Little Free Library Marks a Decade of Book Sharing

From Publishing Perspectives:

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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

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

Donegal Library Book Returned After More Than 80 Years

From The BBC:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

. . . .

He said the book was deemed to be very rare.

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at The BBC

A Gift from a Stranger Tucked into a Book

From CNN:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

Jost was deeply moved.

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

. . . .

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at CNN

Ebooks at the Library: Delving into the Labyrinth

From All About Romance:

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at All About Romance

Private Libraries That Inspire

From The Wall Street Journal:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

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

On Creating Bookshelves for an All-Digital Public Library

From BookRiot:

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

#BOOKFACE SHELF

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

DYSTOPIAN NOVELS ARE SO 1984 SHELF

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

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

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

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

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

From School Library Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at School Library Journal

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

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

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

From The Guardian:

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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

From The Conversation:

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at The Conversation

I Spent Three Days a Week for 10 Years

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

~ Ray Bradbury

In Praise of Public Libraries

From The New York Review of Books:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

From The Wall Street Journal:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal


Finland’s Flagship Library Oodi Opens to the Public in Helsinki

From YLE.fi:

The new Helsinki Central Library Oodi – Finland’s largest and arguably most lavish – opened its doors to the public on Wednesday.

Although it’s technically a library, it goes far beyond merely a place to borrow books. The facility features many spaces for meeting people and socialising, and offers the opportunity for people to participate in activities like readings, workshops and special events.

Apart from books and other reading materials, Oodi is also equipped with 3D printing gear and sewing machines for creators, rehearsal rooms for musicians, a small cinema and spaces that can be reserved for a variety of uses. There’s also a café as well as the possibility to try out virtual reality technology.

. . . .

The significant investment in Oodi represents the central role that public libraries play in Finland. It is also a symbol of how the country has changed from the time the first public library was founded in Vaasa in 1794.

During the 1800s, the number of public libraries increased and the idea was to offer Finns the possibility of learning to read and increase literacy. The libraries of the time were financed and maintained by different foundations and organizations.

”We have had a very strong idea that literacy will take Finland forward. Without libraries our county would not have developed into its current welfare state status,” says Rauha Maarno, Director of the Finnish Library Association.

The period following the First and Second World Wars until the 1980s was the so-called Golden Age of libraries in Finland. Libraries were built at a rapid pace and the number of users grew rapidly.

. . . .

With the addition of Oodi, there are now 730 public libraries in Finland.

Finnish libraries are also well used and book-borrowing is among the world’s highest. In the Nordic countries, Finland is number one in terms of library usage.

Last year nearly one million people attended events at libraries in Finland last year.

Link to the rest at YLE.fi

PG will note that Finland has a total population of about 5.5 million.


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Open Access: Germany’s De Gruyter Signs ‘Read and Publish’ Deal

From Publishing Perspectives:

The Berlin-based independent publisher De Gruyter has announced this week the signing of a “read and publish” agreement with Iowa State University Library, the first of its kind for the German house in North America.

The three-year pilot agreement, according to the publisher’s media messaging, “allows for all articles written by authors at Iowa State University to be made open access immediately upon publication.

“In addition, Iowa State patrons will be provided with access to De Gruyter’s “Research Now by De Gruyter” package, which includes all De Gruyter journals that are subscribed to by North American ARL institutions.”

De Gruyter’s “hybrid journal pricing structure” is in play here, with journal subscription prices adjusted based on the percentage of open access articles. A deep discount is provided, as well, the company says, “to Iowa State authors who publish their articles in one of De Gruyter’s many pure open access journals.”

. . . .

OA2020 is to a Munich-based collaborative effort signed by institutions in many parts of the world to replace “the subscription business model with new models that ensure outputs are open and re-usable and that the costs behind their dissemination are transparent and economically sustainable.”

The endorsement carries several stipulations to which signatories agree.

First, they’re asked if they agree that:

  • Researchers should retain full rights to share their work and the freedom to publish in the journals of their choice and participate in the publishing services they wish
  • The current subscription model, with its ever-rising paywalls, is an unsustainable barrier to the full fruition of scientific research and the fundamental objectives of open access
  • Scholarly publishing should be supported with economically sustainable and transparent business models and released from the constraints of an obsolete system of dissemination

And then they’re asked to promote the primary principle: “We aim to transform a majority of today’s scholarly journals from subscription to OA publishing in accordance with community-specific publication preferences. At the same time, we continue to support new and improved forms of OA publishing.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Binding the Ghost: On the Physicality of Literature

From The Millions:

At Piazza Maunzio Bufalini 1 in Cesena, Italy, there is a stately sandstone building of buttressed reading rooms, Venetian windows, and extravagant masonry that holds slightly under a half-million volumes, including manuscripts, codices, incunabula, and print. Commissioned by Malatesta Novello in the 15th century, the Malatestiana Library opened its intricately carved walnut door to readers in 1454, at the height of the Italian Renaissance. The nobleman who funded the library had his architects borrow from ecclesiastical design: The columns of its rooms evoke temples, its seats the pews that would later line cathedrals, its high ceilings as if in monasteries.

Committed humanist that he was, Novello organized the volumes of his collection through an idiosyncratic system of classification that owed more to the occultism of Neo-Platonist philosophers like Marsilio Ficino, who wrote in nearby Florence, or Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who would be born shortly after its opening, than to the arid categorization of something like our contemporary Dewey Decimal System. For those aforementioned philosophers, microcosm and macrocosm were forever nestled into and reflecting one another across the long line of the great chain of being, and so Novello’s library was organized in a manner that evoked the connections of both the human mind in contemplation as well as the universe that was to be contemplated itself. Such is the sanctuary described by Matthew Battles in Library: An Unquiet Historywhere a reader can lift a book and test its heft, can appraise “the fall of letterforms on the title page, scrutinizing marks left by other readers … startled into a recognition of the world’s materiality by the sheer number of bound volumes; by the sound of pages turning, covers rubbing; by the rank smell of books gathered together in vast numbers.”

. . . .

There were libraries that celebrated curiosity before, like the one at Alexandria whose scholars demanded that the original of every book brought to port be deposited within while a reproduction would be returned to the owner. And there were collections that embodied cosmopolitanism, such as that in the Villa of Papyri, owned by Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, the uncle of Julius Caesar, which excavators discovered in the ash of Herculaneum, and that included sophisticated philosophical and poetic treatises by Epicurus and the Stoic Chrysopsis. But what made the Malatestiana so remarkable wasn’t its collections per se (though they are), but rather that it was built not for the singular benefit of the Malatesta family, nor for a religious community, and that unlike in monastic libraries, its books were not rendered into place by a heavy chain. The Bibliotheca Malatestiana would be the first of a type—a library for the public.

Link to the rest at The Millions

Here are a couple of photos of the Malatestiana Library:

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Diego Baglieri [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

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È permesso copiare, distribuire e/o modificare questo documento in base ai termini della GNU Free Documentation License, Versione 1.2 o successive pubblicata dalla Free Software Foundation; senza alcuna sezione non modificabile, senza testo di copertina e senza testo di quarta di copertina. Una copia della licenza è inclusa nella sezione intitolata Testo della GNU Free Documentation License. Questo file è licenziato in base ai termini della licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione-Condividi allo stesso modo 3.0 Unported

Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor, and OverDrive

From Indies Unlimited:

Those of you who use Draft2Digital to distribute eBooks outside of Amazon should have recently received a message that Draft2Digital has now partnered with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 eBook distribution platform.

Baker & Taylor, a massive distributor of books, movies, DVDs, and other entertainment, has been in business for over 180 years.

. . . .

But wait, you may be thinking (or at least I was), Draft2Digital already uses OverDrive to reach libraries. Why do we also need Baker & Taylor?

The short answer is that they offer different services and are used by different libraries. The long answer is more complicated.

OverDrive, as you probably know, also distributes eBooks to schools and libraries. OverDrive was founded in 1986, originally to convert analog video and audio media to a digital format. In 2000, they extended their business online and began what would eventually become one of the first – and biggest – eBook distributors to retailers, libraries, and schools. OverDrive is compatible with just about any ereader on the market.

. . . .

When Baker & Taylor decided to branch out into the distribution of eBooks, they became … well, you could say frenemies … with OverDrive. In 2009, believing they were forming an exclusive partnership, OverDrive signed on to help Baker & Taylor develop their own eBook distribution services, one that was superior to the one OverDrive was currently using. They even gave Baker & Taylor access to their list of accounts, sales and marketing data, inventory, and servers. It didn’t end well.

Now they’re competitors when it comes to distributing eBooks to libraries. Some libraries use both systems; some only use one. Because OverDrive has been in the business of eBook distribution longer, they’re used by more libraries and have, according to some, better developed technology. Because Baker & Taylor has over 180 years of paperback and hardback book distribution behind them, they’re catching up quickly.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

PG notes that libraries tend to purchase their books from sales organizations that tailor their services to meet the needs of libraries.

By opening their doors to indie authors via Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive are making it possible for libraries to easily purchase books from local indie authors as well as the increasing number of nationally-known and read authors who self-publish.

The Competitive Book Sorters Who Spread Knowledge Around New York

From Atlas Obscura:

The Lyngsoe Systems Compact Cross Belt Sorter hogs most of a drab, boxy basement under an unremarkable office building in Queens—238 feet of fast-flying conveyor belt, like a cross between a baggage carousel and a racetrack. The machine scans the barcodes on thousands of library books an hour, and shoves them quickly, efficiently into bins so they can make their way between branches of the New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries.

Requested books are dropped off here every day by the truckload and, once processed, are promptly shuffled off to eager readers all over the city.

A day’s work is typically about 40,000 requests, and each one of those books needs to be placed—by hand—onto an empty space on the relentless sorter, with the barcode facing the right way.

But November 9, 2018, is no ordinary day. For the sixth time, an elite squad of 12 professional New York sorters—the fleet-fingered men and women who feed books into the machine—will compete with their counterparts from Washington State’s King County Library System to see who can process the most books in an hour.

Losing to King County, which serves the Seattle suburbs and was the first library in the United States to get a Lyngsoe sorter, is not an option.

Enter Sal Magaddino, Deputy Director of Logistics for BookOps, the collaboration between the New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries that operates this facility. Formerly the NYPD captain in charge of Brooklyn’s major crimes investigations, Magaddino glides around the machine, with one hand gesturing to its component parts and the other clutching a styrofoam cup of coffee. Wearing a checked suit, he gloats in consummate Brooklynese about the remarkable operation this beast enables.

Sorting items that move every day from the tip of the Bronx to the lip of Staten Island, his team tallied nearly 7.5 million successful deliveries last year. It seems like an odd gig for a former major crimes investigator, but to him it brings to mind the challenges of the 2000 World Series, when the Yankees played the Mets and Magaddino helped secure the airspace for the NYPD. “You have to have a logistic component” when dealing with homicides and robberies, he says. You have to know “how to use resources.”

It is the same here, and the whirring giant in the room is only one of his resources; another is the team being put to the test today. A perfect score for them—not a book slot missed—would be an astonishing 12,800, the most the machine can handle in an hour. And that’s his goal. A perfect game in the World Series.

. . . .

With minutes to go until game time, the 12 elite sorters have emerged, wearing matching BookOps T-shirts. They march toward the machine as if boarding Apollo 11. The offices upstairs have emptied into the basement, and a wide variety of library personnel fill every available space in the room to cheer the sorters on. “We’re gonna take ‘em down, it’s not gonna be an issue,” says Michael Genao, a 22-year-old sophomore sorter with a linebacker’s build. “I guarantee it,” he adds, as he paces between his teammates, the last few bites of a chocolate donut in his hand.

“You guys are the best in the world,” Magaddino assures his team. “I know you’re gonna prove it today. So the only thing I ask is that you give it 100 percent, and when your hands start cramping, just move on, get through it. It’s only an hour.”

. . . .

The sorters take their places, two to a station. Miguel Roman, Manager of Automatic Distribution, reminds them, “We have no malice, they just have what we deserve.” As observers are escorted to a safe viewing distance, away from where new batches of books arrive by motorized cart, Kanye starts booming, red lights start spinning, gears start churning, and books start flying.

The belt on the machine goes by at 1.5 meters per second, which looks faster than it sounds. It’s covered with square pads, and the idea is to get one book, properly oriented, onto each, which carries it under a bright red barcode scanner. Then, after a quick hairpin turn, they head down a long straightaway lined with bins, each marked for a different branch. The system is smart enough to know just where to deposit each item without slowing.

In each sorting team, one member stacks arriving books, while the other deftly shuttles them onto the pads. It’s a simple proposition but a complicated task, requiring the nimble dexterity and improvisational flair of a jazz drummer. The sorting teams are in sequence along the belt, so not every pad is unoccupied as it passes by—the pattern is always changing.

. . . .

As they stream by, the books are a reflection of the city itself. There’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, for a child just learning to read. Then there’s a slew of how-to and self-help, from SAT prep to Economics for Dummies to a five-copy stack of Easy Vegan BakingTo Kill a MockingbirdCat on a Hot Tin Roof, and As I Lay Dying are there for the literary types, alongside biographies of Richard Nixon, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Frida Kahlo. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Barack Obama’s Change We Can Believe In, and a book of essays on race called We Can’t Breathe join the “Twilight” series, a chunky Ayn Rand opus, and lots and lots of Lee Child thrillers. It’s like a look into New York City’s mind, through the 8.6 million minds that compose it.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura and thanks to Davd for the tip.

The Books That Saved My Life in Prison

From Medium:

From where I grew up on Division Avenue in Washington, D.C., it was eight blocks to the East Capitol Library. The route was through the Lincoln Heights Houses, a notorious public housing project, but I walked it by myself at least once a week. This was the late 1980s; bullet casings and baggies littered the ground. Crack never came in vials in my neighborhood.

At East Capitol, I escaped that reality. I traveled the world: China, England, Africa. I listened in wonder to stories of the great ancient library at Alexandria in Egypt, which in my mind was a hundred stories tall and where all the sailors came to find maps of the world. I checked out children’s versions of classics and read them at night, wrapped in my sheet on the floor. There were so many drive-bys, I was afraid a stray bullet might come through the window and hit me if I slept up high in my bed.

I thought, The world is so big. It’s full of ideas and people. I can go anywhere. I can do anything. I can be anyone I want.

It didn’t happen. At 17, I killed a man in a confrontation. I was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole. I sat on my bunk that day, in my solitary confinement cell, and cried, because my life was over.

About a year later, I noticed an inmate named Steve. He was a lifer like me, in since 15, but he read books every day, all day. One day, I asked what he was reading. He showed me a book on computer coding. I laughed in his face. We didn’t even have computers at Patuxent in those days. Who was he fooling?

But I admired his persistence, and I admired his optimism. Steve didn’t care what other people thought. He didn’t care about the odds. Despite his impossible sentence, he was determined to make something of his life.

So I started reading. Not computer coding! I read about entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban. I read about historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Leonardo da Vinci, and Napoleon. I loved Napoleon, because he was an outsider like me. Nobody wanted him. But he went to a library and learned everything there was to know about military tactics so he’d be ready when they couldn’t deny him anymore.

. . . .

I read self-help books, too, like Leil Lowndes’ How to Talk to Anyone. Other prisoners laughed at me: “What, Chris, you don’t know how to talk?”

I said, “I’m improving myself, inside and out. I’m improving my body and my mind. You should too. Just because you’re in here doesn’t mean you can’t do great things.”

Steve became more than my best friend. He became my brother. We got cells across from each other and exchanged books through the bars. My family wrote me off. My mom said, “You got life. What’s the point?” and stopped answering my calls. Steve’s parents took me in. They offered to spend $50 a month on things I needed. It was the first spending money I ever had. I asked them to buy me books. I kept the best ones on a shelf in my cell. The rest I loaned out to other inmates or gave to the prison library.

Eventually, I got my GED. Then Steve and I convinced the prison to start a college program. In college, we had full access to the prison library. I lived in that library. I lived for that library. It took me everywhere: deep into outer space, deep into history, and even deeper into myself. I’ve probably spent more than 10,000 hours in the Patuxent library. I’m practically a librarian!

. . . .

I didn’t just live for that library. I lived because of that library. The Patuxent prison library saved me from crushing despair. It saved hundreds of other guys, too.

. . . .

People often ask about my favorite book. It’s 500 Spanish Verbs, a book I carried with me every day for more than four years while I taught myself the language. (I’m fluent in Italian, too.) For me, that book is a symbol of my hard work and commitment.

Link to the rest at Medium

Librarians Are Heroic

From The Literary Hub:

Libraries function in myriad ways. They’re public spaces, information repositories, and places you can go to break the copy machine by stuffing them full of broken crayons. They’re also living organisms—a body that is constantly morphing and shifting, aligning itself with whatever the community needs. A library is the materials it houses, but it’s also the people who use it.

Susan Orlean writes about the library body extensively in her upcoming book, The Library Book. Her work examines how libraries function—including deft research of essential library history and an investigation of the massive fire that incinerated over 400,000 at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986—but it’s also a look at how loss and trauma can lead to necessary growth. The book is startling and gorgeous. As a librarian, I find it to be an essential text on the past, present, and future of libraries.

. . . .

Kristen Arnett: You speak a lot about libraries as community spaces. You talk about the ever-present noise; how odd it is when you’re finally in the building before opening and it’s actually quiet for once. Libraries are generally bustling! Was this surprising to you? Did you find yourself preferring the noise over the quiet?

Susan Orlean: There’s such a stereotypical image of a library as being a hushed place with stern librarians keeping everyone quiet, so it was a delight to realize that libraries are lively, bubbling with activity and even conversation. I found the noise really pleasant—it’s the noise of people engaged in what they’re doing, which delighted me.

KA: I know we both prolifically use Twitter—have you noticed a difference in how libraries are keeping up with their communities via social media platforms? Have you had any libraries approach you this way regarding your book?

SO: Social media has been a great boon for libraries—it allows them to stay connected to their communities and highlight their programming. I’ve had a lot of libraries say hello to me on Twitter since I began tweeting about the book, and I love it. I also love how being active on social media makes libraries feel like part of the here-and-now and not the fusty old institutions some people might imagine them to be.

. . . .

KA: Since you don’t work in libraries, did you come up against any push back from librarians or library staff about writing this book? Were there any issues with providing information for your book regarding privacy rights of patrons?

SO: The librarians I encountered were all helpful and patient and, I think, excited that someone was looking at their profession with real interest. There were details about patrons that they couldn’t share, but it never became an impediment to my reporting. I loved writing about librarians; they remember everything and they’re so organized that they could find anything they wanted to share with me!

. . . .

KA: When I was in undergrad, I had a professor who told me they didn’t use library books because they didn’t like the idea of someone else having that book before them. You write a lot about the appeal of new books—that idea of owning something personal and important, the particular smell, the feel and sound of cracking a fresh spine. What would you say is the allure of circulating materials? Is there a different kind of love affair to be had with a book that a community owns versus a book that a single person owns?

SO: There is something about sharing that makes a library book different; maybe it’s just our ability to imagine who else has held the book and experienced reading it before us, and who might after us. It’s like being part of a daisy chain of narrative. There is also something heartening about being part of a community that shares—the way being in a public park has a different feeling than being in a private backyard. It feels good to know we can cooperate with one another peacefully.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

PG thinks he may have experienced the appeal of new books when he was young. However, the cost of buying books during college and law school dimmed that appeal and it has never brightened since.

A used book was a much better experience. Obviously, it didn’t cost nearly as much as a new book, but there was sometimes the added bonus of someone smart being the original owner and underlining the important parts.

When he first was looking at a used book that had been underlined, PG sub-consciously analyzed the academic skill of the prior owner to determine how much he could count on the underlining to skim past the dull parts while still getting the gist of the topic necessary for the final exam. If the bookstore had more than one used book for a course, PG sometimes compared the underlines of the books to select the most valuable one for acquisition.

When he went to law school, he usually encountered a somewhat different situation that reflected the developing business philosophy of academic publishers. Legal publishers issued new editions of their case books quite often. (In the United States, legal textbooks, particularly for lower-level classes, are often composed of case summaries that illustrate the particular legal principle being taught. It is (or was) not unusual to find excerpts from the original decision written by the court comprising over 90% of a summary with only small additions from the publisher.)

Often the changes between the new edition and prior edition were small, but the addition of a new case summary that wasn’t in the previous edition and which might be the subject of one or two class periods increased the risks of buying a used legal text. Given enough advance notice, a student might be able to obtain a copy of the original case opinion from the school library, but casebooks would often distill a 20-page court decision down to 3-4 pages that illustrated a particular legal principle that was only part of the original opinion so there was a time penalty involved in reading the entire opinion.

Growing Up in the Library

From The New Yorker:

I grew up in libraries, or at least it feels that way. My family lived in the suburbs of Cleveland, about a mile from the brick-faced Bertram Woods Branch of the Shaker Heights Public Library system. Throughout my childhood, starting when I was very young, my mother drove me there a couple of times a week. We walked in together, but, as soon as we passed through the door, we split up, each heading to our favorite section. The library might have been the first place that I was ever given independence. Even when I was maybe four or five years old, I was allowed to go off on my own. Then, after a while, my mother and I reunited at the checkout counter with our finds. Together, we waited as the librarian pulled out each date card and, with a loud chunk-chunk, stamped a crooked due date on it, below a score of previous crooked due dates that belonged to other people, other times.

Our visits were never long enough for me—the library was so bountiful. I loved wandering around the shelves, scanning the spines of the books until something happened to catch my eye. Those trips were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived. It wasn’t like going to a store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug-of-war between what I desired and what she was willing to buy me; in the library, I could have anything I wanted.

. . . .

When I was older, I usually walked to the library by myself, lugging as many books as I could carry. Occasionally, I did go with my mother, and the trip remained as enchanted as it had been when I was small. Even when I was in my last year of high school and could drive to the library, my mother and I still went together now and then, and the trip unfolded exactly as it used to, with all the same beats and pauses and comments and reveries, the same pensive rhythm. My mother died two years ago, and since then, when I miss her, I like to picture us in the car together, going for one more magnificent trip to Bertram Woods.

My family was big on the library. We were very much a reading family, but we were more a borrow-a-book-from-the-library family than a bookshelves-full-of-books family. My parents valued books, but they had grown up in the Depression, aware of the quicksilver nature of money, and they had learned the hard way that you shouldn’t buy what you could borrow. Because of that frugality, or perhaps despite it, they also believed that you should read a book for the experience of reading it. You shouldn’t read it in order to have an object that had to be housed and looked after forever, a memento of the purpose for which it was obtained. The reading of the book was a journey. There was no need for souvenirs.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker 

Library hours across England slashed by austerity

From The Guardian:

Library hours have been slashed across England since the introduction of austerity, new figures reveal.

Data gathered by the Labour party shows that over the past eight years 117 local authorities have jointly cut access to books and other public services by more than 230,000 hours. And more than half of the 2,208 libraries that submitted information admitted they had shut their doors for 21% of the time they were normally open in 2010.

. . . .

“Every lost library hour is a lost opportunity for learning and this data reveals that Tory austerity is taking its toll on libraries up and down the country,” said Kevin Brennan MP, the shadow culture minister. “The decline in opening hours is a travesty this government should urgently remedy. Libraries Week is a time to appreciate all the things our public libraries do for us; providing welcome support to everyone, from toddlers to pensioners.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Do we really still need Banned Books Week?

From The Washington Post:

If you tell anyone, I’ll deny it, but I’ve been irritated for a long time by Banned Books Week. Despite my unqualified support for the freedom to read, the annual celebration, which began Sunday, has always struck me as shrill and inaccurate. I know the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association and other fine sponsors are doing important, necessary work. I just wish Banned Books Week didn’t appear to exaggerate a problem that’s largely confined to our repressive past.

All week in bookstores and libraries around the country, you’ll see displays, banners and special events like the Drag Queen Story Hour at the Brooklyn Public Library on Wednesday. Central to these celebrations is the annual list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books. This year, like most years, that list includes: Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and other fantastic, award-winning novels that only the most ignorant and backward people would object to.

. . . .

Which is part of the problem. Are we winning any converts with this annual orgy of self-righteousness? The rhetoric of Banned Books Week is pitched at such a fervent level that crucial distinctions are burned away by the fire of our moral certainty, which is an ill that wide reading should cure not exacerbate.

And what books are actually, effectively “banned” in the United States nowadays? The titles on the Top 10 Most Challenged list, in fact, sell hundreds of thousands of copies every year. How many authors would kill to be “challenged” like that?

James LaRue, from the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, is ready for these quibbles even before I call him. He’s heard them before, but he answers my questions with the patience and clarity of a good librarian — which he once was.

“Who are we kidding?” I ask him. “Books aren’t ‘banned’ in this country anymore. The Supreme Court has made that impossible.”

But LaRue nudges me away from the legal meaning of the term “banned” to consider the lived experience of a vulnerable, lonely reader:

“There are so many places like in rural communities where you say, ‘Well, the book isn’t banned. It’s still been published. It’s still available on Amazon. It’s still in a bookstore.’ But let’s say you’re a young gay kid, and you go to your library, and David Levithan’s ‘Two Boys Kissing’ has been removed, and so you don’t know that it’s there. You don’t have a credit card to get it from Amazon. You can’t hop in a car if you’re 14 years old and drive to a bookstore. So the ban is not a trivial thing. It’s a deliberate suppression of a viewpoint that has real consequences for people.”

. . . .

But what about the way Banned Books Week implicitly stigmatizes anyone who objects to a librarian’s or a teacher’s judgment? The vast majority of people who “challenge” titles are simply parents concerned about the age-appropriateness of books their children are being exposed to. Doesn’t Banned Books Week carelessly lump together the interested mother with the book-burning Nazi?

“If I say, ‘I don’t want my child to read this,’ you have the right to do that,” LaRue acknowledges. “But when you try to remove it from the library, you’re saying that other people’s children don’t have the right to read it.” That, he suggests, is the hallmark of an intolerant society.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG suggests there are certain groups of people who enjoy the frisson that accompanies protests that stick it to the man without actually risking anything and protecting “vulnerable, lonely readers” without actually knowing any.

The biggest threat to libraries in “rural communities” is the lack of money to acquire books and keep the lights on. There’s also the inconvenient truth that a great many people who read are reading on the internet. Spending a dollar to improve internet access might bring more benefits to vulnerable, lonely readers than spending a dollar on a physical library.

This Is What Being an Elementary School Librarian Means to Me Today

From Brightly:

In one way or another, I have worked in the world of kids’ books for more than two decades now — yet, it wasn’t until I began my job as a librarian four years ago that I truly realized how much books connect and create community. As an elementary school librarian, I am the one person on campus who interacts with every student in every class on a weekly — and for many, daily — basis. My hours are spent cultivating connections with my 600 students, learning their reading levels and interests, putting the right book in their hands and creating a warm, welcoming, and, yes, noisy space where they feel safe and know they belong.

Children’s books and literacy are my passions and I am grateful for every day that I get to share this love with kids. I could spend my days tracking down lost books, collecting fines, running reports, and teaching the Dewey Decimal System, but that would drastically cut into the time I have to share my love for books and the marvels of reading, see the excitement in the faces of my students when I describe a book I just read, and show them the next, newest book in a series they are reading.

Less than half of the third, fourth, and fifth graders at my school are reading at grade level, and working with kids who struggle with reading was a new experience for me when I became a librarian. During my many years as a children’s bookseller, I found myself interacting most often with kids (and adults) who were book lovers and only occasionally encountering reluctant readers. On a more personal level, growing up in a house filled with books, my three kids naturally gravitated towards them and had little choice but to become readers.

I have learned a lot from engaging with students who struggle to learn read. From the hurdles English language learners face to the dynamics of language acquisition and building vocabulary, I am experiencing kids’ books — and kids themselves — in a whole new way. Where I used to read every new kids’ book that caught my eye, both for review on my website and to share with customers, I’ve found that many new releases are not accessible to my students. I now work to bring high interest, low-level books, especially with diverse characters and authors, to the shelves of my library. Now I spend my days helping students find books, listening to them tell me about the books they are reading, and reading the mini-book reports I reward (bribe) students for writing.

Link to the rest at Brightly

PG says the author sounds like a terrific librarian.

Penguin Random House Changes Library E-book Lending Terms

From Publishers Weekly:

In an August 30 letter to library customers, Penguin Random House announced that it is changing its terms for library e-book lending. But unlike Macmillan’s controversial decision to experiment with a four-month embargo on new Tor titles, PRH officials say their change is “good news.”

As of October 1, 2018, PRH is moving from a perpetual access model (where libraries pay a higher price but retain access to the e-book forever) to a metered model (with lower prices on e-books that expire after two years). In a letter to library customers, PRH v-p Skip Dye said the change was made after listening to librarians’ feedback.

“We have heard–loud and clear–that while libraries appreciate the concept of ‘perpetual access,’ the reality is that circs for many titles drop off dramatically six to eight months after the initial release. This is true especially for fiction bestsellers,” Dye wrote. “Most librarians are telling us they would rather pay lower prices across our frontlists and backlists, in exchange for a copy that expires after a given time period. In response to this feedback, we are happy to tell you that we will be lowering our prices on our entire catalogue of adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction titles. Under our new terms, e-books will expire after two years from original purchase date with the aligned pricing lowered for our e-books.”

After October 1, libraries’ previously purchased ‘perpetual access’ e-books will remain permanently owned. In addition, PRH announced that the publisher will be creating a program exclusively for academic libraries, under which they will be able to purchase perpetual access copies, although at “a significantly higher price” than public library copies.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

NYC Library Takes Novel Approach, Posting Books to Instagram

From The Wall Street Journal:

For generations, the New York Public Library has given cardholders the opportunity to head to their local branch and borrow a book. Since 2005, it also has provided them with the option of going online and checking out an e-book.

Now, the library is going a step further and posting classic novels and short stories to its account on Instagram, the Facebook Inc. -owned photo- and video-sharing platform.

The new service, dubbed “Insta Novels,” will be available to all Instagram users starting Wednesday, regardless of whether they have a NYPL card or live in New York City.

The library is starting with just one offering: Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In the months that follow, it plans to add two more: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Franz Kafka’s novella, “The Metamorphosis.”

The idea is to use Instagram to promote reading in general and the NYPL brand in particular, library officials said. It also aims to show that libraries are changing with the times and fully adapting to the digital era.

“We want people to understand that libraries aren’t just those brick-and-mortar places full of dusty books,” said Christopher Platt, the NYPL’s chief branch library officer.

. . . .

The technology works in such a way that when readers are on the Instagram app, they hold the page of a book by resting their thumb on the screen, library officials said. They turn the page by lifting their thumb.

The experience is “unmistakably like reading a paperback novel,” Corinna Falusi, Mother in New York’s partner and chief creative officer, said in a statement.

. . . .

Michael D. D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, a New York City-based watchdog group, said the emphasis on online reading works against the idea of libraries as physical spaces where books are curated and knowledge is shared.

“It diminishes the sense of place and purpose,” he said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Here’s a link to the kickoff post of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that worked for PG. Click on the Play symbol.

The Crack Squad of Librarians Who Track Down Half-Forgotten Books

From Atlas Obscura:

The carpet was khaki, the lights yellow, the walls a dishwater beige. The basement computer lab in Midtown Manhattan didn’t have much ambience. But 20 librarians from the New York Public Library were seated in the room—and they were there to crack mysteries. Their tools were a whiteboard, a marker, a series of screens, and a metal bell of the sort you’d find on a hotel-lobby desk. Whenever it dinged, it meant a case had been closed.

Before we each had a little, flickering encyclopedia in our hands, we had librarians, and they’re still experts at finding the answers to tricky questions. Through the Ask NYPL portal, a decades-old phone and text service, the staff has triaged everything from queries about the Pope’s sex life to what it means if you dream about being chased by elephants. The library staff are ace researchers with a massive trove at their fingertips. A sense of mystery in their work comes when people approach them with vague questions and patchy details—particularly when they’re looking for books, but they don’t remember the authors or titles.

A few years ago, staffers in the New York Public Library’s reader services division drafted a blog post about how to track down a book when its title eludes you. This post spurred a follow-up, in which reader services librarian Gwen Glazer recommended library resources and a number of other strategies (among them are Goodreads groups, a sprawling Reddit thread called whatsthatbook, an indie bookseller in Ohio who is happy to poke around for a $4 fee). Thanks to Google—“how to find a book”—many stumped people seem to land on that post, and they have often written about their enduring puzzles in the comments section. The messages now number in the thousands. Glazer says she often arrives at work to see another 10 title requests.

To solve these little mysteries, Glazer recently assembled a team of sleuths from across the branches: Chatham Square, in Chinatown; the Jefferson Market, in Greenwich Village; the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, near the Flatiron Building; and the Mulberry Street branch, in Nolita. At lunchtime on a recent Wednesday, they were gathered in that computer lab in the library’s offices—across the street from the soaring, spectacular Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (the Main Branch)—to nibble on homemade lemon rosemary cookies and apple, carrot, zucchini bread while they clattered away on their keyboards. Other members of the team participated remotely. The “Title Quest” hackathon was underway.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

Book enthusiasts get literary-themed tattoos at the Denver Public Library

From The Know:

Certified Tattoo Studios partnered with the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation to offer library- and literary-themed tattoos at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library on Sunday to raise money for the non-profit.

Tattoos were $50 to $200 and ranged from Dr. Seuss and Harry Potter to the library logo and a worm reading a book.

Nando Mondragon, owner of Certified, said he grew up loving books. He was incarcerated at 18 and, after his release, made it a goal to give back to his community.

Link to the rest at The Know

When PG first saw this item, he thought it might be a variation of book signings at the library.

Spectacular ancient public library discovered in Germany

From The Guardian:

The remains of the oldest public library in Germany, a building erected almost two millennia ago that may have housed up to 20,000 scrolls, have been discovered in the middle of Cologne.

The walls were first uncovered in 2017, during an excavation on the grounds of a Protestant church in the centre of the city. Archaeologists knew they were of Roman origins, with Cologne being one of Germany’s oldest cities, founded by the Romans in 50 AD under the name Colonia. But the discovery of niches in the walls, measuring approximately 80cm by 50cm, was, initially, mystifying.

“It took us some time to match up the parallels – we could see the niches were too small to bear statues inside. But what they are are kind of cupboards for the scrolls,” said Dr Dirk Schmitz from the Roman-Germanic Museum of Cologne. “They are very particular to libraries – you can see the same ones in the library at Ephesus.”

It is not clear how many scrolls the library would have held, but it would have been “quite huge – maybe 20,000”, said Schmitz. The building would have been slightly smaller than the famed library at Ephesus, which was built in 117 AD. He described the discovery as “really incredible – a spectacular find”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to HG for the tip.

An Ode to Libraries, the Original Co-Working Spaces

From Book Riot:

 After my son began daycare, I settled into a routine of sorts. I would drop him off and then search for the nearest café or coffee shop to set up shop—laptop, headphones, cell phone arranged on a table before me. I’d conduct interviews in my car, laptop perched on my lap, phone and audio recorder side by side.

. . . .

I’d buy lattes and scones out of guilt for taking up a table all morning, and then I’d decamp to another café or coffee shop in the afternoon. Rinse, repeat.

. . . .

Still, I felt like a drifter—like a cliché of a writer. Also, my latte budget was considerable. But at least it was cheaper (and closer) than a co-working space. Right?

“Have you tried the library?” my mother-in-law asked tentatively one day, after hearing about my latte guilt.

To…work? The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. I was ashamed to admit it. I hadn’t gone to a library to work since college—back when I needed a change of scenery and weak wifi to help me focus.

. . . .

The next day, I searched for public libraries instead of coffee shops, and I got down to work. After a few hours of excellent focus and absolutely no guilt, I was hooked.

My local libraries have tons of tables and chairs, loads of electrical outlets, clean bathrooms, private rooms for phone calls, unlimited wifi—even free coffee! And the best part (as if the coffee weren’t enough): Whenever I need motivation, I look up and see the hundreds of books and magazines surrounding me, and all of the people reading them—and then I keep writing.

. . . .

Once I loved libraries for the escape they provided—all of those books, all of those lives, just waiting for me to dive in. Now I love them for the refuge they give me—the peace and the space to jump into my work.

Link to the rest at Book Riot