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 Amazon.com, Potash didn’t respond. Later, he said, with a touch of pride, “This is like coming into the front door of Costco.”

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Summer Book Kit Giveaway at The New York Public Library

From The New York Public Library:

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at The New York Public Library

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

Where Is Our Spotify for Books?

From Slate:

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

But there is a giant problem.

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Slate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not so difficult after all, is it?

OverDrive to Acquire Kanopy

From Publishers Weekly:

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

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

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

Care, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper

From The Library of Congress:

Proper Care and Handling of Works on Paper

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

Take proper care when handling flat works on paper by:

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

Proper Storage of Works on Paper

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

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

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

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

Dealing with Condition Problems

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

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

Link to the rest at The Library of Congress

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

School Libraries Are the Bedrocks of Freedom

From Publishers Weekly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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

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

Mandatory Ebook Licenses for Public Libraries

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

Please share any thoughts or opinions in the comments.

Link to Bill

How Libraries Can Help Us Make a More Perfect Union

From Publishers Weekly:

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Publishing Perspectives:

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Lockdown made our library better

From The Bookseller:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Lost Libraries

From The Paris Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Book Riot:

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Book Riot

The Libraries of My Life

From The Paris Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Encouraging Reading for Pleasure While The World Is on Fire

From Book Riot:

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

READING ALOUD

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

. . . .

MANGA CLUB

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

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Little Free Library Launches Read in Color Diversity Initiative

From Publishers Weekly:

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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

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

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

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

Here’s an example of a Little Free Library:

Photo via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

How libraries are writing a new chapter during the pandemic

From National Geographic:

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

. . . .

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at National Geographic

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

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

Melk Abbey Library via Wikipedia

Virus-Responsive Design

From American Libraries:

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at American Libraries

Library Supporters Urge Action as Senate Recesses Without Relief Bill

From Publishers Weekly:

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Keeping a Connection to Your Library

From Publishers Weekly:

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Libraries could be leaders once again

From The Bookseller:

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

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

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

These are both hard problems.

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

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

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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

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

From REALM:

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at REALM