Nine Years Ago, I Speculated that Dewey’s Days Were Numbered. How Far Have We Come?

From School Library Journal:

Almost a decade ago, my colleagues and I wrote an article for SLJ entitled “Are Dewey’s Days Numbered?” in which we made the argument that the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system had lost its relevance. We took a bold stance, and the backlash was swift. Fellow librarians would wait outside the rooms I was speaking in at conferences, backing me into corners to demand that I stop talking about alternative systems.

At the time, we focused on creating better, more fluent access for children and modernizing a system that was created in the 19th century. It seems appropriate that today, an era when the status quo has been turned upside down by COVID and the racial justice movement, I find myself once again looking at the Dewey system. In this time that has highlighted the vast inequalities and injustices in our country, are we going to continue to use a cataloging system that is steeped in the values and worldview of a racist, misogynistic anti-Semite?

In 2019, ALA approved a resolution to take Melvil Dewey’s name off of one of the organization’s top awards for librarians, because of his known history as a racist, anti-Semite, and sexual predator. The reason: “the behavior demonstrated for decades by Dewey does not represent the stated fundamental values of ALA in equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

It is impossible to ignore that these ideas are ingrained in the system. Just look at a few examples: African American culture and history is located in groups of people (305), not American culture and history (973). In fact, any activist from suffragettes to environmentalists are classified in social sciences, history.

It is impossible to ignore that these ideas are ingrained in the system. Just look at a few examples: African American culture and history is located in groups of people (305), not American culture and history (973). In fact, any activist from suffragettes to environmentalists are classified in social sciences, history.

What message does that send our students? Are we suggesting that these groups of people can only be studied in relation to others, that their own history is not enough to stand on its own? Christians make up approximately 30 percent of the world’s religious population, yet they make up 90 percent of the 200s (religion.) The Dewey Decimal System is a perfect example of systemic racism, and we as librarians are perpetuating this harmful worldview in our libraries.

In a recent article in SLJ, many librarians commented about how weeding their collections allowed them to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion. Collection development is the natural focus of many librarians when thinking about how to make our libraries more diverse. But how inclusive can we be if the system itself is exclusionary? Most of us put a lot of effort into collecting diverse, informative books that provide windows and mirrors. When we put those books on the shelf in an outdated system, it negates those very principles. Students searching for the 16 official languages of India find out that they are shoved into 495.9 (miscellaneous languages of southeast Asia.) There are twice as many people living in India as in all of Europe, but the message we send is crystal clear to our children that white, European people and their culture are the most important. Kids looking for LGBTQ+ nonfiction books find out that they are shelved next to prostitution and pornography. The understanding that their thoughts, their very identity, is wrong and immoral comes through loud and clear no matter what we might say to the contrary.

It’s striking to me that librarians aren’t applying our rigorous weeding criteria to the system itself. Dewey is outdated and obsolete, it is difficult to use, and it doesn’t resonate with our patrons, our values, or the world around us. The system codifies and upholds a white, male, Eurocentric, Christian, heteronormative, abled perspective.

Link to the rest at School Library Journal

Big Business of Library E-Books

From The New Yorker:

teve Potash, the bearded and bespectacled president and C.E.O. of OverDrive, spent the second week of March, 2020, on a business trip to New York City. OverDrive distributes e-books and audiobooks—i.e., “digital content.” In New York, Potash met with two clients: the New York Public Library and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. By then, Potash had already heard what he described to me recently as “heart-wrenching stories” from colleagues in China, about neighborhoods that were shut down owing to the coronavirus. He had an inkling that his business might be in for big changes when, toward the end of the week, on March 13th, the N.Y.P.L. closed down and issued a statement: “The responsible thing to do—and the best way to serve our patrons right now—is to help minimize the spread of covid-19.” The library added, “We will continue to offer access to e-books.”

The sudden shift to e-books had enormous practical and financial implications, not only for OverDrive but for public libraries across the country. Libraries can buy print books in bulk from any seller that they choose, and, thanks to a legal principle called the first-sale doctrine, they have the right to lend those books to any number of readers free of charge. But the first-sale doctrine does not apply to digital content. For the most part, publishers do not sell their e-books or audiobooks to libraries—they sell digital distribution rights to third-party venders, such as OverDrive, and people like Steve Potash sell lending rights to libraries. These rights often have an expiration date, and they make library e-books “a lot more expensive, in general, than print books,” Michelle Jeske, who oversees Denver’s public-library system, told me. Digital content gives publishers more power over prices, because it allows them to treat libraries differently than they treat other kinds of buyers. Last year, the Denver Public Library increased its digital checkouts by more than sixty per cent, to 2.3 million, and spent about a third of its collections budget on digital content, up from twenty per cent the year before.

There are a handful of popular e-book venders, including Bibliotheca, Hoopla, Axis 360, and the nonprofit Digital Public Library of America. But OverDrive is the largest. It is the company behind the popular app Libby, which, as the Apple App Store puts it, “lets you log in to your local library to access ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines, all for the reasonable price of free.” The vast majority of OverDrive’s earnings come from markups on the digital content that it licenses to libraries and schools, which is to say that these earnings come largely from American taxes. As libraries and schools have transitioned to e-books, the company has skyrocketed in value. Rakuten, the maker of the Kobo e-reader, bought OverDrive for more than four hundred million dollars, in 2015. Last year, it sold the company to K.K.R., the private-equity firm made famous by the 1989 book “Barbarians at the Gate.” The details of the sale were not made public, but Rakuten reported a profit of “about $365.6 million.”

In the first days of the lockdown, the N.Y.P.L. experienced a spike in downloads, which lengthened the wait times for popular books. In response, it limited readers to three checkouts and three waitlist requests at a time, and it shifted almost all of its multimillion-dollar acquisitions budget to digital content. By the end of March, seventy-four per cent of U.S. libraries were reporting that they had expanded their digital offerings in response to coronavirus-related library closures. During a recent interview over Zoom (another digital service that proliferated during the pandemic), Potash recalled that OverDrive quickly redirected about a hundred employees, who would normally have been at trade shows, “to help support and fortify the increase in demand in digital.” He recalled a fellow-executive telling him, “E-books aren’t just ‘a thing’ now—they’re our only thing.”

Before the pandemic, I had never read an e-book, and didn’t particularly want to. But, during the lockdown, I spent nearly every day wandering my neighborhood in a mask and headphones, listening to audiobooks. I wanted to hear a human voice and feel the passing of time; Libby became a lifeline. As a dual citizen of the Brooklyn Public Library and the N.Y.P.L., I toggled between library cards, in search of the shortest waiting list. I did what previously had been unthinkable and spent a hundred and eighty dollars on a Kobo. I read more books in 2020 than I had in years. I was not the only one; last year, more than a hundred library systems checked out a million or more books each from OverDrive’s catalogue, and the company reported a staggering four hundred and thirty million checkouts, up a third from the year before. (Barnes & Noble, which has more retail locations than any other bookseller in the U.S., has said that it sells about a hundred and fifty-five million print books a year.) The burst in digital borrowing has helped many readers, but it has also accelerated an unsettling trend. Books, like music and movies and TV shows, are increasingly something that libraries and readers do not own but, rather, access temporarily, from corporations that do.

. . . .

In the two-thousands, OverDrive helped publishers set up online stores and sold e-books directly to consumers through its own marketplace. The company also persuaded a few presses to license their e-books to libraries. At the time, the six largest publishers tended to sell their goods through online retailers, such as Amazon, which released its e-reader, the Kindle, in 2007. But, gradually, the Big Six began to sell digital rights to libraries under a “one copy, one user” model. As soon as one reader returned an e-book, a second reader could check it out, and so on, with no expiration date. “At the beginning, we were really trying to replicate what happens on the print-book side,” a publishing executive told me. Digital books, which could in theory be duplicated for free by any librarian with a computer, would still have waiting lists.

“We then saw the first wrinkle in one copy, one user,” Potash said. In 2011, HarperCollins introduced a new lending model that was capped at twenty-six checkouts, after which a library would need to purchase the book again. Publishers soon introduced other variations, from two-year licenses to copies that multiple readers could use at one time, which boosted their revenue and allowed libraries to buy different kinds of books in different ways. For a classic work, which readers were likely to check out steadily for years to come, a library might purchase a handful of expensive perpetual licenses. With a flashy best-seller, which could be expected to lose steam over time, the library might buy a large number of cheaper licenses that would expire relatively quickly. During nationwide racial-justice protests in the summer of 2020, the N.Y.P.L. licensed books about Black liberation under a pay-per-use model, which gave all library users access to the books without any waiting list; such licenses are too expensive to be used for an entire collection, but they can accommodate surges in demand. “At the time of its launch, the twenty-six-circulation model was a lightning rod,” Josh Marwell, the president of sales at HarperCollins, told me. “But, over time, the feedback we have gotten from librarians is that our model is fair and works well with their mission to provide library patrons with the books they want to read.”

. . . .

Libraries now pay OverDrive and its peers for a wide range of digital services, from negotiating prices with publishers to managing an increasingly complex system of digital rights. During our video call, Potash showed me OverDrive’s e-book marketplace for librarians, which can sort titles by price, popularity, release date, language, topic, license type, and more. About fifty librarians work for OverDrive, Potash said, and “each week they curate the best ways each community can maximize their taxpayers’ dollar.” The company offers rotating discounts and generates statistics that public libraries can use to project their future budgets. When I noted that OverDrive’s portal looked a bit like Amazon.com, Potash didn’t respond. Later, he said, with a touch of pride, “This is like coming into the front door of Costco.”

Alan Inouye, the senior public-policy director at the American Library Association, told me that consolidation could reduce competition and potentially drive the cost of library e-books even higher. “OverDrive is already a very large presence in the market,” he said. The company’s private-equity owner, K.K.R., also owns a major audiobook producer, RBMedia, which sold its digital library assets to OverDrive last year. But, Inouye added, OverDrive’s influence is an important counterweight to the largest publishers and to Amazon, which dominates the consumer e-book market and operates as a publisher in its own right. (Amazon did not make its own e-books available to libraries until May, when it announced a deal with the Digital Public Library of America.) When I asked Potash about the concern that consolidation could also give OverDrive too much influence over the market, he called that “a far-fetched conspiracy theory.” He cited the company’s track record of advocating for libraries, adding, “I’m a big fan of free-market capitalism.”

To illustrate the economics of e-book lending, the N.Y.P.L. sent me its January, 2021, figures for “A Promised Land,” the memoir by Barack Obama that had been published a few months earlier by Penguin Random House. At that point, the library system had purchased three hundred and ten perpetual audiobook licenses at ninety-five dollars each, for a total of $29,450, and had bought six hundred and thirty-nine one- and two-year licenses for the e-book, for a total of $22,512. Taken together, these digital rights cost about as much as three thousand copies of the consumer e-book, which sells for about eighteen dollars per copy. As of August, 2021, the library has spent less than ten thousand dollars on two hundred and twenty-six copies of the hardcover edition, which has a list price of forty-five dollars but sells for $23.23 on Amazon. A few thousand people had checked out digital copies in the book’s first three months, and thousands more were on the waiting list. (Several librarians told me that they monitor hold requests, including for books that have not yet been released, to decide how many licenses to acquire.)

The high prices of e-book rights could become untenable for libraries in the long run, according to several librarians and advocates I spoke to—libraries, venders, and publishers will probably need to negotiate a new way forward. “It’s not a good system,” Inouye said. “There needs to be some kind of change in the law, to reinstate public rights that we have for analog materials.” Maria Bustillos, a founding editor of the publishing coöperative Brick House, argued recently in The Nation that libraries should pay just once for each copy of an e-book. “The point of a library is to preserve, and in order to preserve, a library must own,” Bustillos wrote. When I asked Potash about libraries and their growing digital budgets, he argued that “digital will always be better value,” but he acknowledged that, if current trends continue, “Yes, there is a challenge.”

Readers of the future are likely to want even more digital content, but it may not look the same as it does now. Audible, which is owned by Amazon, has already made listening to books more like streaming, with subscribers gaining access to a shifting catalogue of audiobooks that they do not need to buy separately. “We have moved away from owning, to accessing,” Mirela Roncevic, a longtime publishing and library consultant, told me. Maybe readers will expect books to feel more like Web sites, and an infinite scroll will replace the turn of the page, as it has in the digital magazine you are reading now. Perhaps readers will want images and videos to be woven seamlessly into the text, requiring a new format. The e-book as we know it “will not last,” Roncevic insisted. Lending libraries were once an innovation that helped spread literacy and popularize books. Roncevic wants libraries to continue innovating—for example, by experimenting with new formats and license models in partnership with independent or international publishers. “Libraries have more power than they sometimes realize,” she told me.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Summer Book Kit Giveaway at The New York Public Library

From The New York Public Library:

Starting Monday, July 12, visit your local NYPL branch in the Bronx, Manhattan, or Staten Island, and pick up one of our free summer book kits! With special contents tailored to kids and teens of all ages, including books to take home and keep, activity guides, and more, these kits are a great way for kids and teens to keep their skills sharp all summer long. Get yours but act fast—supplies are limited!

. . . .

The New York Public Library’s free summer book kits have been specially prepared for kids and teens of all ages:

  • Babies and Toddlers (Early Literacy)
    Includes a special NYPL tote bag containing NYPL’s ABC Read with Me in NYC board book, and an early literacy tip sheet for caregivers. 
  • Pre-K through 1st Grade
    Includes a red drawstring bag containing two free books to take home and keep, NYPL’s Summer Learning 2021 welcome kit, and the NYPL After School Activity Guide for Grades K–3 (28 pages, English/Español).
  • 2nd and 3rd Grade
    Includes a red drawstring bag containing two free books to take home and keep, NYPL’s Summer Learning 2021 welcome kit, and the NYPL After School Activity Guide for Grades K–3 (28 pages, English/Español).
  • 4th and 5th Grade
    Includes a red drawstring bag containing one free book to take home and keep, NYPL’s Summer Learning 2021 welcome kit, and the NYPL After School Activity Guide for Grades 4–6 (16 pages).
  • Middle School
    Includes a red drawstring bag containing one free book to take home and keep, a special NYPL bookmark, one pot of Play-Doh, and a stress ball.
  • High School
    Includes a red drawstring bag containing one free book to take home and keep, a special NYPL bookmark, one pot of Play-Doh, and a stress ball.

Link to the rest at The New York Public Library

See also Summer Reading Downloads which anyone can download to allow their children to record their summer reading and write a review of one or more of the books they’ve read.

Where Is Our Spotify for Books?

From Slate:

For many families and schools, e-books were a lifeline to keep kids reading during lockdown.
Total numbers of digital books borrowed from libraries hit 289 million in 2020—a 33 percent increase over 2019. That makes the feisty public library the main challenger to Amazon, which almost completely monopolizes private sales of e-books and sold 487,000 in 2020.

But there is a giant problem.

Many e-books have incredibly limited availability or are not available at all at public libraries, and library budgets are strained covering the escalating costs of e-book demand.

Publishers make the costs for e-books prohibitive for libraries. For example, before COVID hit, a typical deal at Macmillan was that public libraries had to pay $60 for any e-book and could lend it out only 52 times or for two years, whichever came first, after which they had to repurchase the e-book. Publishers temporarily lowered some prices and loosened rules on select titles during the pandemic, but the costs overall still severely limit the ability of libraries to offer many books. Some publishers, particularly Amazon, still refuse to let libraries get access to any of the e-books they publish, while publishers like Macmillan have withheld new releases from libraries.

. . . .

The reason publishers can charge higher price is because of a quirk in copyright law, called the “first sale doctrine.” Unlike with physical books, the courts have said libraries have no right to buy an e-book and then lend it to their members. Instead, publishers only “license” e-books and can deny that license to a library or condition the right to lend the e-book on paying that much higher price.

Some state legislators are outraged enough they have proposed legislation to force publishers to license e-books they are currently withholding from libraries, and Maryland enacted such a law this spring. But these will likely be challenged by publishers in court as preempted by federal copyright law.

For university libraries and their student patrons, the restrictions on electronic textbooks are even more severe. By one estimate, publishers refuse to license 85 percent of electronic versions of textbooks to university libraries, forcing students to either buy directly from the publisher or do without. And according to a survey during the pandemic of 82 campuses conducted by US PIRG, a consumer group focused heavily on student concerns, 65 percent of students have skipped at least one textbook purchase because of the costs.

When an e-textbook is made available to universities, it’s often more than 10 times the retail price, and may come with additional conditions and subscriptions that drive the costs even higher. “You have to pay thousands for a package with a few eBooks you need and lots of things you don’t,” complains librarian Joanna Anderson, who co-authored a letter protesting these costs signed by 3,000 librarians, academics and students.

The complicated legal distinction between selling physical books and “licensing” e-books is one reason private attempts at subscription book services for monthly fees have mostly failed or had limited book availability. In the publishing trade, publishers have the right to sell books, but authors often retain the copyrights that would allow licensing to monthly subscription services and have their own demands for fair compensation, so deals for subscription services are often legally impossible or economically untenable. One version, Oyster, shut down a few years ago. Epic! Books has had modest success with a subscription service solely for a subset of kids’ books used mostly by schools. Scribd, the most successful surviving version, still lacks most popular books.

Amazon has created an end-run around this problem by creating an unlimited reading program for subscribers solely with authors who self-publish with Amazon itself and opt into the program. Estimates are that nearly 50 percent of paid e-books downloaded are now self-published, largely due to the popularity of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, making Amazon’s program the most successful model for a monthly unlimited reading service—but for only a limited subset of books.

. . . .

Congress could fix the problem instantly by extending the first sale doctrine to allow school and public libraries to purchase e-books at regular retail prices and keep them in their collections permanently. At a stroke, this would triple to quadruple the number of e-books libraries could purchase with current budgets and, since the books would never expire, increase their e-book holdings by orders of magnitude over time.

The Congressional Research Service in an April 2020 review of the issue noted that Congress considered doing this back in 1998, the last time the federal copyright law was updated, but put off that decision until the market for e-books “has matured sufficiently and in a manner that would warrant further action.” Obviously, with nearly $2 billion in annual sales, e-books have reached that point.

At the same time, authors who often already struggle financially have reasonable fears that reducing library fees to publishers will further reduce their incomes. But instead of depending on strapped local library budgets to supply the income authors need to keep writing, Congress could, at the same time they restore the first sale doctrine, also institute a federal “Public Lending Right,” or PLR, a mechanism used by 35 nations around the world, including almost all of Europe, to offer authors payments for each book, physical or digital, borrowed from a public library.

In fact, the Authors Guild, which promoted a PLR in the U.S. decades ago, relaunched a campaign in 2019 to enact legislation to have the National Endowment for Humanities distribute payments to authors for each book borrowed from a library. “PLR recognizes two fundamental principles,” then-Authors Guild President James Gleick wrote in 2019, “the need for society to provide free access to books, and the right of authors to be remunerated for their work.”

Link to the rest at Slate

PG notes that, contra to the author of the OP, there isn’t a “quirk” in the copyright law.

The First Sale doctrine relates to copyrighted objects like a physical book or painting.

When an author signs a publishing agreement for a physical book, the author is granting a license to the publisher to (among other things) make copies of the author’s creation in the form of physical books and sell them to others.

An ebook is not, of course, physical. It’s a collection of organized electronic charges on a medium that can keep them from vanishing. When someone licenses an ebook, a copy of the collection of electronic charges is made and that invisible electronic packet is sent via other media capable of transmitting those charges in their organized fashion. It’s almost as easy to create and transmit a hundred copies of the ebook as it is to transmit a single copy.

A physical book only exists by itself as a manufacture object. The First Sale doctrine permits someone who purchases a physical book to give or sell her/his copy to someone else. Nobody makes a copy of the physical book during such a transaction.

Making a photocopy of a physical book to give or sell to someone else is a violation of the author’s copyight just like making an electronic copy of an ebook to give or sell to someone else is a violation of the author’s copyright.

Not so difficult after all, is it?

OverDrive to Acquire Kanopy

From Publishers Weekly:

OverDrive, the market leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools, has announced that it is acquiring Kanopy, a popular video streaming service for public and academic libraries. Terms of the acquisition were not announced.

The acquisition of Kanopy adds an extensive video catalog to the OverDrive platform, with some 30,000 films available to students and library users through the Kanopy platform, including iconic films produced by A24, Criterion Collection, Paramount, PBS and Kino Lorber. The move is yet another major move for OverDrive, which in June of last year acquired the library assets of RBmedia, just weeks after OverDrive itself was acquired by investment firm KKR.

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

Care, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper

From The Library of Congress:

Proper Care and Handling of Works on Paper

Works on paper generally refer to flat (as opposed to bound) paper materials, including documents, manuscripts, drawings, prints, posters, and maps. Taking care when handling any collection item is one of the more effective, cost-efficient, and easily achieved preservation measures.

Take proper care when handling flat works on paper by:

  • Having clean hands and a clean work area
  • Keeping food and drink away
  • Using pencil, not ink, to make any necessary marks or inscriptions; in addition, only make inscriptions when the paper is on a clean, hard surface, to avoid embossing the inscription into the paper, which will be visible from the other side
  • Not using paper clips, other fasteners, “dog ear” folding to mark or organize leaves
  • Not using rubber bands, self-adhesive tape, and/or glue on paper

Proper Storage of Works on Paper

Good storage significantly prolongs the preservation of paper materials and includes:

  • A cool (room temperature or below), relatively dry (about 35% relative humidity), clean, and stable environment (avoid attics, basements, and other locations with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes)
  • Minimal exposure to all kinds of light; no exposure to direct or intense light
  • Distance from radiators and vents
  • Supportive protective enclosures*
  • Unfolded and flat or rolled storage for oversized papers
  • Individual/isolated storage of acidic papers to prevent acids from migrating into the other works on paper

* Supportive protective enclosures include: acid- and lignin-free folders, mats, and document boxes (all available alkaline buffered or neutral pH); and polyester film sleeves that are stiff enough to adequately support the paper(s) within. Alkaline buffered storage materials provide a desirable neutralizing effect on acids that are inherent in works on paper, especially as paper ages, but be aware that some media found on paper objects may be sensitive to alkaline pH. Polyester film has the benefit of being clear, but does not contain an alkaline buffer and with little friction readily produces an electrostatic charge that can lift powdery media such as pastel, charcoal, pencil, and flaking paint.

The Northeast Document Conservation Center External Link has put together very useful technical leaflets on storage solutions for paper artifacts. Folders, boxes, plastic sleeves, and other supplies for the proper storage of paper artifacts can be purchased from preservation suppliers.

Dealing with Condition Problems

For condition problems that are insufficiently addressed by the measures outlined above, conservation treatment by a paper conservator may be necessary.

The national professional association for conservators, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works External Link (AIC), maintains an online directory for finding a conservator by specialty and geographic location and provides information on how to choose a conservator. In addition, AIC also offers guidelines for the care of collections beyond library materials.

Link to the rest at The Library of Congress

Preservation Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, ran from April 25 – May 1, 2021 (Yes, PG missed it). There is lots more information about preserving all sorts of documents, audio, video, etc., at the Preservation Week website.

School Libraries Are the Bedrocks of Freedom

From Publishers Weekly:

Do you remember getting your first library card and borrowing your first book? For many of us, it was a rite of passage guided by a human search engine—a librarian.

In school, that librarian did more than shush the loudmouths, straighten the stacks, and stamp our books. The school librarian helped with homework, taught us kids how to “look it up,” and opened pathways to critical thinking. Librarians fulfilled the vision of 25-year-old Benjamin Franklin, who established the Library Company, America’s first lending library, in Philadelphia in 1731. Initially a subscription library in which members paid a fee, the Library Company was “crowdsourced”—the first members pooled their own books to share with one another.

Franklin believed in keeping the membership fee low so that working people could afford to join. The idea caught on and spread through the colonies, making this cultural institution widely available. It became the forerunner of the public library, and when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital, the Library Company served as the Library of Congress.

Convinced that libraries cultivated the spirit of democracy, Franklin later noted, “These Libraries have improved the general Conversation of Americans, made the common Tradesmen and Farmers as intelligent as most Gentlemen from other Countries.” But he also believed that every school should have a dedicated library, because a democracy can only survive with educated citizens. According to the American Library Association, Franklin recommended in 1740 that the ideal academy should include a school library.

Today, however, public school libraries across the country are in crisis, as a Forbes article by Adam Rowe reported in 2018. According to Rowe, federal data shows that the U.S. “can’t afford librarians,” and that the ranks of librarians at school libraries have fallen sharply since 2000.

The pandemic has only worsened the crisis, even as the demand for information technology and remote learning has exploded. This has become an acute problem in the nation’s largest school system in New York City. Under state rules, every New York school is supposed to have a library and a librarian; they are not “extras.”

. . . .

But guess what? There are schools with no libraries. Others have “book rooms,” sometimes staffed by untrained teachers or parent volunteers. And in the pandemic crisis, school libraries will typically be first on the chopping block.

This is not about simply lending books. Librarians are highly trained information specialists who teach students about media literacy and primary sources. “School libraries are a nucleus of learning, and school librarians build a foundation for all learners,” writes Melissa Jacobs, director of Library Services for the New York City Department of Education/New York City School Library System.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG has nothing against librarians. Indeed, he worked as a low-grade librarian on a part-time basis to help put himself through college. [Low-grade = he found books in the bowels of a large library and re-boweled books that had been read (or partially read or copied from) and returned to the library.]

However, he wonders what Benjamin Franklin would have to say about at least some of today’s librarians (to the best of PG’s knowledge, Ben only spoke about libraries, not librarians).

Mandatory Ebook Licenses for Public Libraries

Note: The bill linked to at the bottom of this post appears to be pending in the Maryland legislature. It is not a law at this point.


PG is concerned about the mandatory nature of this bill in part because he did not see any limitation on the definition of who or who not is a “Publisher” and, thus, who would be subject to the provisions of this bill, if it were to become a law.

In PG’s mind, it would be one thing if the Random Houses of the world were governed by such a law and another if indie authors were also subject to such a law.

While PG expects that a great many indie authors might be willing to grant ebook licenses to public libraries in principle, he is concerned that, due to the unequal bargaining power between a state agency and an indie author, the author might be intimidated into granting a public library license on terms that are very disadvantageous to the author.

As an example, if the State of Maryland presented the author with a “standard” ebook license that pays the author $1.00 per year for licensing an unlimited number of copies of her ebook to every library in the state, such a license might deprive the author of a significant amount of royalties compared with the royalties the author might have received from Maryland readers for a $2.99 ebook listed on Amazon.

At least some avid Maryland readers might automatically resort to library to borrow an ebook instead of buying a reasonably-priced ebook from the author.


With physical library books, there is a certain amount of friction in the borrowing process, time required to travel to the library, locate the physical book, wait in line for a librarian to check the book out, then return to their home, followed by a second trip to the library to return the book with a potential fine if the book is returned late. There is much less friction in borrowing an ebook from the library and no fine because the library automatically terminates access to the book when the allotted time for the loan has expired.

The existence of this sort of physical friction in the borrowing/return process is a consideration for at least some portion of the reading public. PG has purchased more than one book instead of waiting until he could visit the library to check it out (if it wasn’t already checked out).


It is common for some people to assume that library books are primarily a benefit for readers who might not be able to afford to buy books they would like to read. However, there is nothing in a typical public library structure that distinguishes between a patron who is wealthy from one who is under financial constraints that make it difficult for him/her to afford to purchase even a reasonably-priced ebook.

Particularly in the case of ebooks which can be located and accessed online from a library as easily as they can be located and accessed online from Amazon, PG is concerned that doing so might become standard practice for more than a few readers who simply prefer to spend their money on something else they’re required to pay for instead of purchasing an ebook at a cost that is well within their budgets.


In an arms-length negotiation between two parties with equal or near equal bargaining power and financial resources, a reasonable agreement concerning an ebook license for a library might certainly be negotiated.

However, when one of the two parties is a state agency with access to state-employed lawyers and the courts of that state and the other is an individual author who may earn a few hundred dollars a year from her self-published ebooks, the power disparity is immense.

If this Maryland bill is enacted into law, there is little reason to believe that legislators or government officials in other states would not learn about Maryland’s law and pass similar legislation to help stretch their own library budgets further.


PG would be happy to hear from others who have more knowledge of this Maryland proposal or other similar bills/laws concerning the provisions of this bill in particular or the topic of mandated ebook licenses and public libraries in general. PG acknowledges that he may be making a mountain out of a molehill, but he is concerned about intentional or unintentional adverse impacts on indie authors.

Please share any thoughts or opinions in the comments.

Link to Bill

How Libraries Can Help Us Make a More Perfect Union

From Publishers Weekly:

Throughout our history, we’ve see that when we come together in civil, honest conversations based on facts and science, history and truth, we find commonality.

It has taken me several days to come to terms with my anger over the events of January 6, when insurrectionists invaded the Capitol in Washington, D.C., after a morning—indeed months—of instigation founded on false grievances and outright misinformation. For our nation to move forward, many things must now happen, beyond the investigations and the impeachment process that began earlier this month. As a nation, we must find a way to rebuild the civic and educational structures that bring us together. And I believe libraries can play a critical role in this process.

This is hardly a shocking conclusion. Because I’m a librarian, educator, author, and information scientist, one might even rightly say it is a self-serving one. After all, I am invested in the success of these institutions. But I am invested in these institutions because I truly believe in the words our nation was founded on—“to seek a more perfect union.” These words represent a mission, a starting point. We did not form a perfect union; we formed a government to seek one out. And I believe this ongoing challenge is deeply connected to the core mission of librarianship: to improve society through knowledge creation in our communities.

I have seen firsthand how libraries act as instruments of community cohesion. I have seen how our public libraries—from providing rich collections to offering diverse programs like drag queen story hours—help us weave our social fabric together neighborhood by neighborhood, person by person. I have seen libraries host difficult conversations on race. I have seen libraries bring people together on issues of immigration. I have seen libraries stand up for the poor, the incarcerated, and the marginalized.

. . . .

I have seen academic librarians dedicate themselves to preparing college students to do actual scholarly research and investigation beyond Google and social media. I have seen how archivists not only preserve our cultural heritage and scholarly record but make it accessible and meaningful. And I have seen how these stewards of our history help keep us faithful to the values on which our nation was founded, while also forcing us to acknowledge and learn from our flaws—our racism, bigotry, exclusion, and authoritarianism.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

As PG has mentioned previously, he worked in a large university library for a period of time while he was going to school. (However, working as a busboy in the cafeteria at a large dormitory occupied exclusively by girls [AKA women] was his favorite campus job many years before meeting the future Mrs. PG.)

If you credit the old saying, “Once a librarian, always a librarian” then PG is a librarian. Plus a bunch of other stuff.

As a librarian, PG states with authority that a great many librarians are nice people while a few are jerks. Most try to do a good job, even when things get a little boring. (See, for example, working in a large university library on Saturday night after you upset your boss a little.)

Basically, everybody, including librarians, can do their bit to save the world and/or make the world a better place, depending on your opinion concerning terra firma.

However, PG will take this opportunity to announce an amendment to his long-standing motto. “Don’t do business with jerks,” is hereby amended to read “Don’t do business with or vote for jerks.”

A reminder, this is not a political blog and PG didn’t name names and, if you believed him to be referring to any particular political figure, PG would simply respond, “You might think that. I couldn”t possibly comment.”

Oxford University Press Puts Its Full ‘World Classics’ List Online

From Publishing Perspectives:

This week, the Oxford University Press has announced a new digital resource, bringing together its flagship “Oxford World’s Classics” collection in a single dedicated digital format.

Institutional users will have access to 300 works, “ranging from 18th-century dramas and essays to core Victorian novels, complete with up-to-date supplementary materials,” according to media messaging.

The new online version of the series “is designed with users in mind,” per information from the publisher. The new site’s searching and browsing functionality is said to be easy to “allow researchers, lecturers, and students to pinpoint the material they need.

“Integrated sharing and social media tools also make it easy for readers to distribute precise content with colleagues and students, facilitating seminar discussions and essay ideas.”

. . . .

“In the last year, we’ve really seen the importance of reliable digital products as universities and libraries have come under extraordinary strain.

“Digital products like our online ‘Oxford World’s Classics’ enable research and teaching to continue in these unparalleled times but will also help to permanently expand access, giving users the chance to explore beyond just what’s available in the nearest library.

“It’s great to think that the next generation of humanities students will be able to access reliable, consistent, rigorously prepared editions of key texts, thanks to the technological progress of the 21st century.”

. . . .

Researchers will find translations from the 18th and 19th century—from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Émile Zola’s Germinal, and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species and Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Lockdown made our library better

From The Bookseller:

I have seen so many library services just disappear due to lockdown, both in France and England, and I am so proud of what we achieved. Even if not everything worked out the way we wanted to, whether it was in terms of attendance or technical problems, we always managed to find a solution and to take something from everything we did, either a new skill, a new way to work together or a new tool to develop in future projects. I think the best side of all that is that we are already thinking about the future and creating hybrid events, both digital and physical, and new ways to interact with our customers in the future. 

At Kingston Libraries, we’ve been quick to start on a digital programme, even before we closed the libraries. We wanted to stay in touch with our users, support local residents and continue to offer a diverse range of activities for everyone. It all started with our first ever live streamed rhyme time (the first in the country!), and we got an amazing response from the public and library staff. Eight months later, we have more than 350 original videos, 100 000 views on social media, more than 100 interactive events and countless great interactions with our customers.

Starting from this original event, we found a way to reinvent our way of working. We allowed more space for individual skills and experimentation. It was really interesting for me to coordinate all the projects and work with so many new people and partners. I used to be scared of managing a team or project, but this year I have really built my confidence. It was absolutely amazing to discover the many skills and talents of colleagues I had for several years but never got to work with in the way we did. I think the main thing I will take away from all of this is how awesome and creative librarians can be when you create a space to experiment, time to develop new projects and resources to apply them.

. . . .

Now that we have a great programme and that our customers know about it, we are focussing on becoming more relevant to our residents. In the last few months, we reached a population that we could never have reached otherwise. We had participants from the United States and Finland joining our events, which was really interesting for us, but we are now working on different ways to refocus our efforts on local residents. One example of this effort is our new virtual job club, created at the end of the year to replace our usual physical job club, where we welcome a new guest speaker every week to talk about various employment topics, from writing a CV, to where to find pertinent job information, and even wellbeing sessions to manage your stress before a job interview.

. . . .

Seeing how far we have come with our digital offer, we wanted to share with other libraries, but were also eager to learn about how library staff all over the country coped with the situation and what offer they created. This led to the organisation of the first ever Digital Events Bootcamp, in partnership with Libraries Connected in November, where eight libraries all around the country delivered digital events workshops to more than 350 library staff. The programme included how to create a digital escape room, use Minecraft in libraries, and how to create craft videos. This bootcamp was a huge success!

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Lost Libraries

From The Paris Review:

I was a student in the University of Cape Town’s English department when the Ransom Center acquired J. M. Coetzee’s papers. This was in 2012, when to be a student in the English department at UCT was to be required to hold a strong, fluently expressed opinion on J. M. Coetzee, his life, his work, the position he held within the South African academy, and whether or not there was a “fascinating contrast” between that position and the one he held overseas. Extra points if you could get all this off while referring to him at least once as “John Maxwell Coetzee” in an ironic and weary tone of voice. I never really got to the bottom of why people liked that so much, saying “John Maxwell Coetzee” and then looking around proudly, sometimes with the nostrils a bit flared. I’d managed to discharge the obligation to have an opinion on Coetzee by having a strident opinion on Nadine Gordimer instead, and so never learned why it was hilarious to refer to him by something other than his initials.

I did learn to smile knowingly when it happened, which was very often. No smiling about the Ransom Center acquisition though, a subject that was discussed with such bitterness that for a while I thought “Ransom Center” was departmental shorthand for American rapaciousness, something to do with rich U.S. institutions holding the rest of the world to ransom, riding roughshod over questions of legacy and snatching up bits of history to which they had no rightful claim. The Harry Ransom Center is of course a real place, situated on the University of Texas campus, containing one of the most extensive and valuable archival collections in the world. One million books, five million photographs, a hundred thousand works of art, and forty-two million literary manuscripts. Highlights of the collection, according to the center’s unusually user-friendly website, include a complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible, a First Folio, and the manuscript collections of Capote, Carrington, Coetzee, Coleridge, Conrad, Crane, Crowley, Cummings, and Cusk, looking at just the c’s. James Joyce’s personal library from when he lived in Trieste is in there, as well as the personal libraries of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Don DeLillo, and Evelyn Waugh.

A friend who went to UT told me that the Ransom Center is an ordinary-looking building, big and brown, and that it would be easy to walk past and have no idea what was in there. She said that undergraduates do it every day. I have confirmed this description by looking at photos online, but it doesn’t sit right with me on a symbolic level. It should be bigger, surely, resembling more of a compound or fortress. It should emit some kind of low humming sound, or glow. Forty-two million manuscripts! A million books! Kilometers of archival holdings in climate-controlled rooms, all wrapped up in sheaves and purpose-built cardboard boxes, lovingly tended to by armies of well-compensated grad students. This same friend was doing some work in the archives when they received Norman Mailer’s manuscripts. Great jubilation heard throughout the Center, she said. A week of celebrations culminated in a party where all the attendees were given little boxing-glove key rings.

I didn’t know all that then, only that the Center had a lot of money, and that people in my department said it had effectively ripped Coetzee’s papers out of the hands of South African scholars forever. Cape Town is far away from a lot of places, but it is very far away from Texas. Even if you got funded, who would have the resources or the time to apply for the visa (expensive, takes ages), travel to Texas, and then sit in the reading rooms of the Center for months, going through the small spiral notebooks in which the earliest drafts of Waiting for the Barbarians were sketched out? I sympathized, but not very much. The bulk of Gordimer’s papers, as far as I knew, had been at the Lilly Library in Indiana since 1993. Also very far away, also involving grant applications in order to travel for many days, and the reading room was probably not even as nice. I had long ago accepted that I was just not the sort of person to overcome these obstacles, and I thought the Coetzee people should see their problem in a similar light. They might never actually touch the manuscripts with their own two hands, but someone would, and surely it was nice to know they were being looked after so well. David Foster Wallace’s archive, which included about two hundred annotated books from his own library, had been acquired by the Center two years earlier. There were already stories of students going to Texas purely to sit and commune with his library, weeping over his copy of White Noise, touching the pages of certain books over and over until they went all soft and frilly and had to be removed from general circulation, replaced with digitized copies. I myself could not imagine getting on a plane in order to touch a book, but I liked the idea that some people would, and that there were institutions with the money and the will to facilitate this kind of behavior.

It’s possible, also, that I was able to take this benevolent view of things because the documents I needed for my own research were housed in a building about a ten-minute walk from my front door, at the Western Cape Provincial Archives on Roeland Street. I was writing about literary censorship during apartheid, with a particular focus on the state’s treatment of the novels of Nadine Gordimer. Six of her novels passed through the system. Three were banned and three weren’t. There was no discernible logic behind these decisions. The Publications Control Board was accountable to almost no one, and the censors were given extraordinary freedom to ban whatever they liked. Often what they did with that freedom was write long, rambling, defensive accounts of their decisions.

I was fascinated and disgusted by their reports, the venom and the stupidity and the intellectual waste they represented. I’d go to the archives to fish out a specific set of documents—say, the files pertaining to the appeal against the banning of Burger’s Daughter—and I’d end up stuck there for a whole day, and then a week, helplessly reading through a knee-high stack of files relating to the censor’s opinions on Pale Fire, or a stash of letters from members of the public demanding that the censors do something about copies of Franny and Zooey continuing to circulate through the nation’s public libraries (“dangerous filth emanating from a certain class of writer in the United States of America and masquerading as ‘culture’”). I’d worked out that these boxes of files amounted to just under a hundred linear meters’ worth of material, and I hated the idea that I would never be able to look through it all.

. . . .

I read Carolyn Steedman’s Dust: The Archive and Cultural History, and drew a red wiggly line under the part where she says that Archive Fever is “the desire to recover moments of inception: to find and possess all sorts of beginnings.” Carolyn Steedman, thank you very much. I drew a less vigorous line under the part where she withdraws that understanding hand and says, “And nothing starts in the Archive, nothing, ever at all, though things certainly end up there. You find nothing in the Archive but stories caught halfway through: the middle of things; discontinuities.” I knew she was right, that every archive is necessarily fragmented and incomplete, but I didn’t like it.

I stopped being a student, eventually, after finally managing to wrench myself out of the archives and write something about what I believed I’d found. I stopped worrying that I hadn’t looked at enough of it, because of course I hadn’t, and I stopped making urgent notes to myself in the margins of Gordimer’s novels. I read her books for pleasure again, and tried not to look too proprietorial whenever her work came up in conversation, because no one cares about your thesis.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG notes that, based on his ancient past as a student employee in a large university library (entirely physical, including the books on microfiche, which were torture to read), if a book is misfiled in a large library, unless it’s misfiled in a likely location, it might as well have been shipped to Dallas or Capetown.

Perhaps major research libraries pay their staff a lot more than PG earned, but he suspects that moving very many boxes, books, cases, binders, etc., around any sort of library or archive will involve one or more poorly-paid laborers in that process.

One of the many, many nice things about digital collections is that they can be backed-up and copies of the backups can be disbursed all over the place so nobody really can destroy all of them.

As PG has mentioned before, in ancient times, he spent about three years working for the company that provided (and still provides) the Lexis and Nexis and related databases for you to search in to your heart’s desire provided your credit card limit is sufficiently high. Everything was on a bunch of mainframe computers in a data center surrounded by thick glass walls and even the president of the company had to be escorted into the actual presence of the large collection of mainframe computers. (The president when PG was there wouldn’t have known the difference between a mainframe and a refrigerator in any case, so PG doubts he ever did anything other than glance into the glass fortress on the way to a meeting somewhere else.

At any rate, the organized electrons humming around on those mainframes had cost millions and millions and millions of dollars to organize and be made searchable. The building surround the mainframe was built like a medieval fortress and, supposedly a jetliner could crash into the outside of the building without making it through to the electrons.

That said, each day, a backup of the entire collection was made (presumably on a bunch of giant reels of magnetic tape, but PG never asked) then a copy of the backup was made. One copy was sent many miles North and the other copy was sent many miles South for storage in some secret place. This was done so a major catastrophe would have to hit all three places at about the same time to wipe out the entire collection, a task that would likely to have required a large air force that knew exactly where each of the places were.

The main data center was far away from earthquake country, but the storage locations were earthquake-proofed, etc.

Regardless of how impressive its physical structure, a major research library with everything or most things on paper or in other physical forms is quite a dangerous place to house original and irreplaceable documents.

Why Are Chicago Public Libraries Still Open Amid Soaring COVID Rates?

From Book Riot:

Despite a COVID-19 positivity rate of over 15% and a stay-at-home order from Mayor Lori Lightfoot encouraging residents to “only leave home to go to work or school, or
for essential needs such as seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up food, or receiving deliveries,” Chicago Public Libraries are still open for in-person browsing, reference, computer use, and more. Major library systems in other US cities including New York Public Library (with a city-wide positivity rate of about 2%), Los Angeles Public Library (with a city-wide positivity rate around 5%), and Houston Public Library (with a city-wide positivity rate around 8%) have closed to in-person services, instead remaining available for digital access as well as grab-and-go services.

. . . .

Mixed and unclear messages abound as to why the system continues to keep its doors open to public use, and employees across CPL are frustrated and scared for their safety and well-being. An anticipated update about in-person services to come Monday, November 30, is expected to not close the libraries but instead, reduce hours of service by one hour — that is, they’ll either close an hour early or open an hour later. Such changes don’t get to the heart of the problem but, perhaps, exacerbate them: with one less hour for use, it seems as though the opportunity for more people to be fed into a space for shorter time periods will only encourage shorter periods of time for cleaning and other COVID protocol.

. . . .

Adding to the ever-decreasing morale among employees are the continued understaffing issues, including the reduction of hours for custodians. When libraries reopened in June, custodial staff were back to working eight hours a day, but they’re now back to part-time hours, putting the onus on other staff to not only do their jobs but also clean, sanitize, and otherwise implement the hygienic recommendations necessitated by the pandemic.

“Employees wear a lot of hats — helping out with shelving, dealing with issues and incidents, working to staff both reference desks and programs. Our programming is still valuable but you can’t host a book club or story time or do a virtual classroom visit and be on the reference desk at the same time,” said one CPL employee. “Add on enforcing mask wearing, trying to clean as much as you can […] and trying not to stress out over the fear that you’re sick or making others sick and it’s pretty tough.”

. . . .

Employees cited the hygiene theater they’re performing among the reasons they’re exhausted and lacking morale, and more, they wonder why it is that Lightfoot continues to shame city residents about gathering together for the holidays while not expecting the same of people in libraries. Other businesses have closed their doors and been forced to return to curbside and other no-contact methods of proceeding, but libraries have not. For many, this illogical meting of cans and cannots further confuses them and creates confusion for the general population.

“I think the public has a false sense of security about precautions and safety. If we are open it must be safe,” said one librarian.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

The Libraries of My Life

From The Paris Review:

I was thirteen and wanted to work. Someone told me that you could get paid to referee basketball games and where to go to find out about such weekend employment. I needed income to bolster my collections of stamps and Sherlock Holmes novels. I vaguely remember going to an office full of adolescents queueing in front of a young man who looked every inch an administrator. When my turn came, he asked me if I had any experience and I lied. I left that place with details of a game that would be played two days later, and the promise of 700 pesetas in cash. Nowadays, if a thirteen-year-old wants to research something he’s ignorant about, he’ll go to YouTube. That same afternoon I bought a whistle in a sports shop and went to the library.

I wasn’t at all enlightened by the two books I found about the rules of basketball, one of which had illustrations, despite my notes and little diagrams, and my Friday afternoon study sessions; but I was very lucky, and on Saturday morning the local coach explained from the sidelines the rudiments of a sport that, up to that point, I had practiced with very little knowledge of its theory.

My practical training came from the street and the school playground. My other knowledge, the abstract kind, stood on the shelves of the Biblioteca Popular de la Caixa Laietana, the only library I had access to at the time in Mataró, the small city where I was brought up. I must have started going to its reading rooms at the start of primary school, in sixth or seventh grade. That’s when I began to read systematically. I had the entire collection of The Happy Hollisters at home, and Tintin, The Extraordinary Adventures of MassagranAsterix and Obelix, and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators at the library. Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie were devoured in both places. When my father began to work for the Readers’ Circle in the afternoons, the first thing I did was buy the Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple novels I hadn’t yet read. That’s probably when my desire to own books began.

The Biblioteca Popular de la Caixa Laietana acted as a surrogate nursery. I don’t think children today have to write as much as we did in the eighties. Long, typed-out projects on Japan and the French Revolution, on bees and the different parts of flowers, projects that were a perfect excuse to research in the shelves of a library that seemed, then, infinite and boundless; much greater than my imagination, then anchored in my neighborhood and still restricted to three television channels and the twenty-five books in my parents’ tiny library. I did my homework, researched for a while, and still had time to read a whole comic or a couple of chapters of a novel in whatever detective series I happened to be enjoying. Some children behaved badly; I didn’t. The twenty-five-year-old librarian, a pleasant, rather custodial type, who was tall, though not overly so, kept an eye on them, but not on me. I’d go to him when I needed to find a book I couldn’t track down. I also began to hassle Carme, the other young librarian, who saved us from her older, pricklier colleagues with clever bibliographical questions: “Any book on pollen that doesn’t just repeat what all the encyclopedias say?”

I mentioned my parents’ micro-library. “Twenty-five books,” I said. I should explain that Spain’s transition from dictatorship was led by the savings banks. Municipal governments, busy with speculation and urban development, delegated culture and social services to the banks. Mataró was a textbook case: most exhibitions, museums, and senior centers, as well as the only library in a city of a hundred thousand inhabitants, depended on the Laietana Savings Bank. At the beginning of this century, during my (now real) research into Bishop Josep Benet Serra for my book Australia: A Journey, Carme, who has since become an exceptional librarian in Mataró, opened the doors of the Mataró holdings to me. I wasn’t then aware of that defining metaphor, the 2008 economic crisis hadn’t yet revealed the emperor’s nakedness: Mataró’s document holdings, its historical memory, wasn’t in the municipal archive, wasn’t in the public library, but in the heart of the Laietana Saving Bank’s People’s Library. During the Spanish transition to democracy, the so-called duty to look after culture was assumed by the savings banks without anyone ever challenging them; it only became evident when one of them published a book, which they sent to all their customers as a free gift. I have one in my library that I inherited or purloined from my parents’ house, Alexandre Cirici’s Picasso: His Life and Work. The title page says: “A gift from the savings bank of Catalonia.” It is the only institutional message. Although it’s hard to credit, there is no prologue by a politician or banker. There was no need to justify a gesture that was seen as natural. Over half of my parents’ books were gifts from banks.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Encouraging Reading for Pleasure While The World Is on Fire

From Book Riot:

Reading for pleasure has never been more important. Yes, the world might seem slightly less on fire after November 7, but it’s still a pretty scary place.

. . . .

I’ve written before on the importance of reading for pleasure and empathy. We need these books more than ever.

. . . .

Here are some of the ways I’m trying to create a safe, welcoming place in the library, and how I hope that they will forget some of their worries for a little while when they enter the doors within the school.

READING ALOUD

Reading aloud carries with it several benefits, and not just for those under ten. I read aloud to ages 11–13 on a daily basis. One of the fun ways I read aloud are using Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I read a few pages, or I get a student to read aloud a few, then the class votes on the direction the character can take. It generates a lot of debate, a lot of laughs, groans and students asking if we can start all over, which is great. Also, reading aloud a story that explores different emotions and situations provides a safe space for students to have those feelings and experiences alongside the characters.

. . . .

MANGA CLUB

Our manga club is more popular than ever. We are in our ninth year at Glenthorne High School, and we watch anime, do crafts, play games, have quizzes, and of course talk about manga. I purchase a lot of manga for the school, rely on the students for suggestions and have older students work with the younger ones to create art, enter competitions, and simply have a lot of fun. It’s an escape that’s important to them, which is evident in the large numbers of students who are coming in to take part after school.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Little Free Library Launches Read in Color Diversity Initiative

From Publishers Weekly:

Little Free Library, the nonprofit organization that promotes literacy through unconventional projects, has launched of its newest initiative. Working with Colle McVoy, a Minneapolis creative agency, Read in Color will distribute books on racism and social justice, as well as books amplifying BIPOC and GLBTQ voices, through LFL’s mounted containers. Read in Color is being launched in Minneapolis because LFL is headquartered in the greater metro area, but also because of the city’s association with George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Pending local funding and community support, LFL intends to expand Read in Color to other metro areas nationwide.

There are four components to the Read in Color initiative: the caretakers (called stewards) of LFL-branded book boxes as well as patrons are encouraged to sign a pledge to read and share diverse books; stewards can apply to receive free books appropriate to this initiative for stocking their library boxes – although this component currently is available only in the Twin Cities metro area; book lists being made available representing Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Muslim and LGBTQ voices for all ages that were developed by LFL’s Diverse Books Advisory Group; and LFL will maintain little free library boxes filled with culturally relevant books in high-need communities in the metro areas participating in Read in Color.

The first dedicated Read in Color little free library box was unveiled on October 14 outside Urban Ventures, a Minneapolis nonprofit working to end poverty that is headquartered in South Minneapolis. “We are excited to partner with LFL as we look forward to aligning our mission around literacy,” Benny Roberts, Urban Ventures’ v-p of youth development stated in a release. “We’ll have community members seeing themselves as protagonists in books. It’s a beautiful thing to envision having books that reflect the community they’re in.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

For those unfamiliar with the Little Free Library program, if you want to participate, you build a box to hold books and put it where people can see it from the street. (Depending on location, a rain-proof box is sometimes a good idea.) A lot of Little Free Library boxes are located in places where people have front yards and a mailbox out by the street. The LFL box is often installed on a post not far from the mailbox.

Then you put some books in the box, likely books you have already read and, via a sign on the box, invite others to borrow or take them and put any books they would like to share with others into your box as well. It’s sort of a mini-neighborhood center for children and adults to explore for used treasures.

If you would like to improve the visibility of your Little Free Library box of books, you can sign up online and your address will be added to the organization’s collection of locations so more people in your area will be able to discover your box of books and borrow/take some.

See the Little Free Library website for more info and pics.

Here’s an example of a Little Free Library:

Photo via Wikipedia

PG has always thought this was a lovely, neighborly idea.

However, the OP raised the specter of Little Free Library content police checking the contents of boxes in their neighborhood.

PG suspects many of the people who put up Little Free Libraries in front of their house did not expect front-door harangues about the books that were found in their tiny free public library. The response of at least some homeowners might be to remove the LFL to avoid the possibility of future lectures.

PG thinks that would be a sad outcome and, likely, at least some of the most disappointed would be children in the neighborhood who enjoyed peaking into the box.

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.

. . . .

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

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

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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)

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

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

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.