Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn scanned the best-books picks from Publishers Weekly, Amazon Books and Library Journal and mined a little data: out of 30 books, only three made more than one list. Reviewers are an eclectic bunch.
With a $7 million investment, an Omaha foundation hopes to make technology as readily available as books to the public in a unique new library.
Add to this the growth of websites that let publishers directly track book lovers’ sentiments, making them feel less at the mercy of critics and other cultural gatekeepers who may raise their eyebrows at the circumstances of a posthumous publication.
The strategy appears to be working. Fans of the late Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel (who died in 1991) turned a book, pieced together from pages long buried in Geisel’s files, into an instant bestseller when it was published in July. A month later, a work by J.R.R. Tolkien (whose death came in 1973) that had been previously published in an obscure academic journal was released to some fanfare in the United Kingdom —and is slated for publication here in April.
Meanwhile, the latestby Pulitzer winner Oscar Hijuelos, who died in 2013 while putting the finishing touches on the novel, emerged this month.
The latest research suggest that though technology probably doesn’t make us stupid, it can, however, cause us to believe that we are smarter than we really are. Knowing you can search the internet is similar to knowing that you can consult a dictionary or a home encyclopedia or make a visit to the library when truly puzzled – but it’s different in that your brain, and the brains of every other cybercitizen, has become accustomed to the power to almost effortlessly reach into the internet and in a second or two bring back the info previously missing from your head, and you can do that mid-conversation, or while driving, or in the subway or on the couch or in line for a concert. That effortlessness and in-our-pockets availability seems to deeply affect how we categorize what is in our heads and what is not. When we consider all there is to know about a given subject, the convenience of search engines seems to blur the way we think about what we do and do not personally know about the world.
Of course, Kindles and Christianity are different beasts. But the fundamental posturing can feel eerily close. Those of us who work in technology tend to take religious-like stances over its ability to change the world, always for the better.
The newest industry report from BISG, “Digital Content in Public Libraries: What Do Patrons Think?,” found that even though over half of library patrons surveyed are aware that their local libraries carry e-books and digital audiobooks, relatively few had borrowed them in the previous year. Only 25% of patrons reported that they had borrowed an e-book within the past year, and even fewer (9%) said they had checked out a digital audiobook.
The low rates came despite the fact that 58% of patrons said they know that their library offers both e-books and digital audiobooks. Library patrons also borrowed digital content less frequently than they use it outside libraries; 44% of patrons said they had read an e-book in the past year, while 12% had listened to a digital audiobook.
In just the past decade, vexingly different figures have been reported — 1.8 million in The New York Times in 2009, four million by The Associated Press in 2013. The library and its current president, Anthony W. Marx, seemed content until two years ago to put the number at about three million, although the figure of 3.5 million had long been used, and appears in the lead paragraph of a Times article from Oct. 1, 1905. (Puzzlingly, the headline says 4.5 million.)
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If only Oprah were here.
“And you get a library, and you get a library, and you get a library!”
But alas, three small Clark County libraries will have to do it the hard way.
Ridgefield, Woodland and Washougal are in the hunt for new libraries to feed the minds of their growing cities, and they are all edging slowly toward their targets.
“Right now, if you go into any of those three communities it’s a very tight space, and once we find a space that fits the needs of the community, it opens up opportunities for everyone,” said Rick Smithrud, executive director of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Foundation.
The California State Library’s new chief information wants citizens across the state to be able to visit his institution — from the comfort of their own computer.
David Wanjiru, who started the job on Nov. 2, told StateScoop that one of his long-term plans is to stand up a “virtual library,” where users could watch video tours of the research institution’s archives or explore its museum exhibits. To create this resource, Wanjiru would outfit staff members with GoPro cameras that would record images of the library, he said.