Unwarped by fashion and uncompromised by expediency

“The libraries of America are and must ever remain the homes of free, inquiring minds. To them, our citizens–of all ages and races, of all creeds and political persuasions–must ever be able to turn with clear confidence that there they can freely seek the whole truth, unwarped by fashion and uncompromised by expediency.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to the American Library Association, 1953.

HarperCollins Puts 26-Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations

From Library Journal, some alarming news:

In the first significant revision to lending terms for ebook circulation, HarperCollins has announced that new titles licensed from library ebook vendors will be able to circulate only 26 times before the license expires.

If a lending period is two weeks, the 26 circulation limit is likely to equal roughly one year of use for a popular title. For a three-week lending period, that stretches to a year and a half.

For librarians—many of whom are already frustrated with ebooks lending policies and user interface issues—further license restrictions seem to come at a particularly bad time, given strained budgets nationwide. It may also disproportionately affect libraries that set shorter loan periods for ebook circulation.

While HarperCollins is the first major publisher to amend the terms of loan for its titles, two other members of the publishing “big six”—Macmillan and Simon & Schuster—still do not allow ebooks to be circulated in libraries, much to the consternation of librarians.

Read more: HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations.

Re-Imagine: BECPL

Passing on this press release from the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System, for any local folks interested. I know I’m not alone in my concern for BECPL’s future in the face of next year’s massive budget cut, so this could be a good way to get all hands on deck, at least.

Community Meetings Announced To Create New Vision for Libraries & Services

The public is invited to share its ideas for the regional library system of the future through a series of public meetings, web surveys and focus groups; all part of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System’s newly launched Re-Imagine campaign.

“This is an exciting as well as a challenging time for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, director of the Library System.  “We are beginning a process to re-imagine the library and create a new vision that will meet the needs of the entire community; a library that will not only accommodate the types of  services that are so heavily used currently, but one that will satisfy the needs of our users for innovative services in the years ahead.”

The Re-Imagine campaign, expected to take several months, is soliciting input from the public, business, corporate, services, cultural, senior, teen, urban and suburban sectors to determine how the library of the future in Erie County will look and what services it will offer. The process is being led by volunteer George T. DeTitta, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist, Hauptman-Woodward Institute, and a citizen’s advisory committee as well as the consulting firm of Architectural Resources.  Participants will learn how libraries in other cities are successfully and creatively meeting the needs of library users in their communities, for today and tomorrow.

Upcoming Re-imagine Community Meeting dates, which are free and open to the public are:

Monday, November 8, 2010
5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Downtown Buffalo Central Library, One Lafayette Square, Bflo, 14203
Mason O. Damon Auditorium

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Erie Community College South, 4041 Southwestern Blvd, Orchard Park, 14127
Bldg. 5, Room 5102

Wednesday, November 10, 2010
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Erie Community College North, Tech Drive off of Wehrle Drive,  Williamsville,
Bretschger Hall, room B401

For more information, call 716-858-7144 or visit www.buffalolib.org

Lighthouse traveling libraries

I recently stumbled across a web site from the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, displaying examples of something I’ d never heard of: lighthouse traveling libraries.

“Lighthouses were often time located in remote areas and as such had no access to city services such as libraries, opera houses, entertainment, etc. that most people enjoyed who lived in a town or city. As light keeping was a lonely profession in most cases supplies were brought to them by lighthouse tender ships. One of the items the tender supplied was a library box on each visit as pictured to the left. Library boxes were filled with books and switched from station to station to supply different reading materials to the families. In 1876 portable libraries were first introduced in the Light-House Establishment and furnished to all light vessels and inaccessible offshore light stations with a selection of reading materials. These libraries were contained in a portable wooden case, each with a printed listing of the contents posted inside the door. Proper arrangements were made for the exchange of these libraries at intervals, and for revision of the contents as books became obsolete in accordance with suggestions obtained from public library authorities.

The books were carefully selected from books of a good standard appropriate to the families who would use them. While largely fiction, other classes of literature were included in reasonable proportions including technical books when requested. The books and periodicals contained in the libraries remained the property of the Light-House Establishment and each was marked in the front with the official Light-House Establishment bookplate. The beautiful 3″ x 4 ½” bookplate label bears a wonderful image of an iron pile lighthouse and Minot’s Ledge Light, and a lightship and bears the words “The Property of the Light House Establishment”.”

Libraries a bigger source of DVDs than Netflix

From the LA Times:

According to a survey by the Online Computer Library Center, more people get DVDs from libraries than from Netflix, and more than Blockbuster and Redbox combined…. These days, borrowing movies from the library is a smart way to save money.

Well, that’s true enough. But the LA Times is a little behind the times if they’re just noticing this trend now. My librarian friends in public libraries, and especially the library clerks I know, working in the trenches, will tell you that DVDs have been their biggest business for years. The demand for DVDs in libraries skyrocketed and it keeps every library staff on the run, trying to keep up.

On the one hand, it’s almost not worth commentary. Libraries have long collected more than just books — audiobooks, VHS tapes, readalong books for kids, LPs, cassettes, CDs. So now it’s DVDs, and they’re more popular than the others put together, but it’s still just format.

On the other hand, there’s piracy. I’m sorry, but when a library patron comes in, rents a dozen DVDs, and then returns them the next day and promptly takes out a dozen more — we all know they’re not watching them, back to back, for the ensuing 24 hours straight. They’re copying them, plain and simple. Possibly just for their own personal use, which is still illegal, but less unethical than the other possibility, which is that they’re selling copies of these movies somewhere. No way to say for sure which it is, of course.

Regardless, the next time you’re in the library, try to give the ladies and gentlemen behind the audiovisual/DVD counter (or just your librarian or library clerk, if you’re at a smaller place) a sympathetic smile. They didn’t plan to take over from Blockbuster, and they probably aren’t entirely jazzed about having to do so, but they’re just trying to give the public what they want and need. Which is all libraries ever try to do, no matter how unappreciated they might sometimes be.

5 places to download free e-books

From Tonic.com, this list of five places to download free e-books:

1. Project Gutenberg — The granddaddy of all e-book sites, Gutenberg contains the text of thousands of public-domain titles. From the Bible to the Kama Sutra and everything in between, they’re all there. And you can read their titles just about anywhere, be it your computer, your Kindle, your iPad, or your phone.

2. ManyBooks — Like Project Gutenberg but a little bit prettier, ManyBooks has about 26,000 free e-books just waiting to be downloaded. The site started out with e-book version of Project Gutenberg titles, but has expanded to include many additional public domain and Creative Commons titles from additional sources.

3.Tor.com — Tor is one of the world’s biggest Science Fiction publishers and they took the steps to embrace e-books years ago. Their website is packed with free books and stories from their best-known authors. Their logic is that if you read a book for free, you might also want to buy it in print. Your mileage may vary on that logic, but it’s still a great source for some good reads.

4. Amazon and Barnes & Noble — If you bought Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, you may as well keep shopping with them. Each of their sites offers hundreds of free books. They’re often the same books you’d find at the sites above, but you might also luck out and find that a publisher is offering its commercial e-books for free as a special deal through one of the online stores.

5. Your local library — What’s that, you didn’t know that your library has free e-books? Well, it all depends on how quickly your state’s library system is adapting to the electronic world. Some libraries have actual Kindles you can borrow, with e-books loaded on them, while others let you visit a special library site and download e-books to your reader for a week or two. (My library hasn’t gotten that far yet, but I can download audiobooks to my iPod any time I want.) Does your library offer this? You don’t know unless you ask.

I like Tor’s attitude a lot, because I think it’s valid — if I read an ebook for free, I actually just might want it in print, or more to the point, want more from from that author. And I have nothing but terrific things to say about Project Gutenberg. While Google Books are poorly scanned and horribly OCRd, PG books have been carefully proofread by teams of volunteers. Much better quality.


From the Wall Street Journal:


SAN FRANCISCO—Libraries are expanding e-book offerings with out-of-print editions, part of a broader effort to expand borrowing privileges in the Internet Age that could challenge traditional ideas about copyright.

Starting Tuesday, a group of libraries led by the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library, are joining forces to create a one-stop website for checking out e-books, including access to more than a million scanned public domain books and a catalog of thousands of contemporary e-book titles available at many public libraries.

And in a first, participants including the Boston Public Library and the Marine Biological Laboratory will also contribute scans of a few hundred older books that are still in copyright, but no longer sold commercially. That part of the project could raise eyebrows, because copyright law is unclear in the digital books arena. Google Inc., which is working on its own book scanning efforts, has been mired in a legal brouhaha with authors and publishers over its digital books project.

To read the books, borrowers around the world can download and read them for free on computers or e-reading gadgets. Software renders the books inaccessible once the loan period ends. Two-thirds of American libraries offered e-book loans in 2009, according to a survey by the American Library Association. But those were mostly contemporary imprints from the last couple of years—say, the latest Stephen King novel.

The Internet Archive project, dubbed Openlibrary.org, goes a step further by opening up some access to the sorts of books that may have otherwise gathered dust on library shelves—mainly those published in the past 90 years, but of less popular interest.”

Who can save our archives? Turning to the private sector for digitization.

This morning I was catching up on listservs and came across a link to this article in The Chicago Sun Times:

The Sun-Times Preserves Its Photo Archive by Selling It
Posted by Michael Miner on Thu, May 6, 2010

It’s worth a read. The title isn’t misleading, but there’s more to the story. The paper’s archive was sold off to a private individual, John Rogers, who is digitizing the entire collection. When finished:

The Sun-Times retains “all the intellectual property, all the copyrights,” Barron said. What’s more, Rogers is obliged to re-create the “entire library in digital searchable form,” and make it accessible to the Sun-Times. This means Rogers is doing for the Sun-Times something it couldn’t afford to do for itself but dearly wanted to. “If we could have pulled it off,” said Barron, “it would have taken years and years and years and millions of dollars.” So the deal was a “dream come true.” And far from surrendering its photo archive, he says, once it’s digitized the Sun-Times will be able to exploit it to tap a growing “aftermarket” for copies of old news photos.

The items that are appearing on eBay are duplicates, Rogers clarified. Or “things I don’t want”, he also said, which I found a little too vague. Still it’s hard to argue with what this man is doing to preserve a unique collection. That is, assuming he’s doing it right, as opposed to the sloppy way Google is digitizing books (in my humble opinion).

(Make sure to read the updates at the end of the article, with further information. I’m especially glad they clarified the bit about the library who was “keeping their photos in the basement”, making it sound like they were in old fruit boxes next to the washer, as opposed to being carefully stored in an archive.)

Got any late library books? Well, what’s your excuse?

One of my volunteers also works as a clerk at the local public library. What she has to tell me about people running up late fees is disheartening. People come in, take out stacks of DVDs (more often than books) and then keep them too long, and are shocked that there’s a late fee — shocked, I tell you! — despite the signs posted every five inches throughout the library. Children lose books, on their card or their parent’s, and said parent is offended at the idea that they have to pay to replace it. And my favorite: the library around here has a policy that if you’ve got more than $5 in late fees on your account, you can’t take out more books. Personally, I think that’s generous. But do you know what most people do? They’ll owe, say, $6.25 total. So when they try to take out a book and can’t, then they’ll pay $1.26. That’s right — just enough to get them under the cutoff. But not the whole fee. And lest you start feeling bad and thinking these people can’t afford more (ignoring that all they had to do was bring their items back on time to avoid these fees in the first place), remember that I live in ritzy affluent suburban town. The library parking lot is full of Mercedes, Ford Explorers and Jaguars. My volunteer has had a woman in a fur coat pull that pay-just-enough routine on her. On all of you, really, you know — public libraries are taxpayer-funded. When someone refuses to pay their fines like that, it makes more work for the library, which costs more, and it means that the library is without materials for longer. Just a thought.

Last May, the San Francisco Public Library released a great series of short videos called “Celebrity Excuses” to promote their Fine Amnesty Period. Many public libraries have a “fine amnesty” event, from time to time. Why? Because bad as late materials are, some go missing for years and it’s more expensive to replace books than it is to forgive fines. Replacing a book isn’t just the cost of the book, it’s the time, the staff hours, etc., processing it, too. And also, it’s good community relations. SF’s celebrities include writer Beth Lisick, comedian Marga Gomez, and my personal favorite, pilot “Sully” Sullenberger, who says, “You’ve misplaced your library book. Perhaps you’ve just forgotten to return it until it’s late and you owe fines. Or maybe you’re just trying to think of a really, really good excuse, like, ‘It got lost in the Hudson River.’ ”

So if you’ve got late library books — and I’m assuming anyone reading this blog would never do such a thing — and unless you share Captain Sullenberger’s excuse and for the same reason (and FYI: he contacted the library about the book he had with him on the plane, but I understand they were waived in light of the fact that he’d been, you know, saving lives when it happened), return them and pay your fines as soon as you can.

Cataloging at home, for fun

A lot of librarians hate cataloging. I love it. That’s why I’m such a nerd, I’ve even cataloged my entire personal book collection over at LibraryThing. It’s a terrific site, btw, even if you’re not up to such bibliographic devotion. You can find excellent reviews, take part in discussions, find recommendations. And why not catalog your books? Once you do, you can really look at them in an in-depth way. Cataloging is about access. The more you arrange and describe something, or a collection of somethings, the more access you have to it. The more use you can get out of it. And, as an added bonus on LibraryThing, it makes finding other bibliophiles of like minds easy.

But you can “catalog” a lot more than just your books. I like having everything labeled and set up just so. My computer files and folders are very structured. I’ve been using delicious.com for years, and my obsession with defining my tagging system there was epic. (Don’t ask me about Flickr, I beg you — do you want to see a grown woman cry? I’ve got thousands of photos on there and the fact that I haven’t found the time to tag them the way they should be eats at me.)

The reason I fell in love with iTunes from day one is that it’s terrific for organizing your music files. For every file I import, I can make sure it’s got all the right metadata, I can add lyrics and missing details, I can get the right artwork. And when it’s all done, I can find anything in my collection. I can rearrange it and look at it and access it however I want. It’s enough to make my little geeky classification-nutty heart pound. iTunes will import album artwork for you, so that’s easy enough. I use a little shareware program called iArt to hunt down lyrics; it doesn’t always work as well as I wish it would but it was good for getting the bulk of them at the get-go. Beware of lyrics sites, by the way, the ones you find if you just type in “don’t stop believin lyrics” into Google. A lot of those sites have adware and crap that can latch onto your computer. I usually rely on songmeanings.net instead. And lately, I’ve been importing video into iTunes more — there are usually a few free episodes offered every month, and I’ve bought some on Amazon, and so on. So I’m putting those in my iTunes library as well. Usually I’ve got the artwork for those, but if not, Get Video Artwork is a great site (with a boring, if descriptive name) for that.

It’s nerdy in a lot of ways to be this obsessed with organization and cataloging, but otoh, as more and more of our music and movies and books are now digital, I suspect finding ways to organize and access these materials is going to become increasingly important to everyone — not just us geeks.