Some states are changing the laws that govern community libraries

From National Public Radio:

When the Kentucky Legislature started mulling a bill that would tighten control over public libraries earlier this year, librarians across the state called their lawmakers pushing for its defeat.

In the past, legislators would at least have heard them out, says Jean Ruark, chair of the advocacy committee of the Kentucky Library Association. Not this time.

“It seemed as though our efforts fell on deaf ears. There was a big outcry about the passage of that and they did it anyway,” Ruark says.

At a time when public school libraries have increasingly become targets in the culture wars, some red states are going further, proposing legislation aimed at libraries serving the community as a whole. A few of the bills would open librarians up to legal liability over decisions they make.

While some of these bills have quietly died in committee, others have been signed into law, and librarians worry that the increasingly partisan climate is making them vulnerable to political pressure.

“We’re seeing more indirect efforts to control what’s available to the community or to put in laws that would direct how the library staff collects books,” says Deborah Caldwell Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

“A lot of this legislation is really concerning, largely because of the breadth and scope of it, but also because it removes local control from communities,” says Patrick Sweeney, executive director at EveryLibrary, an advocacy group that tracks the legislation.

The bill passed in Kentucky allows local library boards to be appointed by county officials. Sponsors argued that the move makes libraries, which are funded by local property taxes, more accountable to taxpayers.

But opponents say the legislation will undermine the independence of local librarians, which are supposed to serve the public as a whole.

“It’s giving all of this power to partisan elected officials in counties, and if their constituents start telling them they want to ban books, this would allow them to do it. This is incredibly dangerous,” says Kentucky state Rep. Patti Minter, a Democrat who opposed the bill.

Other states have reached further. In Iowa, a bill was proposed allowing city councils to overturn librarians’ decisions about what books to buy and where they’re displayed.

In Oklahoma, a bill was signed into law requiring public libraries to install filters on digital databases to prevent children from seeing obscene material. Anyone who deliberately flouts the law would face legal liability.

Most libraries already have filters in place, and Oklahoma state Rep. Todd Russ, a Republican, says he expects the bill to rarely if ever result in legal action.

“We’re trying to be good partners here, he says. “We’re not trying to create all these class action lawsuits. We want to work with them to help create good protection, common sense stuff.”

But other states, including Iowa and Idaho, have proposed similar bills, stripping away the legal immunity that librarians have traditionally enjoyed for the decisions they make.

Moreover, legal actions against librarians are not unheard of.

Link to the rest at National Public Radio

The bill passed in Kentucky allows local library boards to be appointed by county officials. Sponsors argued that the move makes libraries, which are funded by local property taxes, more accountable to taxpayers.

But opponents say the legislation will undermine the independence of local librarians, which are supposed to serve the public as a whole.

PG says if county officials are elected by the people in the county, are they not also tasked with serving the people in the county? And if the people of the county disagree with those county officials about libraries, decisions of local library boards the county or city elected officials appoint or anything else, presumably, they can replace those officials at the next election or, perhaps, if state law permits, even start a petition drive to recall the county or city officials they’re unhappy with and replace them with others the people choose.

Are local librarians elected by the people who use the libraries and/or pay taxes for staffing libraries and acquiring books “for the public as a whole?”

In PG’s perhaps biased observations, there are a lot of news items that talk about schools and other institutions that directly interact with children to be “safe spaces.”

While the definition of “safe spaces” is certainly up for dispute and may differ from place to place, but shouldn’t elected county or city officials ultimately carry the responsibilities for determining what the local community wants “safe spaces” to be and what should be in or not in “safe spaces”?

Texas librarians face harassment as they navigate book bans

From The Texas Tribune:

Librarian Suzette Baker said she faced a hard choice last year when her boss asked her to hide a book on critical race theory behind the counter.

“OK, I’ll look into it,” Baker recalled telling her boss at the time.

But eventually, Baker — a librarian at the Llano County Public Library’s Kingsland Branch — decided to ignore the request. And she continued to vocally protest other decisions, like the ban on ordering new books. She spoke up, telling her supervisors that the library was facing a censorship attack.

By February, the pressure to keep new or donated books from the shelves increased, she said. After waiting weeks for a local library board to approve the books Baker wanted to add to her library, Baker’s boss would tell her that even donated books could not reach the shelves.

On March 9, Baker was fired for insubordination, creating a disturbance and failure to follow instructions.

“This change is inevitable and you are allowing your personal biases, opinions and preferences to unduly influence your actions and judgment,” her dismissal documents stated.

Baker’s experience represents one of many new conflicts facing Texas librarians as book challenges continue to multiply. Many feel left out of decisions on banning books while also facing increased scrutiny from politicians, parents, and county and school district staff. Some have already quit, and others are considering it.

For those librarians working at schools and at public libraries, the pressure to keep some challenged books off the shelves is growing. And some Texas librarians say the insults and threats through social media and the added pressure from supervisors to remove books are taking a toll on the profession.

“It’s the job I’ve always wanted my entire life,” Baker said. “But then it started getting to be a place where it was hostile.”

. . . .

The Texas Tribune spoke to librarians in two independent school districts that have been at the center of book challenges and bans: Keller, northeast of Fort Worth, and Katy, west of Houston. One from each district spoke to the Tribune, but both asked that their names not be published because they feared harassment.

In Keller, local Facebook group pages and Twitter accounts have included pointed comments about librarians being “heretical” and portrayed them as pedophile “groomers” who order pornographic books. After a particular book challenge failed, one commenter included the phrase “pass the millstones,” a biblical reference to execution by drowning.

“It was heartbreaking for me to see comments from a community that I’ve loved and served for 19 years, directed towards me as a person,” the Keller ISD librarian said.

Several successful Keller ISD board candidates ran this month on campaign promises that they would increase parent involvement in education, including looking harder at school library books.

“I don’t think there’s been a day or an hour in the last 12 months that I haven’t been frightened and immobilized by what the future could look like,” the Keller ISD librarian said.

The Keller ISD librarian said she wants to talk with more parents about the books they want to ban, but so far, only one parent has reached out to her.

“This has been our experience in reality, and we still want to work together,” she said. “Communities have to come together. We can’t keep doing this back and forth.”

Parents and community members have challenged more than 30 books in Keller ISD since October, including the Bible and Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer.” The district has so far removed at least 10 from circulation, and librarians have not been able to order new books since that time, the Keller ISD librarian said.

A librarian In Katy ISD said the wave of book bans has left her less confident about what new books to order for her school library.

She considered ordering a collection of short stories called “Growing Up Trans: In Our Own Words” but worried the book may be targeted for removal.

“Should I play it safe?” she said. “Or should I push the envelope and get a couple and see what happens?”

She worries that librarians will soon be able to fill shelves with only books included on pre-approved lists.

“Are we going to get there?” she said. “Are you just gonna take everything away that I came into this job wanting to do?”

Link to the rest at The Texas Tribune

Stand By Our Teachers and Librarians

From Publishers Weekly:

I had a bit of a situation recently after I featured my newest nonfiction picture book in a presentation to a Texas audience of engrossed fourth graders and their unnerved teachers. By “a bit of a situation,” I mean it was a Very 2022 Mess that threatened to spill over into my scheduled visits to several other elementary schools in the same district.

The book in question was Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-ins with Airman Alton Yates, illustrated by Steffi Walthall and published by Simon & Schuster’s Beach Lane Books. At the heart of things was a request—soon followed by multiple requests—that I instead present a different, not-civil-rights-related book to other local students. And behind that initial request? Fear.

The details are convoluted and not terribly important. But there are two takeaways:

1) Through a lot of private dialogue with the librarians hosting me in the district, we worked things out, and my presentations at the other schools I visited did indeed focus on Moving Forward—a story of courage, sacrifice, teamwork, progress, and public service—in its entirety.

2) You and I can help prevent situations like this from occurring in the first place.

I assume it’ll come as no surprise to you to hear that there’s an anti-democratic mob attacking this country’s schools, libraries, educators, and librarians—unless you yourself are part of the anti-democratic mob, in which case that might not be how you’d characterize yourself. (You’d be wrong.)

This mob is deliberately whipping up a climate of politicized fear as it strives to cast books, public education, diversity, and the freedom to read as threats to be repelled by them rather than as resources and gifts to be treasured by us all. I don’t believe that this noisy, unruly element represents the majority of us. What this element lacks in numbers, however, it makes up for in commitment to making itself heard and getting its way. But for those of us in the majority—those of us who, among other things, oppose using intimidation to suppress ideas we don’t like—what we boast in sheer numbers, we seem to lack in commitment to putting our strengths and values to work.

Specifically, I see far too little demonstrated support for the people who keep our schools and libraries going. I don’t mean support only when a particular institution is under assault; I’m talking about routine, proactive, never-taking-them-for-granted support. And if teachers, librarians, and the people who work with them—including administrators and public officials—don’t get a sense of that support from the broader population, what exactly is going to reinforce their resolve to do the democracy-minded thing when they’re under pressure from the aggressive and all-too-visible reactionary fringe?

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG notes that it’s a natural human reaction to disagreements about values for each side of the disagreement to defend their own personal values.

Unfortunately, there’s also a natural human reaction during such disagreements to denigrate people who disagree with your opinions. Such reactions, at least these days in the United States, quickly move to reliance on Ad Hoc arguments, sometimes called Ad Hoc fallacies.

Here’s a definition:

Ad hoc fallacy is a fallacious rhetorical strategy in which a person presents a new explanation – that is unjustified or simply unreasonable – of why their original belief or hypothesis is correct after evidence that contradicts the previous explanation has emerged.

As such, it’s an attempt to protect one’s claim from any potential refutations and thus preserve their existing beliefs. Furthermore, the explanation is specifically constructed to be used in a particular case and is created hastily at the moment rather than being the result of deliberate, fact-based reasoning.

Link to more at Fallacy In Logic

A second element PG has seen in disputes like that described in the OP is the fallacy of Appeal to Authority.

Here’s a definition:

Appeal to authority is a common type of fallacy, or an argument based on unsound logic.

When writers or speakers use appeal to authority, they are claiming that something must be true because it is believed by someone who said to be an “authority” on the subject. Whether the person is actually an authority or not, the logic is unsound. Instead of presenting actual evidence, the argument just relies on the credibility of the “authority.”

Link to more at SoftSchools

Texas residents are suing their county after books were removed from public libraries

From CNN:

Seven residents in Llano County, Texas, are suing county officials, claiming their First and 14th Amendment rights were violated when books deemed inappropriate by some people in the community and Republican lawmakers were removed from public libraries or access was restricted.

This county of 21,000 people in the Texas Hill Country is now part of the growing number of communities in the United States where conservative groups and individuals have pushed to control what titles people have access to and singled out books that deal with race, gender or sexuality.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in US District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio, claims county officials removed books from the shelves of the three-branch public library system “because they disagree with the ideas within them” and terminated access to thousands of digital books because they could not ban two specific titles.

“Public libraries are not places of government indoctrination. They are not places where the people in power can dictate what their citizens are permitted to read about and learn. When government actors target public library books because they disagree with and intend to suppress the ideas contained within them, it jeopardizes the freedoms of everyone,” the lawsuit states.

. . . .

In the lawsuit, Leila Green Little, a mother who lives in Llano County, and the other six plaintiffs argue that county officials removed several children’s books last August in response to complaints from a group of community members who described them as inappropriate. Those titles include “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak and “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health” by Robie H. Harris.

Months later, Texas Rep. Matt Krause launched an inquiry into whether 850 books on the subjects of race or sex that might “make students feel discomfort” were in public school libraries and classrooms. The lawsuit says Wallace eventually sent a spreadsheet with the books from that list that were available in Llano County library’s collection.

. . . .

Shirley Robinson, executive director of the Texas Library Association, said she hopes the lawsuit inspires people in other communities to speak up.

“It is a shame that this unnecessary culture war has led to this, but we applaud the efforts of these individuals to utilize the justice system to speak up and say with a clear voice ‘enough is enough,'” Robinson said. “We didn’t ask for this fight, but we’re certainly not going to lay down and let subjective opinion and politics restrict the freedom to read.”

In a recent analysis, PEN America, a literary and free expression advocacy organization, found that 1,145 books were banned in communities across the United States from July 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. The majority of those bans involved departures from best practices established by National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the American Library Association regarding how books and instructional materials should be challenged in schools and libraries, the group said.

For Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program, the lawsuit in Llano County could have a significant impact on the current climate and serve as a reminder of the constitutional protections that people around the country have.

Friedman told CNN there has been “a kind of abrogation of duty” to uphold the First Amendment and there has been “very little resistance” from officials when there are demands to remove materials from school or public libraries.

“Whether that’s in the school board or whether that’s in a library, somebody wants something gone and it appears to be going. At their meetings, there’s no resistance, there’s no friction, there’s no one in some of these rooms saying ‘well, hold on a minute, let’s make sure we exercise due diligence, due process, consider the kind of diversity of opinions as people who our institution serves,'” Friedman said.

Link to the rest at CNN

PG suggests that, regardless of one’s personal opinions about the library battles involving public school and community libraries in various parts of the United States, such strident disagreements are not good for the welfare of such libraries moving forward.

Schools and public libraries have budgets, generally set by one or more groups of elected officials. Budgets for public libraries can be cut to the point that such libraries become unable to serve their patrons or would-be patrons either completely or in any meaningful way.

If librarians decide to choose other ways of earning their living or move to other locations where turmoil is not a feature of their working lives, there is not a guarantee that replacements will be found.

Amid Public Concern About Grooming Kids, American Library Association Picks ‘Marxist Lesbian’ As President

A large organization that drives the training of U.S. librarians and their use of public funds has chosen a self-described “Marxist lesbian” as its next president amid growing concern about libraries actively connecting children to sexually explicit activities and materials.

Emily Drabinski was elected president of the American Library Association last week by the organization’s members. She will take office in July 2023.

ALA’s approximately 54,000 members include librarians, libraries, library graduate schools, members of library boards and associations, and library students. The vast majority of its membership fees, therefore, are provided by taxpayer funds.

Drabinski won with 5,410 votes from such an electorate, compared to her opponent’s 4,622 votes, according to an ALA press release. The election was conducted online.

The interim chief librarian of The Graduate Center at City University of New York (CUNY), where she was previously the “critical pedagogy librarian,” Drabinski posts openly on her Twitter feed in support of sexually exposing children, union-led political strife, socialist politicians, and libraries pushing explicit and far-left material on unwilling taxpayers.

. . . .

“I so value Emily’s work in intentionally bringing a class, labor, and queer consciousness to her efforts as an anti-racist ally,” wrote fellow ALA member April M. Hathcock in a public endorsement of Drabinski.

Link to the rest at The Federalist and thanks to E. for the tip.

PG noted in the OP that the new union president received the support of 10% of the members of the ALA and the number of members who effectively boycotted the election by not voting for anyone was over 80% of the total ALA membership.

PG did a little research on the ALA website and discovered that there are about 166,000 paid librarians in the United States plus an additional 200,000 “paid staff”, so 5,410 voters for Ms. Drabinski as ALA president is not necessarily an indication that she speaks for anything close to most librarians.

PG will also note that nobody is a Marxist any more and labor unions are representing a declining number and percentage of workers in the US – 10.3% currently per PG’s research at the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the US Department of Labor. In 1983, about 20% of the US workforce were members of labor unions.

Effectively none of the employees of the giant tech companies in the US that are responsible for most of the economic growth over the last 25-35 years are members of labor unions.

PG further suggests that neither leader of Russia or China are Marxists/Communists that Lenin would have recognized as such, just old-fashioned thugs/dictators who are so distanced from the proletariat as to be totally out of touch with the lower-income 80% of the population of their nations.

(PG understands that he is using traditional gendered pronouns in his description of Drabinski which the Prez may not like. While he means no personal offense, he can’t be bothered with following trends in personal pronouns or labor unions.)

Ebook Services Are Bringing Unhinged Conspiracy Books into Public Libraries

From Vice:

For years, the digital media service Hoopla has given library patrons access to ebooks, movies, and audiobooks through bulk subscriptions sold to public libraries. But more recently, librarians have started calling for transparency into the company’s practices after realizing its digital ebook collection contains countless low-quality titles promoting far-right conspiracy theories, COVID disinformation, LGBTQ+ conversion therapy, and Holocaust denial.

In February, a group of librarians in Massachusetts identified a number of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic books on Hoopla, including titles like “Debating The Holocaust” and “A New Nobility of Blood and Soil”—the latter referring to the infamous Nazi slogan for nationalist racial purity. After public outcry from library and information professionals, Hoopla removed a handful of titles from its digital collection.

In an email obtained by the Library Freedom Project last month, Hoopla CEO Jeff Jankowski explained that the titles came from the company’s network of more than 18,000 publishers: “[The titles] were added within the most recent twelve months and, unfortunately, they made it through our protocols that include both human and system-driven reviews and screening.”

However, quick Hoopla keyword searches for ebooks about “homosexuality” and “abortion” turn up dozens of top results that contain largely self-published religious texts categorized as “nonfiction,” including several titles like “Can Homosexuality Be Healed” which promote conversion therapy and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. This prompted a group of librarians to start asking how these titles are appearing in public library catalogs and why they are ranked so high.

“If [ebooks containing disinformation] were on the tenth page of results it wouldn’t be as noticeable, but they’re on the first page of results,” Jennie Rose Halperin, the executive director of Library Futures, told Motherboard. “What this says to me is that vendors don’t think people who are accessing resources through public libraries deserve quality, verifiable information.”

Hoopla serves more than 3,000 library systems and is in more than 8,500 public libraries across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Hoopla allows library users to check out ebooks from their personal devices. All anyone needs to explore Hoopla’s ebook catalog is a registered public library card. Hoopla is one of a few major ebook vendors libraries use to ensure library-goers have access to digital content. But unlike other services like Overdrive, which lets librarians order individual ebooks, Hoopla only sells ebook subscriptions, meaning that libraries have little choice over what titles they’re getting from the service.

Unlike print books that libraries can buy directly from publishers, publishers only sell lending rights to ebooks using third-party vendors like Hoopla. Ebook use has been on the rise for the past decade, and vendors like Overdrive and Hoopla have claimed dramatic increases in ebook checkouts during the pandemic when many libraries were unable to operate at a full in-person capacity. Since March 2020, demand for ebook titles from lending services like Hoopla soared.

Sarah Lamdan, a law professor at the City University of New York School of Law data analytics companies in publishing says many libraries choose to subscribe to bundles because it’s cheaper for libraries that are already strapped for cash.

“We lease these streams of content like on Netflix or Spotify,” Lamdan told Motherboard. “It’s more expensive to be deliberate and choose titles a la carte than it is to buy one of these bundles, and [libraries] are not given a lot of choice about it. Although libraries are super trusted and seen as so important to society, they’re not properly funded.”

“It’s just another way that the outsourcing of traditional information roles is really poisoning the well of fact and truth and reliable information sources,” Lamdan added.

Librarians also say that ebook subscription prices are unsustainable as they typically cost three times as much as a customer’s ebook purchase through Kindle. This is emblematic of at least a decade of tension in the digital library market in which librarians have little power to negotiate with publishers and vendors over prices that continue to climb. Libraries are also operating in a time loop where they have to keep purchasing licenses from the Big-Five publishers (Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Randomhouse and Simon & Schuster) through what’s called “metered access.” Typically ebook subscription licenses expire after a two-year term or after 26 circulations per purchase. Except the price keeps climbing.

Link to the rest at Vice

We Need to Talk About the Mental Health Effects of Book Bans on Authors

From Electric Lit:

It seems like every day there’s a new slate of bad news for the queer community in the United States. From anti-trans legislation in Texas to the Florida governor signing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to books being pulled off shelves—nationwide—for no reason other than who their writers are: queer authors, authors of color, and queer authors of color. It’s an unending slew of depressing headlines.

I feel helpless. When I hear the governor of Florida claim that discussion of sexual identity in school is “indoctrination,” I am filled with endless rage and sorrow. Telling kids about people like themselves is nowhere near as close to “indoctrination” as removing all other viewpoints and identities, or teaching them only one way to be good, and right, and acceptable. That’s the childhood I had, and its effects still linger.

Having lived through actual indoctrination, and knowing first hand what it’s like not having access to books that could have helped me see myself, and the larger world, in a better light, I am passionate about making sure future generations get to see their experiences; see those unlike them; and choose to live their lives to the fullest of their own identities. This is partly why I started writing queer stories myself—books helped me see my own identity more clearly. They helped me come out to myself as bisexual, and I want my writing to give that gift to others, especially teens who are trying to figure life out. As demoralizing as it is for me—a queer aspiring kidlit author—to read these headlines, they have a different impact on me than they do on the authors whose books are currently, and routinely, in danger of being pulled off shelves. 

I spoke with two kidlit authors, Mark Oshiro and Kyle Lukoff, about what it’s like to have a book challenged and/or banned. Both of these authors are award-winning and beloved, and I’ve seen them speak out on social media against book bans, as well as the distressing effects of having their books challenged. 

During our conversation, Oshiro referenced an interview Amanpour & Company did with Jason Reynolds, another author whose books have frequently been challenged and banned. Reynolds said having his books questioned in this manner, “ … offends me, and quite honestly, it hurts my feelings.” Oshiro added that seeing their books on lists challenging and banning them, “sucks a lot.” They said it reminds them of their own childhood, when sex education was so frowned on in their school district that there were literal portions of pages cut out of textbooks, which teachers could not acknowledge. “It’s triggering, it’s upsetting,” Oshiro said. “I worry about the kids who are in these emotionally precarious positions looking at the adults around them who … want to treat them like they don’t exist.”

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

PG posted this because it relates to books that public schools (or their boards or superintendents or principals or teachers or parents) don’t want to buy their books for students of the school to read.

As PG mentioned before, if an author publishes a book, does PG have to purchase it? Does PG have to purchase it in order to make it available for school-age children in the neighborhood around Casa PG?

Publishing a book doesn’t mean that anyone has the obligation, express or implied, to buy that book.

PG has no doubt that LGBQT authors are upset when people don’t want to by their books because of their identity. PG has no doubt that Baptist authors or Russian authors or African-American authors are upset when people don’t want to buy their books because of their religion or nationality or race.

Operating a library other than the Library of Congress involves choices – choosing one book and not choosing another. If you were a librarian working for a government entity whose salary is paid by the people in the local community, would you feel that the wishes of the people in the community regarding books you purchased or didn’t purchase should be considered? Honored? Respected?

If you want to buy books with no consideration of whether people who you think might want to read them or will want to borrow them for themselves or others, start a private library. Use your own money to buy the books. Collect voluntary donations from like-minded individuals for the purposed of acquiring books for your library.

For a public library in the US, ultimately, there is a group of someones somewhere who are elected by the majority of those who vote and those elected officials quite often want to please the people who elected them, thinking that the elected official would run the governmental entity for which she/he/they are responsible in a manner that the voters think is useful and wise.

Two Charles Darwin Notebooks Disappeared More Than 20 Years Ago. They Mysteriously Reappeared.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Two of Charles Darwin’s notebooks, which went missing more than 20 years ago, have been returned to the Cambridge University Library unscathed. 

The university said Tuesday that the nearly 200-year-old notebooks were found March 9, left in a public area of the library inside a bright pink gift bag with a note wishing the librarian a “Happy Easter.” 

The notebooks, the size of postcards, contain Mr. Darwin’s notes as he worked out his theory of evolution. One of the notebooks contains the naturalist’s “Tree of Life” sketch from 1837, which sought to map out evolution and the relationship between species. Above the sketch are two words: “I think.”

Dr. Jessica Gardner, the university’s librarian, said that a colleague spotted the pink bag and brought it in. They looked inside to find a brown envelope with a typed message:


Happy Easter


“That note is quite unusual,” Dr. Gardner said. “It absolutely adds to the mystery.”

. . . .

Within the envelope was a box they recognized as belonging to the library. Inside, the two notebooks were wrapped in plastic wrap, which isn’t how the library stored them. Still, Dr. Gardner recognized the notebooks and was sure it was the missing ones. She didn’t remove the plastic wrap until the police gave the OK to do so six days later. 

“It was a really thrilling moment,” Dr. Gardner said about unwrapping the notebooks and looking through the pages. 

The notebooks are believed to have gone missing in 2000, when they were taken out of the library’s archive to be photographed. The library didn’t notice they were gone until a routine check in 2001. Some at the library thought they may have just been misplaced. 

. . . .

It isn’t currently known where the notebooks were. Dr. Gardner, who became the university’s librarian in 2017, said the police have the pink gift bag and the envelope, as well as security camera footage from the day they were returned.

. . . .

The notebooks will be displayed in a free exhibition at the library in July. But for now, they’re hidden away.

“They’re safe and tight in a vault,” Dr. Gardner said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (where there are photos)

Being a Public Librarian Can Be Dangerous Work, Why Don’t We Acknowledge That?

From Electric Lit:

The day of the incident it had been only me and Ms. Roberts at the circulation desk. I was one month into the job and used to calling these kinds of things “incidents” by then. The yelling was coming from the Adult Fiction section, an area with four tables that made up the far-right corner of the larger square that was the library. Walls of tall bookcases made it into its own square, and it was impossible to see into it unless you were standing right within it. Only one chair, tucked in between the emergency exit and a single bookcase—the Fiction A’s—could be seen from the circulation desk. A few weeks earlier, a patron had overdosed while sitting in it, his skin already blue by the time someone at the desk noticed and called 911.

I knew it was Christian who was yelling before I reached him. He was a regular patron who kept his cell phone in a holster on his hip and a Bluetooth piece in his ear, loudly taking frequent phone calls until an employee would tell him to hang up or take it outside. The other two people sitting at the table with him kept their eyes fixed down as he yelled up at an older woman who was standing near him. I recognized her by the long flowing dress and colorful silk headscarf she always wore, but I did not know her name. The woman often annoyed other patrons by asking to borrow items from them—a cell phone, a tissue, a bit of their food—and would hover until she got a yes. Whatever she had asked him for that day annoyed him to a point where he had been saying “fuck you” for a while, obviously angry, but I don’t know that anyone expected what happened next.

Christian stood and used both of his hands to shove the woman backward as hard as he could. Her thin body flew into the wooden bench behind her and her head audibly cracked on contact before she rolled to the floor.

I instantly started to yell. “Out! Out! Get out!”

The other patrons finally looked up, most of them staring at me. I was the woman with pink hair, the newest hire who was usually the most patient and friendly at the circulation desk, yet here I was now, angry and yelling.

Christian turned toward me, shouting how he’d done nothing and I didn’t know shit. Spit was flying from his mouth. Two patrons I didn’t know were cradling the woman’s head as she lay sprawled out on the floor next to the bench. I tried to check for blood while simultaneously watching Christian.

. . . .

Libraries are often referred to in warm language: safe place, sanctuary, freedom granting, for all. There is the famous Jorge Luis Borges quote: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” And similar sentiments from Albert Einstein: “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” From Ray Bradbury: “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” From Judy Blume: “I think of libraries as safe havens for intellectual freedom. I think of how many times I’ve been told about a librarian who saved a life by offering the right book at the right time.” And Margaret Atwood: “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library.”

Warm understandings of libraries have long permeated our media as well: the Breakfast Club members find comradery in their school library, Hermione and Harry and Ron discover life-saving solutions and spells at the Hogwarts Library, Belle finds sanctuary and a sense of Beast’s humanity in his private library, Mrs. Phelps offers Matilda the beginning of her exit from an abusive home, the cast of The Magicians frequent the library for answers and deep conversations, and so on. 

. . . .

There is nothing incorrect about any of these beautiful assertions or imagined scenarios. But there remains a somewhat perplexing overarching social assumption that libraries are social equalizers and asylums from the rest of the world in ways that no other American institutions quite are—that libraries are good, as opposed to the bad people sometimes ascribe to museums and other shared spaces that have been criticized for being elitist and otherwise exclusionary or fraught.

When I tell someone for the first time that I was a librarian for seven years, their face usually lights up. Sometimes they want to tell me about their childhood library, or the last time they went to their local branch, or ask if I’ve read a particular book. Sometimes they just want to know what the work was really like. Was it quiet all the time? Did I read books all day? Did I have to go to school for that? Do I have glasses? Did I shhh?

They often tell me, last, about how much they love libraries. I tell them I do too.

And I do.

. . . .

In my own social circles, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like libraries, even if they haven’t patronized one in decades. According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) State of America’s Libraries Report  2019, there are more public libraries—16,568—in the United States than Starbucks cafés—14,606. 100 percent of those public libraries provide Wi-Fi and nearly 100 percent offer no-fee access to computers. The ALA’s 2020 report notes that “the popularity of libraries is surging” and cites a 2019 Gallup survey poll that visiting the library is the most common cultural activity Americans engage in “by far,” with US adults taking an average of 10.5 trips to the library, “a frequency that exceeded their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attended live music or theatrical events and visited national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visited museums and  gambling casinos 2.5 times annually.”

The State of America’s Libraries reports are released during National Library Week every April as annual summaries of library trends, and they include statistics and issues affecting all types of libraries, including public ones. The State of America’s Libraries Report 2019 notably states that public libraries “are a microcosm of the larger society. They play an important and unique role in the communities that they serve and provide an inclusive environment where all are treated with respect and dignity. No longer just places for books, our public libraries serve as a lifeline for some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities.” The report goes on to note that “homelessness and addiction are two of the most difficult issues facing communities today. They often go hand in hand.”

The ALA notes on its website that “[unhoused people] face a wide range of challenges including lack of affordable housing, employment opportunities, healthcare, and other needed services. As many public  librarians know, with no safety net to speak of, homeless citizens often turn to the library for help.” It is common for libraries to be patronized by marginalized and vulnerable groups, whether they are in rural,  suburban, or city settings, for a wide variety of reasons including free access to a temperature-controlled environment, clean drinking water,  and Wi-Fi, and computers—because, of course, all public libraries are shared spaces. They do not exclude anyone, including people suffering from addiction, trauma, mental health struggles, and other internal, and often externalized, battles. 

That unhoused people regularly patronize libraries has become more commonly known in recent years and is a fact that impacts some library users’ desire to visit certain branches in their local library systems. Although there is no statistic on this, my own experience working within the DC Public Library system showed me time and again that the majority of middle- and upper-class library patrons who wanted to sit and work at a library preferred to visit branches in certain neighborhoods around the District over others, even if it was not their closest neighborhood branch. These same people would comfortably pick up holds from their local branch because it did not require them to linger in the space, but they opted for other libraries if they wanted to stay for longer than a few minutes. I have close friends in New York City, Portland, Seattle, Bethlehem, Buffalo, and DC who have similar practices and preferences. Some of them take their children to library story times as well, but again, there are branches in their local library systems where they would choose not to take their children and where they would prefer not to pick up books or try to work, whether that is something they can comfortably admit or not. It is obvious through data that libraries are still regularly used all over the country by people from all races and socioeconomic statuses, but the reasons they use libraries differ greatly. While library usage remains statistically prevalent and on the rise, I continue to be interested in the question of by whom, where, and for what reasons.

. . . .

Two weeks before Christian assaulted the woman, I had been in the Adult Fiction area reshelving books. The collection was often disorganized—a  side effect not so much of being understaffed, but of staff never agreeing whose job it was to reshelve—and the disarray often doubled how long it took to find the correct place for books on the shelf. Generally, I didn’t  mind reshelving, but I tried to never linger in the area. Male coworkers had warned me early on not to—female employees were particularly vulnerable back there. If something was going to go wrong, it was going to go wrong in the Adult Fiction area. 

I was on my tiptoes that day, impatiently searching spines for the letters PAT when I heard him from behind me. 

“There’s my White girl with a booty.” 

I went momentarily stiff and then shrank the only way I could shrink  in the moment—back down to flat feet, arms crossed protectively over my  chest, book pinned against my sternum with my pointer finger hooked  slightly on the plastic of the spine label, pressing my flesh into it. I had spent most of my adult life trying to avoid this exact situation: feeling cornered and vulnerable, especially around men. There was laughter—three, four, five male echoes of it—and I moved my body sideways instead of turning around to look. I tossed the James Patterson paperback on an otherwise emptied cart and beelined to our small back work office. 

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

PG’s reaction to the OP was that, if he had experienced anything remotely like what is described in the OP in ancient times when he worked in a large university library, he would have immediately quit and found a job waiting tables at a restaurant or something similar.

He understands that not everyone can make such a choice instantly, but it’s hard for him to believe that someone qualified to be a librarian couldn’t find alternate employment in most cities.

An 8-year-old slid his handwritten book onto a library shelf. It now has a years-long waitlist.

From The Washington Post:

Dillon Helbig, a second-grader who lives in Idaho, wrote about a Christmas adventure on the pages of a red-cover notebook and illustrated it with colored pencils.

When he finished it in mid-December, he decided he wanted to share it with other people. So much, in fact, that he hatched a plan and waited for just the right moment to pull it off.

Days later, during a visit to the Ada Community Library’s Lake Hazel Branch in Boise with his grandmother, he held the 81-page book to his chest and passed by the librarians. Then, unbeknown to his grandmother, Dillon slipped the book onto a children’s picture-book shelf. Nobody saw him do it.

“It was naughty-ish,” Dillon, 8, said of covertly depositing the book without permission. But the result, he added, is “pretty cool.”

The book, titled “The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis,” is signed “by Dillon His Self.”

He later confessed to his mother, Susan Helbig, that he slid his book into the stacks and left it there, undetected. But when they returned about two days later, to the spot where he left the notebook, it was missing. Helbig called the library to ask whether anyone had found Dillon’s notebook and to request that they please not throw it away.

Branch manager Alex Hartman said he was surprised at Dillon’s bold move.

“It was a sneaky act,” said Hartman, laughing. But Dillon’s book “was far too obviously special an item for us to consider getting rid of it.”

Hartman and a few co-workers had discovered and read Dillon’s book — which describes his adventures putting an exploding star on his Christmas tree and being catapulted back to the first Thanksgiving and the North Pole. They found it very entertaining.

Hartman read the book to his 6-year-old son, Cruzen, who giggled and said it was one of the funniest books he’d ever known.

“Dillon is a confident guy and a generous guy. He wanted to share the story,” Hartman said. “I don’t think it’s a self-promotion thing. He just genuinely wanted other people to be able to enjoy his story. … He’s been a lifelong library user, so he knows how books are shared.”

The staff librarians who read Dillon’s book agreed that as informal and unconventional as it was, the book met the selection criteria for the collection in that it was a high-quality story that was fun to read. So, Hartman asked Helbig for permission to tack a bar code onto the book and formally add it to the library’s collection.

Dillon’s parents enthusiastically said yes, and the book is now part of the graphic-novels section for kids, teens and adults. The library even gave Dillon its first Whoodini Award for Best Young Novelist, a category the library created for him, named after the library’s owl mascot.

. . . .

As luck would have it, the lone copy of “The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis” has become a book in demand.

KTVB, a news station in Boise, reported on Dillon’s book caper earlier this month, and since then, area residents have begun adding themselves to a waiting list to check it out. As of Saturday, there was a 55-person waitlist.

. . . .

Dillon is also writing a different book about a closet that eats up jackets.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

How To Get Your Self-Published Book Into Libraries

From The Creative Penn:

If you haven’t considered libraries as a market for your self-published book(s), you should.

Why? For one, there are 2.6 million libraries globally1, and they spend roughly $31 billion annually2! In the U.S., library expenditures are $14.2 billion a year2, and of this amount, $1.4 billion1 or 10.2% is spent on books!

Secondarily, the library market is growing! Two years after Joanna posted my original article, How To Get Your Book Into Libraries, the number of Academic Libraries worldwide grew to 95,361, a 111.8% increase, and Public Libraries globally grew to 406,834, a 39.4% increase! In the U.S., the number of Academic Libraries had grown 12.5%, and there were 90.5% more Public Libraries!

And third, libraries are purchasing more eBooks. According to the American Library Association (ALA), in 2020, OverDrive (a provider of eBooks to Libraries) loaned out more than 289 million eBooks worldwide, a 40 percent increase from 2019, a shift the company attributed to the global pandemic.

. . . .

If you wonder if libraries buy self-published books, the answer is, “Yes, they do.”

In its April 5, 2021 article, How Library Distribution Works for Indie Authors, the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLI) shared the results of a 2016 survey conducted by US-based publishing service New Shelves. Per the survey, “… 92 percent of librarians reported that they regularly purchase from self-published authors and small presses.”

Although there still may be some libraries whose Collection Development Policy (the guidelines libraries use when making book purchasing decisions) might state they don’t buy self-published books, those excluding are becoming rarer and rarer.

I believe my situation is a good example. As of this writing, 156 libraries worldwide have acquired 192 copies of my self-published titles since I first introduced them to librarians a few years ago.

Also, in the last two years, I haven’t had one library inform me they don’t buy self-published books. And if you’ve heard that it’s hard getting a self-published book into a library, I would say, “It shouldn’t be easy because of the vital role libraries play in societies, but I and others are proof that it can be done.”

Link to the rest at The Creative Penn

2022 Publishing Predictions

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog with Ruth Harris:

Who could have predicted the bright ray of light that shined on publishing during this pandemic! But it did shine, and will continue to shine, as people rekindle their love of reading and writing! Publishing is more profitable than ever before in its history…for the second year in a row.

Once the streaming binge of Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and other channels grew a bit stale, people rediscovered books and how reading engages the imagination making it a totally different enjoyment experience than passively watching a screen. Books have been selling at a brisk pace ever since. And the profits reaped by the publishing giants has soared. I wish some would make it back to writers and the publishing staff, but that’s another story altogether.

Now that we can breathe a sigh of relief, what does publishing have in store for us in 2022? Here are my predictions:

1. Self-publishing will continue to grow and be profitable.

Bookstores will continue to prosper, even as Amazon continues to grow its market share. For the year to date (2021), bookstore sales are up 39.6%, to $7.1 billion. And that’s an increase from a huge year last year.

All of publishing is healthy and there is no reason for you not to get back on that horse and finish writing your books.

2. Diversity will grow even more, both with authors and with publisher staffs.

So many high-level (VP and up) positions were created to encourage and hire diverse staff within publishers. To me that’s the second phase of diversifying publishing. Phase one began 3-4 years ago with editors buying books from a more diverse ethnic and cultural pool of authors.

I don’t see that phase slowing down anytime soon either. But with the hiring of high-level diverse employees within publishing companies in phase two, we can begin to see real change in the industry. It will be a joy to watch and we’ll all be the richer for it.

3. Hybrid workplaces will deepen and New York will be the center of publishing in name only.

All plans to return to the publishers’ offices in January 2022 were cancelled as the Omicron variant surged this past fall. I believe this signals a huge shift in how publishing is done. When editorial and art departments can work from home, creativity can soar.

Change can happen. And the bureaucracy will be replaced with new energy and passion when employees don’t have to spend endless hours in meetings. Even with an increase in Zoom meetings, multitasking can make them bearable.

Hybrid work environments, now that employees have their home workspaces dialed in, are a harbinger of the future. And employers will dig the extra profits they make from a dramatic decrease in overhead.

. . . .

5. Supply chain and paper shortage woes will continue.

It takes a long time to straighten out something as broken as the publishing supply chain. Books with a lot of images (children’s picture books, coffee table books, novelty books) are mainly printed in China. But the empty cargo containers in the U.S. are not making it back to China for refilling and that is slowing down everything.

As agents, we see publication dates stretching out to 2025 and beyond. And I’m predicting that it won’t be fixed in 2022. And when you add to that the high cost of paper, the price of books at retail is going up (along with everything else you buy).

6. There will be a legal battle over how ebook sales are regulated to libraries.

Again, states are trying to legislate how much publishers can charge libraries to loan ebooks. This is a big deal, since it is the largest growth area for public libraries…especially during the pandemic. But even after we can once again go out safely in public, ebook reading is experiencing a sea change that some readers will never go back from.

This topic needs to be legislated from the federal level if the publishers won’t see reason.

7. Publishing will look more deeply at changing its business model.

Publishing companies can no longer deny that the 200-year-old way they’ve been running their empires makes no economic sense.

Here’s what Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch had to say about it: “Publishers have long carried the overhead of big-city offices, travel and entertainment, in-person events, book fairs, and other accustomed ways of operating. We’ve been profitable enough that we haven’t pressured ourselves to learn all we could do through long-available online communications, digital marketing, and remote-working capabilities.”

Working from home, freed from onerous commutes, without in-person calls, pitches, conferences, and shows, publishers have opened their minds to new ways of working.” This gives me hope that as profitability soars due to changes in an inefficient business model, authors might actually benefit through modestly higher advances and larger royalty percentages (especially in ebooks…I mean come on!)

. . . .

10. eBooks are experiencing a growing spurt of popularity that is not going to diminish.

When you combine the paper shortage/price increases, supply chain woes and convenience of spontaneously acquiring an ebook in the privacy of your own home without having to get out of your pajamas, the lure is too sexy to resist.

For you self-published authors, time to get out your marketing and promotional hat, put your books on sale, spiff up the covers, really pay attention to your metadata (especially key search terms), so avid readers can find your work. Because ebooks are not going away.

11. Audiobook popularity will continue to grow.

See #10 above for reasons. Add in listening to stories while driving, making meals, exercising and you can see why.

Link to the rest at From Anne R. Allen’s Blog with Ruth Harris

From ‘Gender Queer’ to ‘New Kid’, Graphic Novels Are Targeted by Censors

From School Library Journal:

​It seems to have started during Banned Books Week, ironically: Throughout the fall and winter, a steady drumbeat of book complaints and challenges, mostly in schools but a few in public libraries, has spread across the country.

This fall, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe was the most challenged graphic novel—and perhaps the most challenged book—nationwide during increased calls to remove “offensive” materials from libraries. But Kobabe’s memoir is far from the only graphic novel people demand be removed from the shelves.

Whether in officially filed challenges or during speeches at school board meetings, parents and organizations nationwide have brought objections to Jerry Craft’s New Kid, Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo, Cathy Johnson’s The Breakaways, and the graphic adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Often, news of one book’s challenge spurs a new one somewhere else.

Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at the writers’ organization PEN America, says graphic novels are more vulnerable to challenges, in part because they are still a relatively new and evolving medium, and older people simply are less comfortable with them. Parents also may be more uncomfortable with something depicted visually than with words alone, he says.

“There’s no question that groups have formed on social media, that they are sharing excerpts from books—often under the heading that they’re concerned about material and books—and they want other parents to know,” says Friedman. “Sometimes that mingles with a much more insidious, skeptical, and critical point concerning schools and libraries in schools and their purpose. So it’s difficult to draw the line in some cases between groups that are just concerned parents and groups that are active on other political causes.”

Some of the people challenging books have also protested mask policies in the schools, for instance, while others want changes in the curriculum. No Left Turn, for example, includes “promote fact-based learning” and “promote classical education in the liberal arts and sciences” among its goals. The organization also specifically targets books and curricula that include “critical race theory” (which is not taught in elementary and secondary schools), “anti-police” attitudes, and sex education.

“The challenges pretty consistently are concerned with books that deal with LGBTQ identities, with sexual activity, or sexual assaults, or themes of racism, immigration, diversity,” Friedman says. “And in particular, anti-racism.”

In some cases, community members have also sought criminal charges against libraries or librarians for having particular books on their shelves.

In East Bremerton, Washington, a parent tried to file charges against the school staff who purchased Gender Queer for the Olympic High School library. Kitsap County prosecutor Chad Enright reviewed the Washington obscenity statute, which includes a clause stating that it does not apply to libraries under state supervision. While the statute doesn’t specifically mention school libraries, Enright told SLJ that in his opinion it did apply to them.

The statute requires that the book be reviewed as a whole and that in order for the images to be deemed obscene, they must have been designed for the sole purpose of sexual stimulation. “I don’t think that the intent of any of these images is for sexual stimulation,” Enright says, “but more importantly, the book as a whole, I don’t see that it is written with the intent of sexual stimulation. This book tells a story that, I think, has very some very good redeeming qualities for the reader that is far different from sexual stimulation.”

Enright declined to prosecute. Nonetheless, according to local news reports, the school removed the sole copy of the book from its library, because of its “sexually explicit images”; a spokesperson said the graphic novel “was not thoroughly reviewed before placement in the library.”

. . . .

In Gillette, WY, a resident tried to press charges against the Campbell County Public Library because of five sex education books, including Cory Silverberg’s graphic novel Sex Is a Funny Word. The county attorney’s office sought assistance from an attorney in a neighboring county to review the case, and he determined it was not prosecutable.

Terri Lesley, the executive director of the Campbell County Library System, says that while she found the episode “discouraging,” at least it couldn’t happen again. “We went through a process and now there’s an opinion on it that says that’s not prosecutable,” she says. “There is an exemption for public libraries and schools. They went through the different statutes methodically, so it’s a pretty strong document.”

Campbell County residents also filed 57 challenges, targeting 29 books, two of which are graphic novels—Gender Queer and A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex and Disability, by A. Andrews (Oni Press, 2020). The library has a well-established challenge system, which Lesley said was not used much in previous years. “It sure has been used a lot in the last six months,” she said.

Instead of going through the library’s process, Lesley says, the patrons went directly to the county commissioners, who aren’t involved with the process of challenging a book. But once people understood the process, Lesley said, “we started to receive a lot more” challenges. The library has elected to retain all the challenged books so far, although the two graphic novels were moved to the adult graphic novel section.

“That’s what a good Request for Reconsideration policy is all about,” Lesley says. “The manager reviewed the books and determined that that would have been adult content … so the manager made a decision to move the books to the adult graphic novel collection. And that happened at the meeting between the patron and the manager.”

James Lucas Jones, the publisher of Oni Press, says Gender Queer has always been marketed as an adult graphic novel. However, he points out, age ratings are a marketing tool. “The book won the ALA Alex Award and was an Israel Fishman nonfiction honoree, which would suggest that it had appeal beyond just being considered an ‘adult’ title,” he says.

Gender Queer is an important story that will resonate with anyone that reads it,” he says. “Maia’s experience is thoughtfully crafted, heartfelt, and relatable. Eir narrative is the kind of story that teens having similar feelings and concerns need to see out there, so they know they’re not alone. That’s such an important thing—to feel like your pain and heartache isn’t this singular, isolated thing, that others have felt that way and that there’s a path through it. Seeing the joy and relief in that journey is such a big deal, too.”

Link to the rest at School Library Journal

While PG acknowledges that censorship has a bad history and earned reputation, a public library is supported by public funds extracted in one way or the other from people living in one or more government subdivisions, typically community or county, often with a dollop of state funds included.

The public is the source of the funds and, PG believes, should have a voice in how those funds are spent, even down to the book level. Librarians are public employees, also paid with funds extracted from individuals whether those individuals want to pay them or not.

Invariably, charges of censorship are directed toward the general public in disputes similar to those described in the OP.

However, in the United States, other than the Library of Congress, librarians also make choices concerning what books the library will acquire and what books the library will not offer to the public. Should one or more librarians determine that a book is not appropriate for the library to acquire, they are engaged in a species of censorship themselves, denying members of the public who support the library from having ready and free access to that book.

Assume, for discussions’ sake that the library acquired a book that flatly stated that people of some races are inferior to people of some different races. Would the editors of The School Library Journal criticize those citizens who protested the racist books and demand they be removed?

Join the Fight for School Librarians

From Publishers Weekly:

I’m a children’s book author, a mom, and a grownup whose earliest childhood memories involve trips to the library. As a kid in the ’70s my mother would take me to the public library, where I’d fill my plastic flowered library bag to the brim. It was a magical and mysterious place, with its distinct smell of books and the Shakespeare portrait by the water fountain that gave me the creeps. At school, on crisp fall days, our librarian Mrs. Bright read us the Cranberryport series by Wende and Harry Devlin. She helped us discover our favorite authors and expertly guided us through book reports about unusual animals such as the aye-aye. My time in libraries was a treasure and a privilege—one that some kids will never know.

As a grownup, I know that things are not fair. Not all kids get to go to the public library or bookstores on weekends. Not all homes have shelves brimming with books, or parents who read bedtime stories. For some kids, their best—and possibly only—chance to interact in a meaningful way with books is at school.

School library programs provide equal access to books, technology, and research skills—lifelong and life-altering benefits. School library programs improve students’ literacy outcomes, test scores, and even graduation rates.

In addition to providing equal access to materials, there are social-emotional benefits to having trained librarians in schools as well. Kids feel seen by a knowledgeable adult, a reading concierge of sorts, who recognizes what they like to read and can show them to new and interesting books, topics, and authors. In the school library, kids have choice, autonomy, and freedom. This differs greatly from the classroom, where reading can be mired in leveling, mechanics, and even shame at not being on par with other students. It’s in the school library where children truly choose books for pleasure, where they fall in love with them and become life-long readers.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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, 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