June 2008

A Medical Leave Turns Into Early Retirement

In an effort to find “transparency and integrity in government”, Carroll Ann Kelly, former director of the Huntington (NY) Library has brought to light her suit against her employers for discharging her after seventeen years of employment.

The dispute began last fall when Kelly’s doctor provided her with a note instructing her to take medical leave because of a chronic and recurrent condition, which Kelly and her attorney declined to disclose. She also provided a note that said her return date would be January 2008. The board required that she submit an “Authorization for Release of Health Information” form, which she declined to do, pointing to a library policy of only requiring a written note from a medical provider for sick leave. More from Long Island’s Newsday.

Online service lets blind surf the Internet from any computer, anywhere

Online service lets blind surf the Internet from any computer, anywhere:
Visions of future technology don’t involve being chained to a desktop machine. People move from home computers to work computers to mobile devices; public kiosks pop up in libraries, schools and hotels; and people increasingly store everything from e-mail to spreadsheets on the Web.

But for the roughly 10 million people in the United States who are blind or visually impaired, using a computer has, so far, required special screen-reading software typically installed only on their own machines.

New software, called WebAnywhere, launched today lets blind and visually impaired people surf the Web on the go. The tool developed at the University of Washington turns screen-reading into an Internet service that reads aloud Web text on any computer with speakers or headphone connections.

Ray Bradbury on Long Beach’s Acres of Books

The building where the landmark bookstore Acres of Books is located has been acquired by the city for redevelopment and the store must vacate by next May. This fact provoked a stern protest from secondhand bookstore-lover and acclaimed sci-fi author Ray Bradbury:

"If this place could be kept here, if you're going to build a mall, they should build it around here. They should be the center of the mall. They should be a shrine. They should have a crucifix up in front. I will come and bless the goddamn place. And I mean that. I want this store to remain here and they can build a mall around it...It should be surrounded by other fascinating stores. It shouldn't be moved. It shouldn't be changed because it's the best bookstore in Long Beach and one of the best in California."

Standing Up to the Amazon Juggernaut

The UK’s biggest publisher, Hachette Livre UK, is leading the charge against Amazon, which it claims is squeezing the market and demanding too great a share of sales. The Telegraph reports on the gathering storm.

Chair of the Society of Authors Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring, called for a strike against Amazon. She said: “To punish the author so publicly and so humiliatingly is really not on. I hope other publishers join Hachette and basically strike against Amazon to say there is only so far you can push us before you break us and we are not going to take it any more.”

Dual-display e-book reader lets you flip pages naturally

E-book readers like the Kindle may be getting better, but still fall short of the usability of paper books. You can’t turn or flip through pages, or compare different documents as you would with paper. A new prototype with two displays can do all that – as the video here shows.

The two leaves can be opened and closed to simulate turning pages, or even separated to pass round or compare documents. When the two leaves are folded back, the device shows one display on each side. Simply turning it over reveals a new page.

The I, Libertine Bestselling Book Hoax

Over 50 years ago, one of the greatest media hoaxes ever was foisted upon New York City and the world at large. Overnight WOR-AM radio show host Jean Shepherd asked his listeners (“the Night People”) to go into bookstores and ask for a book that didn’t exist. Armed with a fictitious title and author, along with a vague plot outline, the Night People got their hooks in wherever they could. Fueled by bewildered bookstore owners and distributors, I, Libertine eventually did end up as a genuine bestseller. The crazy tale is recounted here in Shep’s own words on Long John Nebel’s radio show from 1968.

Jefferson’s Library Once Again Complete

The Library of Congress has managed to re-create —with the help of rare-book collectors —-the missing two-thirds of Thomas Jefferson’s Library. Mark Dimunation, of the Library of Congress, discusses Jefferson’s tastes and rare-book detectives.

Listen to full story on NPR.

New library for Atlanta Would Reflect a Commitment to Education, Literacy and the City

John F. Szabo, Director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System tells us why libraries make good neighbors in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Among his observations:

“Ten years ago, pundits predicted that the Internet boom and bookstore mega-chains would lead to the demise of the nation’s 16,000 public libraries. In fact the opposite has proven true —- current data show that U.S. library visits have increased each year, and the demand for new and improved spaces is at a record high. Almost 550 public library construction or renovation projects were completed from 2004 through 2006 —- growth unmatched since Carnegie led an effort to build 1,600 new libraries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fulton County cannot afford to fall behind.”

ChaCha Promises to Answer Any Reference Question Any Time

A new 24/7 service from ChaCha allows cell phone users on the go to ask a wide range of reference questions in conversational English and get answers free of charge. Each question is routed to a human guide who searches the Web for the information and within minutes returns the answer in a text message with a web reference link.

Asked if ChaCha represents competition for reference librarians, David Tyckoson, president of ALA’s Reference and User Services Association, told American Libraries that people already rely on librarians less for help with finding short, factual results that they can obtain on their own. “What they need a librarian’s help with are the more complex searches,” he said.