How libraries are writing a new chapter during the pandemic

From National Geographic:

Americans’ love affair with libraries has only grown during the pandemic—and so has their book borrowing. According to OverDrive, which libraries use to loan out digital material, weekly e-book lending across the United States has increased nearly 50 percent since March 9, even as some libraries remain physically closed.

. . . .

Once upon a time, libraries were meant to be mere book repositories, says Peter Bolek, president and director of design at HBM Architects, which specializes in libraries. “They were buildings that housed materials,” he says. “No great natural light, no comfortable spots, no programming or social activities.”

But in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as community needs changed, libraries morphed into architectural marvels and gathering places. Take Toledo, Ohio’s 2016 King Road Branch, which Bolek’s firm conceived as a dazzling, modernist mini-pavilion with floor-to-ceiling windows and a free-flowing, bookstore-like interior.

Other newish and notable libraries also combine good design and great reads. Completed in 2018, the South Central Regional Library in Louisville, Kentucky, won an American Architectural Award for its innovative trapezoidal form, clad in gleaming steel and situated in a century-old forest.

. . . .

Jumbo, puzzle piece-shaped windows with views of midtown Manhattan headline on the Hunters Point Library, which debuted in Long Island City, New York in 2019. The blocky cement structure by star architect Steven Holl has won praise for its ingenious interior bookshelf stairway, though it also netted complaints (and at least one lawsuit) from disability advocates since it has just one elevator.

In Oslo, Norway, the Deichman Bjørvika central library opened in 2020 on the city’s main fjord, showing off dramatically cantilevered top levels and angled interior spaces meant for gamers, musicians, and readers.

. . . .

Author readings and other literary happenings have mostly gone online during the pandemic. The world’s largest library—Washington, D.C.’s Library of Congress—will hold its 20th annual National Book Festival virtually from September 25 to 27. The festivities include on-demand videos and live author chats from more than 120 writers, poets, and illustrators, including Colson Whitehead, Madeleine Albright, and D.C.’s own Jason Reynolds. It’ll focus on timely themes such as Black voices and 21st-century democracies.

Link to the rest at National Geographic

An additional treat for library fans is another National Geographic piece featuring gorgeous photos of libraries around the world. You can find that one here. as well as in the OP.

One of PG’s favorite libraries (although, unfortunately he has visited it only in photos) is the library of the Melk Abbey in Melk, Austria, a small town overlooking the Danube.

Melk Abbey Library via Wikipedia

Virus-Responsive Design

From American Libraries:

Libraries have always been spaces for discovery. But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been tasked with transforming themselves into places that allow users to physically distance while being more digitally connected than ever. As some institutions emerge from months of shutdowns, design and architecture experts seek to meet current health and safety challenges as well as safeguard these community spaces against an uncertain future.

Traci Engel Lesneski, CEO and principal at Minneapolis-based national architecture firm MSR Design, which has worked with hundreds of libraries across the country, says libraries are ideal spaces for innovative design solutions. “It’s not a stretch to think about the ways that libraries have modeled what’s next in the world,” she says. “Libraries can talk to the public about how important these things are and advocate [for them]. They can provide hands-on learning and access to certain technologies that people don’t have access to in their everyday lives.”

Yet libraries have had to find new ways to provide that access. “[COVID-19] is aggravating the digital divide,” says Susan Nemitz, director of Santa Cruz (Calif.) Public Libraries (SCPL). “There are a number of people who don’t have access to the internet and computers, because we haven’t opened up yet.” She says that effective design solutions will have to bridge not just physical and digital distance, but socioeconomic distance as well.

“We find that, more and more, our community is isolated,” she says. “And we’ve been moving away from being a warehouse of books to being a social connector.” Nemitz, whose library system passed a $67 million bond issue to replace and remodel all 10 of its buildings before the pandemic hit, says she’s had to reimagine her library’s mission. “The COVID crisis has thrown a wrench into who we are and what we believe,” she says. “Do we build our buildings for the situation we’re in now, or the situation in the long run?”

. . . .

Libraries that were in the process of renovating before COVID- 19 almost immediately pivoted, repurposing certain design features to address the new normal. “There have been some fortunate coincidences that were not intended to be in reaction to a pandemic but that we can use,” says Markovic. “For instance, at Baldwin Borough Public Library [in Pittsburgh], we put casters on the stacks to make them easy to move around. We can now use them to create little pods. And at Carnegie Library [of Pittsburgh], we’re implementing cleanable surfaces and discussing an HVAC system that allows for increased ventilation.”

. . . .

Libraries that have been unable to provide public access during the pandemic may have an unusual opportunity to upgrade. “One of our libraries that was renovated had its entire collection digitized when it was removed for the renovation,” says Thomas M. Hotaling, architect and principal at Ann Beha Architects, a Boston-based design firm that works with education and cultural clients. “I’m wondering if this might be a good time for [other] libraries to digitize their collections. If the funding is available, this is an ideal time to think about that.”

Link to the rest at American Libraries

Library Supporters Urge Action as Senate Recesses Without Relief Bill

From Publishers Weekly:

The Senate formally adjourned for its August recess on Thursday without a second pandemic relief package. And with Congress now on break until after Labor Day, ALA officials are urging library supporters to keep the pressure on their Senators to strike a deal—and to ensure that deal includes support for the Library Stabilization Fund Act (LSFA), a bill that would earmark $2 billion for public libraries.

. . . .

“At a time when budgets of local governments have been decimated, America can’t afford to dismiss a national infrastructure of 117,000 libraries nimble enough to offer relief and advance recovery,” said American Library Association President Julius C. Jefferson Jr., in a recent statement, adding that the LSFA represents “the comprehensive federal response needed to keep our nation’s libraries safely in operation.”

The ALA website is currently offering resources for library supporters wishing to contact their senators and representatives to urge them to support the LSFA. Additional resources—including a one-page explainer on LSFA, sample social media posts, and a sample letter for state and local library associations and boards of trustees—are also available on the ALA site.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Keeping a Connection to Your Library

From Publishers Weekly:

As news of school closures spread throughout New York City, I frantically took books off of shelves and shoved them into my students’ arms, explaining, “You can take out six books now!” On every table in our middle school library, I piled book sets, urging students to check out the same book as their peers and form book clubs with their friends. Students were confused and grateful—unsure of why, exactly, I was urging them to stockpile, allowing them double the usual amount of checkouts.

. . . .

From March through June I Zoomed with students, and somehow, probably through the magic of kids’ resiliency and flexibility and imaginations, we created a space that felt not completely like a library, but close to it. We wrote and read and drew and laughed together. We recommended books to one another. We bookmarked passages and read them out loud.

Most importantly, we kept our beloved book clubs going. I host a recess and after-school book club for students in grades four through eight. These spaces—of shared literary love, deep conversation, and casual hanging out—proved a very important part of students’ remote learning experience, because they were one of few opportunities where students could bond socially.

. . . .

Encourage student preparation. I have found that the most engaged discussions are sparked when students actually read fewer pages per week but have done some discussion preparation. Assigning shorter sections of the text allows students to easily recall the section they read. Asking them to do the work of the facilitator readies them for facilitating! I ask students to prepare discussion questions or track character development and themes. Not only does this mean you’re no longer the only facilitator (teacher trick) but it means that students are better prepared to engage more deeply, even if it is with a shorter section of the text.

Open with a go-around. Begin with an opening question where students call on one another. Go-arounds, which can range from silly to serious questions, have always been a core element of the book clubs I lead. Their importance became clearer in the Zoom classroom, where some shyer students hide behind their mute buttons. When students begin by responding to a question or providing their opinion about a book, they are primed to talk. The group hears everyone’s voices and adjusts to expect everyone’s voices. Students calling on one another keeps the discussion flowing and spontaneous; it also makes them keep tabs on the people who have or haven’t spoken yet (another teacher trick).

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Libraries could be leaders once again

From The Bookseller:

As they try to re-open, public libraries have two big problems and three large advantages.

The first problem, obviously, is that they have to be so safe that people actually want to work in and visit them. I don’t think anyone anywhere has solved that problem yet – but I’m sure there are experts who are trying to find a way. Without the answers, those who open aren’t being brave; they are being stupid and placing other people at risk. It is the absolute and top priority.

The second problem, which the library sector has been reluctant to face for far too long, is that their reputation with the public has declined. They are no longer respected in the way they once were. They have represented themselves too much as caring for the needy, and they have to do more than that. They have to be useful to everyone, otherwise they are not worth the £750 million each year we pay for them. They have to give dignified expert service. Most people don’t want feel they are being treated as poor and needy, even if they are. Their greatest audience lies with people who like and want to read, but at present public libraries only appeal to about 10% of people who read. They need to treble that number – and that won’t happen unless they become serious about acquiring and paying for better collections. They also need to get better at  capturing and responding to data around their performance, otherwise they don’t know where to direct their resources.

These are both hard problems.

The first advantage they have is that there are nearly 3000 public libraries in England. So, if a small group of architects, designers, medical experts and appropriate scientists could find a way to make a public library into a beacon of good health, they could apply the lessons they learn with sensible economy to the entire estate. That’s important because at the moment no one is thinking that way. The work is being done by 150 councils with very little substantial investment in finding the solution. It would be worthwhile.

The second is that public library buildings are mostly quite big. It’s not hard to imagine that most retailers, faced with the problem of making their buildings safe to visit, wish they had more cheap space. Schools and colleges must feel the same. Yet, thanks to some historical quirk of philanthropy, public library buildings are usually very spacious; certainly many times larger than a local book store. If that space could be re-organised, it provides an opportunity to model best practice in terms of public health.

The third lead is, for me, the one with the potential to impact the wider book trade the most. The last few months haven’t just been about the spread of viral infection – they have highlighted a huge issue of our understanding, appreciation, acknowledgement of and writing for the diverse people of our world. This topic is not about whether graduate publishers with ambitions to work in London can be forced to work in Grimsby. Or whether the head count in an office meets some standard of an ethnicity table. It’s about what is written and where it is available to be read. The issue of diversity is much larger than that – and for a long time, public libraries held the answer.

. . . .

Libraries seemed genuinely to have found a way to respond to the real variety of local taste, cultures and interests. They sought out and served. They didn’t preach. They didn’t suffer from the same kind of snobbery that runs through the veins of elite publishers and booksellers. Inclusive not exclusive, they had something to teach.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG will mention once again that ebook lending by libraries in many different places has most certainly moved to much greater prominence during the last few months.

A decontamination approach for SARS-CoV-2 on five library materials

From REALM:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
and OCLC are working in partnership with Battelle to create and distribute science-based
information designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to staff and visitors who
are engaging in the delivery or use of museum, library, and archival services. This REopening
Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project is studying how long the SARS CoV-2
virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) survives on common materials and methods to mitigate
exposure.

As part of the project’s Phase 1 research, Battelle has conducted a natural attenuation study to
provide information on how long some commonly circulated library materials would need to be
quarantined prior to being put back into public circulation. Testing was conducted by applying
the virulent SARS-CoV-2 virus on five materials held at standard room temperature and
humidity conditions. The materials tested include the following items, which were provided by
Columbus Metropolitan Library:

  1. Hardback book cover (buckram cloth),
  2. Paperback book cover,
  3. Plain paper pages inside a closed book,
  4. Plastic book covering (biaxially oriented polyester film), and
  5. DVD case.

Results show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the materials after three
days of quarantine. The evaluation demonstrates that standard office temperature and
relative humidity conditions typically achievable by any air-conditioned office space provide an
environment that allows for the natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 present on these common
materials after three days of quarantine.

Link to the rest at REALM

NYC Public Libraries Mull Grab-and-Go Book Pickup Service

From The City:

The New York Public Library is working on a plan to launch grab-and-go services for books and other materials — even as it’s buying more e-books, THE CITY has learned.

The dual approach reflects efforts to serve readers’ immediate needs while preparing for a technological transformation hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic, library officials said.

The NYPL is mulling having library cardholders order books online or by phone — and pick them up in a branch vestibule or on the sidewalk outside.

“As we begin to reopen our doors, we would do probably a small number of locations first and begin phasing in services,” said Brian Bannon, the Merryl and James Tisch director of The New York Public Library.

Public libraries remain closed in almost every major city in the country, with some exceptions. In central Ohio, for example, customers in cars can text or call the library to ask for a staffer to run out and put the materials in their trunks.

Link to the rest at The City

PG wonders why anyone needs a big study for this program.

Local restaurants around Casa PG inaugurated free pick-up-your-order service several weeks ago. Nearly every restaurant had an employee sitting outside under an umbrella (sun), waiting for people to pull up to designated parking spaces.

PG and Mrs. PG have been ordering online at their usual grocery store, then calling when they arrive and having a store employee put their groceries in the trunk.

Library workers fight for safer working conditions amid coronavirus pandemic

From NBC News:

In Hennepin County, Minnesota, 220 library workers face a dilemma: take unpaid leave or get reassigned to work in hotels housing homeless people, including some with COVID-19 symptoms, with no extra pay.

The offer came last week from county Administrator David Hough, who told staff that there wasn’t enough work for them to do from home while the libraries were closed. Workers who don’t want to move to the higher-risk jobs — of which there are only 50 positions — can use their remaining paid time off or eat into future paid leave allocations that they will owe the county.

“People are being forced into an impossible position,” said Ali Fuhrman, president of the local union that represents the library workers. “Go into debt, use your own benefits or take on a risky job at no extra compensation.”

The Hennepin workers are among a growing group of library employees across the United States who have been organizing to fight for better working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

. . . .

Despite the American Library Association recommending in a statement March 17 that libraries close to the public, many librarians and support staff are still being asked to travel to work or risk being laid off, organizers say, even though many services could be delivered remotely.

Libraries in states across the country, including in New York, Iowa, Florida, California and Minnesota, have started offering curbside pickups to reduce contact between workers and patrons. Organizers believe this puts librarians at an unnecessary risk.

Link to the rest at NBC News

Libraries Connected launches online services round-up

From The Bookseller:

Our buildings may be temporarily closed but public libraries still have lots to offer their communities. Here at Libraries Connected, we are showcasing the best digital services from public libraries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Working with a team of public librarians from across the country, we’ll be highlighting key services that can be accessed through library websites and social media platforms.

. . . .

On this page you can find some of the excellent online rhyme times, story times and lego clubs that keep children engaged and support early literacy and creative thinking. We want to help families to choose live and recorded events not just from their own library service but anywhere in the country.

We’re also promoting activities to keep adults connected through library reading groups and book discussion groups.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

It appears that some, but not all, activities may require a British library card. PG didn’t check to see if non-UK residents could apply for a remote guest card.

The following library program appears to originate on the island of Guernsey, part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, consisting of the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey goes back to 933, when the islands came under the control of William Longsword, having been annexed from the Duchy of Brittany by the Duchy of Normandy. The island of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands formed part of the lands of William the Conqueror. In 1204 France conquered mainland Normandy – but not the offshore islands of the bailiwick. The islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Duchy of Normandy.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is not to be confused with The Bailiwick of Jersey, also located in the English Channel consisting of the island of Jersey together with nearby uninhabited islands and rocks collectively named Les Dirouilles, Les Écréhous, Les Minquiers, and Les Pierres de Lecq.

American Library Association Cancels 2020 Annual Conference

From Publishers Weekly:

In a stark reminder that the U.S. is still likely in the early stages of the battle to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, the American Library Association has canceled the 2020 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition, which was scheduled for June 25-30 in Chicago. It will be first time in 75 years that ALA has not hosted an annual conference, with the last cancellation taking place in 1945 as World War II wound down.

“We recognize the magnitude of this decision for the association and our membership,” said ALA executive director Tracie D. Hall. “This year, we were especially looking forward to the conference taking place in ALA’s hometown of Chicago. However, the well-being of our library community, staff, and fellow Chicago residents has to be the number one concern, and that drove our decision-making.”

. . . .

The ALA cancellation comes just days after ALA made another unprecedented announcement, in which it urged libraries to close to slow the spread of Covid-19. Earlier this month, the Texas Library Association, the country’s largest state library association, announced the cancellation of its annual conference, which had been set for this week. TLA added that a planned digital replacement is now in the works.

Hall called the move “a great disappointment,” although she noted that ALA would use that disappointment as fuel for its future events. But the show’s cancellation is certainly an unwelcome development for ALA, with the organization in the midst of a cash crunch as well as a reorganization. The annual conference, which often draws more than 20,000 attendees and hundreds of vendors, is an important source of revenue for the organization.

The cancellation is also a blow for publishers, authors, and other vendors and service providers. The conference always features a robust program of authors, and provides an important opportunity for publishers to launch new titles in front of an influential audience. 

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Morocco’s National Library goes digital as country locked down

From The New Publishing Standard:

Morocco is among the many countries closing libraries to help contain the Coronavirus threat, and as elsewhere, it is turning to digital to ensure services are not halted.

The National Library of Morocco in Rabat (BNRM) is among numerous Moroccan public institutions shifting to a work-from-home policy and a commitment to providing digital content in lieu of physical products.

Morocco’s schools closed a week ago, in stark contrast to the UK, which only closed schools this weekend, and the USA, where the government continues to send out mixed messages, leaving governors and mayors to take the lead and protect lives.

But like many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, the belated realisation of the value of digital means the transition from physical, in-class education and social support to online is a slow and cumbersome process.

Morocco World News reports that the BNRM says it will,

offer online administrative services to its subscribers, and access to electronic documents including legal deposits, manuscripts, magazines, books, and more.

The library will adopt a work system that doesn’t require its employees’ physical presence, opting instead for video chats to carry out administrative meetings.

Remote educational activities will replace lessons and classes, allowing students to stay at home and continue studies.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

How Libraries Are Dealing With Bedbugs

From BookRiot:

In August 2012, a patron at the Wichita Public Library was bitten by a bedbug. A flurry of activity followed: the library called pest control, delved into chemical remediation, and endured a media storm. Since then, bedbugs have been discovered at several public libraries. The experiences of the Wichita Public Library and Collection Development Manager Sarah Kittrell have guided panicked branch managers and department heads ever since. There is one simple fact that libraries need to know about bedbugs: not only can they turn up anywhere, but increasingly, they do. The discoveries of bedbugs in public libraries are becoming routine, if unwelcome, events. How that discovery goes for your library is entirely a matter of preparation, training, and levelheadedness.

. . . .

Bedbugs in public libraries are extraordinarily common. You may even have personal experience with them and not know it. According to entomologist Kenneth Haynes of the University of Kentucky, 30% of people don’t react to bed bug bites. That means that people are tracking bedbugs with them into schools, onto buses and trains, and—yes—into public libraries, all unawares.

. . . .

Since people don’t necessarily know if they have bedbugs, they may not know to treat their stuff. This is how patrons track bedbugs into libraries, where they establish a toehold by feeding on people who enjoy soft chairs and other plushy furniture. Bedbugs like itty-bitty spaces, so they can end up in book spines, too. It doesn’t take a lot for bedbugs to thrive in a library. Even if they only encounter a few people a day, they’ll make it work. They’ve even been known to live happily in cinemas.

Library bedbug cases can blossom from there without the involvement of a patron. Interlibrary loan can constitute a vector for bedbug transmission. One pregnant female bed bug can generate a population of over 700,000 of the little pests within six months. Returning an infected book in an overnight drop can be disastrous.

. . . .

It should come as no surprise that bedbugs also drive patrons away from libraries. Cautionary measures seem to help calm patron fears, but in a big system like Cincinnati, New York City, or San Francisco, bedbug contact is only a matter of time. In 2012, Cincinnati’s 41 libraries owned 48 PackTite decontamination bags, which exist just to destroy bedbug stowaways. Other libraries visually check every book as it comes in.

A visual inspection of a book can be very revealing. In keeping with the recommendations of Sarah Kittrell, libraries nationwide now train staff to notice bedbug sign. This includes fecal stains on the edges and pages, squashed bugs inside the book, and live insects in the spine and dust jacket.

There have been cases where bedbugs fall directly out of a returned book and onto the library’s circulation desk. This, in some ways, is ideal. The returning patron can be confronted in situ with live or recently-live evidence of their guilt. We’ll talk more about bedbug policy, and what happens to that patron after discovery, a little later.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

PG suggests this may be another good reason for reading ebooks, including ebooks you can borrow from your library.

It also occurred to him that bookstores selling used books may be another bedbug haven.


 

We Wanted Our Patrons Back — Public Libraries Scrap Late Fines

From National Public Radio:

For nearly a decade, Diana Ramirez hadn’t been able to take a book home from the San Diego Public Library. Her borrowing privileges were suspended, she was told, because of a mere $10 in late fees, an amount that had grown to $30 over the years.

Ramirez, who is now 23 and stays in Tijuana with her mother, attends an alternative education program in San Diego that helps students earn high school diplomas. To her, the debt she owed to the library system was an onerous sum. Even worse, it removed a critical resource from her life.

“I felt disappointed in myself because I wasn’t able to check out books,” Ramirez said. “I wasn’t able to use the computers for doing my homework or filling out job applications. I didn’t own a computer, so the library was my only option to access a computer.”

In April, Ramirez finally caught a break. The San Diego Public Library wiped out all outstanding late fines for patrons, a move that followed the library system’s decision to end its overdue fines. Ramirez was among the more than 130,000 beneficiaries of the policy shift, cardholders whose library accounts were newly cleared of debt.

. . . .

The changes were enacted after a city study revealed that nearly half of the library’s patrons whose accounts were blocked as a result of late fees lived in two of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. “I never realized it impacted them to that extent,” said Misty Jones, the city’s library director.

. . . .

“Library users with limited income tend to stay away from libraries because they may be afraid of incurring debt,” said Ramiro Salazar, president of the [American Library Association’s] public library division. “It stands to reason these same users will also stay away if they have already incurred a fine simply because they don’t have the money to pay the fine.”

Lifting fines has had a surprising dual effect: More patrons are returning to the library, with their late materials in hand. Chicago saw a 240% increase in return of materials within three weeks of implementing its fine-free policy last month. The library system also had 400 more card renewals compared with that time last year.

. . . .

According to Chicago Public Library’s internal analysis, some 30% of people living on the South Side of Chicago couldn’t check out materials because they had reached the $10 fine limit for overdue materials. That ratio, however, dropped roughly 15% among cardholders on the more affluent North Side. Nearly a quarter of blocked accounts belonged to children under 14.

Having library fines stand in the way of people searching for jobs and social services “just seemed counterintuitive to us,” Telli said.

. . . .

Mitchell acknowledged that some people are not able to easily return books on time, but fears libraries will be shortchanged.

“The library deserves as much money as it can muster,” he said.

Some libraries have taken that philosophy to extremes. In November, a woman in southern Michigan faced criminal charges and possible jail time for not returning two books to the Charlotte Community Library.

After a national outcry, prosecutors dropped the charges. While library advocates say there is a real difference between fine forgiveness and failing to return a book, the case underlines the tensions libraries face between balancing patron accommodation and the need for deterrence.

And add this complicating factor to the equation: The fact that many libraries can’t afford to collect most of the fines they’re owed.

. . . .

Some libraries have successfully lured back patrons by offering fine-forgiveness days. During a 2017 amnesty campaign in San Francisco, the public library recovered nearly 700,000 of its items over six weeks and restored the accounts of more than 5,000 patrons. The recouped materials included a long-lost copy of F. Hopkins Smith’s Forty Minutes Late — which, despite its title, was a century overdue.

Link to the rest at NPR

PG acknowledges that he posted about an article on the same topic that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, but thought this was an important and interesting trend.

Better World Libraries

From Library Journal:

The Internet Archive (IA) on November 6 announced that its longtime not-for-profit partner, Better World Libraries, had acquired Better World Books, a mission-driven for-profit bookseller that has donated almost $29 million and more than 26.5 million books to global literacy programs during the past two decades. Better World Books’ Library Discards and Donations program, launched in 2004, has also been a major contributor to the company’s efforts to redistribute or recycle an additional 326 million books.

. . . .

“One of the biggest challenges facing libraries today is responsibly removing materials from their shelves so they can bring in more desirable materials or repurpose space to fit community needs,” Jim Michalko, Better World Books board member and former president of The Research Libraries Group, explained in the announcement. “Now, libraries can provide books to Better World Books knowing that a digital copy will be created and preserved if one doesn’t yet exist.”

. . . .

“What we’re trying to do is weave books into the Internet itself, starting with Wikipedia,” Kahle said. “The idea is to turn all of [Wikipedia.org’s] footnotes into live links, so that anyone who wants to go deeper from a Wikipedia article, can click on a footnote and open a book, right on the right page.”

IA has an ongoing relationship with Wikipedia. Notably, IABot crawls Wikipedia pages searching for broken links and repairs those links by finding an archived version of the original webpage using IA’s Wayback Machine. To date, the bot has repaired more than ten million links.

“Now, we have a robot going through [Wikipedia] and augmenting book citations with links to books in the Internet Archive,” Kahle said. “That, we think, is a big deal for usability. And it helps battle misinformation by taking the best, vetted information that we have and making that accessible to Wikipedia writers and also readers. The next puzzle beyond that is ‘how do you go and scale that up?’ We now have over 120,000 Wikipedia citations pointing to over 40,000 books, but we want to get to millions of links going to millions of books. The way we’re going to get there is by working really closely with Better World Books.”

IA has already digitized over four million books, most of which are public domain titles published before 1923, Kahle said. Its leadership aims to digitize four million more during the next four years—primarily 20th-century content obtained through the new Better World Books pipeline, as well as direct donations from libraries and other sources.

. . . .

Links to reliable sources will help “fulfill the promise of the internet as a library that people can depend on for reference work,” Kahle said. In this case, digitized books will be used “less for beach reading, more for jumping in and out of books—fact checking.”

Link to the rest at Library Journal and thanks to Marv for the tip.

No Time for Sargent

From Scrivener’s Error:

It’s not often that one can legitimately call an “official” major corporation CEO communication “inherently deceptive and based on fantasy or science fiction only.” OK, it’s not routine that one can do so — not even in the entertainment industry — thanks to SEC disclosure rules. But there’s a recent opportunity; and I have both personal knowledge and verifiable data to do it.

In this instance, for public consumption I’m relying upon (hack! phhhhht!) PW‘s account of Macmillan “CEO” John Sargent’s presentation to state librarians on discriminatory e-book distribution. So, why do I think Sargent was being deceptive? In no particular order:

  • Anecdotally (apparently according to Sargent himself!), eight percent of science fiction and fantasy fans who couldn’t get an e-book promptly from the library would instead go out and buy it. So it really is based on fantasy and science fiction! One wonders what kind of anecdotal “evidence” this is — whether it’s based on a random sample of fannish statements of intent, actual general sales figures (but see below), comparative library purchase figures and circulation statistics (but see below), or as is most likely self-selected fannish responses based on a self-selected subset of fen.
  • Well, how about reproducibility? A nonscientific, nonreplicable sampling indicates an increase of between 12 and 15% in publicly stated “user views” of library-embargoed Tor titles over the past year at relatively safe pirate venues… and a disproportionate (compared to other similar imprints, and even generally) increase in the number of pirate handles associated with library-embargoed Tor titles over the past year. This has been a distinctly, but due to the poor quality of the dataset not statistically validatable, greater increase for library-embargoed Tor books than for other similar and dissimilar imprints. The conclusion one can draw is that an unknown but probably substantial proportion of the vaunted 8% were interested in acquiring the Tor titles, not necessarily buying them. And demonstrated with their actions (not unverifiable, anecdotal statements of intent) that that is precisely what they would do.

. . . .

As a follow-on to the preceding point, carefully consider the assertion (quoting the PW piece’s summary of another summary) that

[Sargent] likened the e-book marketplace to that for major motion pictures in that new releases have the greatest value in their first few weeks and their initial release should allow for the greatest return on both creative and business investment. The availability of e-books through libraries, which may be perceived as being free, is, in Macmillan’s opinion, the major driver in the consumer decline.

which rather self-refutes the argument. Bluntly, if this were actually a valid consideration, the combination of revenues from DVD sales and post-release streaming/broadcast/etc. would not frequently exceed the initial release revenue… when one allows for the avoided costs in that back end (such as “distribution fees”). It also implicitly assumes that every Macmillan title is a superhero blockbuster. It ignores cult films. Or “indie productions” over at, say, Picador (“Fox Searchlight”).

More subtly, it ignores the more-valid comparison. Library sales — thanks to the discriminatory terms offered to libraries — are a helluva lot closer to “iMax 3D” with a $25 ticket than to no sale at all, as implied both in the PW piece’s summary and the continuing rhetoric coming out of Macmillan. There is one, and only one, market segment in which “discounting” of library sales as “insignificant” has any validity at all, and it’s not category trade fiction: It’s textbooks (at least in the 1990s version of the market, and those who came up selling textbooks in the 1990s are now in charge of overall sales and marketing at more than one Big Five publisher).

. . . .

Bluntly, this is so delusional that I can’t really say it’s a “lie.” Lying requires actual knowledge that what one is saying is untruthful and deceptive. I’m not certain that mere ignorance and/or self-deception, even when willful, qualifies, so I’m explicitly not calling Mr Sargent a liar. Fraud goes just a bit farther, in that it also requires intent that the listener reasonably rely on those statements, so I’m explicitly not calling Mr Sargent a con artist, either. I am, however, explicitly calling him out for putting forth bullshit.

Link to the rest at Scrivener’s Error

And these people style themselves as curators of our culture.

Plus, a reminder that traditionally-published authors basically have no say in what these curators do with their books.

Congress Looking into Anticompetitive Behavior in the Digital Library Market

From Publishers Weekly:

The American Library Association (ALA) has delivered a written report to the House Judiciary Committee telling lawmakers that “unfair behavior by digital market actors,” including Amazon and some major publishers, is “doing concrete harm to libraries.”

The report, delivered last week to a House antitrust subcommittee investigating competition in the digital market, comes as lawmakers are taking note of the growing backlash to Big Five publisher Macmillan’s decision to impose a two-month embargo on new release e-books in public libraries.

. . . .

Under Macmillan’s new policy, which is scheduled to go into effect on November 1, public libraries are allowed to license a singe discounted, perpetual access e-book for the first eight weeks after a book’s publication. After eight weeks, libraries can purchase multiple two-year licenses at the regular price (roughly $60 for new works). Librarians, however, say that not being allowed to license multiple copies upon publication unfairly punishes digital readers, and will only serve to frustrate users and will hurt the ability of the library to serve their community, especially if other publishers follow suit.

“Libraries are prepared to pay a fair price for fair services; in fact, over the past ten years, libraries have spent over $40 billion acquiring content,” the ALA report reads. “But abuse of their market position by dominant actors in digital markets is impeding essential library activities that are necessary to ensure that all Americans have access to information, both today and for posterity. If these abuses go unchecked, America’s competitiveness and our cultural heritage as a nation are at risk.”

. . . .

“The worst obstacle for libraries are marketplace bans: refusal to sell services at any price,” ALA officials notes, pointing to Amazon Publishing. “The e-book titles from Amazon Publishing are not available to libraries for lending at any price or any terms. By contrast, consumers may purchase all of these titles directly from Amazon. This is a particularly pernicious new form of the digital divide; Amazon Publishing books are available only to people who can afford to buy them, without the library alternative previously available to generations of Americans.”

. . . .

A “related problem,” ALA asserts—though it is surely the primary problem libraries face on a day-to-day basis—is the increasingly restrictive, and costly market for e-books from the major publishers.

. . . .

The inquiry comes after the House Judiciary Committee launched its investigation into competition in the digital market on June 3, 2019, with Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) citing “growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Congress Looking into Anticompetitive Behavior in the Digital Library Market

From Publishers Weekly:

The American Library Association (ALA) has delivered a written report to the House Judiciary Committee telling lawmakers that “unfair behavior by digital market actors,” including Amazon and some major publishers, is “doing concrete harm to libraries.”

The report, delivered last week to a House antitrust subcommittee investigating competition in the digital market, comes as lawmakers are taking note of the growing backlash to Big Five publisher Macmillan’s decision to impose a two-month embargo on new release e-books in public libraries.

. . . .

The ALA comments break down what it sees as potentially “anticompetitive” behavior in the digital realm into two sectors—public and school libraries, and academic and research libraries. And no surprise, the two issues topping the list of ALA’s concerns: Amazon’s exclusive digital content, which is not available to libraries; and restrictions by the major publishers in the library e-book market.

“The worst obstacle for libraries are marketplace bans: refusal to sell services at any price,” ALA officials notes, pointing to Amazon Publishing. “The e-book titles from Amazon Publishing are not available to libraries for lending at any price or any terms. By contrast, consumers may purchase all of these titles directly from Amazon. This is a particularly pernicious new form of the digital divide; Amazon Publishing books are available only to people who can afford to buy them, without the library alternative previously available to generations of Americans.”

. . . .

A “related problem,” ALA asserts—though it is surely the primary problem libraries face on a day-to-day basis—is the increasingly restrictive, and costly market for e-books from the major publishers. This includes the “delayed release” of e-books to the library market, the ALA report states, pointing to Macmillan’s two-month embargo on new release e-book titles, scheduled to take effect on November 1, and “abusive” pricing for library e-books, where titles can often run more than four times the consumer price for two year licenses.

“Denying or delaying new content to libraries certainly is a market failure,” ALA states. “It also prevents libraries from accomplishing their democratizing mission of providing equal access to information to American citizens.”

. . . .

The inquiry comes after the House Judiciary Committee launched its investigation into competition in the digital market on June 3, 2019, with Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) citing “growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Major Public Library System Will Boycott Macmillan E-books

From Publishers Weekly:

With Macmillan’s controversial embargo on new release library e-books set to begin in just two weeks, PW has learned that the King County (WA) Library System has decided it will no longer purchase embargoed e-book titles from the publisher.

“Despite months of discussion and advocacy, Macmillan continues its position to embargo multiple copies of e-books,” writes King County Library executive director Lisa Rosenblum, in a note sent to fellow library directors (and shared with PW). ”Therefore, effective November 1st, KCLS will no longer purchase e-books from Macmillan. Instead we will divert our e-book funds to those publishers who are willing to sell to us.”

The King County Library System, headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, is one of the nation’s busiest and best library systems, circulating more than 21 million items every year. It has earned a coveted five star rating from Library Journal. And for five years running, King County has been the top digital-circulating public library system in the country, logging more than 4.8 million checkouts of e-books and digital audio in 2018.

In her note, Rosenblum acknowledged differing opinions among public library staff around the country on whether to boycott Macmillan e-books, and said King County’s decision was ultimately driven by two reasons: one “pragmatic” and the other “principled.”

As for the pragmatic side, Rosenblum explained that King County has pledged to readers to limit the wait time for any title to around 3 months. “Not allowing us to purchase multiple copies of an e-book for two months artificially lengthens the queue, triggering more of the same title to be purchased than would have occurred if we had been allowed to buy for the first two months,” she explains. “With an ever-increasing demand to buy a wide variety of digital titles, we do not think this is the best use of public funds.”

. . . .

The “principled” argument, Rosenblum says, is to send a message to other publishers that public libraries cannot accept limits on basic access. To do so, she writes, would “profoundly” change the public library.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG has posted about this stupid plan by Macmillan before here and here.

Suffice to say, this is harmful to libraries and those who use them and unlikely to generate significantly more revenue for Macmillan.

As far as Macmillan’s justification – that library patrons will buy more Macmillan books if they can’t borrow them, PG expects this is likely the case in the short run. However, as library patrons continue to discover new authors they love through the books they borrow, and buy books from those authors, and tell all their friends how great those authors books are, Macmillan is short-changing its owners and its authors by effectively giving up on a major (and free) source of additional sales.

As compared with purchasing advertising and giving big discounts to Barnes & Noble (is that still a thing?), whatever dribs and drabs Macmillan fails to garner from regular library patrons who decide they simply must read whatever Macmillan claims is the latest and greatest instead of borrowing a different book are a drop in the bucket compared to the priceless word-of-mouth avid readers provide.

Finally, Feel Free to Return That Library Book You Checked Out in 1981

From The Wall Street Journal:

Casey Kidik was in fifth grade when she came across a copy of “Julie of the Wolves.” She had checked it out as a second-grader from the public library in Carver, Mass. By the time she rediscovered the book, the family had moved to Plymouth.

“I found it and then didn’t even want to tell my mom,” recalled Ms. Kidik, 25 years old. She hid the book in her bedroom bookshelf for months before coming clean ahead of a family trip to Carver. Embarrassed, she returned it, and her mom paid the $3.25 fine.

Ms. Kidik felt so guilty she avoided borrowing another book for nearly 20 years. “It’s this weird shame that we have about library late fees,” said Ms. Kidik, now a communications analyst at an asset management firm.

Libraries have come to realize what a lot of guilty readers already know—that late fees prompt some borrowers to keep books rather than face the humiliating tsk-tsk of librarians collecting late fees. That chapter is about over.

This week, Chicago became the largest American metropolis to end charges for overdue books, joining at least 150 library systems in the U.S. and Canada that have ended late-shaming fines, according to the Urban Libraries Council. So far this year, libraries in St. Paul, Minn., Dallas and Oakland, Calif., are among those that have joined the late-fee amnesty movement.

Libraries are fighting for customers to survive in a digital world. One strategy is to remove the twin burdens of fines and guilt.

. . . .

Overdue charges range from around 17 cents a day and up. Libraries often cap fines at $5 to $10, or charge the cost of replacing the item, according to a 2017 study by the Library Journal.

For many borrowers, the money is less onerous than the feelings of disgrace. St. Paul Public Library Director Catherine Penkert said friends used to hang their head in shame and confess “I didn’t even want to tell you, I have fines.”

Sharon Bostick, who recently retired as the dean of libraries at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, knows the feeling. She created the Library Anxiety Scale, a part of her doctoral dissertation.

“All the rules that we have, and the fines and the fees, they’re making libraries really hard to deal with,” she said. “Putting everybody in this spot where they’re going to be fined to death is not helpful.”

Since St. Paul killed overdue fines, some branches have seen a double-digit percentage increase in circulation. Citywide, circulation is up nearly 2%, a surprising plot twist after years of steady declines.

The fear of returning overdue books is part of American culture. In a 1988 episode of “Married with Children,” character Al Bundy faced a $2,163 fine for a copy of the “Little Engine That Could” 31 years overdue. A 1991 episode of “Seinfeld” has Jerry being dogged by a library cop over a book due in 1971.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Who doesn’t read books in America?

From The Pew Research Center:

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7. Who are these non-book readers?

. . . .

[A]dults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the 12 months before the survey (44% vs. 8%). Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, a device that saw a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books from 2011 to 2016. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)

Adults whose annual household income is $30,000 or less are more likely than those living in households earning $75,000 or more a year to be non-book readers (36% vs. 14%). Hispanic (40%) and black (33%) adults are more likely than whites (22%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months. But there are differences between Hispanics born inside and outside the United States: 56% of foreign-born Hispanics report not having read a book, compared with 27% of Hispanics born in the U.S.

. . . .

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. In a 2016 survey, we found that Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.

Link to the rest at The Pew Research Center

The Whole “Library eBooks Kill Retail eBook Sales” Idea Makes No Sense

From The Digital Reader:

I was working on a blog post this morning on Scholastic ebooks being in OverDrive when I got to thinking about the current uproar over library ebooks.

It seems a lot of people in publishing are convinced that library ebooks are responsible for retail ebook sales being down. This belief has been around for over a year now (since Macmillian first established that trial embargo on library ebooks in July 2018), and it’s now grown to include a concatenating belief that Amazon is the one telling publishers about the supposed connection between library ebooks and retail ebook sales declining.

I still don’t beleive that Amazon is doing that; I think it is an example of gossip spread in the industry before showing up in the media. But I don’t want to debate that today; instead, I want to discuss the underlying premise.

. . . .

The idea that library ebooks (in and of themselves) have a negative impact on retail ebook sales simply makes no sense to this ebook buyer.

It simply doesn’t match up with my understanding of how people use libraries.

BTW, the last time I pointed out that a common industry belief made no sense was in late 2017 when I debunked the then-current belief that “screen fatigue” was responsible for declining ebook sales. I never got any public kudos for my work, but when was the last time you heard a publishing CEO blame their falling retail ebook sales on screen fatigue?

No one is mentioning screen fatigue any more; now the bogeyman is library ebooks, and it makes just as little sense as the last bogeyman.

The underlying premise for this belief is that because people can get a library ebook, they won’t buy the retail ebook.  This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of consumer behavior.

. . . .

This runs contrary to the legacy industry assumption that if they deny the consumer the library ebook then the consumer will buy a copy of the ebook.

Take me, for example. I only buy ebooks, but when I think the ebook costs to much (or when I can’t tell if it’s worth the expense) I will borrow the print book from the library.

. . . .

What the legacy industry appears to have forgotten is that for the past eight years they have been training library patrons to settle for print books even when we want the ebook. This has been going on ever since the Big Six started imposing checkout restrictions and high prices on library ebooks in 2011.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

One of the beliefs that underlies the whole “Let’s delay the library book so everyone will buy their own copy” philosophy is that the release of a “big” book by a major publisher is something that lots of Americans will respond to by quickly purchasing their own copy so they can talk to their friends about it.

PG thinks such consumer behavior has become quite rare other than in locales within 15 miles of The Empire State Building or The White House. A major book release flies so far beneath 99% of the American population as to be invisible. There was a time when a lot of people paid attention to what Big Publishing was doing, but that time is gone, gone, gone.

PG is about 100% ebook when it comes to his long-form reading. As he’s mentioned before, he’s purchased a couple of print books that he knows he will like because he found a screaming deal on the price somewhere. They have sat (laid? lain?) within easy reach of PG favorite reading locations for months and months and months.

PG reads long-form nonfiction and fiction for pleasure every day. It’s all in ebook format.

He is currently reading The Ground We Stand On by John Dos Passos, published in 1941, and very hard to find for a reasonable price. PG thinks it qualifies as heavy-duty history, discussing and contrasting the parallel developments of New and Old England during the mid-17th century.

Parts of the book follow Roger Williams, the founder of Providence Plantations, which became the Colony of Rhode Island, and a Puritan minister. Williams was likely the first white man to learn the languages of the Native American tribes along the Eastern seacoast. He wrote the first book on the Narragansett language and helped to settle the Pequot War (1637-38) which could have caused enormous harm among the earliest British settlers.

The book follows Williams back and forth during his travels from the New World to the Old. Old England is in the midst of The Civil War and the Puritans were in control. While in England, Williams published his first book, A Key into the Language of America, in 1643. This book was, in part, the first printed dictionary/phrase-book of the language of the Native American tribes as well as an account of the life and culture of those tribes.

In his book, Williams wrote:

Boast not proud English, of thy birth & blood;
Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good.
Of one blood God made Him, and Thee and All,
As wise, as fair, as strong, as personal.

Williams succeeded in obtaining a charter from Parliament for Providence Plantations in July 1644. He then wrote a book titled,
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience in which, among other things, Williams argued for a “wall of separation” between church and state and for state toleration of various Christian denominations, including Catholicism, and also “paganish, Jewish, Turkish or anti-Christian consciences and worships.” Williams’ writing was not popular with the Puritan-controlled government and Parliament ordered the public hangman to burn all copies.

PG has rambled too much about his latest reading enthusiasm, but, to the best of his knowledge, a copy of Dos Passos’ book in physical form is unavailable anywhere in PG’s general vicinity. However, he was happy to find a copy in ebook form online (not at Amazon) for a reasonable price and is learning a great many things about this period of American and British history of which he was previously unaware.

Why Angry Librarians Are Going to War With Publishers Over E-Books

PG has mentioned this brilliant strategy from Macmillan here and here, but under the principle that you can’t celebrate Big Publishing stupidity enough, here’s more.

From Slate:

If I wanted to borrow A Better Man by Louise Penny—the country’s current No. 1 fiction bestseller—from my local library in my preferred format, e-book, I’d be looking at about a 10-week waitlist. And soon, if the book’s publisher, a division of Macmillan, has its way, that already-lengthy wait time could get significantly longer.

In July, Macmillan announced that come November, the company will only allow libraries to purchase a single copy of its new titles for the first eight weeks of their release—and that’s one copy whether it’s the New York Public Library or a small-town operation that’s barely moved on from its card catalog. This has sparked an appropriately quiet revolt. Librarians and their allies quickly denounced the decision when it came down, and now the American Library Association is escalating the protest by enlisting the public to stand with libraries by signing an online petition with a populist call against such restrictive practices. (The association announced the petition Wednesday at Digital Book World, an industry conference in Nashville, Tennessee.) What’s unclear is whether the association can get the public to understand a byzantine-seeming dispute over electronic files and the right to download them.

In a July memo addressed to Macmillan authors, illustrators, and agents, the company’s CEO John Sargent cited the “growing fears that library lending was cannibalizing sales” as a reason for embargoing libraries from purchasing more than one copy of new books during their first eight weeks on sale. “It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free,” he claimed.

Many individual library systems and companies that work with libraries swiftly responded with objections. “Public libraries are engaged in one of the most valuable series of community services for all ages, for all audiences,” said Steve Potash, the CEO and founder of OverDrive, a company that supplies libraries with e-books. “The public library is just something that is underappreciated. It certainly is so by Macmillan.”

. . . .

“If you think about equitable access to information for everybody, there shouldn’t be discrimination or anything like that,” said Alan Inouye, the senior director for public policy and government relations at the ALA. “So consumers can get this book on Day 1 without limitation, but libraries have to wait for eight weeks? That’s just very wrong.”

. . . .

The controversy over Macmillan’s new policy gets at one of the central issues facing book publishing today. “There’s a tension in e-book pricing generally between consumer expectations that a digital file will be less expensive than a physical copy and the reality that very little of the cost of making a book is tied up in the physical format,” said Devin McGinley, a senior industry analyst covering book publishing for Ibisworld Inc., a market research firm. “Publishers are rightly concerned that if the price of books erodes too much, they will no longer be able to cover their creative costs and subsidize more speculative bets on emerging authors.”

. . . .

“They really did not have any reasonable data to support a narrative that if an author’s new book is withheld from public library lending when it first comes out, that might impact the author’s or the book’s sales during those first few months,” Potash said. “That isn’t borne out. The data that OverDrive has is that for every title that actually gets borrowed or downloaded, the library is engaging with dozens and dozens of readers who are discovering the book, sampling the book, or just looking for a recommendation on what to read next.” Potash said that studies consistently show library patrons to be more frequent book buyers overall—which is another reason Macmillan’s letter stung. “They are taking their readers, their customers, their fans, and intentionally trying to frustrate them,” he said.

Link to the rest at Slate

PG will state that whenever a business executive talks about making a decision to avoid “cannibalizing sales,” you will find many other stupid words and acts following shortly thereafter.

Steve Job famously said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” He made this comment when Apple was selling a lot of iPods, and had just announced the iPhone.

Did the iPhone cannibalize Apple’s iPod business? You bet. Were any Apple shareholders upset by this cannibalization? Not really. The iPhone would make Apple the most valuable company in the world.

The first iPhone was announced in January, 2007, and went on sale in June, 2007. One year after the announcement of the first iPhone and six months after its launch, in January, 2008, the value of a share of Apple stock had almost doubled. About six months later, in July, 2008, when Apple launched the iPhone 3G (the first iPhone with an app store), the stock value was 285% of the price only 18 months earlier.

Not many people were worried about iPod sales at that point.

From an interview with James Allworth, the co-author, with Clay Christensen and David Skok, of a new Nieman Reports article called “Breaking News– Mastering the Art of Disruptive Innovation in Journalism.” The Harvard Business Review published a transcript:

Well, if you can see a way of cannibalizing your existing business, then chances are somebody else can see that same opportunity too. And if it’s a choice between you or your competitor cannibalizing that business, I think in almost every instance you will be better off in the long run if you yourself choose to do it.

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

Back to Macmillan, once a book is completed, PG will note that each copy of an ebook that Macmillan licenses to a user costs the company essentially nothing. This cannot, of course, be said about a printed book, each one of which carries costs for printing, shipping, warehousing, handling returns of unsold books from bookstores, etc.

PG suggests that an intelligent executive would be happy to cannibalize the sales of more copies of costly printed books by selling costless ebooks.

 

I Spent the Night at a Library in Wales, and You Can Too

From Smithsonian:

Hidden behind a grove of trees in Hawarden, Flintshire, a small village in north Wales located about 25 miles south of Liverpool, sits Gladstone’s Library, the only prime ministerial library in Great Britain. Named after four-term Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1868-74, 1880-85, 1886, and 1892-94), the 117-year-old stone building is home to the late statesman’s personal collection of 32,000 books—part of the library’s extensive collection of 150,000 written works focused on everything from history and politics to theology and literature.

Not only does the library house one of the most comprehensive written collections on the island, but it also offers something the average library does not: overnight stays. As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, spending the night at a library curled up with a good book sounded like a dream come true. And I’m obviously not alone in my sentiment.

Gladstone’s Library welcomed its first overnight guests on June 29, 1906, right around the same time the library opened the doors of its current building. (The library’s history actually dates back to 1894, when it was housed inside the “tin tabernacle,” a corrugated metal structure located near the library’s current site.) Now, more than a century later, the library’s onsite 26-room B&B still draws guests from around the United Kingdom, Europe and United States who’ve dreamt of sleeping in a library for the night.
. . . .

[A]s a writer I couldn’t think of a better place to stay the night than a library. (Is experiencing writer’s block even possible inside a library?) After getting my room key and dropping off my bags in my guest room, I descend down the building’s wooden staircase to the main Reading Room. The only noise is the sound of the wood floorboards creaking beneath my feet. The sweeping, two-story room with its massive windows and arched ceiling feel like a scene pulled straight from fiction. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry immediately comes to mind.

Link to the rest at Smithsonian

Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Public Domain Dedication

How the New York Public Library Guards Privacy in the Digital Age

From The Wall Street Journal:

The ever-changing digital landscape poses a challenge for libraries: How do they enter this new world—while staying true to their public mission and preserving the privacy of patrons online?

It’s a question Tony Ageh, chief digital officer at the New York Public Library, has spent a lot of time thinking about. Mr. Ageh has supported a number of digital initiatives, including an expansion of digital lending. The library, which currently gets 300,000 visits to its website each week, now offers borrowers 1.7 million e-books.

At the same time, Mr. Ageh says, it’s crucial to maintain the trust that the public has in public libraries. For instance, unlike many other sites and search engines, the New York Public Library’s online system doesn’t store personal data about users.

“People expect us to be kind of the same level of security as a bank,” he says.

And Mr. Ageh stresses the library’s role as a home for authentic scholarship at a time when counterfeit books have become a rising challenge for Amazon, publishers and writers.

. . . .

WSJ: What role does the library play in maintaining readers’ trust and setting standards around that as you expand online and digitize more books?

MR. AGEH: I think the most trustworthy and reliable organization when it comes to this sort of thing is the library. If [a hard copy of a book has got] a library stamp on it, we will guarantee that book is the real book. You can tell if anybody had doctored it, because if a page is missing, the numbering would be missing. That is an authentic copy of that book.

There is no way that any organization at all could make that claim for a digital copy of the same book. Kindle renumbers the pages, you wouldn’t know if somebody had taken a word out, you wouldn’t know if they changed the order, so the ability to verify the authenticity of a fundamental work can only be done, hand on heart, by a librarian. Even if we digitize the books ourselves and publish them, we would still need to think very seriously about how we are certain that, when it’s out in the web, that nothing changes it.

WSJ: Do you think people overlook the trust that libraries offer?

MR. AGEH: If I told you to close your eyes and think about a library, and I asked you what you could see in your mind’s eye, you’d say, “I can see books,” probably. But there are two things you can see, and the other one is so big you can’t see it. It’s the building the books are in. Once you’re inside the walls of a library, you are safe.

It’s a sanctuary of sorts. The thing that makes you safe in the library is that you know that nothing is trying to exploit you, that everything in there is reliable, every person in there is on your side, that we’re not going to ask anything back apart from, maybe, “Would you mind bringing the book back, and be respectful of other people.”

WSJ: How are you bringing that same feeling of security online?

MR. AGEH: I won’t lie, it’s a challenge. If I asked librarians, ”What do you want the technology to do?” None of them would say, “I want the technology to secure the position of the library in the hearts and minds of the public.” But it’s a matter of the library understanding the thing they need most, and the thing they need most is an environment where you could trust what’s going on.

WSJ: How do you make the New York library a digital sanctuary as much as a physical sanctuary?

MR. AGEH: Physical libraries are one of the last noncommercial public spaces, accessible to all and free of distractions. We hope to replicate this in our digital spaces. This manifests primarily in what we choose not to do—we don’t incorporate digital advertising, we don’t try to force user actions like checking out one book or another. So much digital technology—social media, e-commerce, mobile gaming—is trying to manipulate the user. We hope to build trust and create that sense of sanctuary by not engaging in such practices and letting people accomplish what they want to accomplish.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Citing Embargo, Libraries Plan Boycott of Blackstone Digital Audio

From Publishers Weekly:

The Washington Digital Library Consortium (WDLC), a statewide coalition of some 44 public libraries across Washington state, is organizing a potential six-month boycott of Blackstone Publishing’s digital audiobooks. The move follows Blackstone’s decision, announced last month, that as of July 1 it would embargo selected new release audiobook titles in libraries for 90 days. The WDLC is urging libraries across the nation to join them in their protest, which is set to begin on August 1.

“As advocates for equitable access for our residents, we protest your decision and, as a result, will boycott Blackstone’s e-audiobooks for six months (August 1, 2019, to January 31, 2020). We ask you to reverse the embargo and to refrain from creating future barriers for libraries,” reads a draft letter making the rounds in the library community. “We take these steps because we truly believe that services without special barriers to libraries are best for both for our patrons and your business.”

In urging other library systems to join the boycott, the WDLC offers a range of resources, including an FAQ for patrons, talking points for stakeholders, and even sample press releases. “We will communicate this boycott,” the letter reads, “and the reasons behind it, to library patrons and community stakeholders through press releases, reports via social media and other digital platforms, and in one-on-one conversations with patrons, community leaders, and elected officials.”

. . . .

Blackstone quietly announced its 90-day window on new audiobook releases last month in a message to library customers delivered through its vendors. But that message did not mention that the 90-day window appears to be tied to an exclusive deal with Amazon’s Audible subscription service. In a subsequent message explaining the change to librarians (seen by PW), a rep for Blackstone explained that the publisher “was recently given the opportunity to enter into an exclusive deal” with an unnamed “important strategic partner,” and that under terms of the deal, “audio editions of selected Blackstone Publishing titles will be available exclusively in digital format on our strategic partner’s platform for 90 days upon initial release.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

ALA Statement on New Macmillan Library Lending Model

From The American Library Association:

On July 25, Macmillan Publishers announced a new library ebook lending model. In response, the American Library Association’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office released the following statement:

The American Library Association (ALA) denounces the new library ebook lending model announced today by Macmillan Publishers. Under the new model, a library may purchase one copy upon release of a new title in ebook format, after which the publisher will impose an eight-week embargo on additional copies of that title sold to libraries.

“Macmillan Publishers’ new model for library ebook lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission: ensuring access to information for all,” said ALA President Wanda Kay Brown. “Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for patrons most dependent on libraries.

“When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in ebook format, it’s the library—not the publisher—that feels the heat. It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs.

“Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable,” said Brown. “ALA urges Macmillan to cancel the embargo.”

The new Macmillan ebook lending model is an expansion of an existing policy that went into effect in July 2018, when the company, without warning, issued a four-month embargo applying solely to titles from the company’s Tor imprint. At the time, ALA stated that the delay would hurt readers, authors, and libraries.

Since last fall, Hachette Book Group and Penguin Random House have eliminated “perpetual access” for libraries and replaced it with a two-year access model. Simon & Schuster changed from a one-year to two-year access model. While reevaluating their business models, none of these firms implemented an embargo—deciding that equitable access to information through libraries is also in their business interest. HarperCollins continues with its 26-loan model. Macmillan now stands alone in its embargo policy among the largest Big Five publishers.

Macmillan will decrease its price to $30 for the single initial copy of an ebook. Unlike other Big Five publishers, this copy of Macmillan titles come with perpetual access. After the embargo period, additional copies will be available for $60 per copy for two years of access.

“This new embargo is the latest evidence of a troubling trend in the publishing industry,” said Brown. “ALA is developing a strategy to address this trend in the long term. Following the model of ALA’s former Digital Content Working Group, this advocacy effort will extend several years, not several months, and will not be limited to one company in the publishing ecosystem. ALA will push harder and explore all possible avenues to ensure that libraries can do our jobs of providing access to information for all, without arbitrary limitations that undermine libraries’ abilities to serve their communities.

“In the short term, ALA calls on library customers of Macmillan Publishers to tell CEO John Sargent they object to the publishing company’s new policy.”

Link to the rest at The American Library Association

In the US and, perhaps, elsewhere, the community public library stands with mom, apple pie and the flag as a loved and respected institution, especially in smaller communities.

The library often sponsors a children’s story hour during which a librarian will read a children’s book to any children who wish to attend. While the children are listening, the parents are chatting in the background, usually talking about their children and challenges, community happenings, etc.

The library will also often have a space for small meetings that is available at no charge in the evenings so community groups can gather to further their various purposes.

For lower-income patrons, the library may offer the only high-speed internet access available. Libraries also often host adult-learning classes, both online and in person.

Suffice to say, in a public relations battle between Big Publishing and community libraries, the libraries will win hands-down.

PG’s only criticism of the OP is that it didn’t include an email address where complaints could be sent to Macmillan and a hashtag for social media use.

 

After Tor Experiment, Macmillan Expands Embargo on Library E-Books

From Publishers Weekly:

More than a year after imposing a controversial four month “test” embargo on new release e-books in libraries from it’s Tor imprint, Macmillan announced today that it will now impose a two month embargo on library e-books across all of the company’s imprints. The terms take effect November 1.

Under the publisher’s new digital terms of sale for libraries, “library systems” will be now be allowed to purchase a single—that is, one—perpetual access e-book during the first eight weeks of publication for each new Macmillan release, at half price ($30). Additional copies will then be available at full price (generally $60 for new releases) after the eight-week window has passed. All other terms remain the same: e-book licenses will continue to be metered for two years or 52 lends, whichever comes first, on a one copy/one user model. A Macmillan spokesperson confirmed to PWthat the single perpetual access copy will be available only for new release titles in the first eight weeks after publication—the option to buy a single perpetual access copy expires after that eight week window, and the offer is not available for backlist titles.

In what counts as a measure of good news for libraries, however, no changes were announced for Macmillan digital audiobooks.

Macmillan is now the fourth Big Five publisher to change its terms for digital content in libraries in recent months—but its changes, and the views expressed by Macmillan CEO John Sargent, are by far the most unique and contentious of the group. In a July 25 memo (addressed to authors, illustrators, and agents), Sargent not only delivered the news of Macmillan’s library e-book changes, he basically called out libraries for depressing author payments.

“It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an e-book for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American e-book reader is starting to lean heavily toward free,” Sargent wrote. “Our new terms are designed to protect the value of your books during their first format publication. But they also ensure that the mission of libraries is supported.”

In the memo, Sargent asserted that 45% of Macmillan’s U.S. “e-book reads” were now “being borrowed for free” from libraries,” a trend he attributed to a mix of factors, including the lack of “friction” in e-lending compared to physical book lending, the “active marketing by various parties to turn purchasers into borrowers,” and unnamed apps “supporting e-book lending regardless of residence, including borrowing from libraries in different states and countries.”

. . . .

Alan Inouye, ALA’s senior director, for Public Policy & Government Relations, offered a blunt first assessment of Macmillan’s plan: “Worse than expected,” he told PW. “Embargoes violate the principle of equitable access to information that is at the core of libraries,” he added, pointing out that Macmillan’s policy is curiously out of step with the rest of the industry. “Within the past year, three of the other Big Five publishers revised their library e-book business models, and none of them concluded that libraries were a threat to their profitability,” Inouye observed. “Indeed, these other publishers believe that libraries benefit their businesses. Macmillan stands alone with its embargo.”

. . . .

“This is just Sargent using fear tactics, trying to gaslight authors and agents,” said PW library columnist Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains Public Library, citing Sargent’s references to “mysterious” data that “is never shared” and suggestions that libraries are somehow circulating e-books outside their service areas. “My library is able to share its e-book collection with other libraries in my consortium, but with the consent of all the publishers involved. And it rarely involves sharing frontlist titles, since an algorithm ensures that my e-book copies go to fulfill requests from my users first. And for every four requests, we purchase another copy.” As for an app that would allow libraries to circulate e-books to patrons outside of their service area, Kenney says he is unaware of any.

. . . .

Susan Caron, director, Collections & Membership Services, for the Toronto Public Library, which racked up the most digital lends in 2018, according to vendor OverDrive, said the claims in Sargent’s memo left her speechless. “I don’t know where to start,” Caron said. “Active marketing to turn purchasers into borrowers? There is no friction in e-lending? Except that people have to wait months for a title. I just randomly picked Normal People by Sally Rooney, published in August 2018. One year later, people still have to wait 29 weeks for a copy and we have 130. Hardly frictionless.”

And both Kenney and Caron suggest Macmillan clearly did not listen to librarian input, because the single perpetual access copy is not useful. “If we need more than one copy of a title, we’ll just wait. [Otherwise] our users will be upset if we don’t buy more to reduce holds, as we normally do. And if we can wait eight weeks, we may decide not to buy the title at all.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG suggests that this is a ham-handed, short-sighted action by Macmillan and other members of the Big Publishing Groupthink Boys Band.

But it’s what PG has come to expect from a declining, antediluvian industry that is out of original ideas.

PG remembers when publishers believed that exposure of their books and authors among library patrons helped to spur additional sales. Avid readers who use the library frequently are often regarded as excellent sources for information on great new books for their friends. Many a book club selection was first discovered as a book borrowed from a library.

This move also strikes PG as an attempt to manipulate the masses by executives who are far-removed from the masses and lack any real comprehension about how the proletariate will react to efforts to manipulate more money out of their pockets.

Here are some unintended consequences that PG suspects may result from this strategy:

  • Those who are inclined to remove copy protection from ebooks will feel more justified if ebooks are expensive and not readily available through libraries.
  • If an ebook is unavailable at the library due to the publisher’s strategy, librarians will be more inclined to recommend other books that are available. By the time the publisher’s embargo finally expires, more than a few readers will have forgotten their interest in a book/author because the effects of launch publicity will have faded.
  • More readers will turn to KDP and Kindle Publishing books and discover a lot of excellent ebooks at much more reasonable prices or at no cost through Kindle Unlimited and/or Prime Reading or simply among indie authors on Amazon.

From Wikipedia:

The [Titanic’s] eight musicians – members of a three-piece ensemble and a five-piece ensemble – were booked through C.W. & F.N. Black, in Liverpool.They boarded at Southampton and traveled as second-class passengers. They were not on the White Star Line’s payroll but were contracted to White Star by the Liverpool firm of C.W. & F.N. Black, who placed musicians on almost all British liners. Until the night of the sinking, the players performed as two separate groups: a quintet led by violinist and official bandleader Wallace Hartley, that played at teatime, after-dinner concerts, and Sunday services, among other occasions; and the violin, cello, and piano trio of Georges Krins, Roger Bricoux, and Theodore Brailey, that played at the À La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien.

After the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that Hartley and the band continued to play until the very end.

Link to the rest at Wikipedia

The Women Who Rode Miles on Horseback to Deliver Library Books

Children greet the “book woman,” 1940. KENTUCKY LIBRARIES AND ARCHIVES

The library in Stanton, Kentucky, 1941. UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY LIBRARIES SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER.

From Atlas Obscura:

They were known as the “book women.” They would saddle up, usually at dawn, to pick their way along snowy hillsides and through muddy creeks with a simple goal: to deliver reading material to Kentucky’s isolated mountain communities.

The Pack Horse Library initiative was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), created to help lift America out of the Great Depression, during which, by 1933, unemployment had risen to 40 percent in Appalachia. Roving horseback libraries weren’t entirely new to Kentucky, but this initiative was an opportunity to boost both employment and literacy at the same time.

. . . .

The WPA paid the salaries of the book carriers—almost all the employees were women, making the initiative unusual among WPA programs—but very little else. Counties had to have their own base libraries from which the mounted librarians would travel. Local schools helped cover those costs, and the reading materials—books, magazines, and newspapers—were all donated. In December 1940, a noticein the Mountain Eagle newspaper noted that the Letcher County library “needs donations of books and magazines regardless of how old or worn they may be.”

Old magazines and newspapers were cut and pasted into scrapbooks with particular themes—recipes, for example, or crafts. One such scrapbook, which still is held today at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York, contains recipes pasted into a notebook with the following introduction: “Cook books are popular. Anything to do with canning or preserving is welcomed.” Books were repaired in the libraries and, as historian Donald C. Boyd notes, old Christmas cards were circulated to use as bookmarks and prevent damage from dog-eared pages.

. . . .

The book women rode 100 to 120 miles a week, on their own horses or mules, along designated routes, regardless of the weather. If the destination was too remote even for horses, they dismounted and went on foot. In most cases, they were recruited locally—according to Boyd, “a familiar face to otherwise distrustful mountain folk.”

By the end of 1938, there were 274 librarians riding out across 29 counties. In total, the program employed nearly 1,000 riding librarians.

. . . .

In addition to providing reading materials, the book women served as touchstones for these communities. They tried to fill book requests, sometimes stopped to read to those who couldn’t, and helped nurture local pride. As one recipient said, “Them books you brought us has saved our lives.” In the same year as the call for books, the Mountain Eagle exalted the Letcher County library: “The library belong to our community and to our county, and is here to serve us … It is our duty to visit the library and to help in every way that we can, that we may keep it as an active factor in our community.”

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

Pack horse librarians start down Greasy Creek to remote homes, date unknown. UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY LIBRARIES SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER.

Book delivery to a remote home, 1940. KENTUCKY LIBRARIES AND ARCHIVES

Book delivery to a remote home, 1940. KENTUCKY LIBRARIES AND ARCHIVES

Front porch delivery, c. 1940. KENTUCKY LIBRARIES AND ARCHIVES

Yes, Bookmobiles Are Still a Thing.

From The Pew Charitable Trusts:

The van comes to a stop just as it reaches the hens. A bleating lamb is the first to greet Sandra Hennessee as she opens the van door and lets in the midday sun.

To get here, on an Amish farm in rural western Kentucky, Hennessee headed west from the small town of Mayfield and drove for miles on a two-lane road, passing churches, farms and open fields. With every bend and bump in the road, the wooden shelves inside the 27-year-old van creaked. With every stop, the hundreds of plastic-wrapped and paperback books on the shelves shifted.

Now on the farm, a woman dressed in a floor-length blue skirt, a black jacket, boots and a bonnet climbs inside. “Hi, honey,” Hennessee says. “What can I help you find?”

As the Graves County Public Library bookmobile librarian, Hennessee says she serves some of the most isolated areas of her community. She delivers books to some of the loneliest widows and some of the poorest children, but, according to her, “it’s not really about the books.”

“I’m a trash taker-outer, I’m a mail-getter, I’m a mechanic, I’m a social worker, I’m a snake killer,” she said. “You do what needs doin.’”

Hennessee, 51, started doing this job in 1995, when bookmobiles — miniature, mobile libraries in the backs of walk-on vans — were in their heyday. At the time, there were nearly 1,000 operating across the United States. Now, there are fewer than 650, according to the most recent data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a grantmaking and research arm of the federal government.

Link to the rest at The Pew Charitable Trusts

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

 

Wikimedia Commons

English Library Borrowing Plummets While Us Remains Stable

From The Bookseller:

New library borrowing figures from the US show how far England is lagging behind other countries because of its facilities’ falling book stocks, according to new analysis from library campaigner Tim Coates.

Using statistics from the Institute of Museums and Library Services, ex-Waterstones boss Tim Coates produced a chart showing English book loans have plummeted year-on-year since 2009/10 while American numbers remain relatively stable.

According to the statistics, book loans in the USA stood at 7.4 per person in 2006/7, peaked at 8.3 in 2009/10 and were 7.1 in 2016/17.

During the same span of time, Coates’ analysis of CIPFA data showed English book loans fell from 5.7 to 3.1 per person, a 46% decrease. Coates said this was well down on 8.6 in 1996/7, while England’s most recent figure available for 2017/18 was just 2.8.

Over a period from 2007/8, loans in Australia have also fallen, but far less sharply, from 8.2 per person to 6.6, a 20% drop, according to National and State Libraries of Australia data analysed by Coates.

He said the figures lend weight to his argument that library use in England is dwindling because there has been a move from making their sole focus books – something he claims has not happened elsewhere.

. . . .

Coates said: “25 to 30 years ago the public library sector in the UK, which means the leaders of the profession, the local and national politicians and government officers responsible for the service, consciously and deliberately allowed the number of books available for lending in public libraries to fall. It happened in every council.

“Across the UK the number has fallen from 90m to less than 60m and what remains is of low quality. They did it because they believed, and continue to believe, that libraries are more than about books’ and they should concentrate substantial resources to all kinds of other activities and purposes. In Australia and the US, while there was similar desire to widen the scope of the library service, they have not reduced the book collections at all.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The Princess Bride, Tara Westover’s Educated, and Supporting the Learning Society

From The Literary Hub:

This week, we spoke to the New York Public Library’s Melissa Gasparotto.

. . . .

Book Marks: What made you decide to become a librarian? 

Melissa Gasparotto: Working in libraries made me want to be a librarian. I think the particular role that made things really click into place was at the Chicago Historical Society (now Chicago History Museum) Research Center, where I was a page 20 years ago. When I got my first call slip for an archival box, the emeritus archivist at the time, Archie Motley, offered to take me down to the archives and show me the ropes. After we got the box, he took me on a detour to show me the files of the Chicago Police Department Red Squad, which had for many years harassed and conducted illegal surveillance of political dissidents. I was 19 years old and got the most powerful lesson on the importance of libraries and archives as stewards of difficult, contested histories, and our obligation to help document all communities at risk. This and other experiences there also underscored the importance of generosity in mentoring others into the profession. I went on to become a librarian specializing in Latin American and Latina/o Studies, and I think about these issues every day.

Fun fact: I kept up a pen pal correspondence with my favorite patron from that job for almost 10 years after moving to New York!

What book do you find yourself recommending the most and why?

MG: The closest recommendation to the front of my mind is often the most recent book I’ve finished that I loved. Lately I’m recommending Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, which I only just now got to reading. The library’s hold list is very long! She really captures the complexity of families in a way that feels extremely personal even as the particular circumstances she describes can be unfathomable.

But the book I recommend most often is probably William Goldman’s The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and Adventure! It’s my go-to air travel novel because it’s always available in airport bookstores and I’ve almost always loaned out my copy. I must have owned it at least a dozen times. Goldman’s book is so much better and funnier than the movie, which says a lot. Don’t skip the introduction, or the introduction to the introduction. When I was a kid, I really thought there was an author named S. Morgenstern, and once asked a librarian to help me find the correct Princess Bride edition because I didn’t understand why the catalog said the author was William Goldman.

Tell us something about being a librarian that most people don’t know?

MG: We don’t all maintain super organized book collections at home! My personal book collection is organized opportunistically: the most recently read books go wherever they happen to fit. It drives some of my non-librarian friends crazy, and I’ve caught at least one doing some sneak reshelving. But I love the feeling of constantly rediscovering things I’ve already read when I’m looking for something.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

American Library Assn. Strips Name of Dewey Decimal System Creator from Annual Award

From The Los Angeles Times:

The governing body of the American Library Assn. voted to remove the name of Melvil Dewey, the creator of the Dewey Decimal System, from one of its annual awards.

The ALA council made the decision on Sunday, reports Publisher’s Weekly, approving a resolution that urged the award be renamed because of Dewey’s history of anti-Semitism, racism against African Americans and sexual harassment of women. The initial resolution was advanced by ALA members during the organization’s annual conference. The resolution argued that the Melvil Dewey Medal be renamed because “Dewey did not permit Jewish people, African Americans, or other minorities admittance to the resort owned by Dewey and his wife,” which led to his censure by the New York State Board of Regents.

. . . .

Additionally, the resolution states, “Dewey made numerous inappropriate physical advances toward women he worked with and wielded professional power over,” and his behavior led him to be”ostracized from the organization for decades.”Dewey was one of the co-founders of the ALA, and served as the organization’s president from 1890 to 1891, and again from 1892 to 1893. He’s most famous for inventing the Dewey Decimal Classification system, which is still widely used in libraries around the world. He was also the founder of the Lake Placid Club, a social club for educators which refused entry to Jewish people and people of color. Objections to the club’s policies led to Dewey resigning his post as New York State Librarian in 1899. Dewey was also frequently accused of sexual harassment.

In a 2014 article for American Libraries Magazine, Wayne A. Wiegand writes that Dewey “made unwelcome advances on four prominent librarians” at an ALA event, which led to his ostracization from the group.

. . . .

This is the second time in a year that the ALA has decided to strip the name of a controversial figure from one of its awards. Last June, the organization changed the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. That change came after members raised concerns about the “Little House on the Prairie” author’s “stereotypical attitudes” toward African Americans and Native Americans.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times

Well, they’ve certainly put Dewey in his place.

PG is reassured to find the ALA leadership is comprised of such virtuous individuals. Millions have been unconscionably oppressed and deeply offended by The Dewey Decimal System for generations and, finally, they have been relieved of a great burden.

This alone explains why, for generations, library science has been dominated by white men and women have avoided becoming librarians entirely rather than subjecting themselves to a cataloging system that is so terribly offensive.

PG is planning to visit a library soon to help celebrate its liberation from an oppressive past and finally breathe the air of freedom.

 

Empowering Patrons, Tongue-In-Cheek Sci-Fi, and Discworld’s Orangutan Librarian

From Secrets of Librarians:

Welcome to Shhh…Secrets of the Librarians, a new series (inspired by our long-running Secrets of the Book Critics) in which bibliothecaries (yes, it’s a real word) from around the country share their inspirations, most-recommended titles, thoughts on the role of the library in contemporary society, favorite fictional librarians, and more.

. . . .

Book Marks: What made you decide to become a librarian?

Audrey Barbakoff: I’ve always loved stories, and the power they have to bring people together and create transformative experiences. I started out in a very different field—theatre lighting design. When I wanted to change careers, I thought about what it was that really made theatre meaningful for me, so that I could hold on to that core value. I realized that I cared about creating community and personal growth through inspiring ideas and shared experiences. Who else does that? Librarians do.

BM: What book do you find yourself recommending the most and why?

AB: Oh my goodness—how could I choose? There isn’t really one I recommend more than others. When I’m helping someone connect with their next book, I try to get to know a bit about them and what they want in that moment. As a result, my suggestions end up being different for every person. By the way, your local librarian is an expert in this. If you’re not already asking for personalized book recommendations, you’re missing out! Of course, there are always a few titles I’m enjoying so much that I can’t help gushing just a little bit. Lately, I’ve loved the tongue-in-cheek science fiction of Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series and Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers books. I also just finished Tommy Orange’s There There on audiobook, which was beautifully written and recorded. 

BM: Tell us something about being a librarian that most people don’t know?

AB: I don’t read at work! I’m amazed how many people think that’s part of the job. I often tell them that public librarianship is more about people than it is about books, which seems to really upend their idea of what a librarian does all day. Libraries are active, human-centered spaces. Our days are full of kids and families playing and learning, teens meeting with tutors or hanging out in a safe place after school, entrepreneurs working on their laptops, retirees staying engaged by volunteering or attending a lecture, people asking for a good book to read on their vacation… and usually that’s all happening simultaneously.

. . . .

BM: Who is your favorite fictional librarian?

AB: I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, so I’ll have to pick the Librarian at Unseen University. Being accidentally transformed into an orangutan only made him better at his job—it’s so much easier to reach those high shelves. But whatever you do, don’t call him a monkey…

Link to the rest at Secrets of Librarians

Why e-books, e-audiobooks could be harder to snag at your local library

From The Canadian Broadcasting Network:

You might call her an ideal library-goer: Andrea Querido visits her local branch weekly — even blogs for it — and describes libraries as “a place of community and connection.”

And when Querido’s son was born five years ago, the communications professional fell in love with a new section of the stacks: e-books, which along with e-audiobooks, make up the fastest growing area of borrowing for many libraries today.

“You’d have those late nights and you could be on your phone or your iPod, reading, while he’s feeding or you’re changing a diaper,” recalled Querido, an avid reader and book club member who lives in Brampton, Ont.

But as any library patron could tell you, there can be lengthy waits for e-book and e-audiobook titles — especially for A-list authors. Take, for instance, Oprah Winfrey’s latest self-help title, The Path Made Clear, published in March.

“I think for the audiobook, it’s 135 days to wait. And then the e-book is something like 35 days,” said Querido. “If you’re willing to wait, it’s great. But if you want to get your hands on that, it’s kind of a long time to wait for the book everyone’s talking about.”

That kind of wait could get even longer now, as libraries call out multinational publishers for high prices, restrictive terms and exclusivity windows that they say make it tougher to get e-content into the hands of eager customers.

. . . .

In the last three years, for example, use of e-audiobooks at six of Canada’s largest public libraries grew by 82 per cent, the council said.

But what isn’t widely known is that publishers charge libraries a significantly higher price for digital books than print versions — both of which are loaned out to customers on a one-to-one basis. For example, one physical copy of Linwood Barclay’s 2018 thriller A Noise Downstairs costs a Canadian library $19.20, while a single digital copy costs $65.

. . . .

Multinational book publishers are changing how they provide digital content to libraries: rather than selling e-books and e-audiobooks for perpetual use, they are adopting a business model whereby libraries must repurchase digital content after a set period.

Hachette Book Group is the latest publisher to make this switch, announcing in mid-June that its perpetual ownership model for digital content would be replaced by a metered system where libraries must repurchase e-books every two years. The change, which goes into effect as of July 1, will be accompanied by a price decrease (up to 25 per cent) for a “vast majority” of titles, the company said.

“With the changing digital marketplace, we feel that this business model better supports our entire publishing, library and bookselling ecosystem and unifies our lending terms for e-books and digital audiobooks to make access to our catalog consistent,” Hachette Book Group said in a statement.

. . . .

Penguin Random House, which moved from perpetual access to a two-year metered model in October 2018, said its decision came “in large part in response to conversations and data provided by its partners.”

. . . .

Exclusivity is another thorn in the side of library systems. Macmillan’s sci-fi division, Tor Books, and Blackwood Publishing are among those testing out embargo windows — holding back new and in-demand digital content from libraries for weeks or months, with some claiming library e-lending has had an “adverse impact” on retail sales.

. . . .

“It took a long time for all the multinationals to get on the board with public libraries. It took a long time before they all agreed to start loaning [digital content] to public libraries,” said Sharon Day, director of branch services and collections at the Edmonton Public Library and chair of the CULC’s e-content working group.

After “a period of relative calm,” she said, libraries are now seeing a slide backward in their relationship with multinational publishers.

. . . .

While the CULC says it recognizes libraries can’t pay publishers the same low price point as individual consumers, they are calling attention to what they view as inflated costs for digital content and expressing alarm over the budding trend of restricted access — all of which limits what libraries can offer their patrons.

“We need to be at the place where our customers are, to be providing customers with content the way they want to use it,” Day said.

. . . .

And while convenience is a key reason many have become fans of e-books and e-audiobooks, for others it’s simply a necessity.

Senior citizens, someone at home recovering from surgery, those with mobility challenges, people who are blind or visually impaired, those on fixed or low incomes — there are many different segments of the population that rely on their local libraries for information and entertainment, said Querido.

“I don’t want to say second-class citizens, but when you’re talking about seniors and those who can’t afford it … you’re making that distinction.”

Link to the rest at The Canadian Broadcasting Network and thanks to Desmond for the tip.

PG says a significant number of library patrons are intensive readers and provide book recommendations to their friends. He understands some face-to-face book clubs will not select a book for discussion that is unavailable in local libraries.

PG has no illusions about being typical of any meaningfully-sized subset of readers (other than, perhaps those who are institutionalized), but he seldom feels a need to read a new bestselling book (fiction or nonfiction) right away. He suspects the “event book” that is a “must-read” beloved by major publishers may be reaching a smaller and smaller subset of readers with each passing year.

As long as PG is on a rant, he believes that a great many consumers (including consumers of books) don’t like the feeling of being manipulated to part with their money by large corporations with distant headquarters. For Big Publishing, goosing the sales numbers for the current quarter without understanding the larger consequences of such tactics over a longer term is all too typical.

All of this incents more and more avid readers to look at the work of indie authors. As mentioned, these avid readers also tend to be enthusiastic influencers of other readers.

Don’t Put Tariffs on Books

From Publishers Weekly:

In early May, the Trump administration proposed placing 25% tariffs on a range of products, including books, imported from China. We believe that the tariffs on books are not in the public interest of the United States. They will drive up the prices of all books and have unintended consequences adversely impacting millions of children, parents, public and school libraries, and the livelihoods of book retailers.

. . . .

Though books imported from China include various book categories, a large percentage were illustrated books for children between the ages of one and 14. Research published in Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in Early Education shows that within the first year of life, “children will begin to imitate sounds, recognize familiar voices, and engage in shared communication with their first books… the roots of early literacy”—making it critical to get books in front of the very young.

In 2017 there were more than 61 million children between the ages of one and 14, many of whose illustrated books come from public and school libraries or are purchased by families from retailers. Both libraries and bookstores face financial challenges.

In 2017, there were 16,862 public libraries in the U.S. These are pivotal institutions in the communities that they serve, and yet they tend to be underfunded. New York City’s public libraries are an example of the impact of underfunding. The City, a nonprofit news organization in New York, reported that there are 220 public library branches in the city with, in total, an estimated $896 million in unfunded repairs, which include “everything from leaky roofs to defective air conditioning units and boilers to decrepit bathrooms.” Children also obtain illustrated books from the nation’s underfunded 66,768 elementary school (pre-K through eighth grade) libraries.

Bricks-and-mortar book retailers are another source of books, but they too face economic pressures, including higher rents and wages, that would, in all likelihood, force them to pass along to consumers whatever price increase publishers make to account for the cost of tariffs. Though there is one national bookstore chain, the vast majority of bookstores are small, privately owned enterprises. Although independent booksellers have experienced a revival, there are still fewer bookstores today than there were in the past. In 1995, there were 28,510 U.S. bookstores, which together generated an annual $11.2 billion, according to the Library and Book Trade Almanac. The almanac reported that by 2017, the number of bookstores had declined to 11,432, with sales down almost 10%, to $10.11 billion.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

So Much Love for Library Book Groups!

From ALA Journal:

I have a confession to make. I used to think that participation in public library book groups would be somewhat transient—people would drop in for a few months while they decided if they liked the concept, at which point they’d go off and join a private group, or start their own.

How wrong I was! BookBrowse.com, my online magazine for booklovers, recently released a report on the dynamics of book groups: The Inner Lives of Book Clubs. One of the significant findings of the report reflects how much people love their library book groups and how loyal they are to them.

  • Statistically speaking, there is barely a difference between happiness in public groups compared to private ones: 71% of those in public book clubs (most of which meet in libraries) say they are very happy in their group, 24% say they are somewhat happy.
  • 69% of those in public groups say their book club is “very important” to them—the exact same percentage as in private groups.
  • 57% of respondents in public book clubs (most of which meet in libraries) have been with their group at least five years!

The research shows that public library book clubs are a great fit for many who are looking to join a book group. For example:

Diversity
When we ask people interested in joining a book club to describe their ideal group, some say they would like an all-women group (“mansplaining” came up more than once), but most women and almost all men would prefer a diverse group with people of different ages and genders, and from a variety of backgrounds. When we look at the profile of public book clubs compared to private groups, we see that the latter tend to be more homogeneous. For example, when asked to approximate the age range in their book club, 39% of those in public groups estimated a spread of at least 20 years, compared to 17% in private groups. And when we look at gender, we find that 88% of private book clubs are all women, whereas about half of public groups have a mix of sexes.

. . . .

A Focus on Discussion
Many people who don’t have book club experience have the common misconception that book clubs are just an excuse for a night of gossip and a glass or two of wine; but, in fact, 84% of those we surveyed are in groups that spend at least 40 minutes of each meeting on book discussion. Additionally, statistically speaking, the longer the discussion, the happier the membership: 55% of respondents in groups that generally discuss the book for 20 minutes or less say they are “very happy” in their group, compared to 73% in groups that discuss for 50-60 minutes, and 81% in groups that discuss for 75 minutes or more.

Socializing is important to many—43% of those in public book clubs and 71% of those in private groups say that socializing before or after the discussion is very important to them; and most who wish to join a book group would like there to be a social element. But the great majority are clear that their primary interest is the book discussion itself. A core reason for this, as many observe, is that it is through the deep discussion of a book that one can get to know people in ways that are not always possible in a purely social setting. So, the public book group format—generally meeting for 60 to 90 minutes and spending most of that time on discussion—is an attractive proposition for many. And of course, people are free to socialize before and after the meeting if they wish.

Link to the rest at ALA Journal

The Books of College Libraries Are Turning into Wallpaper

From The Atlantic:

When Yale recently decided to relocate three-quarters of the books in its undergraduate library to create more study space, the students loudly protested. In a passionate op-ed in the Yale Daily News, one student accused the university librarian—who oversees 15 million books in Yale’s extensive library system—of failing to “understand the crucial relationship of books to education.” A sit-in, or rather a “browse-in,” was held in Bass Library to show the administration how college students still value the presence of books. Eventually the number of volumes that would remain was expanded, at the cost of reducing the number of proposed additional seats in a busy central location.

Little-noticed in this minor skirmish over the future of the library was a much bigger story about the changing relationship between college students and books. Buried in a slide deck about circulation statistics from Yale’s library was an unsettling fact: There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from Bass Library over the past decade.

Yale’s experience is not at all unique—indeed, it is commonplace. University libraries across the country, and around the world, are seeing steady, and in many cases precipitous, declines in the use of the books on their shelves. The University of Virginia, one of our great public universities and an institution that openly shares detailed library circulation stats from the prior 20 years, is a good case study. College students at UVA checked out 238,000 books during the school year a decade ago; last year, that number had shrunk to just 60,000.

Before you tsk-tsk today’s kids for their lack of bookishness, note that the trend lines are sliding southward for graduate students and faculty members, too: down 61 percent and 46 percent, respectively, at UVA. Overall, across its entire network of libraries, UVA circulated 525,000 books during the 2007–08 school year, but last year there were only 188,000 loans—nearly 1,000 fewer books checked out a day. The Association of Research Libraries’ aggregated statistics show a steady decrease of the same proportion across its membership, even as student enrollment at these universities has grown substantially.

. . . .

Maybe students aren’t checking the books out but are still consulting them regularly within the library? This also does not appear to be true. Many libraries also track such in-house uses, by tallying the books that need to be reshelved, and the trends are the same. At my library at Northeastern University, undergraduate circulations declined 50 percent from 2013 to 2017—before we decided to do our own book relocation—and our logged number of books removed from shelves but not checked out also dropped by half.

These stark statistics present a conundrum for those who care about libraries and books. At the same time that books increasingly lie dormant, library spaces themselves remain vibrant—Snell Library at Northeastern now receives well over 2 million visits a year—as retreats for focused study and dynamic collaboration, and as sites of an ever wider array of activities and forms of knowledge creation and expression, including, but also well beyond, the printed word. It should come as no surprise that library leadership, in moments of dispassionate assessment often augmented by hearing from students who have trouble finding seats during busy periods, would seek to rezone areas occupied by stacks for more individual and group work. Yet it often does come as an unwelcome surprise to many, especially those with a powerful emotional attachment to what libraries should look like and be.

. . . .

The decline in the use of print books at universities relates to the kinds of books we read for scholarly pursuits rather than pure pleasure, the rise of ebooks and digital articles, and the changing environment of research. And it runs contrary to the experience of public libraries and bookstores, where print continues to thrive.

Unlike most public libraries, the libraries of colleges and universities have always been filled with an incredibly wide variety of books, including works of literature and nonfiction, but also bound scientific journals and other highly specialized periodicals, detailed reference works, and government documents—different books for different purposes. Although many of these volumes stand ready for immersive, cover-to-cover reading, others await rarer and often brief consultations, as part of a larger network of knowledge. Even many monographs, carefully and slowly written by scholars, see only very sporadic consultation, and it is not uncommon for the majority of college collections to be unused for a decade or more. This is as it should be: Research libraries exist to collect and preserve knowledge for the future as well as for the present, not to house just the latest and most popular works.

But there is a difference between preservation and access, and a significant difference, often unacknowledged, in the way we read books for research instead of pleasure. As the historian Michael O’Malley humorously summarized the nature of much scholarly reading and writing, “We learn to read books and articles quickly, under pressure, for the key points or for what we can use. But we write as if a learned gentleman of leisure sits in a paneled study, savoring every word.” Or as he more vividly described the research process, academics often approach books like “sous-chefs gutting a fish.”

. . . .

With the rapidly growing number of books available online, that mode of slicing and dicing has largely become digital. Where students or faculty once pulled volumes off the shelf to scan a table of contents or index, grasp a thesis by reading an introduction, check a reference, or trace a footnote, today they consult the library’s swiftly expanding ebook collection (our library’s ebook collection has multiplied tenfold over the past decade), Google Books, or Amazon’s Look Inside. With each of these clicks, a print circulation or in-house use of a book is lost. UVA’s ebook downloads totaled 1.7 million in 2016, an order of magnitude larger than e-circulations a decade ago. Our numbers at Northeastern are almost identical, as scholars have become comfortable with the use of digital books for many purposes.

I’ve seen my own book usage change over time. When I was a graduate student studying Victorian history at Yale, the university’s towering collection in Sterling Library, next door to Bass (then called Cross Campus Library), allowed me to find and leaf through relevant books easily. Now almost all of the texts I consulted for my dissertation are available online in repositories such as HathiTrust, which stores digitized books from research libraries, many of them freely available for download since they were published before 1924, the cutoff for public-domain works. If I were doing the same scholarly project today, I would likely check out only a small subset of books that I needed to pay careful attention to, and annotate others digitally in my PDF reader.

. . . .

Statistics show that today’s undergraduates have read fewer books before they arrive on campus than in prior decades, and just placing students in an environment with more books is unlikely to turn that around. (The time to acquire the reading bug is much earlier than freshman year.) And while correlation does not equal causation, it is all too conspicuous that we reached Peak Book in universities just before the iPhone came out. Part of this story is undoubtedly about the proliferation of electronic devices that are consuming the attention once devoted to books.

. . . .

When i tweeted about this under-discussed decline in the use of print books in universities, several respondents wondered if, regardless of circulation statistics, we should keep an ample number of books in the library for their beneficial ambience. Even if books are ignored by undergraduates, maybe just having them around will indirectly contribute to learning. If books are becoming wallpaper, they are rather nice wallpaper, surrounding students with deep learning and with some helpful sound-deadening characteristics to boot. If that helps students get into the right mind-set in a quiet, contemplative space, so be it. Maybe they will be more productive, get away from their distracting devices, and perhaps serendipitously discover a book or two along the way.

. . . .

But there is another future that these statistics and our nostalgic reaction to them might produce: the research library as a Disneyland of books, with banker’s lamps and never-cracked spines providing the suggestion of, but not the true interaction with, knowledge old and new.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

PG says one of the fundamental reasons for the creation of the World Wide Web was to bring all the world’s books (plus a bunch of other stuff) online.

Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Google has a related corporate vision “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.”

PG discovered quite a few libraries have mission statements. Here are a couple:

The Harvard Library advances scholarship and teaching by committing itself to the creation, application, preservation and dissemination of knowledge.

The mission of the Bodleian Libraries is to provide an excellent service to support the learning, teaching and research objectives of the University of Oxford; and to develop and maintain access to Oxford’s unique collections for the benefit of scholarship and society.

The W3 – World Wide Web Consortium describes its mission as follows:

The W3C mission is to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web. Below we discuss important aspects of this mission, all of which further W3C’s vision of One Web.

The W3’s vision includes:

W3C’s vision for the Web involves participation, sharing knowledge, and thereby building trust on a global scale.

The Web was invented as a communications tool intended to allow anyone, anywhere to share information. For many years, the Web was a “read-only” tool for many. Blogs and wikis brought more authors to the Web, and social networking emerged from the flourishing market for content and personalized Web experiences. W3C standards have supported this evolution thanks to strong architecture and design principles.

. . . .

Some people view the Web as a giant repository of linked data while others as a giant set of services that exchange messages. The two views are complementary, and which to use often depends on the application.

. . . .

The Web has transformed the way we communicate with each other. In doing so, it has also modified the nature of our social relationships. People now “meet on the Web” and carry out commercial and personal relationships, in some cases without ever meeting in person. W3C recognizes that trust is a social phenomenon, but technology design can foster trust and confidence. As more activity moves on-line, it will become even more important to support complex interactions among parties around the globe. Learn more about:

Little Free Library Marks a Decade of Book Sharing

From Publishing Perspectives:

It has been a year of joy mixed with sorrow for Little Free Library. The Wisconsin nonprofit organization behind the iconic, seemingly ubiquitous containers mounted on posts and filled with books for the taking is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month while still mourning the loss of founder and executive director Todd Bol. Bol, 62, died last October, just weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

To mark its May 17 birthday, LFL sponsored a virtual international event called the Big Share. Participants were invited to visit a Little Free Library between May 17 and 19, deposit a book, and post a photo on social media with the #LFL10 hashtag to enter a drawing for a gift card to LFL’s online store. By the end of the weekend, there were 730 photos posted on Instagram; hundreds more were posted on Facebook and Twitter.

. . . .

In September, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Clarion Books imprint will publish Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul, illustrated by John Parra—a children’s picture book that begins with the story of how, in spring 2009, Bol constructed the first Little Free Library, a wooden replica of a one-room schoolhouse, to honor his late mother, a teacher. He mounted it on a post, filled it with books, and placed it in front of his house in Hudson, Wis., with a sign attached urging passersby to take a book or leave a book. It is the same model LFL follows today.

“It’s an alternative way to get really good books into people’s hands,” Bol told PW in 2011 as the concept started to snowball. With its popularity growing, LFL became a nonprofit organization in 2012, at which point there were about 5,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and in 40 countries abroad.

As LFL marks its 10th anniversary, there are more than 80,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 91 countries, which have shared a total of at least 120 million books.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG has blogged about Little Free Library before. Here’s a link to Little Free Library and here’s a link to the Little Free Library World Map which you can use to find a Little Free Library near you if you like.

If you haven’t seen PG’s prior posts on this topic, here are photos of a couple of Little Free Libraries.

Donegal Library Book Returned After More Than 80 Years

From The BBC:

The White Owl by Annie MP Smithson was borrowed on 23 July 1937 from Donegal County Library in the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht area of Gweedore.

It was returned to Gweedore Public Library on 17 May [2019].

The book was found during a house clearance in the nearby town of Falcarragh.

. . . .

Senior library assistant Denis McGeady said he was stunned that the book had been returned after eight decades.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes on Friday morning when the book was returned to us after such a long time,” he said.

“It’s common to see books brought back two or maybe three years late – but this is unique.”

. . . .

He said the book was deemed to be very rare.

“This is a first edition of The White Owl – it was published in 1937 and borrowed that same year so was more than likely brand new at the time it was borrowed.”

. . . .

Fines for overdue book returns were abolished in all Irish public libraries in January.

Link to the rest at The BBC

A Gift from a Stranger Tucked into a Book

From CNN:

Ashley Jost and her friends had just made a pledge to read more books. A week later, a self-help book caught her eye while shopping at a Target in Columbia, Missouri. The 27-year-old bought the book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” and began reading it when she got home. There was a surprise waiting for her inside.

“I was sitting on the couch and the dog started barking at God-knows-what,” Jost told CNN. “I tossed the book down to chase after the dog and five dollars fell out on the floor.”

She knew the cash wasn’t hers because she doesn’t carry any, she said. When the college administrator started thumbing through the pages, she found a neon pink Post-it note stuck inside with a handwritten message.

. . . .

The note read: “I was having a tough day. I thought maybe I could brighten someone else’s with this little surprise. Go buy a coffee, a donut or a face mask. Practice some self-care today. Remember that you are loved. You are amazing. You are strong. Love, Lisa.”

Jost was deeply moved.

“Random acts of kindness typically happen to strangers on the internet, not to me.”

. . . .

She felt obligated to share the note. So she took a picture and posted it on her Twitter account. “It sort of caught fire,” she said.

A few of her friends shared it — and the local paper picked it up.

Even the book’s author, Rachel Hollis, encouraged her followers to pay it forward in their own ways.

. . . .

Jost’s tweet has been liked more than 3,000 times and shared around the world after the BBC got wind of the story. People are pledging their own random acts of kindness — including her.

Once a day for a week, Jost hid surprise love notes and “lots of Starbucks gift cards” totaling five dollars a day in coffee shops, restaurants and libraries. She felt her college town needed a pick-me-up.

“The end of the semester really is a challenging time for everyone — staff, faculty and students.”

Her stepdad bought groceries for the person behind him in line at a Walmart.

“He was shocked the person ran out after him and thanked him. It made his whole day,” said Jost.

Link to the rest at CNN

Ebooks at the Library: Delving into the Labyrinth

From All About Romance:

Checking out eBooks at the library has come a long way since I bought my Nook Classic. Back then, most companies did not know how to make eBook lending from the local library work, and staff members at my local B&N had to pass out detailed instructions – that were at least a page long – about how to borrow library books on your Nook. Although I’m an early adopter who managed to read eBooks on a Palm and on an eBookwise, I never got library lending to work on my Nook. Not until I gave up and got a Kindle was I able to make the lending process go smoothly. “So that’s how it’s supposed to work!”

. . . .

Formats make a difference to library users worldwide. In Canada and the UK, Kindle books cannot be borrowed from the library because the format is proprietary. Books can only be borrowed in EPUB and PDF formats. In the UK, the available lending options are Nook, Kobo, Android, and IoS. That may vary by country (and province or county.)

. . . .

Quirks in the search feature aside, wait lists are the biggest drawback to borrowing eBooks from the library. Crazy Rich Asians is the top book that comes out when you check out the Romance section at my library, and although the library has 146 copies of the eBook available, none are available right now. You can place a hold, and if you time it well, you’re in luck. On the other hand, I remember checking the wait list for The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter after Kristen gave it a great review. Whoa. It would have taken a couple of months to get the book, so I caved in and bought the eBook instead. Although it was priced higher than I normally want to pay for an eBook, it was worth it.

So… What’s up with those wait lists? Why are they so long? Many people blame the publishers. For every step forward, libraries are forced to take two steps back. Most users know that they can wait for an eBook to drop in price, but this isn’t an option for libraries, which must buy eBooks at more than list price. Librarian and blogger Jennifer Anne (@kidsilkhaze) explained the issues in a thread on Twitter.

Jennifer Anne starts by stating “So here’s the thing–I am worried that publishing is killing libraries, and that will, in turn, kill publishing.” In a nutshell, eBooks are more expensive for libraries than you think. Although libraries usually get discounts on print books, eBooks are almost always priced extra high for libraries. For example, Penguin Random House charges about $55 per copy – and then requires the library to repurchase the title every twenty-four months. HarperCollins charges list price, but the items can be checked out only twenty-six times before they must be repurchased. Hachette charges about $80 to $90 per title, but the titles don’t have to be repurchased. Macmillan charges $60 a copy for an eBook and then requires repurchase after two years or fifty-two checkouts; because of lending periods, this often means the library only gets about thirty-five checkouts per title.

On top of that, some publishers (such as Tor) embargo libraries so that they can’t lend out the eBook until the book has been out for several months. But by the time the embargo period time has passed, the libraries will probably pass on the titles, meaning that the publisher loses out on the eBook purchase.

Link to the rest at All About Romance

Private Libraries That Inspire

From The Wall Street Journal:

Forget the Dewey Decimal System: Entrepreneur and inventor Jay Walker’s 25,000 books, manuscripts, artifacts and objects are organized in his personal 3,600-square-foot library “randomly, by color and height,” he said. When he walks into his library, part of his Ridgefield, Conn., home, the room automatically “wakes up,” glowing with theatrical lighting, music and LED-lit glass panels lining various walkways. He finds items to peruse by a system of memory, chance, and inspiration, he said.

The Walker Library of the History of the Human Imagination is a dramatic example of the rarest of residential amenities: A vast, personal, custom-built repository of intellectual stimuli. In the age of the e-reader, it is a status symbol on par with wearing a Patek Philippe watch when the cellphone already tells the time. For wealthy homeowners, personal libraries provide both a quiet refuge from the world and a playground for their minds—as well as a solution to the challenge of warehousing books from which they cannot bear to part.

But grand private libraries for hard-core book collectors come with daunting engineering and design challenges. To create enough shelf space and to counteract the visual heaviness of walls lined with books, private libraries may aim for two or more open stories. Mr. Walker’s library, consisting of 3½ stories with one main floor and platforms and balconies at various levels, required framing the exterior walls with “a steel exoskeleton to hold up the room,” said its architect, Mark Finlay of Southport, Conn. Mezzanine floors lined with book cases required steel framing, as did some wood bookshelves that carry heavy loads. There are some 25 staircases lined with panels of etched glass that depict important moments in the development of human invention. “It is designed to be intentionally disorienting,” said Mr. Walker.

. . . .

In Austin, Texas, Don Elledge, the 54-year-old chief executive of an information security company, recently completed construction of a 12,000-square-foot home with a library he estimates cost roughly $4 million to build and fill with antiquarian books, antiques and research-grade astronomical equipment. His architect, Austin-based Luis Juaregui, said the biggest engineering challenge was stabilizing the $300,000 telescope, positioned above the library, with a 30-inch diameter concrete pier embedded 15 feet into natural limestone beneath the house’s foundation. Isolating that pillar, and the telescope atop it, from the rest of the house is essential, said Mr. Elledge, because “any vibrations, even imperceptible ones, would degrade the image.” Also tricky: Cantilevering the wraparound catwalk lined with books. The solution came in the form of several narrow steel-tube columns, encased with decorative cast iron.

. . . .

For some private library owners, especially those who aspire to world-class book collections, the serious expenditure isn’t in the physical structure, but in the contents. “It is not uncommon for collectors at this level to be spending in excess of $1 million a year” on books, said John Windle, owner of San Francisco bookstore John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller.

. . . .

When he and his wife are no longer living, the books and objects can “re-enter the stream of commerce” and find new owners, Mr. Walker said. But, taking a page from his own imagination, he said that he hopes that before that time comes, three-dimensional scanning will have advanced to the point that the entire collection can be scanned and recreated on 3-D printers. The physical structure could also be captured in 3-D and viewed in virtual reality.

“Then anyone in the world could press ‘print’ and recreate anything in the library, as if they were here in it,” Mr. Walker said.

. . . .

Rare books, first editions and other literary treasures often need their own insurance policies, said Susan Michals, vice president of Michals Insurance Agency in Watertown, Mass., which specializes in finding insurance for clients with collections of fine art, coins, wine and rare books.

. . . .

Books should be cleaned “as little as possible,” Mr. Windle said. Every 3 to 5 years, books with leather bindings should be rubbed with a very light application of “book leather dressing,” a product sold in library or museum gift shops or online. Cloth bindings should be lightly brushed with a soft cloth. To dust the top edges of a book, an old-fashioned shaving brush is ideal, he said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

There are some lovely photos accompanying the article. PG apologizes if the link to the OP, which is behind a paywall, doesn’t work.

On Creating Bookshelves for an All-Digital Public Library

From BookRiot:

I work for the first all-digital public library system in the country. Our library branches house no physical books; instead, our resources are housed on multiple platforms/apps like cloudLibrary, Hoopla, RBdigital, Lynda, PressReader, BiblioBoard, and many others. I am the Collections & Acquisitions Librarian for my library and it is hands down the coolest job I have had in my decade in public libraries. The no physical books part of my job does not bother me one bit. It’s quite lovely to not have to handle grimy books that have been through dozens of homes.

. . . .

I evaluate, purchase and curate our digital content for all ages. But unlike a traditional public library that offers multiple locations to display physical books, our ebooks and audiobooks must be carefully curated on digital bookshelves. Every month our digital bookshelves change so that our patrons get a different look at our collection. Since they are unable to walk through stacks and go from physical bookshelf to bookshelf, this is our best chance to highlight books that are overlooked or are older. We usually have anywhere from 12–15 digital bookshelves in any given month. I usually highlight monthly observations while occasionally throwing in my dad joke shelves. These shelves may include color puns or just something I think our patrons will respond to.

You may not think so, but this is quite a difficult task. I am quite competitive and I want our monthly circulation numbers to grow from month to month. If we circulated 20,000 items in March, for example, then I hope to circulate 20,000+ in April. But the truth is, my digital curations are either hit or miss with our patrons. I have one chance per month with these bookshelves to impress our patrons enough that they will actually look through these shelves. If they are not interested, they will skip over most shelves and go straight to our New Fiction and New Nonfiction shelves. It’s quite an interesting task.

. . . .

#BOOKFACE SHELF

This shelf is filled with ebooks and audiobooks that patrons can check out to post their favorite Instagram photos using the #bookface hashtag. The tricky part? Try doing this with a Kindle Fire, NOOK, iPad, or other ereader device. It is much more difficult than using a physical book.

DYSTOPIAN NOVELS ARE SO 1984 SHELF

This shelf contains ebooks and audiobooks of fiction dystopian novels. Some books featured on this shelf are The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Blindness by Jose Saramago and American War by Omar El Akkad. Our patrons really love dystopian novels and psychological thrillers.

Link to the rest at BookRiot. Here’s a link to The Bexar County Digital Library and here’s a link to Biblioteca, the tech company that provides cloudlibrary, the digital library infrastructure.

PG noted in the Biblioteca information that the company has helped at least one library transfer its digital content from Overdrive to cloudlibrary.

PG’s local/regional library offers its ebooks through Overdrive. While PG uses Overdrive on a regular basis to read overpriced books from traditional publishers, he has always found the Overdrive customer UI to be pretty clunky. Although he hasn’t been hands-on with Biblioteca’s cloudlibrary, the videos he’s seen lead him to believe that it has a UI much nicer than Overdrive’s.

https://youtu.be/ZJFQ0uNGYRo
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BiblioTech Bexar County Digital Library - Exterior
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Tackling Copyright Concerns When Taking Storytime Online

From School Library Journal:

More and more teachers and librarians want to reach their students and young patrons after hours by recording themselves reading books and posting them online for students to watch from home. They are concerned, however, about copyright law. Is it legal to publicly post these recordings? Can only certain books be recorded and posted? 

SLJ asked American Library Association’s director of public policy and advocacy Carrie Russell to break down the copyright issues, if any, of these digital storytimes.

Storytime is a quintessential service of public and school libraries, right up there with library lending. It instills an invaluable love of reading in children and contributes to early literacy and later success at school. One would be hard pressed to find a person who does not value storytime.

Teachers and librarians asking if storytime is an infringement of copyright law when the reading is recorded and uploaded to YouTube or Facebook are essentially asking if the social benefits of storytime are lost once recorded and delivered by digital means. Common sense would tell us that storytime does not become illegal when it is digital, but the legal concern is real—technically.

In the online environment, copyright law does not say that user and library rights also apply to the digital environment. The copyright law was written in a different time, but Congress was prescient when including fair use which is technology-neutral. It allows us to assess a concern when we are just not sure, even in the digital environment. What we do know is that storytime online or in person is a “public performance,” an exclusive right of the copyright holder. The common fear in the digital environment is that the possibilities of infringement and market replacement are compounded.

. . . .

Because the law and the courts do not explicitly state that physical or digital storytime is lawful—which confounds people who want a definite answer—we must think and make a judgment call. We can make this determination in a structured way by considering the four factors of fair use:

  •  the purpose and character of your use
  •  the nature of the copyrighted work
  •  the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  •  the effect of the use upon the potential market

Making this decision should not be a burden in any sense of the word—it is a measured, reasonable judgment call.

We know that the purpose—the first factor of fair use—is a non-profit, educational and socially beneficial use, which is a good indication that the use is fair. The fourth factor—effect on the market for the work—is tiny, if not nonexistent. Highlighting a book is promotional, even when the performance is on YouTube. One is not displacing a sale or serving as a substitute to the work—even I would argue—if the work is available for purchase in audiobook form. An audiobook is not the same as storytime.

The second and third factors of fair use assess the level of creativity of the work and the amount used, respectively. Storytime uses highly creative works, even newly published works, read in their entirety. Storytime requires that one read aloud from an entire children’s book. Storytime will always fail on the second and third factors. In this situation, one can still make the judgment that storytime is lawful by considering the first and fourth factor only. In every fair-use analysis, one or two of the factors will weigh more heavily on the others. They are rarely equal in importance.

Link to the rest at School Library Journal

PG says that any copyright owner who sues a school or library over storytime deserves substantial social and reputational penalties in addition to anything a court might do.

PG would be interested to hear of any disputes that arise on this topic.

Extraordinary 500-Year-Old Library Catalogue Reveals Books Lost to Time

From The Guardian:

It sounds like something from Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind and his The Cemetery of Forgotten Books: a huge volume containing thousands of summaries of books from 500 years ago, many of which no longer exist. But the real deal has been found in Copenhagen, where it has lain untouched for more than 350 years.

The Libro de los Epítomes manuscript, which is more than a foot thick, contains more than 2,000 pages and summaries from the library of Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus who made it his life’s work to create the biggest library the world had ever known in the early part of the 16th century. Running to around 15,000 volumes, the library was put together during Colón’s extensive travels. Today, only around a quarter of the books in the collection survive and have been housed in Seville Cathedral since 1552.

. . . .

“It’s a discovery of immense importance, not only because it contains so much information about how people read 500 years ago, but also, because it contains summaries of books that no longer exist, lost in every other form than these summaries,” said Wilson-Lee. “The idea that this object which was so central to this extraordinary early 16th-century project and which one always thought of with this great sense of loss, of what could have been if this had been preserved, for it then to just show up in Copenhagen perfectly preserved, at least 350 years after its last mention in Spain …”

The manuscript was found in the collection of Árni Magnússon, an Icelandic scholar born in 1663, who donated his books to the University of Copenhagen on his death in 1730. The majority of the some 3,000 items are in Icelandic or Scandinavian languages, with only around 20 Spanish manuscripts, which is probably why the Libro de los Epítomes went unnoticed for hundreds of years.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Don’t Worry, a School Library with Fewer Books and More Technology Is Good for Today’s Students

From The Conversation:

A recent article about a new approach to a school library sparked vigorous discussion on social media. Many worried the school had completely abolished traditional library services. The article describes how a Melbourne school changed its library to a technology-focused centre staffed by “change adopters” who host discussions with students and encourage creative thinking.

. . . .

The school’s principal was forced to defend the library’s restructure. She wrote that its traditional purpose hadn’t been lost.

The College Library has been transformed into a Learning Centre that continues to offer all library services to students and staff, including a significant collection of fiction and non-fiction books, journals, newspapers, magazines and other print resources, as well as online access to other libraries.

This school’s approach isn’t unique. Many schools have reconfigured their library spaces to embrace a model of integrating library services – where traditional library resources are combined with technology. Some have installed new technologies in so-called “maker spaces”. These are where students can be creative, often using technologies such as 3D printers and recording suites.

The purpose of today’s libraries isn’t only to maintain the traditional roles of promoting reading, developing information literacy and providing access to a collection of books and other resources. Today’s school libraries are fundamental to broader digital literacy, information provision and developing critical evaluation of information.

. . . .

There is a lack of understanding of what librarians can do for a school community and a belief children don’t need help with learning how to use technology. Information can be inaccessible, and misunderstood, without proper instruction, guidance and support. This is especially true for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who don’t have good access to the internet at home, or those with learning differences.

As the evidence base for what makes an effective library grows, it’s becoming recognised that

the 21st century school library professional is a digital leader, an innovator, a creator, a promoter, a resource and research specialist, a curriculum adviser, and much more.

Teacher librarians educate children in the core skills of searching and evaluating information. They also support and empower students in areas such as digital citizenship. This enables children to fully participate and engage with the complex digital landscape.

As Chelsea Quake, a teacher librarian at a Melbourne public school, told us:

Students leave school reading fake news, turning to Instagram for answers to their health questions, and falling flat on their first university paper, because they never truly learnt how to research.

Link to the rest at The Conversation

I Spent Three Days a Week for 10 Years

I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.

~ Ray Bradbury

In Praise of Public Libraries

From The New York Review of Books:

Years ago, I lived in a remote mountain town that had never had a public library. The town was one of the largest in New York State by area but small in population, with a couple thousand residents spread out over about two hundred square miles. By the time my husband and I moved there, the town had lost most of its economic base—in the nineteenth century it had supported a number of tanneries and mills—and our neighbors were mainly employed seasonally, if at all. When the regional library system’s bookmobile was taken out of service, the town had no easy access to books. The town board proposed a small tax increase to fund a library, something on the order of ten dollars per household. It was soundly defeated. The dominant sentiments seemed to be “leave well enough alone” and “who needs books?” Then there was the man who declared that “libraries are communist.”

By then, through the machinations of the town board, which scrounged up $15,000 from its annual budget and deputized me and two retired teachers to—somehow—turn that money into a lending library, we had around three thousand books on loan from the regional library consortium tucked into a room at the back of town hall. We’d been advised by librarians at the consortium that five hundred library cards would take us through the first year. They took us through the first three weeks. Our librarian, whose previous job was running a used bookstore, turned out to be a master of handselling, even to the rough-and-tumble loggers and guys on the road crew who brought their kids in for story time and left with novels he’d pulled for them, and then came back, alone, for more. Books were being checked out by the bagful; there were lines at the circulation desk. Children especially, but sometimes adults, couldn’t believe it was all free.

By year’s end we had signed up about 1,500 patrons, and there was a book club, a preschool story hour, movie night, and a play-reading group. High school students, many of whom did not have Internet access at home, came in the afternoon to do their homework. People pressed books into the hands of strangers who did not stay strangers for long. And it occurred to me one Saturday, as I watched quilters sitting at our one table trade patterns and children clear the shelves of The Magic School Bus series, racing to check them out, that the man who had said that libraries were communist had been right. A public library is predicated on an ethos of sharing and egalitarianism. It is nonjudgmental. It stands in stark opposition to the materialism and individualism that otherwise define our culture. It is defiantly, proudly, communal. Even our little book-lined room, with its mismatched furniture and worn carpet, was, as the sociologist Eric Klinenberg reminds us libraries were once called, a palace for the people.

. . . .

A statement issued by the Public Library Association in 1982 called “The Public Library: Democracy’s Resource” said:

The public library is unique among our American institutions. Only the public library provides an open and nonjudgmental environment in which individuals and their interests are brought together with the universe of ideas and information…. The uses made of the ideas and information are as varied as the individuals who seek them. Public libraries freely offer access to their collections and services to all members of the community without regard to race, citizenship, age, education level, economic status, or any other qualification or condition.

Free access to ideas and information, a prerequisite to the existence of a responsible citizenship, is as fundamental to America as are the principles of freedom, equality and individual rights.

The public loves the public library. Klinenberg cites a Pew Research Center study from 2016 that showed that more than 90 percent of Americans consider the library “very” or “somewhat” important to their community. Pew researchers also found that about half of all Americans sixteen and older had used the library in the past year. Even so, libraries are often convenient targets for budget cuts. After the financial crisis, in the years 2008–2013, for example, New York City eliminated $68 million from the operating budget of the New York Public Library, which resulted in a dramatic drop in staff hours and in its acquisition budget. (A fair amount of Ex Libris is given over to poignant behind-the-scenes discussions about budgets.) But it wasn’t just the New York Public Library that was suffering. A study by the American Library Association around the same time found that twenty-one states reported cuts in library funding.

. . . .

n 2008 the private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman donated $100 million to the cash-strapped NYPL. The library’s flagship Beaux-Arts building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, which opened in 1911 and took sixteen years to complete at a cost of $9 million (plus $20 million for the land on which it sits), now bears his name. One hundred million dollars is a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie, the patron saint of libraries (and rabid industrialist), whose $55 million largesse—the equivalent of $1.6 billion today—funded 2,509 libraries worldwide, 1,679 of them public libraries in the United States, between 1886 and 1919. Sixty-seven of them were in New York City, sixteen of which are still in use.

Carnegie’s devotion to libraries was long-standing. His father helped found the Tradesmen’s Subscription Library in Dunfermline, Scotland, where he was a weaver and a member of the failed Chartist Movement. When industrialization cost him his job, the family emigrated to the Pittsburgh area, and at thirteen, after only five years of formal schooling, Carnegie was sent out to work, first as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory and later as a messenger for a telegraph company. Working boys were allowed to borrow one book a week from the private library of Colonel James Anderson, a successful local iron manufacturer and veteran of the War of 1812. Carnegie wrote in his autobiography:

It was from my own early experience that I decided there was no use to which money could be applied so productive of good to boys and girls who have good within them and ability and ambition to develop it, as the founding of a public library in a community which is willing to support it as a municipal institution. I am sure that the future of those libraries I have been privileged to found will prove the correctness of this opinion.

Carnegie’s first American library, in Braddock, Pennsylvania, was built about a hundred years after the founding of the first public library in what would become the United States. In 1790, the residents of Franklin, Massachusetts, chose to allow a collection of books donated to the town by its namesake, Benjamin Franklin, to be circulated among its residents without charge. In so doing, they chose not to follow Franklin’s lead: in 1731 he had founded a subscription library in Philadelphia. Massachusetts was also the site of the first major public library system, Boston’s, founded in 1854. Carnegie’s Braddock library was different from these: in addition to books, it had a 964-seat, velvet-curtained theater, a basketball court, and a swimming pool. Its mission was to exercise both mind and body. These days, the Braddock library, an imposing, turreted building up the hill from Carnegie’s shuttered steel mill, has fallen into disrepair, and a group is attempting to raise $10 million for renovations—not from a person of great wealth, but one billion pennies donated by the public. (They’ve raised $40,000 so far.)

Carnegie libraries stretch from one end of the country to the other, the 106 in New York State eclipsed by 142 in California. Six of these were in Los Angeles, a city of just over one hundred thousand at the turn of the twentieth century when Carnegie made his grants; three are still in use. No Carnegie money was used to build what would become the city’s Central Library. Founded in 1872 as a small fee-based organization whose five-dollar annual subscription was out of reach for most citizens, by 1933 it was circulating more books than any other library in the country.

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books

PG has a long relationship with libraries. Whenever his family lived near a library while PG was growing up, he loved checking out books, reading them as quickly as possible, then, after a few weeks, going back for more. When PG was a freshman in college, he worked in a large university library. When the PG offspring were young, Mrs. PG and PG frequently came home from the local library bearing lots of books for children and adults.

A lovely public library is available about ten minutes from Casa PG. Another lovely public library is available about 15 minutes away in a different direction. PG has not been in either library for several years.

OTOH, PG does check out overpriced ebooks from traditional publishers from a service provided through a network of public libraries.

PG’s offspring seem to enjoy visits to the public library with their children, but those visits are much less frequent than in former days. Each of PG’s grand-offspring who is in school has been issued an iPad which they use on a daily basis for assignments, reading, etc. A variety of Kids Edition Kindle Fire tablets is also available around the house and used regularly by those who are and are not yet in school.

PG understands that some families are not able to afford such electronics for their children and some schools are in the same situation. But do those families regularly go to the library for the benefit of either the children or their parents?

Would libraries provide a better service to their communities if most or all of the physical books were placed in storage, with each book available on request and the remainder of the library space given over to internet-connected computers?

Is the answer to this question the same if only physical children’s books were available in the library’s public spaces, with physical books of interest primarily for adults placed in storage?

Is the answer to these questions the same for both those who are under ten years of age and those who are over forty years of age?

 

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

From The Wall Street Journal:

It is difficult to imagine a figure more famous than Christopher Columbus, whose Atlantic voyages changed the course of history. Far less familiar is the story of his son, the great librarian Hernando, who has long lived in his father’s shadow. In the superb biography “The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books,” Edward Wilson-Lee, who teaches English literature at Cambridge, throws light on Hernando’s astounding accomplishments, giving us a man no less boldly visionary than his father but with a “genius for ordering.”

Hernando was a “natural son,” born out of wedlock—a precarious position for an heir, though Columbus would eventually name him, along with his brother Diego, mis hijos legítimos, legitimate sons. As a boy in the Spanish courts of the crown prince and Queen Isabella, Hernando showed promise as a list-maker extraordinaire with an eagerly organizational mind, making catalogs, encyclopedias, inventories and logbooks. He was already investigating methods whereby he later “tamed a wilderness of miscellaneity through the magic of lists,” Mr. Wilson-Lee writes, adopting “the tools used by bankers and employing their accounting techniques.”

Existing libraries, such as the Vatican’s, acquired only weighty works in Greek and Latin. Hernando’s compulsion to collect “gloriously failed to exclude things most people thought unimportant.” His universal vision encompassed prints (not generally collected at the time), music and books in many languages on every topic. Chaldean and Arabic works shared shelves with German and French ones in a library “open to all books in all subjects from within Christendom and without,” as Hernando envisioned a library that would be “universal in a sense never before imagined.”

. . . .

Hernando mimicked his father’s journeys as he restlessly crisscrossed Renaissance Europe in pursuit of ever more books. On a single visit to Venice, he acquired no fewer than 1,637 titles, leaving instructions for them to be shipped back to Spain while he continued on his book-buying spree north of the Alps. Only upon return home did he learn that the books he had bought in Venice were resting at the bottom of the Bay of Naples. Though the books were lost, their titles remained. Hernando, determined to find all of them again, dubbed the vanished trove his “catalogue of shipwrecked books.”

Why was Hernando’s library important? He understood, as no one else did at the time, that a library cannot exist in “one perfect state” but is a “growing, organic thing,” “a form of the world in miniature,” as Mr. Wilson-Lee puts it. He tried and abandoned a number of methods of organizing his astonishing collections before creating a set of hieroglyphs, or “biblioglyphs,” that harnessed geometric forms to express everything from a book’s size to an author’s use of a pseudonym. His “Book of Epitomes” was an effort to distill the contents of each volume, making the library more easily searchable. He also began work on a “Book of Materials,” in which he intended to further illuminate the library’s contents, explaining that “a single thing might be referred to in many different ways.” With these aids, Mr. Wilson-Lee suggests, “Hernando had created a search engine.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal