Library usage falls 14.3 percentage points since 2005

4 May 2016

From The Bookseller:

There has been a “significant” decrease in public library usage over the last decade, with usage falling 14.3 percentage points since 2005, new figures have revealed.

The report, commissioned by the DCMS in partnership with Arts Council England and entitled Taking Part: a focus on libraries, measured the number of people who use libraries and looked at the most common reasons for changes in individual library use over time.

The report showed that 33.9% of adults had visited a public library in the year October 2014 to September 2015, which is down from 48.2% in 2005/06. Looking across all adult age groups, the report shows that the largest decrease in the proportion of adults who use the library has been among 16 to 24 year olds – 51% of adults aged 16 to 24 used a public library in 2005/06, but only 25.2% used a library in the year October 2014 to September 2015.

. . . .

The survey also re-interviewed the same individuals annually in order to assess reasons for increased or decreased library use. Of the respondents interviewed, 21% visited libraries less often by the third interview, while 14% visited more frequently. The main reason for using libraries more often was to “encourage my child to read books”, which was cited by 20% of adults. A further 18% said their increased library usage was due to a desire to read more, and 15% simply had more time.

The most common reason for a decline in library use was having less free time, cited by 25%. A further 17% said it was due to buying or getting books elsewhere and 12% said they were now reading e-books instead.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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Weeding the Worst Library Books

3 May 2016

From The New Yorker:

Last summer, in Berkeley, California, librarians pulled roughly forty thousand books off the shelves of the public library and carted them away. The library’s director, Jeff Scott, announced that his staff had “deaccessioned” texts that weren’t regularly checked out. But the protesters who gathered on the library’s front steps to decry what became known as “Librarygate” preferred a different term: “purged.” “Put a tourniquet on the hemorrhage,” one of the protesters’ signs declared. “Don’t pulp our fiction,” another read.

In response, Scott attempted to put his policy in perspective. His predecessor had removed fifty thousand books in a single year, he explained. And many of the deaccessioned books would be donated to a nonprofit—not pulped. Furthermore, after new acquisitions, the collection was actually expected to grow by eighteen thousand books, to a total of nearly half a million. But none of these facts stirred up much sympathy in Berkeley. A thousand people signed a petition demanding that Scott step down—and, in the end, he did.

Public libraries serve practical purposes, but they also symbolize our collective access to information, so it’s understandable that many Berkeley residents reacted strongly to seeing books discarded. What’s more, Scott’s critics ultimately contended that he had not been forthcoming about how many books were being removed, or about his process for deciding which books would go. Still, it’s standard practice—and often a necessity—to remove books from library collections. Librarians call it “weeding,” and the choice of words is important: a library that “hemorrhages” books loses its lifeblood; a librarian who “weeds” is helping the collection thrive. The key question, for librarians who prefer to avoid scandal, is which books are weeds.

Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner, two Michigan librarians, have answered that question in multiple ways. They’ve written a book called “Making a Collection Count: A Holistic Approach to Library Collection Management,” which proposes best practices for analyzing library data and adapting to space constraints. But they are better known for calling attention to the matter with a blog: Awful Library Books.

Kelly and Hibner created the site in 2009. Each week, they highlight books that seem to them so self-evidently ridiculous that weeding is the only possible recourse. They often feature books with outlandish titles, like “Little Corpuscle,” a children’s book starring a dancing red blood cell; “Enlarging Is Thrilling,” a how-to about—you guessed it—film photography; and “God, the Rod, and Your Child’s Bod: The Art of Loving Correction for Christian Parents.”

Sometimes it’s the subject matter that seems absurd. Of “Wax in Our World,” a nonfiction book for young adults, Kelly said, “Who came into a publisher’s office and said, ‘You know, the kids really need a book about wax’?”

. . . .

 “It’s not free to keep something on the shelf,” Ann Campion Riley, the president of the Association of College and Research Libraries, told me. According to Riley, weeding goes back at least to the medieval period. “There are writings where the monks are saying, ‘Should I keep this? Should I keep that?’ ” These questions are pragmatic, but profound—and they have been joined by new ones, such as, should libraries phase out physical books and move their holdings online? The trouble, as Jamillah Gabriel, a librarian at Purdue University, explained, is that “there’s not always an e-book for everything.” Digital libraries are becoming more popular, but they’re not on pace to replace tangible books anytime soon.

. . . .

 When I asked about what happened in Berkeley last year, Kelly and Hibner said it helps, from a public-relations standpoint, to weed gradually. “I pull one or two books a week. Nobody’s going to even question that,” Hibner said. She also keeps a bag of her favorite weeded books under her desk—“Vans: The Personality Vehicle,” “Be Bold with Bananas”—in case any inquisitive patrons want examples.

. . . .

 Hibner and Kelly both emphasized that many factors come into play when deciding which books should be kept. You want your books to reflect the community you serve, but the popularity of a book is by no means the only barometer. At Hibner’s library, “War and Peace” has been checked out just five times in the past twenty-two years. “It’s huge; it’s taking up quite a bit of space,” Hibner said. “But for libraries like us to not have ‘War and Peace’ at all—it doesn’t seem right.” Something tells her that Tolstoy is not a weed.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Chris for the tip.

And speaking of New Yorkers, don’t miss Brooklyn’s Most Cluttered Bookstore

The Bookmobile

20 April 2016

Thanks to Ryan for the tip.

Libraries Call on Multinational Publishers for Fair Ebook Pricing

5 April 2016

From CNW:

Canadian Public Libraries for Fair Ebook Pricing continue to advocate for more reasonable prices and terms for ebooks from multinational publishers with an open letter to Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.

Some multinational publishers charge libraries as much as three to five times more for ebooks than the consumer price, while others place caps and time limits on use. Current ebook pricing models lead to fewer titles and fewer copies for readers to discover, despite booming borrowing rates and high demand.

Public libraries are key players in the publishing industry, both as major purchasers of books and ebooks, and promoters of reading and literacy. With the open letter, libraries are advocating for a pricing model that introduces fairness and flexibility, specifically:

  • A hybrid of existing pricing models that would offer libraries of all sizes the ability to buy the number of copies and also the type of copies (perpetual or limited access) that meet their needs.

The hybrid model includes:

  • A reasonable premium price for ebook copies with ongoing and perpetual access, as the $85 and $100+ pricing is not sustainable.
  • A lower price option for ebook copies with limited access because of time or use restrictions. This pricing should be slightly higher than the consumer price.

Link to the rest at CNW and thanks to Ron for the tip.

If I was a book

2 April 2016

If I was a book, I would like to be a library book, so I would be taken home by all different sorts of kids.

Cornelia Funke

In San Jose, Poor Find Doors to Library Closed

1 April 2016

From The New York Times:

When Damaris Triana, then 8, lost several “Little Critter” books that she had borrowed for her sister, the library here fined her $101 — including $40 in processing fees — a bill that was eventually turned over to an agency to collect from her parents.

The $101 is a small part of a whopping $6.8 million in unpaid fines at theSan Jose Public Library, an amount that exceeds unpaid fees at some larger cities around the country. It also exceeds other Bay Area cities like Oakland, which has $3 million in outstanding fines, and San Francisco, which has $4.6 million. In San Jose, when the late fee hits $50, the library refers the debt to a collection agency.

As the total of overdue fines has increased, so has the number of cardholders who owe $10 or more and are prohibited from borrowing materials or using the library’s computers. Damaris, now 10, relies on her cousin’s card or uses her school’s library, where there are no fines for late or lost books.

. . . .

In San Jose, libraries began charging 50 cents a day for an overdue book, and what Jill Bourne, who become director of libraries in 2013, called “an exorbitant processing fee” of $20 for lost materials. Those high fines have come at a cost.

In impoverished neighborhoods, where few residents have broadband connections or computers, nearly a third of cardholders are barred from borrowing or using library computers. Half of the children and teenagers with library cards in the city owe fines. Around 187,000 accounts, or 39 percent of all cardholders, owe the library money, Ms. Bourne said.

. . . .

In some immigrant neighborhoods, Ms. Bourne said, “there is a fear of government interaction. As soon as people hear there is the potential for being penalized by the government, they want to stay away from that service.”

In February, Ms. Bourne appealed to the San Jose City Council to consider offering amnesty to borrowers saddled with fines and lowering the daily penalty for late books for children to 25 cents. She said in an interview that she also wanted “to revisit” the use of a collection agency. In a memorandum, she wrote, “Library policies are not intended to prevent or restrict any individual’s ability to access library resources and services,” but she added, “this may be the unintended consequence.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Without libraries

29 March 2016

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.

Ray Bradbury

Book ’Em

28 March 2016

From Slate:

The San Jose Public Library wants its books back. And its CDs and DVDs. Taken altogether, library patrons are holding onto or have damaged 97,000 items and owe the city $6.8 million in fines and fees. The situation is so out of control that about 40 percent of the city’s library cardholders can no longer borrow anything until they return their library holdings and pay what they owe. For a library, this is a DEFCON moment. Maybe not DEFCON 1, but at least DEFCON 3.

What can San Jose do? City council member Pierluigi Oliverio has suggested a limited-time amnesty on fines for overdue materials. “If you bring those items back, that’s worth a lot of money just in that inventory of items,”he said earlier this month. In other words, in return for its patrons doing what they’re supposed to do, the library will let bygones be bygones. What’s a little fine between friends, after all?

Over the years, libraries have fined patrons for not bringing back books and offered no-questions-asked return periods. They’ve published the names of book scofflaws in local newspapers. They’ve paid personal calls on people who hold onto books past their due dates, and even sicced the police on particularly recalcitrant readers. And they still don’t really know how to get their books back.

“Librarians have been playing with this issue for a century and a half, and there is little consensus,” says Wayne Wiegand, author of Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library.

. . . .

But no one’s actually proven that fines work. “Our first rule of thumb is we are providing materials with taxpayer funds,” says Julie Todaro, the incoming president of the American Library Association. But, she’s quick to add, “A lot of people will tell you higher fines aren’t a detriment to returns. It is a detriment to people using the library. Period.”

San Jose’s problems began when it raised fines in 2010, from 25 cents to 50 cents a day. Other area libraries charge less. San Francisco dings late borrowers 10 cents for every day late, with a hard stop at $5. The San Mateo County Library, where borrowers from wealthy Atherton check out books, charges 25 cents a day for adult books, up to $8, and 15 cents a day for children’s books, up to $3.90. Exclusive Mountain View is also at 25 cents, and allows borrowers to keep books for four weeks.

. . . .

In Wiegand’s view, library fines are vestigial, a leftover from 200 years ago, when books were highly valuable items, and few could afford to purchase them. Handing over a book for a limited period of time involved a significant financial risk for the lender, and a fine protected that investment.

But even back when, a fine couldn’t guarantee a library would get its goods back. Even George Washington neglected to return The Law of Nations by Emer de Vattel and a volume of debates from the English Parliament to the elites-only New York Society Library.

The New York Society Library needed to wait until 2010, when the New York Daily News outed the founding father, to recover its property. Embarrassed employees of the Mount Vernon historic site saw the article and tracked the missing items down. In return, the New York Society Library gratefully waived the $300,000 in overdue fines. (Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr agreed on one thing, by the way. New York Society Records showed they returned borrowed books regularly.)

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

As Predicted, Elsevier’s Attempt To Silence Sci-Hub Has Increased Public Awareness Massively

22 March 2016

From TechDirt:

Last month, Techdirt wrote about the growing interest in Sci-Hub, which provides free access to research papers — more than 47,000,000 of them at the time of writing. As Mike noted then, Elsevier’s attempt to make the site go away by suing it has inevitably produced a classic Streisand Effect, whereby many more people know about it as a direct result.

. . . .

[College librarian Barbara] Fister notes that alongside people who don’t have access to the articles they need because they are not affiliated with a well-funded Western library with the right subscriptions, many researchers turn to Sci-Hub because accessing articles has become a complicated and inconvenient process. As she says:

For many folks, Sci-Hub is simply a more convenient library that doesn’t make you mess around with logins and interlibrary loans. Hey, we’re busy. Paywalls are a pain.

Techdirt has written before about this aspect before, and the growing evidence that piracy greatly diminishes once good, easy-to-use legal services become available. However, as Fister rightly says, the current situation is awkward for the people who are supposed to be overseeing those unsatisfactory legal services:

Librarians are in a nasty spot. Sometimes I wonder if we can even call ourselves librarians anymore. We feel we are virtually required to provide access to whatever researchers in our local community ask for while restricting access from anyone outside that narrowly-defined community of users. Instead of curators, we’re personal shoppers who moonlight as border guards. This isn’t working out well for anyone. Unaffiliated researchers have to find illegal work-arounds, and faculty who actually have access through libraries are turning to the black market for articles because it seems more efficient than contacting their personal shopper, particularly when the library itself doesn’t figure in their work flow. In the meantime, all that money we spend on big bundles of articles (or on purchasing access to articles one at a time when we can’t afford the bundle anymore) is just a really high annual rent. We can’t preserve what we don’t own, and we don’t curate because our function is to get what is asked for.

Not only is lack of open access soul-destroying for librarians longing to take a more active and creative role in the provision of information to the academics they support, it comes with a hidden financial cost that has been overlooked:

It is labor — lots of labor — to maintain link resolvers, keep [academic journal] license agreements in order, and deal with constant changes in subscription contents. We [librarians] have to work a lot harder to be publishers’ border guards than people realize.

That’s a hugely important point that I have not seen made elsewhere. Alongside all the other tasks that traditional publishers push onto the academic community — notably, writing articles and refereeing them for free — there is another major burden, imposed specifically on librarians, who are forced to spend much of their time acting as the publishers’ hated “border guards.” That’s a tragic waste of their highly-specialized skills, and not what they were employed to do.

Link to the rest at TechDirt and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

PG says Preston and the Authors Union should fedex the Department of Justice about this and potentially do some real good.


22 March 2016

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.

Anne Herbert

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