Archives for category: Libraries

Libraries tend to be happy about the digital book because it potentially gets them away from their problem of finding space for all the new printed books which we keep throwing at them.* But of course the digital revolution has dragged along with it an overwhelmingly large selection of new books.

Self publishers have found it difficult to get their books made available in libraries. A friend did manage this by getting the ear of a friendly local librarian, so an ebook of his young-adult novel is now available for loan at his library. The key problem with self-published ebooks and libraries remains the discovery issue. Libraries have systems for acquisition, contract suppliers, standing orders, approval plans etc. — and however good your ebook may be, if they can’t purchase it in the way they normally purchase books then libraries are unlikely to be able to obtain it. They just can’t make one-off arrangements for every self-published book: there are just not enough hours in the day. Some additional justification for librarians’ choice to pay less attention to self-published ebooks may also provided the fact that they tend to be fairly inexpensive, so disappointed punters may be assumed to be willing and able to go out and buy a copy.

Lending of ebooks at American public libraries is reported to be increasing at about 30% a year according to Jessamyn West at CNN.com. Controversy within the business is continually being stirred up by one big traditional publisher after another tweaking their terms of supply. Obviously the basic problem is that unless some limits are placed on frequency of issue, an ebook sold to a library could potentially mean that, what with inter-library loan and unrestricted lending, no more copies would ever be sold to any libraries. No doubt everyone can accept that that’s not “fair” to the author and the publisher, but what is fair is far from obvious, and depends on which axe you are currently grinding. I believe that the twisting and dodging going on reflects not some dastardly plot by publishers, but rather the fact that this is still a relatively new market, and what the “correct” terms of trade should be is still evolving. Publishers do not see any benefit in preventing any sale of any of their books. They do, though, have an interest in avoiding sales which lose them money, either in the short term or over the long haul. If this was an easy balance, discussion would long be over.

Library lending of ebooks got off to a slow start. Publishers Weekly reported in its 30 November 2015 issue on a Book Industry Study Group investigation of Digital Content in Public Libraries. At that time only 25% of library patrons had borrowed an ebook in the previous year, and only 9% had checked out a digital audiobook. It’s not that library patrons were anti-ebook: 44% of them reported reading an ebook in the year before. Until you’ve done it, borrowing an ebook from the library might seem hard. But of course like almost everything once you’ve done it once it becomes simple. Lack of availability was reported as the main impediment but now, as CNN reports, there are more than 391,000,000 ebooks available in US public libraries — not sure just how this relates to the Google estimate that the total number of books ever published is just 130 million! I guess we have to assume lots of multiple copies, though more realistically perhaps we should conclude that when it comes to superlatives like this there’s no way to discover the real facts.

Here’s one guy who’s gotten over the library lending hurdle. An ode to library ebook lending apps comes from a dedicated e-reader.  (Link via The Digital Reader.) I have myself borrowed several ebooks from New York Public Library: it is easier than placing a reserve and then walking over to the local library once the p-book arrives. Maybe less health-giving though, and I do still prefer to read a p-book.

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* See also Crewing mustie books and More mustie crewing

Here’s a nice talking point in the run-up to Banned Books Week. BookRiot brings news of the removal of all seven Harry Potter books from the school library of St Edward Catholic School in Nashville, TN.

The evidence is as plain as a pikestaff: surely we’d all acknowledge that any book which a child actually wants to read must self-evidently be bad for them. Do little Tennesseans not deserve protection too? The Rev. Dan Reehil, a pastor at the Roman Catholic parish school, is courageous enough to stand up for the innocents. He writes in an email about the ban: “These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception. The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.” Ooooh! Ooooh! According to The Tennessean, Reehil goes on to say that he consulted several exorcists in the U.S. and Rome who recommended removing the books — so that makes it OK. If Roman exorcists say these books are wicked, surely we can all see that they really must be wicked. Faith is a wonderful thing: it moves in mysterious ways its wonders to perform. Given his belief in the reality of curses, I hope Rev. Reehil has taken measures to protect himself against Ms Rowling’s revenge. Maybe those exorcists forearmed him.

I would enjoin you all to avoid reading the Harry Potter books — especially reading them out loud — do you really want to conjure evil spirits? Of course not! Just to be safe, why not avoid reading books altogether?

Maybe instead just go to the movies? After all, as The Exorcist trailer says “Somewhere between science and superstition there is another world. The world of darkness.” A cinema, clearly.

This video gives you a brief look at many amazing books in the Founder’s Library at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, including an Audubon’s birds (amazingly large, at double elephant folio) and a Kelmscott Chaucer.

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Unfortunately the December they refer to as the month when the library would be open to the public was December 2016. Sorry not to have noted this three years earlier.

A short film (20 minutes) by Alain Resnais about the National Library of France, made in 1956:

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Notice that no computers were used in the production of this film or in the activities portrayed therein. This is how things once were: lots of formally-dressed employees carrying things back and forth. Contrast the NYPL’s book train.

The title reminds me of another French film, Tous les matins du monde, the film about viola-da-gamba virtuosos Jean de Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais. Gérard Depardieu at his best before he disappeared into idiosyncrasy-land. The link to the library film comes from Open Culture.

Two infographics from the American Library Association:

Numbers 10 and 11 on the Challenged Books list were actually burned. Are we are getting back to the good old days? Maybe we’ll be having witch trials soon. Great to be great again.

Link via The Digital Reader.

The Scottish Book Trust gives you thirteen great book museums to visit. If there’s a Scottish flavor to this list, let that not diminish your enthusiasm for the quest. I don’t really find it too troubling but when you visit the main reading room at the 42nd Street main branch of NYPL you have to push your way through a crowd of tourists who gather inside the entrance to the room to goggle at all those people actually reading books. A museum of reading?

It is quite a handsome room though.

In some ways any library is a kind of book museum, just because they keep lots of old books; and indeed one or two of the 13 in the Scottish Book Trust’s list are indeed libraries. I’ve reported on museum-type displays at the University Library, Cambridge, at Chetham’s Library, at The Rosenbach Library, and at The British Library. So keep going. After The Scottish Book Trust’s list you can start on national libraries.

The insatiable bibliophile traveller will need to refer to Printing museums and Book towns too.

The SHARP listserv drew our attention earlier this year to this movie, discussed at Melville House’s blog. Here’s a trailer.

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The theft described turns out to be chaotic and pretty incompetent but really did happen at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. The thieves dropped the two large Audubon volumes which were their real target as they ran out of the library but did get away with a few rare books which they tried to hawk to Christies in New York.

The movie has done the rounds, and may now be seen at Amazon Prime for example. It got an 88% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

What is all this about? It seems just fine that the Register of Copyrights (the Director of the U.S. Copyright Office) should be appointed by the Librarian of Congress. Suddenly we have a move to change this and make it a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation and a term limit. In April Publishers Weekly told us the story. Would anybody be too bent out of shape if it were any President other than the present incumbent? The initiative seems to be tied up with the identity of the current Librarian of Congress, and her attempt to replace an incumbent Register, who now has another job. There is also some potential money wasting being alleged. But doesn’t our Congress have better things to worry about? Maybe some members think there’s nothing more important than patronage.

What it was all about now seems set to become academic — Shelf Awareness of 17 December 2018 tells us “The Senate Rules and Administration Committee has indefinitely postponed voting on the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act, making it unlikely that the proposal will go to a floor vote before the 115th Congress adjourns. (That would mean supporters would have to start fresh with new legislation next year, where a Democratic House of Representatives might look differently on the whole prospect.) The legislation would make the register of copyrights a presidential appointee and set a 10-year term limit for the position. Currently, the register is selected by the Librarian of Congress and has no term limit. The bill was opposed by the ALA, the Society of American Archivists, and others. Critics noted, among other things, that the bill was being pushed through late in the session, that if favored commercial interests, and that it would represent a decrease of power for the Librarian of Congress.”

Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress

Not sure I’m able to see why this appointment should have become a party issue, and I wonder what commercial interests it’d favor. Can it all have gotten started because President Obama was the one who nominated Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress, and a certain part of our government seems to have no aim more pressing than thwarting everything our last president did?

Websites with cultural aspirations (must include Making Book I suppose) love to reproduce photos of nice-looking book places.

Here’s a showing of bookshops and libraries in Scotland, followed by a library photo gallery from The Atlantic. Fascinatingly they both feature a phone box converted into a library from different ends of the UK. One wonders how people are meant to access the shelves in this Seoul library.

Photo: Aaron Choi/ Shutterstock

Even just to dust the books, if as I suspect, they’re only there for display.

Apparently they’ve converted a bus shelter in Sedbergh into a little free library by adding a few shelves of books.

Sedbergh is England’s Book Town, so this is an entirely appropriate use of space. What the status of bus service may now be is not touched upon by The Westmoreland Gazette or Bookshelf who’s story was linked to be Shelf Awareness on 5 October.