This is the end of the library as we know it

26 August 2015

From Quartz:

When, in 2005, the University of Chicago entered into an $81 million renovation of a major library building, one of the primary goals was to ensure that the university’s collection of printed books in the social sciences and humanities would remain under one roof.

That goal was achieved six years later. However, it also meant that a good part of the library’s print collection, while technically being “under the library roof,” was moved “under the ground.” The renovation included a subterranean automated system that can store and retrieve up to 3.5 million books.

Chicago’s library project could well represent the end of an era—the era of colleges and universities expending millions of dollars so that printed books can be housed in on-campus libraries.

. . . .

While I believe there will always be a place for the book in the hearts of academics, it is far less likely there will be a place for the book, or at least for every book, on the academic campus.

. . . .

Keeping a printed book in a library is not cheap.

The most recent analysis pegs the total cost of keeping one book in an open library stack (the kind that allows browsing) at $4.26 per year (in 2009 dollars). High-density shelving, a less costly alternative to open stacks, comes at $.86 per book, per year (again, in 2009 dollars).

And given the costs, academic financial officers blanch at proposals to build new on-campus storage capacity for thousands, in some cases millions, of books.

. . . .

At Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the web page providing information on the construction of a new library building for the Monroe Park campus proclaims: “90% of the new space will be for student use, not for storing books or materials.”

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is in the midst of an addition and renovation project that will add 60,000 square feet of new library space and renovate 92,000 square feet of existing library space.

The stated goals of the UCSB project include such desiderata as “expanded wireless access,” “additional and enhanced group study and collaboration spaces,” and a “faculty collaboration studio.” Additional book capacity is not part of the plan.

Even more extreme, the University of Michigan’s $55 million renovationof its Taubman Health Sciences Library (completed in 2015) has removed all print books from the library in order to accommodate classrooms and “collaboration rooms.”

An entire floor is now devoted to “clinical simulation rooms” where medical students hone their diagnostic and clinical skills through simulated hands-on practice.

All these are part of a mainstream trend in which the printed book, though still part of the academic library ensemble, is being relegated to the role of supporting player rather than the lead actor.

Link to the rest at Quartz

Pilot schemes to give all children automatic library membership

26 August 2015

From BBC News:

All Scottish children could automatically become library members in a bid to promote literacy.

Pilot projects are being developed in every council area to enrol children during their early years.

Children will be given library cards either at birth, age three or four – or in P1.

The scheme will also see libraries working with schools and communities to promote the services they offer to families.

. . . .

Ms Sturgeon said: “Our libraries are often the hub of a local community – providing vital access to information and resources that people would otherwise not have.

“Now, thanks to £80,000 Scottish government funding, every local authority in Scotland will trial methods to give children automatic membership to their local library.”

. . . .

Earlier this year Dumfries and Galloway Council launched its Every Child a Member initiative.

It means every family registering a birth is offered a library membership for their child.

Link to the rest at BBC News

ALA Releases New Digital Privacy Guidelines

5 August 2015

From The Digital Reader:

The American Library Association announced on Tuesday that it has published a new set of privacy guidelines.

Spurred on by last fall’s revelations that Adobe was spying on readers, the ALA has come up with new set of best practices for vendors and librarians to follow so they can better respect the privacy of library patrons.

The fact of the matter is, librarians have always taken patron privacy seriously. That’s why librarians objected to the Patriot Act and it’s why many librarians were upset when OverDrive partnered with Amazon to bring library ebooks to the Kindle, but lately it’s become clear that practice isn’t matching up with principle any more.

. . . .

The new guidelines note that contracts between “libraries and vendors should address appropriate restrictions on the use, aggregation, retention, and dissemination of patron data, particularly information about minors.” The guidelines go on to add that:

The vendor should give users options as to how much personal information is collected from them and how it may be used. Users should have choices about whether or not to opt-in to features and services that require the collection  of personal information. Users should also have the ability to opt-out and have their personal information erased if they later change their minds.

Later sections cover ereaders and other user devices,

There’s also a long section which spells out the rules for patron data, including how vendors should protect, encrypt, and anonymize the data.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Susan and others for the tip.

University of Michigan reopens medical library without books

5 August 2015

From The Toledo Blade:

The University of Michigan has reopened its Taubman Health Sciences Library after a $55 million overhaul and rethinking of how a library for medical students should function.

Hundreds of thousands of books were moved to an offsite location and are available on demand for delivery, and by becoming “bookless” the school said that frees up space for medical student education. The facility on the school’s Ann Arbor campus officially reopened over the weekend.

“Today’s library can be anywhere, thanks to technology, yet there is still a desire for a physical location that facilitates collaboration, study and learning,” Jane Blumenthal, associate university librarian and Taubman Library director, said in a statement.

The books were moved about two years ago, before construction began. The library includes a realistic simulated clinic and medical students will work with those studying public health, dentistry, pharmacy, social work, nursing and kinesiology — much like they will in their future careers.

The library also features a virtual cadaver, a life-sized display that’s manipulated using a touch screen to view different layers of the body, The Ann Arbor News reported. A scalpel tool can also be used to make incisions and even cut away portions of the body for inspection.

Link to the rest at The Toledo Blade

8 Weird Facts From the History of the Library

28 July 2015
Comments Off on 8 Weird Facts From the History of the Library

From Flavorwire:

“The hallmark of public libraries — the printed book, bound by covers and centuries of page-turning — is being shoved aside by digital doppelgangers,” the Washington Post wrote this month. It’s true. And because of the recent incineration of hundreds of thousands of printed volumes across the Western world, libraries are of increasing interest to the “general intellect.”

As it happens, too, they are of interest to the specialized mind. Thankfully, the two intersect in The Meaning of the Library, an excellent collection of essays on the cultural history of the library in the Western world, edited by Alice Crawford and out this month from Princeton University Press. One of the many virtues of Crawford’s collection is that it situates the contemporary library’s precious present within a long history of upheaval and general weirdness. Below is a sampling, from the book, of that history.

. . . .

“The papyrus on which most ancient Greek and Latin books were recorded, as an organic material, was extremely vulnerable to rotting and wear and tear. Aristotle bequeathed his personal library to his student Theophrastus, but two generations later the collection of rolls ended up in the hands of some “ordinary people” of Scepsis in Asia Minor, who did not know how to store its precious contents.” — Edith Hall

. . . .

“The majority of books published during the Renaissance fell victim to more mundane dangers: rats and mice, birds and moths, worms or damp. Fire, neglect, and use all took their toll. But it does illustrate vividly the great gulf between the rhetoric of the humanistic book world, and the practical experience of those who sought to build a library. It might have been thought that the invention of printing in the fifteenth century, and the huge increase of the availability of books, would usher in a great new age of library building. In fact, the opposite was the case. Many of the great Renaissance collections were broken up, the victim of predators, politics, or neglect. In the sixteenth century the library… took a backwards step.” — Andrew Pettegree

. . . .

“Pirate publishers rarely attempted to produce a book that would look like the original. They churned out down-market editions, eliminating “typographical luxury” as they called it. They used relatively cheap fonts of type, eliminated ornaments and often illustrations, and frequently abridged the text. Because they paid no author’s fees and had access to inexpensive paper, they could undersell the privileged edition, even when they had to smuggle their works into France… Probably half the books sold in France during the twenty years before the Revolution — current literature of all kinds but not chapbooks, religious tracts or professional treatises — were pirated.” — Robert Darnton

Link to the rest at Flavorwire

With 10,699 books printed, Windsor library’s self-publishing machine is a hit

22 July 2015

From the Windsor Star:

Sue Perry likens her role at the Windsor Public Library to that of a midwife.

Perry runs the main library’s self-publishing Espresso Book Machine which has produced 10,699 books in three years and she hopes to be even busier delivering professionally-bound paperback books into the hands of local authors.

Windsor was the first public library in Canada to install such a machine in 2012 so it wasn’t clear how well it would be received. Three years later, the service isn’t a money-maker but its growing popularity and a proposed fee increase could help it break even.

Perry said it’s not about turning a profit but providing a service that, in this case, led to the birth of a writer’s group and gave people a way to publish their work even if they only want one book.

. . . .

The machine is growing in popularity. In its first half year, the machine pumped out 986 books. So far this year, it has printed more than 4,000 books.

There have been more than 248 individual titles produced, books in English, Arabic, Polish, Spanish and French, and authors from teenagers to writers in their 80s. Although people can make a copy of an out-of-print book, 98 per cent of the customers are self publishing, she said. There are children’s books, textbooks, memoirs, fiction novels, how-to manuals and genealogy books.

Link to the rest at The Windsor Star

E-book prices marked up too high at $85 per copy, libraries protest

23 June 2015

From CBC News:

Why aren’t there more e-books on your library’s virtual shelves? Libraries say it’s because big publishers are charging them up to $85 per copy — and they can’t afford it.

The Kindle edition of Lena Dunham’s bestselling memoir Not that Kind of Girl retails for $14.99 at But the book’s publisher, Random House, charges Canadian libraries $85 per copy of the e-book — five times more, according to the Canadian Library Association.

Despite the premium, only one borrower can access each copy of the book at a time.

. . . .

“We’re very concerned about what this means for mandate of the public library in providing universal access to a diverse collection in a range of formats … we need to be able to provide customers with access to e-content in the same way that we’ve always provided access to other forms of content in books and DVDS and CDs et cetera.”

That’s a big concern because demand for e-books among library users is soaring.

With print books, libraries have traditionally paid less than retail price for copies. With e-books, it’s the opposite.

Link to the rest at CBC News and thanks to Simon for the tip.

“Free” Ebooks Don’t Help Poor Kids

4 May 2015

From BookRiot:

One of the duties I had at the last library for which I worked was helping to get patrons onto computers. For adults, this wasn’t generally a problem: they either presented a library card to me or pulled out some form of photo identification (which ranged from your standard driver’s license or passport to less traditional booking papers following a jail stay).

For teenagers and children, however, it was a different story. In order to get onto a computer to do work, they had to have either their library cards or a photo ID. A school ID would work, as would a driver’s license.

Anyone who has worked with teens or kids knows what this means. Many kids never had the opportunity to get onto the computers and internet, despite needing to do homework or research. Because they didn’t bring their IDs or simply didn’t have one — being that they’re maybe 12 or 13 and don’t HAVE identification like that — they were denied access to something they needed in order to complete assignments for school. Most of these kids, the ones who came to the desk begging me to break policy, were there because they have no internet access at home.

. . . .

The kids most harmed by these policies, which tend to be common in public libraries, are those who are the poorest and most needing of access. And kids who did bring their ID to do work still had barriers through which to plow: computer access is time-restricted in most libraries, as there are an inadequate number of stations to allow for the number of people who need to use them.

Some statistics before going further: in households where the family income is $30,000 or less in the United States, only 54% have access to broadband at home. For those who make under $20,000 a year (which is the rough poverty line for families of three), 1/3 – 33% – do not go online at all.

. . . .

So why is it that, despite these numbers, the publishing industry takes on initiatives meant to reach poor kids and improve their literacy in ways that show a clear lack of understanding about the real problems these kids face? How come publishers and politicians choose to ignore those who work with children and teenagers struggling with access — to books, to reading, to technology, to a host of literacies, including digital?

Recently, Simon & Schuster announced a change in a literacy program they’ve been offering since 2003. “Cheer on Reading,” which put physical books inside cereal boxes, shifted from a print focus to digital one. Now, when kids open up a box of Cheerios, rather than getting a book to read, they’re given a code to access a digital version of a book which they can download (via proprietary software, no less). While this initiative saves the publisher on the cost of printing and distributing a physical book, it in no way allows poorer kids — those who are most in need and most likely to benefit from this kind of access — access to them.

Link to the rest at BookRiot and thanks to Felix for the tip.

The Case For Libraries

5 April 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Publishers are running out of space. Not in their headquarters, some of which are larger and more imposing than ever, but in retail. The number of booksellers has been dwindling since the demise of Borders, and the largest book retailer today is Amazon, which has no physical space at all.

So the question is, where can publishers showcase new books? If only there were a space dedicated primarily to reading that hundreds of millions of Americans visit annually. If only there existed a trusted space, free of the revenue pressure that necessitates displaying lightly pornographic books of debatable quality. If only there were a space largely inhabited by active readers, where publishers could showcase new authors or shine new light on talented mid-listers.

That space exists in the 16,000 public library branches in America. They’re trusted and willing, and they welcome your attention. But libraries receive surprisingly little coordinated help from publishers beyond lip service—in fact, they’re still in the middle of a very public dispute with publishers about the high prices and restrictive access libraries must contend with to lend e-books to their patrons.

The tension between libraries and publishers seems odd in a market where physical space for displaying books is quickly disappearing. How did we get here? And could libraries actually represent a much better opportunity for publishers than they are given credit for?

. . . .

In the beginning, publishers and libraries were interdependent. When modern publishing houses emerged from printers in the late 19th century, public libraries in the U.S. and U.K. were often the first and only guaranteed customer for a title.

Even as late as 1950, libraries were indispensable customers for publishers. The entire output of the domestic publishing industry in that year was 11,000 titles, and the average branch of a public library purchased 14,000 titles annually. The most reliable market for many books was the 11,135 library branches operating then.

Things are different today. Publishers produced nearly half a million new ISBNs in 2013 (with self-publishers included, that total nearly doubles), though increasingly cash-strapped libraries are purchasing fewer titles. According to industry stats, the library market now represents just over 1.3% of publishers’ trade sales.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Kat for the tip.

Ebooks for Libraries

27 March 2015
From Joe Konrath:


  • I want to help authors get their ebooks into libraries.
  • I want to help libraries acquire indie ebooks.
  • To do this, I started a business called EAF –
  • I want to sell your ebooks to libraries.

What’s going on with libraries and ebooks?

There are 120,000 libraries in the US. These libraries, and their patrons, are eager for popular ebooks. Many libraries have a budget they must spend, or they risk having that budget cut.

Currently, libraries have no allies in the ebook market. They aren’t happy with the restrictions and costs of the current leader in supplying libraries with ebook content, Overdrive. Through Overdrive, many publishers charge high prices for ebooks, some higher than $80 a title. They also require yearly license renewals, and may force libraries to re-buy licenses after a certain arbitrary number of borrows.

Just one example of the perils of this approach for America’s libraries is that a library must pay for extensions of time-limited licenses of old ebooks and purchases of licenses for new ones. All kinds of sustainability and predictability issues aris

. . . .

Some indies are on Overdrive and 3M. I’ve been on Overdrive for a few years. My last quarterly check was about $60, and I have a large catalog. This is small money, not just for me, but for any writer. And I was fortunate enough to have been invited into Overdrive. Many authors are not.

The vast majority of libraries don’t have access to many of the ebooks that readers are seeking. The latest report showed that 33% of all ebooks sold on Amazon are from indie authors. Libraries are missing out on 1/3 of available titles, because they have no way easy way to acquire them.

Just as important, these are quality titles. People are reading, enjoying, and recommending them. Indie authors are hooking readers, and selling as well as the major publishing houses, but there isn’t a way for libraries to offer them to their patrons.

. . . .

For the past year, my business partner, August Wainwright, and I have been talking to acquisitions librarians across the country, and they crave an alternative to the status quo. These libraries are looking to buy thousands of ebooks at once in order to best serve their patrons and community.

Their main wish is to be treated fairly – which means they want to own the ebooks they purchase, acquire good content at a reasonable price, and have access to as many copies as they need.

Our solution? Give libraries what they’re asking for, and in a way that gives libraries the sustainable purchasing model they deserve. We’re striving to offer a large, curated collection of popular ebooks that libraries can easily purchase with just one click.

. . . .

EbooksAreForever distributes to libraries at $7.99 for full length novels, and $3.99-$4.99 for shorter works. We’re offering 70% royalties to the author, and the library will have the ability to purchase more copies as needed.

The way this works is that if a library wants to allow 3 patrons to borrow your ebook at any given time, they’d need to have purchased 3 “copies”. Most libraries adhere to a strict hold ratio (usually around 3:1) in order to present patrons with the best user experience possible. Our hope is that by making ebooks both affordable and sustainable, then libraries in response will automatically purchase more copies.

So, if you have a catalog of 10 ebooks that we then distribute to 1000 libraries, you’ve just earned $56,000 in royalties from making your books available to the library marketplace if they each buy one copy. If your titles are popular, they’ll buy more copies and you’ll earn more.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Sabrina for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books

UPDATE: PG put this post together and scheduled it to appear a couple of days ago. He couldn’t figure out why so many people kept sending him tips about Joe’s plan. Then he checked and discovered that WordPress had failed to publish this at the proper time.

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