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Third part in a series about Libraries in Crisis from Huffington Post.
In case you hadn't heard, books aren't quite as popular as they used to be. "So the question, and it's a huge question, is, 'What even is a library anymore?'" said Cesar Pelli, the world-renowned architect and designer of the Minneapolis Central Library.
While this large urban library has greater resources than many of its suburban and rural counterparts -- the building itself, which opened in 2006, cost some $138 million -- librarians across the country are looking to institutions such as this to show the way forward. For their part, the librarians here say their hope is that this library can be more of a cultural center than a book repository.
When visitors walk into the Minneapolis building, the first collection they see is about 300 computers, each of which is in use about 90 percent of the time. Nationwide, the number of physical books borrowed from libraries is slowly declining, although books remain a core reason why people visit their libraries. The staff in Minneapolis estimates that computer access is the primary reason that most patrons, especially low-income and unemployed people, visit.
Early in its history the Library of Michigan collected books within broad categories of topics and circulated them in wooden traveling boxes across the state, especially in areas where there were no libraries. The books in the collection were categorized under the Dewey Decimal System. In 1987 when the Library of Michigan converted to the Library of Congress system, the original Dewey books were never rolled into the new system. In essence, they became a shrine to the Dewey system and were seldom touched.
Donald Todaro, who has overseen the auction as assistant director of the state library, said in the last several decades the collection saw little or no use, even though the books occupied nearly half of the fourth floor of the Library of Michigan.
When former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration was looking for ways to save money it determined the library was an easy target. Ultimately, the library was hit with more than $1 million in cuts. It was able to maintain its Michigan and Genealogy collections while pretty much everything else was determined to be expendable, including staff: The library once had more than 130 employees, but that dropped to 32.
From the Lansing City Pulse, Library of Michigan wraps up its sale of 75,000 out-of-circulation volumes. The rare books however have mostly been culled from the collection.
From New York Magazine, news of a forthcoming look at the "Occupy" phenomenon.
Progressive publishing house OR Books will release a 200-page first draft of a history entitled Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action That Changed America as soon as December 17, using volunteers from the movement's Education and Empowerment Committee, and including work by both "sympathetic writers and people who are active in the occupation," OR co-founder Colin Robinson told New York. The book's release date will mark the protest's three-month anniversary. "Although you can't deliver definitive opinions at the moment or set out a course of action, you can record the details of what has happened so far in Zuccotti Park," he said.
The publisher — whose anti-Sarah Palin essay collection Going Rouge wound up a New York Times bestseller — will release Occupying Wall Street as a print-on-demand product and independent e-book, with all profits going back to the occupation.
Here's another story on the process of writing the book from Huffington Post.
READING, Pennsylvania (AP) — Taylor Swift wants children in the Pennsylvania city of Reading to hit the books — and she's made that easier by giving 6,000 volumes to the local library.
Librarians unveiled the donation from the Grammy-winning country singer Thursday. Swift grew up in nearby Wyomissing and wasn't able to attend the event.
Swift partnered with publisher Scholastic Inc. to donate the books for children and young adults. The titles were chosen by local librarians.
Reading is a struggling city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia. Swift's representatives told library officials she wanted to help economically troubled libraries.
Librarians say Swift's books will be marked with a white star on the spine and a sticker inside. They say they hope Swift's popularity will motivate more children and teens to read.
Ambitious new San Diego library faces a funding shortfall
The nine-story, $185-million downtown structure is halfway complete but needs an additional $26 million. Critics say the city — famous for its aversion to any form of taxation — is relying too much on private donations.
Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist
"What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning."
See Also: Response to George Monbiot’s Rant against Academic Publishers
"No one doubts that commercial publishers are in the business of making money. But the way they make money is by doing something that academics value but that they would not do for themselves, left to their own devices. What I mean is captured in two words: ‘innovation’ and ‘extension’. "
From The Millions, an excellent article by Steve Himmer:
One recent morning, my almost four year old daughter started crying out of the blue. I asked her what was wrong, and she wailed, “I don’t have a library card!” So with a proud paternal bibliophile’s heart swollen in my chest, I strapped her into her car seat and we set off for the library in search of a library card and — at her request — in search of Tintin books like those I’d told her were my favorite stories at the library when I was young.
We went first to the branch library in our end of town, a small, round building with walls almost entirely of glass. All those windows, and the books behind them, make it look pretty inviting, and we parked our car in the lot and I held my daughter’s hand as she skipped to the door, bubbling over with excitement. Unfortunately, it was closed; I’d known municipal budget cuts had reduced the hours of all library branches, but I’d thought that only meant it was closed on Fridays. Instead, it meant this branch — and all others, apart from the main library downtown — were open only a couple of hours four afternoons through the week. No mornings, no evenings, no weekends. -- Read More
Court rules state can't meddle with library fees
State education officials can't interfere with local libraries that charge fees to patrons who live in other communities, the Michigan Court of Appeals said in a decision released Wednesday.
Boyd Tonkin: If it wished to rebuild mutual trust, social capital and motives for hope and change in the riot-wrecked streets of a nation's cities, where might a truly idealistic society begin? Perhaps its policy-makers, with money no object, would plan a network of more than 4000 dedicated cultural and community centres, their locations scattered throughout urban areas – not just in downtown hubs and comfortable suburbs. It would protect these centres with a core role defined by statute, but give them enough flexibility to innovate, to connect and to co-operate.
Hopelessly utopian, I know. Except that Britain's network of public libraries already exists. Or rather, it hangs on by the skin of its under-resourced teeth. Roughly 10 per cent of the total, more than 400, currently stand at risk of closure. Dozens have already shut.
I know and have heard all the possible objections to a view of local libraries that puts them at the heart of community renewal. Potential rioters and looters don't care about them anyway. To enter a library in the first place identifies a young person as part of the solution, not the problem. Feral teens who trash the shops will not take an interest in the library until the day dawns when it agrees to stock top-brand ,sportswear and flat-screen TVs.
More from The Independent.
Nice story from The Baltimore Sun: A former employee of the Baltimore County Public Library, who died in 2006, has left nearly half a million dollars to the foundation that supports to the 17-branch library system.
"It is the largest one-time gift in the history of the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library," said foundation president Jeffrey Smith.
The gift of $475,000 came from the estate of former librarian Margaret "Peggy" Peterson, whose 23 years with BCPL had made her a familiar face at the Reisterstown, Catonsville and Pikesville branches, and at the BCPL administrative offices in Towson.
"We are grateful to Ms. Peterson for her generosity and for her careful planning," Smith said.