November 2008

Weeding the Home Library

From Laura Miller, the New York Times.

In order to have the walls of my diminutive apartment scraped and repainted, I recently had to heap all of my possessions in the center of the room. The biggest obstacle was my library. Despite what I like to think of as a rigorous “one book in, one book out” policy, it had begun to metastasize quietly in corners, with volumes squeezed on top of the taller cabinets and in the horizontal crannies left above the spines of books that had been properly shelved. It was time to cull.

For the most part, I’ve been pragmatic in my purging, and for years reference books were the most likely survivors. I needed them for work, for those occasions when I suddenly had to know at what age Faulkner published “Absalom, Absalom” (39) or the name of the Greek muse of lyric poetry (Euterpe). Now the Internet can tell me all that. Apart from the rare reference that’s worth reading in its own right, like David Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film, these titles have been drifting away as the trust I’m willing to put in Wikipedia gradually equalizes with the faith I’ve invested in, say, Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia. (It doesn’t help that reference books tend to be shelf hogs.)

IBM: Talking Web Will be Commonplace in 5 Years

Every year IBM releases a “Next Five in Five” list, a list of innovations that “have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years”. This is the third such list, and it mentions a “Talking Web” among the 5 items. You will talk to the Web and the Web will talk back, according to IBM. In the future “you will be able to surf the Internet, hands-free, by using your voice – therefore eliminating the need for visuals or keypads.”

Full story in the New York Times

I Hate You Library Patrons!

This is a rather old Best Of Craigslist post I just discovered: “I Hate You Library Patrons!

So basically if you are a nice, well-mannered person, welcome to the library. I’m glad that you are here. I will bend over backwards to make sure that your information needs are met. If you are a jerk, a pest, a leech, or any other kind of pariah, I will go out of my way to make sure that you leave the building as soon as possible, hopefully with some kind of police escort. You’ve been warned.

Long Time Director Returns As Trustee

Richard Ostrander served as the Director of the Yakima Valley Regional Library for 24 years. He now returns to the library as a Yakima County appointed member of the library’s board of trustees.

It’s an interesting move, especially since YVRL went through an administrative shakedown earlier this year culminating with the firing of the director. It seeme there were questions about how she handled her authority and how the board of trustees approved anything she requested without any discussion. It was a sordid affair that played out on the pages of the local paper and in the court of public opinion.

Ostrander, who has an operating library in the YVRL system named after him, replaces a board member who served ten years, the maximum term length for a YVRL board member.

Possible Private Solution for Philly Public Libraries

We reported a few days ago on a demonstration against closing some of Philadelphia’s neighborhood public libraries here.

There now exists a possibility that a private foundation will pitch in to keep those libraries open; here’s the story from the New York Times.

According to the article, “Three public ice rinks scheduled to close because of city budget cuts will stay open under private management, officials said Tuesday, and some swimming pools and libraries may also be transferred to the private sector.

Management of the rinks is being taken over by the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, a charity started by the founder of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. The foundation already runs hockey programs for young people in poor neighborhoods.

To Catch a Thief

The Choctawhatchee High School librarian, concerned that someone had been removing money from the “school store” cash box, marked two $1 bills to try and catch the culprit, according to an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office offense report. She had a suspect in mind and photocopied the bills before placing them in there.

For the exciting conclusion…NWFlorida Daily News.

[Black] Friday is the National Day of Listening

It doesn’t have to be a day of frenzied shopping…

David Isay, one of the most original minds in media, is the creator of Story Corps, the nationwide project that gets ordinary people to sit together and tell the stories that we never take the time to hear from our parents, grandparents, friends and other loved ones. Some of those stories end up on NPR, and some are just recorded for a family’s own safekeeping.

Now, Isay has decided to respond to the economic crisis with a National Day of Listening, on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s a way to capitalize on the fact that many of us will spend the holiday weekend with relatives or friends, and while we’ll catch up on what’s going on at work and how the family is doing, it’s much harder to carve out the time and figure out how to ask the essential questions about life that too often never get asked. On the Story Corps website, there’s a DIY page that offers recommendations for, well, doing it yourself…

Beats going to Kohl’s at 4:00 am?

‘Liar’s Poker’ Author Sees Upside To Market Crash

When Michael Lewis looks back on the Wall Street he wrote about in his 1989 best-seller, Liar’s Poker, the street looks positively quaint. At the time, it was shocking that an investment bank CEO made $3 million a year. His newest book, Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity
is a collection of essays and articles written during the past two decades. As Lewis tells NPR’s Renee Montagne, it begins with the crash of October 1987. “It seemed to be the first of a new breed of financial panic, and it was panic without any seeming economic consequence,” Lewis says. Since then, “the financial market seemed to be able to convulse in the most extraordinary ways without most people ever really feeling very much. And the lessons people seemed to learn … was that, well, markets do these crazy things, but in the end they don’t really matter.” Full story here.