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.


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:


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


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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

Articles by Librarians Should Replace Opinion Pieces by The Uninformed

From BookRiot:

Yesterday morning, a coworker forwarded me the link to an article on the Forbes website, along with her commentary that was basically, “No. Just no, no, no, no, nope, no.”

Naturally, I had to follow that link. The headline alone made me inclined to agree with her reaction. The article, Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money, is another example of why people who don’t have the slightest idea about libraries shouldn’t write about them.

. . . .

Update: The article has since been deleted, I think in no small part because of the amount of backlash it drew.

. . . .

Basically, his main argument is exactly what it sounds like. He believes that libraries no longer have the same value they once had. He argues that the rise of digital technology, streaming services, Amazon books, and Starbucks have made libraries less vital to the community.

And he couldn’t be more wrong.

The whole article comes across as very clearly written by someone who doesn’t use his local library—and what I’m sure are the many resources it provides—and is out of touch with how libraries affect their communities. The article is written from a place of extreme out-of-touch privilege.

. . . .

To assume everyone has the same means to access digital resources, or Amazon books, or streaming services, or Starbucks is mind-bogglingly out of touch. Has he simply not spoken to people outside of his bubble lately? Because I’m not sure how best to break this to the author, but libraries are here to serve the public. The entire public. Which includes the large section of the public who need access to books they can’t just easily buy. Or computers they don’t have access to at home. Or a safe, comfortable space to hang out, where you don’t have to buy anything to have access.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Forbes suggested Amazon should replace libraries, and people aren’t having it

From FastCompany:

Forbes contributor wrote a short piece titled “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money,” arguing that libraries should be shuttered in return for Amazon opening bookstores in local communities. At the gist of the writer’s argument is that Starbucks has replaced libraries as a friendly place to go and read and streaming services like Amazon Prime Video have replaced video rentals, which many local libraries had provided.

. . . .

And then Twitter came to the rescue.

. . . .

“Seniors pay 200 or more to have someone do taxes, but the library does it for free. Free movies during the summer for kids. They make ice cream and crafts. During storms and emergencies they function as shelters. It’s almost like my tax dollars bring safety and joy to people.”

. . . .

“We provide computer and software training. We assist in job searches and all of the resources needed to do so. And in many rural communities, we are often the only source of internet access. In urban areas as well sometimes. Plus thousands of other services we offer.”

. . . .

“1/ My mother was a Librarian, and you are a simpleton.

In addition to what @vernaausten and others here have perfectly stated, many books, periodicals, recordings, microfilms, etc are still not digitized.

Amazon doesn’t offer local knowledge & Genealogical assistance…

2/ Amazon also doesn’t sponsor local special-interest seminars & clubs, or activities & workshops for teens & adults.

Amazon doesn’t offer English-language classes & ESL groups to help immigrants better their lives.

3/ And most importantly to every child & parent…

Amazon does not offer a hands-on experience– a treasure-trove of tactile learning, and a buffet of books, puzzles, videos, & experiences– for little kids to explore with their own hands & eyes.

4/ Studies have shown that kids who are given lots of experiences with paper books, learn to read & develop a deeper love of reading, far more than children who are given primarily a cell phone or iPad to read on. (Ebooks tend to be ignored in favor of games.)

We NEED Libraries!”

Link to the rest at FastCompany

Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money

From Forbes:

Amazon should open their own bookstores in all local communities. They can replace local libraries and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock.

There was a time local libraries offered the local community lots of services in exchange for their tax money. They would bring books, magazines, and journals to the masses through a borrowing system. Residents could borrow any book they wanted, read it, and return it for someone else to read.

They also provided residents with a comfortable place they could enjoy their books. They provided people with a place they could do their research in peace with the help of friendly librarians. Libraries served as a place where residents could hold their community events, but this was a function they shared with school auditoriums. There’s no shortage of places to hold community events.

Libraries slowly began to service the local community more. Libraries introduced video rentals and free internet access. The modern local library still provides these services, but they don’t have the same value they used to. The reasons why are obvious.

One such reason is the rise of “third places” such as Starbucks. They provide residents with a comfortable place to read, surf the web, meet their friends and associates, and enjoy a great drink. This is why some people have started using their loyalty card at Starbucks more than they use their library card.

. . . .

Then there’s the rise of digital technology. Technology has turned physical books into collector’s items, effectively eliminating the need for library borrowing services.

Of course, there’s Amazon Books to consider. Amazon have created their own online library that has made it easy for the masses to access both physical and digital copies of books. Amazon Books is a chain of bookstores that does what Amazon originally intended to do; replace the local bookstore. It improves on the bookstore model by adding online searches and coffee shops. Amazon Go basically combines a library with a Starbucks.

At the core, Amazon has provided something better than a local library without the tax fees. This is why Amazon should replace local libraries. The move would save taxpayers money and enhance the stockholder value of Amazon all in one fell swoop.

Link to the rest at Forbes

This University Library Discovered Three of Its Books Were Poisonous

From Science Alert:

Some may remember the deadly book of Aristotle that plays a vital part in the plot of Umberto Eco’s 1980 novel The Name of the Rose.

Poisoned by a mad Benedictine monk, the book wreaks havoc in a 14th-century Italian monastery, killing all readers who happen to lick their fingers when turning the toxic pages. Could something like this happen in reality? Poisoning by books?

Our recent research indicates so.

We found that three rare books on various historical topics in the University of Southern Denmark’s library collection contain large concentrations of arsenic on their covers. The books come from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The poisonous qualities of these books were detected by conducting a series of X-ray fluorescence analyses (micro-XRF).

. . . .

The reason why we took these three rare books to the X-ray lab was because the library had previously discovered that medieval manuscript fragments, such as copies of Roman law and canonical law, were used to make their covers.

It is well documented that European bookbinders in the 16th and 17th centuries used to recycle older parchments.

We tried to identify the Latin texts used, or at least read some of their content. But then we found that the Latin texts in the covers of the three volumes were hard to read because of an extensive layer of green paint which obscures the old handwritten letters.

So we took them to the lab. The idea was to filter through the layer of paint using micro-XRF and focus on the chemical elements of the ink below, for example on iron and calcium, in the hope of making the letters more readable for the university’s researchers.

But XRF-analysis revealed that the green pigment layer was arsenic. This chemical element is among the most toxic substances in the world and exposure may lead to various symptoms of poisoning, the development of cancer and even death.

. . . .

The green arsenic-containing pigment found on the book covers is thought to be Paris green, copper(II) acetate triarsenite or copper(II) acetoarsenite Cu(C₂H₃O₂)₂·3Cu(AsO₂)₂. This is also known as “emerald green”, because of its eye-catching green shades, similar to those of the popular gemstone.

The arsenic pigment – a crystalline powder – is easy to manufacture and has been commonly used for multiple purposes, especially in the 19th century.

. . . .

Industrial production of Paris green was initiated in Europe in the early 19th century. Impressionist and post-impressionist painters used different versions of the pigment to create their vivid masterpieces. Th

Link to the rest at Science Alert and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Yet another benefit of ebooks – guaranteed arsenic-free!

Used Book Collection Bins Are Filling Up

From BookRiot:

If you live in the United States, you have seen collection bins in grocery store parking lots. Collection bins for clothes are the most common. But did you know there are also donation bins for books?

My husband works in a grocery store, and about a month ago he noticed that the book collection bins were overflowing. More than overflowing—several stacks of books had appeared around the collection bin and it had just started to rain. He’s a book lover, and he hates to see good books get ruined, so he talked to his manager and got permission to haul the pile indoors to await collection. His manager called the company, Big Hearted Books & Clothing, to come get their donations.

But there was a problem: Big Hearted Books never showed up and, it turned out, would not be showing up.

. . . .

Big Hearted Books & Clothing, of Canton, Massachusetts, declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy this spring. The company’s assets are being sold off by a trustee, and those proceeds are being used to pay the company’s creditors.

The company’s closure is a loss for New England readers. Big Hearted Books’s more than 1,000 donation containers have served as repositories for the region’s unwanted and used books since 2009. The company, a for-profit, collected the books, donated some, sold others, and recycled the balance.

The company’s website cites embezzlement by an employee as the reason for its bankruptcy (complete with that employee’s name and a photograph) and Worcester attorney James P. Ehrhard, who has represented Big Hearted Books during the bankruptcy proceedings, confirmed that embezzlement was a contributing factor.

. . . .

When it became obvious that the pile of books in the grocery store was not going to be picked up, the store manager asked my husband if he could get rid of the books. Full disclosure: our family took what we wanted from the pile, and brought everything else to our local Friends of the Library group for their annual book sale. We discovered that they too were talking about Big Hearted Books.

“We don’t have any storage space, so at the end of the sale we have to find places for these books,” said Del Shilkret, president of Friends of the Granby Public Library.

Turns out, many local Friends groups in the Friends of the Connecticut Library organization relied on Big Hearted Books.

. . . .

At Farmington’s last library sale, Big Hearted Books removed seven gaylords—large pallet boxes—for free.

That’s a service one of its competitors charges for, and one that’s tremendously helpful to the volunteers who run book sales, many of whom are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s and can’t do a lot of hauling themselves—especially after a long sale.

“Our problem is now: what do we do with these leftover books?” said Chapron. She joked that donating books can be either very easy or very difficult and this year, donating books may be on the difficult side for Library Friends in the Northeast.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

In a heretical mood, PG suggests that at some point, used books become trash.

He understands that someone somewhere might be interested in reading one of the used books, but wouldn’t digital be a far better alternative? No bins in the parking lot, no fossil fuel expended transporting used books from the bin to wherever, etc., etc.

A lot less in the landfill and recycling electrons is orders of magnitude more efficient than recycling dead trees.

Do libraries run by volunteers check out?

From The Guardian:

It is just before 7pm on a Tuesday and Wilsden library is about to close. There are a few stragglers, mainly mums with small girls who have been at the dance class in the village hall, where the library occupies one corner.

Wilsden is just one of 15 community-managed libraries in the borough of Bradford, West Yorkshire. It opens for one day a week and is staffed completely by volunteers such as Simon Dickerson, whohas volunteered at the library since it became community-managed in 2011. Prior to that, the library was run and staffed by Bradford council, but budget cuts meant that Wilsden’s library, along with branches in nearby Denholme and Wrose, were earmarked to close.

“It was inconceivable that our library should close,” says Dickerson. “There was a village meeting called. About 100 people turned up and there was a very strong feeling that the library should continue.”

Those three villages became the first of Bradford’s community-managed libraries. Now Wilsden has a pool of 40 or so volunteers who can work a couple of hours on a Tuesday.

Eight years ago, there were only a handful of libraries run by volunteers – around 10, estimates Public Libraries News. These days, 500 of the UK’s 3,800 libraries are operated by ordinary people, working for free in a role once regarded as a profession.

. . . .

The positive side of volunteer libraries is that communities who would otherwise lose their library can keep them. The downside is that professional librarians are rapidly declining in number. In 2016/17, local council funding for libraries was cut by £66m, with 5% of librarians – almost 900 people – losing their jobs. It isn’t just public libraries feeling the pinch; most recently, the Scottish Borders council was criticised for replacing school library staff with pupils.

. . . .

So far, only one has closed (and that was due to a third-party lease on the property not being renewed). The rest were saved, due to the strength of community interest in keeping them open. But does that mean volunteer-run libraries are a success, or just delaying inevitable closures?

. . . .

Even before it was passed into community hands, Wilsden was only open on Tuesdays. The day coincides with the aforementioned dance classes, as well as a luncheon club for the elderly. It plays host to three or four children’s events a year, and it houses a book group. As a volunteer, does Dickerson feel it is working? “We get young people in to use the laptops, but not as much to borrow books. And perhaps if everyone who turned up to the meeting to save the library actually used it, I might be a bit happier,” he says.

. . . .

There, community ownership has not just allowed the library to survive, it has revived it, according to volunteer and former parish councillor Niccola Swan. “The library wasn’t exactly dead before, but it was a lot quieter,” she says. “When the announcement came through about library funding, it was a no-brainer for Burley. The parish council immediately said that we were not going to lose our library.”

Like other community-run libraries, Burley lost all of its paid staff, who were replaced with a team of around 50 volunteers. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, Swan says. “The library staff we had weren’t local, they came in to do a job. While it was often a perfectly fine job, they didn’t have the incentive to be as engaged with the community.”

Usage of the library has grown steadily month on month, Swan says, both in terms of visitors and books borrowed. “I’m really thrilled with what we’ve achieved,” she says.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Watching You Watching Me: Preserving Reader Privacy in the Age of Digital Surveillance

From No Shelf Required:

The issue of reader privacy has been at the forefront of much debate about Web 2.0 technologies and their ability to monitor reading behavior at a granular level. This includes the reading habits of readers who purchase digital books and other digital content online through such sources as Amazon as well as users of public, academic and school libraries who check out ebooks or use electronic resources for research. While the topic of protecting reader privacy continues to permeate online discussions around the world, the issue reader privacy, particularly in the context of library patron privacy, has been around for as long as library cards have been around. But Web 2.0 technologies and the plethora of media and software companies that have changed the way we share information online have drastically challenged our notions of privacy, which many argue has become a ‘privilege’ rather than a ‘right’ of every user, and it has become a matter of what information about him/herself the user is willing to trade to consume content for free.

In an age when millions of users gladly—and without much regard for the consequences—share their personal information online to be able to benefit from the tools afforded to them by and through social media and various other platforms, librarians and information science (LIS) professionals remain adamant about the dangers of not protecting one’s privacy while reading.

. . . .

Ethical issues have long been an important topic of discussion in the realm of information sciences, and the term information ethics has been thoroughly analyzed by academics in the past few decades. Don Fallis provided an accessible definition when he defined information ethics as that which asks, “who should have access to what information” (Fallis 3). In the same paper, Fallis discussed four core issues (or principles) of information ethics, which have become the cornerstone of the LIS profession: intellectual freedom(librarians must resist all efforts by third parties, including the government, to censor reading materials); equal access (librarians must ensure all library users have equal and free access to information); intellectual property(librarians must honor copyright laws and author rights); and information privacy (librarians must defend the reader’s right to privacy and protect library records from intrusion of external sources).

According to Fallis, if we examine how libraries function today through the prism of four key ethical (or moral) theories in philosophy—consequence-based theory, rights-based theory, virtue-based theory and duty-based theory —we can discern that each of the core issues of information ethics—intellectual freedom, equal access, intellectual property and information privacy—has deep roots in at least one, if not all, of these ethical theories.

. . . .

The rights-based theorists argue that the right thing to do is determined by the rights that human beings have simply for being human. This is a strong argument for equal and free access, and many have, in fact, argued over the years (e.g., Woodward 13) that people have a ‘natural’ right to information and knowledge—that if we can define a man as a ‘rational’ being,’ then that man has a right to that “which he needs to exercise his rationality. In other words, accessing information for the sake of educating oneself is not a matter of privilege but a necessity allows any human to maintain his rationality. The same ethical theory could be applied to the meaning of intellectual property. Philosopher John Locke, for example, also called it a ‘natural right’ to reap the benefits of one’s intellectual labor.

. . . .

Pendergrast asked in 1988: Should libraries put a warning label on an encyclopedia that contains seemingly inaccurate medical information? Nesta and Banke asked in 1991: Should libraries accept a book if it is donated by a racist organization? Wolkoff asked in 1996: Should libraries include Holocaust denial literature in their collections?  (Fallis 1-2) And many others have asked and continue to ask to this day: Should librarians cooperate with the government when asked to disclose a patron’s reading records to help prevent a potentially criminal act?

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Impatient former Hong Kong library worker arrested after stealing customers’ personal data to borrow books faster

From Hong Kong Law and Crime:

A bibliophile who worked in a Hong Kong public library has been arrested for using the personal information of about 130 customers without their permission so she could quickly borrow their loaned books.

. . . .

The 25-year-old woman, who formerly worked for a contractor company for Tseung Kwan O Public Library and was responsible for handling returned library materials from readers between 2015 and this year, was arrested on May 24, according to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which operates the library, and police.

A police source said she had used the personal data of users to file loss reports for library cards on their behalf. After the report, customers would no longer be able to renew loaned books and were required to return them immediately. That would allow the woman to borrow those items.

Link to the rest at Hong Kong Law and Crime and thanks to Gary for the tip.

The Bats Help Preserve Old Books But They Drive Librarians, Well, Batty

From The Wall Street Journal:

During the day, as visitors file through the University of Coimbra’s 300-year-old Joanina Library, the creatures remain hidden behind the grand, gilded bookcases.

At night, they come out to protect the books.

They are a group of perhaps a dozen resident bats. As lovers of literal bookworms—they eat the moths and beetles that devour glue and paper—they are also the library’s unwitting conservationists. And their presence is driving Joanina’s staff batty.

The bats are getting too much attention. The librarians want people to know Joanina for its books and the knowledge they contain, not for its flying mammals. Instead of fielding scholarly inquiries about rare, hand-illustrated Bibles or century-old world atlases, staff members find themselves mostly answering questions from visitors about the lives and habits of the bats.

“It pains me,” said Jorge Manuel Neves Justo Alexandre, who has been caretaker of Joanina since 2000. “Here you have all this beauty, this knowledge, and they are asking where the bats poop.”

Mr. Alexandre was recently discussing the issue with Celeste Mateus, a library worker who was vacuuming the main entrance, when a visitor interrupted. “Are the bats behaving?” asked Pinto Almeida, a judge from the Portuguese town of Coriscada.

. . . .

The university—which was named a Unesco World Heritage site five years ago—is partly to blame for the problem. It promotes Joanina’s bats on its website and in booklets, and the gift shop sells pencil covers of a smiling bat holding a candle and reading a book. The university drew around 500,000 visitors last year, more than double the number in 2013, said Joanina deputy director António Maia do Amaral.

The library’s bats are small, often no more than 1 1/2 inches long, from a species called pipistrelle. A second species, called European free-tailed, may be present as well, based on a bat expert’s evaluation of the sounds they made during an inspection years ago.

The creatures are seldom seen during the day, when they mostly sleep behind the shelves. They sometimes fly out at night through cracks in the doors to feast on flies. Mr. Maia do Amaral said that visitors’ best chance to see them is on evenings the library holds classical music concerts.

No one is sure how long bats have been at the library, built in 1728 and furnished with black lacquered shelves, wood carvings and gold brought in from the Portuguese colony of Brazil. The library’s six reading tables are covered every evening with leather shrouds, which shield the wood from corrosive bat droppings and need to be vacuumed regularly. Mr. Maia do Amaral said he found old documents that showed the university imported lengths of leather from Russia in the late 1700s—he suspects for the same purpose.

. . . .

Mr. Maia do Amaral acknowledges that many of the library’s visitors aren’t really interested in those facts. “An old director used to grumble that the bat obsession was offensive to the library’s intellectual nature,” he said.

Still, he appreciates the bats’ help in preservation. “The glue used in old books in particular is made for an insect banquet,” he said, calling the bats his “honorary librarians.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal and thanks to Patricia for the tip.

PG says the photos of the library in the OP are spectacular. If the WSJ’s paywall won’t let you through, you can do a Google Image search for the Joanina Library

How Lizzie Bennet Got Her Books


There are plenty of mentions of novels and popular literature in Jane Austen’s books. But books were expensive in the early nineteenth century, and women weren’t necessarily encouraged to read them. How, then, did her heroines get their book fix?

. . . .

[C]irculating libraries didn’t really resemble modern libraries. You had to pay to be a member, and if you patronized one you were likely of the leisured classes. And while modern libraries are predicated on a demand for books . . . circulating libraries created that demand.

The libraries, which were found in fashionable watering holes like Jane Austen’s fabled Bath, began as offshoots of bookselling. They became social gathering places that people subscribed to as soon as they got to their vacation destination. They weren’t just for books, either—they held raffles and social events, and the subscription record books were a good place to figure out who was in town. If you lived in a rural area, though, you were probably out of luck. No businessman would set one up in an area that couldn’t sustain it.

At the time, industrialization hadn’t yet made printing affordable, so only the richest could afford books. . . . [T]he average three-volume novel cost the equivalent of $100 at the time, which makes Darcy’s extensive library even sexier. And since anyone with enough money for a subscription could use a circulating library, it became a way for women to gain knowledge without asking a man for permission to use his library or borrow his books.

. . . .

Not everything in a circulating library was intellectually uplifting, though: They were repositories for the Regency version of beach reads. The hottest novel might be available for several months, then be replaced by the new big thing. This led to big demand for new books, and that demand drove bigger print runs. Authors also started writing with the libraries in mind, which led to the rise of genres like the gothic novel.

Link to the rest at JSTOR

Reversing the Slide in Voter Support for Libraries

From the Library Journal:

We need a significant shift in our tactics to turn around voter attitudes about the core work of libraries.

The 2018 “From Awareness to Funding” study should inspire deep reflection within the library community about how we have been doing public outreach, voter engagement, and everyday advocacy over this past decade.

As a founder and executive director of EveryLibrary, the only national political action committee for libraries, I am deeply concerned by the top-line loss of voter support for libraries. To see the drop from 73% “possible yes” voters in OCLC’s 2008 report of the same name to the new reality of 2018’s 58% was crushing. At EveryLibrary, we have seen the erosion of voter support and respect for libraries in polls and surveys from dozens of towns, cities, and counties over our short time working on library campaigns.

. . . .

I am most deeply troubled by the declining perception about the core work of libraries and core competencies of librarians. When there is a nine point drop in the perception about libraries offering “Free access to books and technology that some people may not be able to afford,” how do we recapture that narrative? Today, 20% fewer voters agree that “the library is an excellent resource for kids to get help with their homework” than ten years ago (71% then, 51% now). How is that possible when every story we tell is about a kid learning to read in order to succeed later in life? How do we fight a hostile city hall or recalcitrant county commission when the feeling that “having an excellent public library is a source of pride” is only shared by 53% of voters (20% fewer than in the 2008 report)?

. . . .

Voter perception of librarians as “Friendly and approachable” has fallen from 67% to 53%. Perception of librarians as “True advocate[s] for lifelong learning” has dropped from 56% to 46%. The feeling that librarians are “Knowledgeable about my community” fell from 54% to 42%. I hope we have found the bottom at 31% of voters (down from 40% ten years ago) who think that librarians are “Well known in the community.”

Our core messaging and value propositions have taken a massive hit. This decline cannot persist if we expect libraries to be funded through taxpayer support. Ten years ago, three-quarters of voters thought that libraries were important for youth. Today, it is down to just two-thirds. What have we been doing that made us lose this kind of ground? In 2018, only 55% of Americans think that “if the library were to shut down, something essential would be lost.” It was 71% ten years ago.

Link to the rest at Library Journal

Learn from the Past in a Cozy Scottish Reading Room

From Ozy:

Tucked away in a mews in central Edinburgh . . . is a two-room, book-lined haven, complete with a fireplace and (fake) tulips on the mantelpiece. Also on the mantel: a portrait of Charles Ponzi, who gave his name to the most famous of schemes and bilked thousands of people out of their money in the 1920s.

It’s people like Ponzi (and former currencies like the tulips, which caused a massive financial bubble in Holland in 1637) whose stories animate the Library of Mistakes, a friendly warrior on the side of good governance that seeks to serve as a resource for anyone interested in learning from history’s great financial errors. For Russell Napier, the professor and investment professional who founded and keeps the library of about 4,500 books, it’s a way of fighting back against not just specific idiocies but also against a financial profession that’s turned largely to teaching by the numbers rather than focusing on what history has taught us works … and what doesn’t.

. . . .

What doesn’t was illustrated in the 2008 British financial crisis, which Napier says was the inspiration for the library. When it comes to financial education, he explains, it’s “easier to sell the surety of numbers” — getting people to trust you with their money, whether at a personal or systemic level, is easier with algorithms, equations, things that seem unchangeable. But finance doesn’t just run on numbers. Napier, who’s taught financial history for years, argues that it’s through stories — and specifically through cautionary tales — that we’ll find a way to navigate both micro- and macro-economic disasters, avoid getting scammed and maintain sane policies and practices that govern finance.

. . . .

But the Library of Mistakes is catching on. A sister library opened in Pune, India, in 2016, and another is planned to debut in Lausanne, Switzerland, before the end of the year — the first that’s expected to include non-Anglophone texts.

Link to the rest at Ozy

How to Run Storytime Without Boring Everyone to Death

From The Literary Hub:

For eight years I worked Storytime at a public library. When I mention this to people I get very mixed reactions. Sometimes, they’re impressed. They’ll ask about the crafts and the kids; they tell me it sounds like a rewarding experience. Others get a look on their face like they bit into a raw onion. Oh, they’ll reply, grimacing. How was that?

I mean, I get it. It’s a tough gig. I have to say, it’s easier looking back at Storytime with a sweet sense of nostalgia than when I was doing the actual work, peeling dried Elmer’s glue off my only good work pants and singing Raffi at nine in the morning to a bevy of screaming toddlers. Working children’s services sometimes means dealing with a bunch of sugared-up kids who got into a box of Lucky Charms cereal (I recognize that look—I also eat Lucky Charms to get amped). But it also means thinking on your feet and getting way outside your comfort zone. By that I mean you’ll probably have to kneel on the floor, and if you’re wearing a skirt, everyone is gonna see your underwear and four different kids will point it out loud enough for everyone in the library to hear.

When it comes to children’s programming, you quickly learn what will fly and what’s going to completely bomb. Most things don’t go over so hot. The notion of sitting in a rocking chair while a bunch of dimple-cheeked kids rest quietly at your feet is a lovely dream, but the odds are they will have already heard the book you’re reading, and they’ll decide it would be a cooler time to get up and play a game of tag or throw crayons at each other. When I first began planning Storytime programs, I chose books with beautifully detailed pictures and sweet plots about baby animals. This backfired spectacularly.

You don’t know how long a page can drag on until you hear a kid in the front row yell “I’m BORED” at the top of their lungs when you’re one paragraph into a 25 page book. You start speed reading. You’ve never read so fast in your entire life. Is the book funny? Is the story compelling i.e. does it talk about garbage or something gross? Does it involve using the bathroom? You’d better pray it does.

. . . .

Parents bring their kids to Storytime for several reasons: they’re trying to get out of the house, they genuinely like the programming, and they want to spend time with other parents who’ve got the same deer-in-headlights look. It’s an opportunity for them to commiserate and make friends.

. . . .

Sometimes these mashups didn’t work, but a lot of times they did. When a mom cried after her kid made her a bouquet of egg carton roses for mother’s day during one of my programs, I teared up, too. It was cool to see something work, to see it affect others positively. (Don’t tell anyone I cried).

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

The Long and Winding Road To Drm-Free Ebooks In Academic Libraries

From No Shelf Required:

The issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been around for as long as ebooks have been around—and not only ebooks, but digital content in general, including online journals, movies, TV shows, games, and software. DRM is usually discussed in the context of copyright and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which makes circumvention of measures that control access to copyrighted works a civil offense (in some cases even a federal crime). But DRM isn’t copyright. It refers to actual technology—a code or a set of codes—applied to restrict the digital use of copyrighted materials. In the publishing world, it is a way of ‘protecting’ digital books against copyright infringement and piracy, which have been a major concern to publishers since the advent of the Internet. By using protection—usually via three DRM types, Amazon for Kindle, Apple’s FairPlay for iBookstore and Adobe’s Digital Editions Protection Technology—publishers (or copyright holders) are able to control what users can and cannot do with digital content.

This means that people buying ebooks, whether for personal or institutional use, are paying for usage, not possession (as has been the case for centuries with print books). When encrypted with DRM, ebooks cannot be easily (if at all) copied or printed, viewed on multiple devices, or moved from one device to another. Further, they can only be downloaded a certain number of times (even when legally bought online) and, if necessary, blocked in certain territories around the world (or made invisible to users in certain countries). Such restrictions have given publishers and authors some peace of mind over the past two decades, but they have resulted in many inconveniences for legitimate users, including lay readers who purchase digital content on sites like Amazon and researchers who access digital content through libraries.

. . . .

These same restrictions, many believe, are one of the essential reasons for the popularity of ebooks in the consumer market is stagnating. Apart from the fact that users tend to prefer print over digital when reading for pleasure (vs. when doing research), various DRM-related limits placed on ebooks— including territorial restrictions and inability to copy, print, and share—have only contributed to the overall decline in consumer ebook sales in recent years. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January 2018, only seven percent of Americans read digital books exclusively, while 39 percent read print books, and 29 percent read both print and digital.

. . . .

[S]ome trade publishers have been embracing the concept of DRM-free ebooks from the very beginning, including technology publishers like O’Reilly and Microsoft and genre fiction publishers like Carina Press, and Tor.com. On the academic side, many publishers have been providing DRM-free titles on their own platforms for a number of years—including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, SAGE, Springer/Palgrave, Elsevier, Wiley, De Gruyter, Brill, and Emerald, among others—but, until recently, they have not been giving large aggregators like EBSCO the option to distribute their titles DRM-free.

. . . .

In the world of research and academic libraries, the main issue has not been the preference of one format over the other, if for no other reason than for the fact that the sheer volume of academic titles published every year, is overwhelming. Based on the number of titles profiled by GOBI Library Solutions, a major library services vendor, at least 70,000 academic titles are published annually in the English language alone. Since the advent of the first library ebook platforms and subscription databases about 20 years ago, academic librarians have had their ‘hands’ full keeping up with the onslaught of digital resources, while experimenting with ever-evolving ebook business models and understanding their short-term and long-term repercussions. Indeed, the key ebook issue in academic libraries has to this day revolved around the effects of various business models on budgets and libraries’ ability to build sustainable digital collections for their institutions.

. . . .

A survey published this spring by Library Journal—whose goal was to investigate academic student ebook experience in four-year colleges, universities, graduate programs, as well as two-year or community colleges—found that 74 percent of students accessing ebooks through libraries believe there should be no restrictions placed on ebooks; 66 percent prefer to use ebooks with no restrictions; and 37 percent have taken a principled stand and only use ebooks that have no restrictions when conducting research.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

The Library Book

From EW:

After years and years of research, [Susan Orlean] has written The Library Book: an account of the most devastating library fire in American history that doubles as a true love letter to one of our most prized institutions.

Orlean reopens the case of the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, which either destroyed or damaged more than a million books. Weaving her life-long love of books and reading with the fascinating history of libraries and the sometimes-eccentric characters who run them, Orlean investigates the fire to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives.

. . . .

She also delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from a metropolitan charitable initiative to a cornerstone of national identity. Along the way, she reveals how these buildings provide much more than just books — and that they are needed now more than ever.

. . . .

“My sweetest memories are of going to the library with my mother when I was a kid, browsing the stacks with her, savoring even the smell of the books and the way they felt in my lap when we were driving home and I had my chosen few piled on my lap.”

Link to the rest at EW

The Secret Codes Hidden in the Books of a Scottish Library

From Atlas Obscura:

Georgia Grainger had only been working at Charleston Library in Dundee, Scotland, for six weeks when she was met with a mystery. One of the library’s customers, an older woman, approached her with a question and an open book. “Why does page 7 in all the books I take out have the 7 underlined in pen?” she asked. “It seems odd.” The customer opened the book to the relevant page and showed Grainger—sure enough, the 7 had been scored through with a pen. Another book, which the reader planned to take home that day, had exactly the same markings on the same page. This hyperlocal mystery (Charleston has a population of just 4,323 people) has captivated many thousands more around the world, after Grainger tweeted about what she’d discovered.

Immediately after learning about the marked 7s, Grainger says, her mind started to race through the wildest of possibilities. “I’ve got a bit of an overactive imagination, so I started coming up with all sorts of theories,” she says. “Spy rings, secret romances, serial killers, the usual!” She began checking other books for the mysterious markings. Most didn’t have it, but many in a similar genre did. These, Grainger says, are “wee old women” books—often romances set in wartime Britain, which are particularly popular with older patrons at the library. “They’re quite soft, gentle romances,” she says.

. . . .

The mystery remained unsolved, until her manager returned from an arts-and-crafts session she was hosting for children. In a tweet, Grainger wrote: “I decided to tell her about the serial killer in the library. And that’s how I found out that a lot of our elderly clientele have secret codes to mark which books they’ve read before.”

These days, the Charleston Library’s computers will automatically flag up whether a customer has taken out a book in the past, but many of the library’s elderly clientele have been doing it since long before electronic systems were in place.* They might underline a page number, draw a little star on the last page, or write their first initial somewhere in the book. “Then when they pick it up, they can check!” Grainger says.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

The Strange Magic of Libraries

From The Paris Review:

Our era is a digital one, to be sure, but libraries of physical books are still holding on defiantly, even triumphantly. According to the Library Map of the World, there are over two million public and school libraries on planet Earth. Of these, 103,325 are in the U.S. and 12,570 in my native Australia. Globally, the number of private libraries is much larger still—because who is to say that even a humble shelf of Penguin or Pocket paperbacks doesn’t qualify as a private library?

The census of American libraries spans a wonderful diversity of institutions, from modest municipal book rooms and mobile libraries to the grand collections of such hallowed places as the Morgan, the Folger, the Huntington, and the Smithsonian. Surveys of library users reveal a passionate attachment to these institutions, one that is voiced in very human terms. The word love is an emotion often expressed toward libraries, and not just on “Love Your Library Day.” Libraries are places in which people are born—as authors, readers, scholars, and activists. (Think Eudora Welty, Zadie Smith, John Updike, and Ian Rankin.)

Public libraries are of and for the people. Fundamentally democratic, they usually do not ask visitors to justify their presence or pay an entry fee. Fewer and fewer such nondiscriminatory and noncommercial spaces exist in our towns and cities today.

. . . .

There is a magic, too, of creation. How many great and minor works were inspired by and assembled inside library reading rooms and amongst the stacks?

Libraries have a strange potency that is hard to capture in the arid, bureaucratic calculus of inputs, outputs, and outcomes. Throughout much of the Western world, though, that calculus dictates how public funds are spent.

Fortunately some rules are made to be broken. In the U.S., Canada, and Australia (but less so in Britain) public libraries continue to be well resourced. We seem to have an innate sense of the value of libraries and the need to preserve them—notwithstanding the impossibility of counting all of their outputs.

Throughout history, the loss of libraries in war and conquest has been an appalling constant. In 2003, for example, priceless books and manuscripts were looted from Baghdad’s Archaeological Museum, National Archives, and National Library. Losses included six-thousand-year-old clay tablets, medieval chronicles, calligraphic manuals, and an irreplaceable collection of Korans. In an especially bitter twist, some of the lost books had survived an earlier onslaught, in which Mongol invaders threw plundered books into the Tigris to build a makeshift bridge of paper and parchment.

The destruction of books has always carried a peculiar power. There is no better way to extinguish a culture than to destroy its books. Even seemingly routine disposals—of old newspapers, magazines, journals, dust-jackets—can cause bitter angst and trigger a protective reflex.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG recently discovered (alas, online and not in person) The Abbey Library of St. Gaul. Here are a couple of photos (click on photo for a larger version):

Abbey Library of St. Gaul, Chippee on Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


Wikipedia – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The Natural Enemy of the Librarian

From Triple Canopy:

I have worked in Elmer Holmes Bobst Library and Study Center, New York University’s main research library, on Washington Square Park, for twenty-four years. I have always found the design of the building beautiful—more so than just about any other library building I have been in. Every day I walk through the revolving doors and gaze immediately upward toward the series of cascading bronze stairs, which ascend twelve stories. I stand in the ten-thousand-square-foot chasm, which is encircled with clinical precision by shimmering catwalks. The pattern of black, white, and gray marble on the ground floor resembles an Escher drawing viewed through the lens of the Italian Renaissance. The stark simplicity of the railings and the harsh, clean lines remind me of a Mondrian painting. My chest feels a little lighter and my head swims a bit, as when stepping into a cathedral and being drawn heavenward.

. . . .

Nearly every day, however, I hear someone complain that the atrium is a “waste of space.” This complaint goes back to 1965, when a group of head librarians from around the country were invited to review the architect Philip Johnson’s design. Among the librarians was Ralph Ellsworth, the director of libraries at the University of Colorado, who voiced his objections to Martin Beck, NYU’s director of planning. The enormous atrium meant that the floors would be U-shaped, which would minimize the amount of storage and inconvenience readers, he asserted. He called the design “a throwback to the 19th century conditions” and “a fantastic architectural anachronism,” comparable to Boeing putting “buggy whip holders on the front of a B-727.”

Ellsworth’s vitriolic letter set the tone, and librarians continue to vehemently denounce the building to this day. They allege that Johnson, like so many architects, failed to appreciate the purpose of the building or draw on the knowledge of librarians. They resent that the needs of researchers, and imperatives of storage and preservation, were deemed to be less important than the desire for grandeur and monumentality. And, unknowingly, they express an abiding tension between practical design and aesthetics, between librarians and architects, which has a curious history.

. . . .

In The Evolution of the American Academic Library Building (1997), Kaser argues that libraries should be designed to preserve materials, facilitate functionality, and attain beauty, but he admits that “very few have done all three.” As Kaser explains, there were no academic libraries in the United States until the mid-nineteenth century. Early American colleges tended to be small and religious, so at Yale and Brown, for example, the library shared space with the chapel. (Round libraries, such as the one designed by Thomas Jefferson for the University of Virginia in 1826, were also common.) In 1840, the University of South Carolina erected the first freestanding library, a classical edifice with four imposing columns at the facade. The next were built, in the Gothic style, by Harvard in 1841 and Yale in 1846. Harvard’s library was modeled after Kings College Chapel, built in Cambridge in 1446, and Yale’s on Trinity College, built in Dublin in 1732; both chapel-like structures exemplify the influence of ecclesiastical architecture on library design. While the earliest continental libraries were rectangular with perimeter shelving, the Classical and Gothic revival libraries in the United States featured an “alcoved hall with double-faced book presses extending inward between the windows in the two longer halls,” writes Kaser. Some libraries added clerestories with galleries that allowed for more shelving and also gave the impression of cathedrals.

. . . .

Librarians and architects were already at odds in the late nineteenth century, when librarianship and architectural practice were being professionalized. (The American Library Association was founded in 1876, the American Institute for Architects in 1856.) Many librarians felt that architects ignored their needs and created buildings that emphasized grandeur over functionality. William Frederick Poole, the librarian at the Chicago Historical Society and the founder of Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature, was one of the most outspoken opponents of such designs, which he saw as wasting space and pointlessly imitating churches. At a meeting of the ALA in 1881, Poole delivered a fiery speech against the “vacuity” of the new Peabody Institute Library in Baltimore. “The nave is empty and serves no purpose that contributes to the architectural effect,” he argued. “Is not this an expensive luxury?”1

Poole went on to propose that additional floors be created and that books no longer be relegated to the aisles, which would allow for the storage of 717,000 instead of 150,000 volumes. He suggested that books be classified according to “four grand divisions or departments of knowledge,” with each getting a separate floor and reading room, accessible by elevator. Then he returned to the long-standing relationship between libraries and religious edifices:

Why library architecture should have been yoked to ecclesiastical architecture, and the two have been made to walk down the ages pari passu, is not obvious, unless it be that librarians in the past needed this stimulus to their religious emotions. The present state of piety in the profession renders the union no longer necessary, and it is time that a bill was filed for divorce. The same secular common-sense and the same adaptation of means to ends, which have built the modern grain-elevator and reaper are needed for the reform of library construction.

Link to the rest at Triple Canopy

PG will not prognosticate on the future of the physical library, but personally finds it far more convenient to locate books online than in a physical edifice.

That said, PG things physical libraries should be grand and glorious.

Here are a few he likes:

The Library of Congress, Washington, DC


Bodleian Library, Oxford


Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence


Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence


Austrian National Library, Vienna

The Disappearance of Books Threatens to Erode Fine Arts Libraries

From Hyperallergic:

Public libraries are experiencing a surge in use that few could have predicted even a decade ago. This renaissance has renewed interest in the library as a space for access to books, to technology, and to art. But libraries are no longer solely filled with books. Many are shifting to become multi-use and more digitally driven spaces. Yet as libraries create access to a digital future, the books that have traditionally inhabited them are being displaced at an alarming rate. This leaves many asking: Does acceptance of digital resources mean that the books must go? And what is at stake when artists, art historians, students, and the public can no longer engage in the act of browsing the stacks as part of the process of creating and researching art?

While the philosophical debate over what a library should be rages across the country and beyond, some institutions are shifting from philosophy to action, removing books to make way for other initiatives. At the University of Texas at Austin, around 75,000 fine arts books, journals, and other materials have already been moved by the College of Fine Arts and the University of Texas Libraries, as Hyperallergic reported in December. Many of the removed materials now reside in an off-site location near UT’s J.J. Pickle Research Campus or the Texas A&M joint library storage facility.

At many libraries, the prime real estate occupied by books is being requisitioned to make way for new digital humanities initiatives like virtual reality experiences or “Makerspaces” cordoned off for 3D printing. In the case of UT-Austin’s Fine Arts Library, books and other analog materials were removed to accommodate a new space called The Foundry. As the mission page for the collaborative space notes, this is a joint initiative of the University of Texas Libraries and the College of Fine Arts meant to be available to all UT students, faculty, and staff. Yet the success of such 3D printing labs is often precarious and dubious. As many librarians and digital humanists have pointed out, installing a Makerspace in your library is not a panacea.

Link to the rest at Hyperallergic and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Why Japan’s Rakuten Is A Hidden Contender In The Ebook Market

From Forbes:

Quick, name a massive ecommerce company with an outsized share of the ebook market across the globe.

If you didn’t come up with “Amazon,” I don’t know why the rock you’re living under doesn’t have wi-fi. Chances are, however, that you can’t name the one company with the second-largest share of the ebook market. Here’s why surfacing that company is tougher than it looks, and why that company might be the Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten.

First, let’s discuss the oft-overlooked data point that makes all the difference when determining how many ebooks are being consumed: Digital distribution to libraries. The two ebook-tracking watchdogs used by most as a benchmark for industry statistics — Nielsen BookScan and Bookstat (formerly known as Author Earnings) — both focus on units sold. As a result, they don’t take digital libraries seriously. Rakuten OverDrive, a digital management service for publishers, libraries and schools, isn’t represented in the latest Author Earnings numbers on the download numbers for Amazon, Apple iBooks, or the Barnes & Noble Nook, which stand at 406 million, 44 million, and 19.4 million, respectively. OverDrive’s numbers? 225 million total digital downloads, representing 155 million ebooks and 68 million audiobooks. Granted, the OverDrive numbers are from 2017 and the Author Earnings report uses 2016 data, but OverDrive’s numbers are still above all but Amazon by a wide margin. Nielson, meanwhile, counts a book sold to a library as a single sale — no matter how many downloads it goes on to earn.

Mark Williams of industry watchdog The New Publishing Standard debuted this insight in a January post. “Other digital libraries also reported downloads in the millions,” he notes in the article. “Hoopla, for example, saw over six million downloads in 2016, while Odilo reported ‘tremendous growth.’ […] Yet the Author Earnings Report completely ignores them.

. . . .

When I reached out to Williams for a comment, he shared a dour view of the book industry’s sparse data and its library-book-sized blind spot: “By conveniently ignoring OverDrive’s 225 million digital downloads while including estimated values for Kindle Unlimited subscription downloads, we are given not only a distorted picture of the units and value of the digital market, but more importantly a very distorted view of the wider level of engagement with digital books. Close to a quarter billion ebook and audiobook downloads, all of which are bringing in revenue for authors and publishers even if the readers are not paying directly, are shunted aside,” he told me.

. . . .

“As more and more readers understand that the ebooks they buy are actual just licences to read, and that they never ‘own’ the ebooks they supposedly are buying,” he says, “so more will ask what advantage there is in buying from a retailer rather than getting the exact same product for ‘free’ from a library.”

Link to the rest at Forbes

The Libraries Bringing Small-Town News Back to Life

From The Atlantic:

When a teenager began firing on students in Marilyn Johnson’s old high school east of Cleveland, Johnson searched everywhere to find out what was happening. She first saw the news on CNN, but she found out more on the town library’s Facebook page. The site was “the best, most detailed place to get breaking information,” she says.

Johnson had published an acclaimed book on the digital and community future of libraries just two years earlier—This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All—but she hadn’t predicted that the sharp decline in original local news could propel librarians into action. Since that 2012 shooting, more local newspapers have folded or shrunk, and a few libraries have ventured in to fill the vacuum.

It makes sense that librarians would get it right. Librarians understand the value of accuracy. They are familiar with databases. Americans by and large trust librarians, actually much more than they trust journalists. And in a nation where traditional local news outlets are cutting back, their advertising coffers drained by Google and Facebook, their ownership increasingly by hedge funds or other out-of-town enterprises, where else can a citizen go? In some communities, the questions are basic: Who will sift through and list the best events so residents could decide whether to participate? Who would understand what makes an area distinctive and would get its history right?

In New Hampshire, Mike Sullivan found himself in such an existential conversation last year. Town leaders and citizens bemoaned their bedroom community of Weare’s transformation into a “news desert” after a quarterly print publication closed the previous year. In Weare, best known as the longtime home of the former Supreme Court justice David Souter, the town’s senior club didn’t even know about the town’s senior exercise club. The community needed something, maybe a weekly paper, to let residents know what was going on.

By the time the conversation ended, Sullivan, the town librarian, had added eight hours to his workweek. He was now a weekly newspaper editor, too.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Inmates deserve the written word

From the Opinion section of The Deseret News:

The United States incarcerates more people than any other developed nation; unfortunately, these imprisoned citizens are not receiving access to the educational tools they need to reform their lives.

Recent Deseret News reporting documented the high recidivism rates for inmates who do not have access to library books; one prison employee interviewed estimated the figure was 60 percent. While admirable private solutions have emerged to address the need and demand for books in prison, the U.S. government should act on the moral and political imperative to empower and ennoble all citizens — even the most disenfranchised — to achieve their full potential.

First established in 1790, American prison libraries were instituted as a method for reforming behavior, usually through religious means. Clergy often ran the prisons, and early libraries usually contained only scriptural texts. While libraries grew to include secular materials, it wasn’t until 1977 that the U.S. government acknowledged a constitutional responsibility to provide inmates access to a law library to ensure access to information that would help them litigate their own appeals and empower themselves. However, a subsequent ruling complicated the mandate for law libraries in all prisons. Now, inmates are required to prove their rights are impinged by inadequate access to legal materials for a full library to be provided, in some cases.

What is missing from these legal battles is the charitable and moral sentiment evidenced by the diligent work of nonprofits stocking prison libraries.

. . . .

Volunteers such as Toby Lafferty collect and distribute books to prisons around the country. For Lafferty’s Millcreek-based nonprofit organization, Books Inside, that means providing 23,000 books to 35 prisons and jails in 13 states nationwide last year alone.

However, the requests Lafferty receives annually from more than 28 states and 150 facilities reveal the depth of the need for books to offer career skills, increased literacy and a mental and emotional escape from a dismal reality.

While a moral imperative exists to offer prisoners a minimum living standard, the education and escape that books offer inmates is not important for self-actualization alone. The government also has political and fiscal incentive to invest in books as a way to decrease recidivism. In one study, researchers found that “prisoners sentenced to a literature discussion group” in lieu of additional jail time experienced a “19 percent recidivism rate as compared to 42 percent in a control group.”

Link to the rest at The Deseret News

PG wonders whether, instead of holding library sales for books a public library no longer needs, donating those books to prisons (or giving library patrons the ability to purchase an older book for distribution to a prison) might not be a better way of getting rid of excess inventory.

The ‘hen run’ returns: iconic corridor in Glasgow School of Art is reconstructed after disastrous fire

From the Herald:

Nearly four years after its destruction in the Glasgow School of Art fire, one of the building’s most distinctive features has been brought back to life.

The glass-walled, timber-framed ‘hen run’, which connects two parts of the Mackintosh Building and provided generations of young artists with an area of stunning natural light and shade, has now been reconstructed.

Images of flames bursting from the glazed corridor were some of the most notable of the disastrous fire, which began in the building’s basement when a student’s foam sculpture caught fire.

Overlooking the south side of the city, the corridor was badly damaged in the 2014 fire from which the Mackintosh Building is making a slow but sure recovery.

The ceiling of the famous Mackintosh Library has now been put in place, and from March the interior of the library will be restored. The whole building will return to use in 2019.

. . . .

The ‘hen run’ – whose name is believed to be related to the female students who used studios in the Mackintosh Building’s top floor – lost its glazing in the fire, although its walls and concrete floor remained.

Now the windows, with distinctive square frames on walls and the roof, have been restored back to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s original 1910 design – the version of the hen run that was burned down dated to the 1950s.

Link to the rest at the Herald and thanks to Catherine, who noted that PG posted about this fire when it occurred, for the tip.


Here is what the library looked like after the fire.


And parts of the restored library.

The Hen Run after the fire.

And the restored Hen Run.

And a poster created to celebrate the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, created in 1896.

Napoleon’s Traveling Library

From the Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 53, Number 90, 6 June 1885:

Many of Napoleon’s biographers have incidentally mentioned that he […] used to carry about a certain number of favorite books wherever he went, whether traveling or camping; but it is not generally known that he made several plans for the construction of portable libraries which were to form part of his baggage.

Some interesting information upon this head is given us by M. Louis Barbier, who for many years had the care of the Louvre Library, and who bases his information upon sonic memoirs left by his father, who was librarian to Napoleon himself.

For a long time Napoleon used to carry about the books he required in several boxes holding about sixty volumes each.

These volumes, which were either octavo or duodecimo, stood upon shelves inside the boxes, which were supplied by the well-known cabinetmaker, Jacob. They were made of mahogany at first, but as it was found that this was not strong enough for the knocking about they had to sustain, M. Barbier bad them made of oak and covered with leather.

The inside was lined with green leather or velvet, and the books were bound in morocco. There was a catalogue for each case, with a corresponding number upon every volume, so that there was never a moment’s delay in picking out any book that was wanted. As soon as the Emperor had selected his headquarters during a campaign these cases were placed in the room which was intended to be his study, together with the portfolios containing his letters and maps.

Link to the rest at the California Digital Newspaper Collection and thanks to Austin Kleon for the tip.


Here are some traveling libraries:








The City of Opatija is a Free Reading Zone

From No Shelf Required:

No Shelf Required is pleased to announce the launch of a new FREE READING ZONE under its leadership in the Adriatic city of Opatija, known for its promenade, luxury hotels, and a long history of cultural and business tourism. Starting today, on World Tourism Day, Opatija becomes an open virtual library, called Opatija Reads, accessible to all people inside the city limits, without a library card or access code. To celebrate this milestone, the city is enveloped with flags bearing the signature FREE READING ZONE logo and featuring quotes about the importance of reading and access to books.

“At the core of the FREE READING ZONE Project lies the belief that the power of technology to transform how books and knowledge reach us is profound. We can do with them what we have never been able to do with paper books,” said Mirela Roncevic, Director of No Shelf Required. “The city of Opatija today stands as an inspiration to other tourist destinations, because it shows that the tourism industry can be transformed through technology,” added Roncevic.

“Technology has long been breaking down barriers, equalizing access to content and information, and connecting people. We have created an unbreakable relationship with it. Because of it, we read news freely, listen to music freely, even watch movies freely. Why should the book not be given the same chance to reach the widest audience possible?,” added Roncevic. “The eye-catching installation in the city’s center symbolizes our passion to connect human thoughts, ideas and knowledge in inextricable ways. Today in Opatija, tomorrow in New York, the day after tomorrow in Aleppo.”

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required



For anyone who doesn’t get why old book smell is special, meet these two scientists

From Upworthy:

Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlič remember how it smells to enter the library of Dean and Chapter.

The library is nestled above the main floor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, tucked away behind the southwest tower. Coming through the long stone corridors of the cathedral, a visitor is met with a tall wooden door, usually kept closed. The outside world might be full of the smell of fumes from central London’s busy roads or the incense that wafts through the church, but once you open that door, a different smell envelops you. It’s woody, musty, and a little bit familiar.

“It is a combination of paper, leather, wood … and time,” said the pair.

. . . .

Bembibre and Strlič are scientists from the University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Heritage. Many people might find the aroma of an old, yellowing book nostalgic, but for Bembibre and Strlič, it can be so much more.

For them, what we smell is just as much a part of our heritage as what we see or hear — and they’re on a mission to preserve it.

. . . .

For their latest work, the pair used both high-tech chemistry and an old-fashioned human nose to document the smell of books.

Volunteers were asked to describe either the aroma of the cathedral library (woody, smoky, vanilla) or antique books (chocolate, burnt, mothballs). Bembibre and Strlič then combined these descriptors with analyses of the faint, airborne scent-laden chemicals (known as VOCs) that the items or locations were giving off.

The pair then synthesized these findings into the Historic Book Odour Wheel, which pairs the chemical signatures and human descriptors together. Using it, you can see that a book with a rich caramel smell might be impregnated with the chemical furfural or one with an old-clothing funk might be giving off the chemical hexanal.

. . . .

“Our knowledge of the past is odourless,” the authors write in their paper. But our lives aren’t.

Link to the rest at Upworthy

PG prefers the aroma of cinnamon rolls in the oven.

Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World’s Oldest Continuously Run Libraries

Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. (Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons)

From Smithsonian:

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, a sacred Christian site nestled in the shadow of Mount Sinai, is home to one of the world’s oldest continuously used libraries. Thousands of manuscripts and books are kept there—some of which contain hidden treasures.

Now, as Jeff Farrell reports for the Independent, a team of researchers is using new technology to uncover texts that were erased and written over by the monks who lived and worked at the monastery. Many of these original texts were written in languages well known to researchers—Latin, Greek, Arabic—but others were inscribed in long-lost languages that are rarely seen in the historical record.

Manuscripts with multiple layers of writing are known as palimpsests, and there are about 130 of them at St. Catherine’s Monastery, according to the website of the Early Manuscript Electronic Library, which has been leading the initiative to uncover the original texts.

. . . .

To uncover the palimpsests’ secret texts, researchers photographed thousands of pages multiple times, illuminating each page with different-colored lights. They also photographed the pages with light shining onto them from behind, or from an oblique angle, which helped “highlight tiny bumps and depressions in the surface,” Gray writes. They then fed the information into a computer algorithm, which is able to distinguish the more recent texts from the originals.

. . . .

But perhaps the most intriguing finds are the manuscripts written in obscure languages that fell out of use many centuries ago. Two of the erased texts, for instance, were inked in Caucasian Albanian, a language spoken by Christians in what is now Azerbaijan. According to Sarah Laskow of Atlas Obscura, Caucasian Albanian only exists today in a few stone inscriptions. Michael Phelps, director of the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, tells Gray of the Atlantic that the discovery of Caucasian Albanian writings at Saint Catherine’s library has helped scholars increase their knowledge of the language’s vocabulary, giving them words for things like “net” and “fish.”

Other hidden texts were written in a defunct dialect known as Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a mix of Syriac and Greek, which was discontinued in the 13th century only to be rediscovered by scholars in the 18th century. “This was an entire community of people who had a literature, art, and spirituality,” Phelps tells Gray. “Almost all of that has been lost, yet their cultural DNA exists in our culture today. These palimpsest texts are giving them a voice again and letting us learn about how they contributed to who we are today.”

Link to the rest at Smithsonian

If you click on either image in this post, you’ll see a larger version.

This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).

Print Book Use Is Falling Faster in Research Libraries

From The Scholarly Kitchen:

In late 2010, I was thinking quite a bit about book use in research libraries. The conventional wisdom was that “no one uses print books anymore” in libraries like mine, and indeed annual data provided by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) showed a pretty clear decline in book circulations: between 1991 and 2008 (the most recent data available at that time), the number of initial circulations in ARL libraries had fallen by over a quarter. And when I ventured into the book stacks in my own library I usually found them spookily deserted.

. . . .

But I was haunted by a passing comment a colleague had made to me a few years earlier, noting that the conclusions we draw from library usage data can easily be confounded by changes in the library’s user population. It occurred to me that if we really want to understand what’s happening with regard to library patrons and printed books, we need to take into account the changing nature of our patron base. And the simplest and most consistent change in that population is growth over time: university enrollment tends to grow from year to year.

The question I decided to examine, then, was: how much of the change in individual patron behavior is being hidden by raw circulation data? Clearly, if the size of your patron base is growing while circulation numbers remain the same, that means that the average patron is using the printed collection less; and if the circulation numbers are actually falling while your patron base is growing, that means the average patron is using the library at a more steeply-declining rate than the circulation data suggest.

. . . .

ARL libraries had seen a fairly steady number of initial circulation transactions between 1995 and 2008, with totals hovering between 36 and 40 million. However, during that same period the aggregate circulation rate fell by almost 50% —a significant change in patron behavior, and one entirely masked by the raw circulation trend.

. . . .

What came next was, for me, even more interesting: I had a great deal of trouble getting my study published. I submitted it to a journal with a particular interest in collection development in research libraries, and it was rejected. Then I submitted it to a journal focused on library management; no luck there either. I eventually decided to submit it in an abridged version to a less formal venue, and the report was published in Library Journal under the title “Print on the Margins: Circulation Trends in Major Research Libraries.” The data set was too large to embed into the article, so I pulled out a few noteworthy institutional examples and provided a link to the full data set for those wanting to investigate further.

That piece was published in mid-2011, and over the past couple of years I’ve been feeling a growing sense that it was time to revisit the ARL data and see what’s happened in research libraries since.

. . . .

In 2009, what had been a fairly steady state in initial circulations between 1995 changed dramatically, and there has been a hard and steady decline ever since. Between 2009 and 2015, total initial circulations in ARL libraries fell by almost half (from 36 million to 19 million).

. . . .

[A]ny library that is seeing a steep decline in the use of its print collection should probably let that trend inform a serious examination of its space and budget allocations. (And given that the average decline in circulations per student since 1995 has been so dramatic — from 25 to 7, a 72% decrease — there are lots of research libraries seeing steep declines.)

Link to the rest at The Scholarly Kitchen

Great to See Major Publishers Embrace Alternative Ebook Models in Public Libraries, But Let’s Give Credit Where Credit is Due

From No Shelf Required:

This month, libraries across North America that work with hoopla digital will be able to provide access to some 15,000 (backlist) titles by HarperCollins, one of the ‘big five’ publishers that have resisted working with non-traditional ebook business models and adhered to the one-copy-one-user approach, resulting in less-than-ideal user experience for public library patrons. The news came the day before the official launch of the American Library Association conference in late June and has already received ample coverage, much of which has revolved around statements that with this move HarperCollins was changing the game, breaking new ground, and giving libraries something exciting to look forward to.

While HarperCollins deserves credit for being the first of the Big Five (others include Penguin Random, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) to go a step beyond the restrictive one copy-one user model (it was also the first to provide ebooks to libraries when others weren’t ready), HarperCollins isn’t the first publisher to embrace alternative models and certainly isn’t the one that is breaking new ground with this move. In fact, as many already know, hoopla has offered the cost-per-circulation model (which pays publishers per ‘loan’ instead of paying fixed fees to acquire titles) for a few years.

. . . .

I’ve had the privilege of working with vendors that cater to all types of libraries and have seen first-hand how difficult it is to crack the public library market in particular. My experience has shown that the vast majority of libraries are simply not ready or are not willing to work with new (unfamiliar) companies providing high-quality services (and models that are actually revolutionizing access to books) if, and particularly if  a) they are not established and don’t have a proven record in the library field; b) they are not based in North America (not always the case but very often) and c) they do not work with the Big Five (because public library patrons want those bestsellers the most, an argument that certainly carries weight).

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required and thanks to Paul for the tip.