishing Standard debuted this insight in a January post. “Other digital libraries also reported downloads in the millions,” he notes in the article. “Hoopla, for example, saw over six million downloads in 2016, while Odilo reported ‘tremendous growth.’ […] Yet the Author Earnings Report completely ignores them.

. . . .

When I reached out to Williams for a comment, he shared a dour view of the book industry’s sparse data and its library-book-sized blind spot: “By conveniently ignoring OverDrive’s 225 million digital downloads while including estimated values for Kindle Unlimited subscription downloads, we are given not only a distorted picture of the units and value of the digital market, but more importantly a very distorted view of the wider level of engagement with digital books. Close to a quarter billion ebook and audiobook downloads, all of which are bringing in revenue for authors and publishers even if the readers are not paying directly, are shunted aside,” he told me.

. . . .

“As more and more readers understand that the ebooks they buy are actual just licences to read, and that they never ‘own’ the ebooks they supposedly are buying,” he says, “so more will ask what advantage there is in buying from a retailer rather than getting the exact same product for ‘free’ from a library.”

Link to the rest at Forbes

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