Libraries

On Creating Bookshelves for an All-Digital Public Library

16 April 2019

From BookRiot:

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

#BOOKFACE SHELF

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

DYSTOPIAN NOVELS ARE SO 1984 SHELF

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

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

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

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


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BiblioTech Bexar County Digital Library - Exterior
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Tackling Copyright Concerns When Taking Storytime Online

13 April 2019

From School Library Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at School Library Journal

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

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

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

10 April 2019

From The Guardian:

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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

8 April 2019

From The Conversation:

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at The Conversation

If We Can Put a Man on the Moon

31 March 2019

If we can put a man on the moon and sequence the human genome, we should be able to devise something close to a universal digital public library.

~ Peter Singer

I Spent Three Days a Week for 10 Years

31 March 2019

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

~ Ray Bradbury

In Praise of Public Libraries

31 March 2019

From The New York Review of Books:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

10 March 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal


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