Reversing the Slide in Voter Support for Libraries

27 May 2018

From the Library Journal:

We need a significant shift in our tactics to turn around voter attitudes about the core work of libraries.

The 2018 “From Awareness to Funding” study should inspire deep reflection within the library community about how we have been doing public outreach, voter engagement, and everyday advocacy over this past decade.

As a founder and executive director of EveryLibrary, the only national political action committee for libraries, I am deeply concerned by the top-line loss of voter support for libraries. To see the drop from 73% “possible yes” voters in OCLC’s 2008 report of the same name to the new reality of 2018’s 58% was crushing. At EveryLibrary, we have seen the erosion of voter support and respect for libraries in polls and surveys from dozens of towns, cities, and counties over our short time working on library campaigns.

. . . .

I am most deeply troubled by the declining perception about the core work of libraries and core competencies of librarians. When there is a nine point drop in the perception about libraries offering “Free access to books and technology that some people may not be able to afford,” how do we recapture that narrative? Today, 20% fewer voters agree that “the library is an excellent resource for kids to get help with their homework” than ten years ago (71% then, 51% now). How is that possible when every story we tell is about a kid learning to read in order to succeed later in life? How do we fight a hostile city hall or recalcitrant county commission when the feeling that “having an excellent public library is a source of pride” is only shared by 53% of voters (20% fewer than in the 2008 report)?

. . . .

Voter perception of librarians as “Friendly and approachable” has fallen from 67% to 53%. Perception of librarians as “True advocate[s] for lifelong learning” has dropped from 56% to 46%. The feeling that librarians are “Knowledgeable about my community” fell from 54% to 42%. I hope we have found the bottom at 31% of voters (down from 40% ten years ago) who think that librarians are “Well known in the community.”

Our core messaging and value propositions have taken a massive hit. This decline cannot persist if we expect libraries to be funded through taxpayer support. Ten years ago, three-quarters of voters thought that libraries were important for youth. Today, it is down to just two-thirds. What have we been doing that made us lose this kind of ground? In 2018, only 55% of Americans think that “if the library were to shut down, something essential would be lost.” It was 71% ten years ago.

Link to the rest at Library Journal

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

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