Library Links|Dawning of a New Age

The Stiftsbibliothek, or abbey library, in the Swiss town of St. Gallen

The Stiftsbibliothek, or abbey library, in the Swiss town of St. Gallen

In the Guardian today, there are excerpts from letters about libraries and their ability to adapt to the new technological age.  Most of the quotes from the letters were positive.  Especially this one, as the writer explains that as the ability to get more information instantaneously over the internet the more the world will need librarians.  I think that this is true.  As long as there is information (and now with several different ways to access it) the world will still need librarians to navigate the mountains of it.  Which is also why librarians will need to learn good online searching techniques and be able to keep up with technology as it changes rapidly.

“The future of libraries is bright indeed if they can get through the next few years reasonably intact. By then it should be obvious to all that their – slightly modified – function is essential to society.

The reason is clear. The information society is in the process of taking form. Here the defining products are immaterial knowledge rather than concrete objects, production units are knowledge workers rather than machines in factories, and the raw material is information.

The amount of information involved is almost inconceivable. And the complexity of the task of managing and making available for all citizens this information will demand all the qualified professional help society can obtain, and more. We are going to need our librarians desperately.
Don Mac Donald
Oslo, Norway”

And with the future of libraries being bright and ever-so-slightly changing at times, one of the oldest libraries in Switzerland has received a grant that will enable them to put their Medieval manuscripts online.  Being that it is one of the oldest libraries surviving from the 9th century, it has a rich history that can attract many people, especially now over the internet.  As an expert who is overseeing the project of digitizing the manuscripts says:

“The library has become more visible,” Mr. Flüeler said. “On the Internet we now have more visitors than in the real library.”

While not all the manuscripts are able to be viewed yet, there are at least 144 manuscripts that are.  This is immensely helpful for those who have chosen to study Medieval Manuscripts as they can’t always get to a library that has Medieval Manuscripts in their holdings and if they do have a library close by, not always will they actually be able to see them.  With this library, students can study the manuscripts close up.  They can browse by age, signature, author, title and language.  Close ups of the facsimiles and bindings are available.  And even more important for the beginning student (like myself), there is a short history and description of the manuscript.

Many fear that libraries will be useless, but from these two articles today, they are far from becoming that.  But only if they are able to keep up with technology.

photo credit: NY Times


World of Warcraft and Reading

WorldcraftNY Times posted an article today about gaming and reading. When reading articles about this subject, I always have to ask myself, what do they mean by reading? Reading images on a screen? Or in a book? One example in the article talks about a boy who avidly reads websites that have information about the World of Warcraft game and cheats too. Is this the kind of reading we want to encourage?

Reading, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “The action of perusing written or printed matter; the practice of occupying oneself in this way.” Perusing is often a synonym for reading. In perusing books, a reader should be looking for an understanding of the printed words on a page. Hence the numerous assignments teachers give revolving book reports, response papers, and term papers. Reading designates a sort of comprehension.

Video games, however, utilizes a different aspect of comprehension. It isn’t so much a comprehension of storylines, ideas, or characters, rather it is an understanding of surroundings. Like James Paul Gee’s quote in the NY Times article, “Games are teaching critical thinking skills and a sense of yourself as an agent having to make choices and live with those choices.” While these games may teach critical thinking skills, they teach it in a fantasy world and sometimes these lessons do not translate into reality. Looking at video game players, I don’t see an effort to engage the world, but to leave the world and play in their fantasy. Books however, do the opposite. They push people to engage and confront the world around them. The more they read, the more people often take action in their own world and often to change it.

I don’t think that video games are horrible. In one way they are the same as books in that they allow for the user to escape, which is not necessarily bad and is sometimes good at the end of a stressful day (no matter the age). But I do not think that they will help encourage better reading habits. Several studies are being done to see whether or not playing games like World of Warcraft encourages better reading or more reading and it will be interesting to see what the studies conclude. However I predict that it will prove that gaming events at libraries will be very popular and have large turnouts, that there are similarities in the comprehension, and that while there are large turnouts for library gaming events, there is not much of an increase in books checked out at libraries.

Ramblings concerning Book Sculptures and Papertowns

Cara Barer Being a librarian, some may assume that I care deeply about the well-being of books.  Well, I do, but there are many books that I don’t care about.  Recently I came across this blog on the Art of Cutting Up Books.  It is fantastic.  For, what do you do with a Windows 95 how to guide?  What relevance may it have now?  It may have some for a very small proportion of the world’s population, but not a whole lot.  The images of the books are great.  But please, don’t take our books and make your own art.

Also, John Green put together a playlist for his newest book (still to be released) Papertowns.  It’s great.  Simply stated.  I can’t help but to enjoy the brilliance of Papertowns as I’ve been re-reading it again for a review I’m writing.  It is by far his best book (and only third, so it can only get better right?).

And perhaps because its the first day that feels like Autumn that I’m feeling nostalgic, but I want to re-learn how to draw from Ed Emberley. I remember as a child taking his books and teaching myself how to draw stick figure animals, trucks, trains, and monsters. I still remember how to draw the elephant — first start with a big letter D. Oh the joy of childhood.

photo from Cara Barer Photography (my favorite gallery online).

Big Read: Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild

This year Huntington Gardens in Pasadena is spear heading a month long Big Read event. The book they chose was Call of the Wild by Jack London. Being that Jack London is a favorite author, I can’t help but be more than pleased. Several groups in Pasadena and Glendale will be joining in Huntington Garden’s events. Throughout Pasadena and Glendale you can find events at the local libraries, bookstores, and the Huntington Gardens of course. The events range from book discussions, film screenings, lectures and several children events. My favorite is the displaying of a dogsled and how it works. Visuals are great for when reading a story, especially if it is set in a place like Alaska. Unfortunately, some events do happen during the daytime, but there are plenty of events that happen in the evening and on the weekend as well. I can’t wait to join Huntington Gardens and Pasadena to read Call of the Wild.

Schedule of events during the month of October

Censorship and Palin

Over the past few days the news about Palin banning books has been causing quite a stir. Time and New York Times both have been referred to as sources, but what puzzles me is the absence of any sort of facts.  Here’s the only facts I could find.

Fact #1: Palin asks Emmons (now Mary Ellen Baker) about banning books three times. Emmons gets very upset (Understandably, because banning books is a serious issue).

Fact #2: Emmons is fired, but rehired a short time later due to her popularity as a librarian.

Fact #3: Emmons resigns shortly thereafter and has not accepted any interview requests on this topic.

I have seen several book lists floating around, though none could be verified. Everything [even in the news stories] is speculation.  At the most, all I can say, is that is it wrong to ask what a library’s policies are? Palin did not push the matter any further. She did not submit any requests for books to be banned. I am not going to be following politics any further on this blog, but the nature of this story has me intrigued because book banning is close to my heart. I fight for books to be on shelves. But there is nothing to substianate this story yet except speculations. So here are my speculations: Palin asks about book banning policies (when Emmons is trying to get a new policy – or just instated a new policy – instated) and Emmons for a short time was fired. And Emmons and Palin did not get along.

Link to an article (from 1996 when this originally happened) from Achnorage Daily News & Frontiersman:


Anchorage Daily News

Story from the Boston Herald on the story (this time the piece does actually focus on the issue and not briefly mention it in one paragraph like Time and New York Times):

Palin asked Wasilla Librarian about Censoring Books

Why We Need Library Fines

Over at the Guardian, there was an article about the desire to get rid of library fines. Being a Circulation Manager I am the one in charge of fines and fees. And it is not my favorite aspect of the job. Especially as most of our patrons are undergraduate college students who have hardly any money and quickly feel the pinch if they incur large fines. It would be great if we could erase our system of library fines, but honestly, I don’t believe any other method would work. To publicly shame a student, like they did when monasteries held the libraries, would not mean too much for most students. Sure, there will be those who get embarrassed quickly and don’t like that shame, but most of our repeat offenders I feel could honestly care less that they were publicly shamed by the library. I know as an undergraduate student I was consumed by my studies and the fact that the library would announce I was a horrible person would hardly ruffle my feathers as long as I got to keep my book. And the idea about doing a point system might work, but again, I think it wouldn’t deter most students from keeping our books. There are students who use the library once for their papers (especially as now more and more information is moving online) and if they never come back, then what does it matter if they get any points? Some students may like the idea of playing against me in Guitar Hero to try to get their fines waived, but with busy schedules and other more exciting activities, I can’t see them stopping by. Even if they know it would be an easy win (I’m horrible at Guitar Hero).

No, library fines should stay. What speaks the most to undergraduate college student? Money. I always can get undergraduate college students to listen to me or reply to my emails when I mention the monetary amount of their fines. We don’t make much money off of fines (I’m sure most of our undergraduate students think we do), but it is just a mechanism to remind them to be responsible. And we’re not without grace. Once a year we do have a Jubilee Week where we forgive students fines (with some limitations such as if they still have a lost library book). This year I am planning to kick it up a notch and have a Coffee Bar with some cookies. Just to let students know that we do appreciate them and want them to be able to use our library. That we’re not heartless, or “Scrooges”. And most often, if the student can’t pay their fine (or if circumstances outside their control happen), we forgive their fines. They have to come talk to us, but we do exhibit grace. We understand because we too often know what it is like to be stuck in a hard spot.

If the system works, I say use it. Maybe in other areas there are different things that would work better then money. But with America and our capitalist structure, we need the monetary fine system. And if a patron never comes back because they have a huge fine or end up never returning book, then it is okay. Often there are several other people who still use the library and the library can always make up services to assist their patrons in other ways. There are many things the library can still do to show their patrons that they don’t care only about their pocketbooks or our books.

So Long for Books?

A couple months ago (or maybe it was longer) I wrote about how Acres of Books was closing Long Beach. Now, not only is Acres of Books closing, but the Long Beach Public Library is going to close its downtown library and extend hours of its branches due to budget concerns. This is such a travesty for the city of Long Beach where books other than the popular fiction is going to be scarce.  Ray Bradbury wrote a piece here at the local paper: Is Long Beach at War with Books?.  If you have ever seen Ray Bradbury in person and heard him talk, this piece will remind you of those times where he spent days at the libraries and read books upon books.  When there are budget concerns, is books really the first place you want to cut?

And Acres officially began their Closing Sale today. They stopped purchasing and receiving books a couple months ago when the sale of the building was first made, but now the closing is coming all the closer.

Link to story on Acres of Books Closing: LA Times