Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Gaurdian: How Real Books Trumped E-books

Atmospheric: the Daunt Books branch in Marylebone, London.
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
By Alex Preston
May 14, 2017

Books have always had a fetishistic quality to them, with their dusty secretiveness. Now, though, it feels like we’re living through a special moment in the history of book design and beautiful books are everywhere.

Take George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo with its marmoreal endpapers or Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads, with its cover inspired by mosaic from the Imam mosque at Isfahan; Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, its sumptuous jacket inspired by the tiles of William Morris; 4th Estate’s gorgeous repackaging of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s backlist, based on vibrant African headwrap patterns; the glimmering Penguin Hardcover Classics reissue of the works of F Scott Fitzgerald, or its clothbound editions of Austen, Brontë and Dickens. It’s hard to know whether to read these books or caress them.

Book covers looked very different a decade ago when the appearance of e-readers seemed to flummox a publishing industry reeling from the financial crisis and Amazon’s rampant colonisation of the market. Publishers responded to the threat of digitisation by making physical books that were as grey and forgettable as ebooks. It was an era of flimsy paperbacks and Photoshop covers, the publishers’ lack of confidence manifest in the shonkiness of the objects they were producing.

But after reaching a peak in 2014, sales of e-readers and ebooks have slowed and hardback sales have surged. The latest figures from the Publishing Association showed ebook sales falling 17% in 2016, with an 8% rise in their physical counterparts. At the same time, publishers’ production values have soared and bookshops have begun to fill up with books with covers of jewel-like beauty, often with gorgeously textured pages. As the great American cover designer Peter Mendelsund put it to me, books have “more cloth, more foil, more embossing, page staining, sewn bindings, deckled edges”.
"Everything is aimed at persuading people to pick things up, making bookshops a place where you discover beautiful things"
I spoke to Christopher de Hamel, the author of a very beautiful book, Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts, who compared the current state of publishing to the situation at the end of the 15th century, when the printing press arrived and changed the world of books forever. “The manuscript makers suddenly felt threatened by printers,” he said. “They started very deliberately doing things in their manuscripts that they knew the printers couldn’t do. They did clever borders that looked as though real insects had landed on the page. They started doing extraordinary trompe l’oeil illusions; they really brought colour back into their manuscripts because they knew that printers couldn’t do that. It was the world of technology and the handmade struggling against each other, each striving to do things that the other couldn’t match.” We know how this one ends (although de Hamel points out that there’s still a thriving community of 21st-century hand illuminators). But today’s publishers and booksellers are optimistic that history will not repeat itself.

James Daunt, chief executive of Waterstones, contends that the resurgence of the physical book is real and sustainable. Furthermore, a focus on the book as object of desire has been central to his turnaround of Waterstones. This has not only seen the firm return to profit, but has made the shops, once dim grey halls of cheap paperbacks, ziggurats of three for twos and mountains of celebrity cookbooks, things of beauty in themselves, as cleverly curated and carefully atmospheric as Daunt’s eponymous London bookshops. “A very large part of the way I sell books has been about how you present them, how you bring the customer to them and exploit the tactile sense of a physical book. We’ve changed the furniture at Waterstones to make that happen. We have smaller tables with more focused displays. Everything is aimed at persuading people to pick things up, trying to catch their eye, making bookshops a place where you discover beautiful things.”

Daunt doesn’t feel that the current vogue for beautiful books is anything new, but, rather, a return to the values that existed in a previous publishing era. After the financial crash, he says, “there was some cost-cutting and shortsighted penny-pinching that went on, trying to boost profit margins by cutting back on production values, and I think publishers realised that consumers needed a reason to go to bookshops. And that was to buy proper books with decent paper and decent design. We’ve seen a clear relationship between books that were successful and books that looked nice and had been made well. So it then became a commercial imperative to do it.”

Independent bookshops are benefiting from beautiful books, too. Mary James, who runs Aldeburgh Books in Suffolk with her husband, John, says business is flourishing. She thinks we’ve now had long enough with both forms of literature to recognise that “the greyness and the blandness of Kindle” can’t compete with a book you can touch and hold: “People can’t remember what they’ve read on Kindle. Because everything looks the same. They say, ‘I’m reading this book but I can’t remember what it’s called or who it’s by.’ With a printed book the physicality and colour and texture lodge in your mind.”

Covers are enigmatic, un-pindownable things, often as much a work of creative inspiration as the books themselves. Mitzi Angel, publisher at Faber, says: “A good designer interprets the writing alongside the editor. Sometimes, a brilliant, unexpected cover can provide the publishing house with exactly the right way to conceive of a book. It can be a light-bulb moment. You think to yourself, ‘Ah! NOW I know how to publish this.’”

Over the time I’ve spent researching this article, I’ve surrounded myself with beautiful books, arranging them on the floor of my drawing room, looking for patterns and affinities, reluctant to put them back on the shelves, to turn those gorgeous faces from view. There were cookbooks – Polpo, Persepolis and the glorious new Great Dixter Cookbook; there were books of maps – The Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky; The Phantom Atlas by Edward Brooke-Hitching; H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. There were books whose covers relied on typography – Nikesh Shukla’s The Good Immigrant, Open City by Teju Cole, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; or those whose high-concept covers burned in the mind – Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet, Stuart Dybek’s The Start of Something and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Two recent bestsellers in particular, one fiction, one non-fiction, seemed to epitomise the beauty and sumptuous production values of this annus mirabilus for book design: The Essex Serpent andThe Silk Roads.

There’s a worry, though, that books are becoming luxury objects, status symbols, decorations rather than sources of inspiration, erudition and imaginative escape. The most cherished books on my shelves are anything but beautiful – an early hardback of The Great Gatsby with no dust jacket and “Property of the Women’s Hospital” stamped on every other page; a broken-spined New York Review of Books edition of Renata Adler’s Speedboat that has clearly been dropped in the bath. But here we must recognise that there has long been a link between beauty and learning.

Whether the physical book goes the way of the hand-illuminated manuscript, an object of merely historical interest for all its beauty, or whether this ancient piece of technology is here to stay, we should all be celebrating the work of the designers and publishers who have responded to the gauntlet thrown down by ebooks with such aplomb.

We should also recognise that the most beautiful books of the last few years have also been some of the most brilliant and inspired. The care and attention lavished on those intricately illuminated medieval volumes said something important about what was written inside them, the value of the words within, and this is no less true today.

Authors on Their Book Jackets

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Design: Peter Dyer

I’d been asked to send to Serpent’s Tail any images that I thought really striking, so I emailed over a dozen or so pictures of the tiles I saw at the Jackfield Tile Museum: lots of William Morris and William de Morgan and so on. I forgot about the tiles until I was emailed a proposed design. I was in the car suffering the most awful bout of hiccups, which nothing seemed to quell; when I opened the document on my phone and saw the cover design I gave such an enormous gasp of delight they stopped immediately. I knew at once it was perfect.

The design has had a huge impact on the success of the book. It’s not simply that it’s a fabulously striking and unusual design – it’s that it captures something about the book that I had tried very hard to achieve and hoped readers would encounter: both absolutely rooted in the Victorian tradition (a William Morris design, in this case) and somehow very contemporary seeming, too. If the book had had some more conventional historical fiction cover - a woman striding out over marshland, for instance - it would have misrepresented the book and I think been far less appealing to readers. And I would have been appalled!


Helen MacDonald, H Is for Hawk
Publisher: Vintage
Design: Chris Wormell and Suzanne Dean

The cover design came about with the kind of speed and ease that later feels like the inevitable workings of fate. There were no alternative covers. About a year before publication, my editor, Dan Franklin, wrote to me asking if I had any thoughts on a jacket image. The title reminded him of William Nicholson’s alphabet prints, he said, so rather than a photographic cover, he thought we could find an illustrator who could do it in the Nicholson style. Art director Suzanne Dean suggested Chris Wormell as a perfect fit and I was overjoyed. So I sent him a series of reference photographs of Mabel, my hawk, along with technical illustrations of falconry furniture — perches, jesses, falconry bags and so on. And nine days later I was emailed a pencilled rough of the jacket. It was perfect.

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Design: Emma Ewbank

At first, I was sent a mock-up by a designer in the States and it had a picture of a dump truck and a Persian relief that’s 2,000 years old on it. They said: “It’s about the old and the new, you see.” I was pretty crestfallen. I sent Bloomsbury a collection of images and one of them was the inside of the Esfahan mosque. Emma Ewbank came back with her idea and when I saw a copy of it, I almost wept with happiness. It told me that Bloomsbury had really thought about it. They wrapped this wonderful purple belly band around the hardback and then the gold and silver on the cover… I knew that people would know that it wasn’t just about camels and ancient silk roads, that it was about the history of the world.

Source: The Guardian

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Huffington Post: After Trump Was Elected, Librarians Had To Rethink Their System For Fact-Checking

The American Library Association wants to help you distinguish real news from fake with the help of CRAAP.

By Maddie Crum
March 9, 2017

If you’ve been a student in any capacity since the advent of the internet, you’re probably aware of the stigma around citing online sources in research papers and other academic pursuits.
Teachers and librarians have had to reconcile student interest in online sources ― and the relevancy those sources have to their lives ― with the fact that in the past, sites haven’t been as rigorously fact-checked as published books.

To help students take a clear-eyed approach to internet research, librarians like American Library Association (ALA) president Julie Todaro use a resource called the CRAAP test, created by Meriam Library at CSU at Chico.

A widely used information evaluation system, CRAAP stands for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose. According to the CRAAP test, a 20-year-old article written by a PR firm, for example, would be less valid than a three-year-old statement made by an American president in a published memoir.

But now, due to President Donald Trump’s Twitter comments dismissing legitimate sources of information, including multiple attacks on The New York Times, the ALA is making some changes to the test’s criteria.

“We have standards for assessing news, and we had to go back in and change those,” Todaro told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “We’re looking at having to flip what we’re talking about, taking a look at how many people said this, where they said it, what the statement was.”

Todaro and her team have worked to develop an update to the CRAAP test, where the “authority” component is more closely considered. “We have to talk about authority today and we have to have them not make the authority decision without the set of other facts like accuracy and currency,” she told Texas Standard.

“We talk differently about authority [now],” Todaro reiterated to HuffPost. “And we talk about credentials in a different way. We talk about going beyond a title that someone has.”

The CRAAP test is often applied to scientific or historical information, Todaro said, citing erroneous claims about the nonexistence of global warming or the Holocaust as examples of CRAAP-tested statements.

Tweaking the CRAAP test is just one way librarians are pivoting to meet the needs of citizens under Trump’s administration. In addition to helping readers access books, librarians are flexing their roles as community organizers and distributors of accurate information on immigration, trans rights and other issues, which Todaro describes as civil rights issues.

“Libraries aren’t partisan organizations. So it doesn’t matter how you voted, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. We can provide resources and services for everyone,” Todaro said. “We’re having to, sadly, take another look at the standard credibility that you and I, and children and adults everywhere, have taken for granted for years. That’s no longer there.”

Editorial note: The Toronto Public Library has created a "How to Spot Fake News" in a Canadian-context. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Oxford University Press Blog:How libraries served soldiers and civilians during WWI and WWII

By Katie D. Bennett
May 8, 2017

Essentials for war: supplies, soldiers, strategy, and…libraries? For the United States Army during both World War I and World War II, libraries were not only requested and appreciated by soldiers, but also established as a priority during times of war. In the midst of battle and bloodshed, libraries continued to serve American soldiers and citizens in the several different factions of their lives.

“Their purposes reached far beyond housing a collection of books,” explained Cara Setsu Bertram, Visiting Archival Operations and Reference Specialist at the American Library Association Archives.

During World War I and World War II, camp libraries popped up everywhere at military bases in the United States and all over Europe, stretching as far east as Siberia. These camp libraries were originally established by the American Library Association (ALA), and at the end of World War I, ALA transferred control of them to the war department, which maintains them to this day. ALA worked with the YMCA, the Knights of Columbus, and the American Red Cross to provide library services to other organizations, such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

These libraries were nothing glamorous—usually a shed, shack, or a hut built of wood and other available materials. They were run by librarians who volunteered to travel overseas to care for the libraries. Responsibilities included circulating the collections, maintaining them, weeding out books, and acquiring new ones. More than 1,000 librarians volunteered during World War I, and that number only increased with World War II.

“Servicemen at a Louisiana Library, circa 1942” courtesy of the
American Library Association Archives. Used with permission.
For many soldiers, Bertram explained, libraries were a place to relax, read, boost their morale, and educate themselves. Many soldiers were thinking about which jobs they wanted when they returned home toward end of the war, so they read about skills for various lines of work. For a few, this was the first exposure these soldiers had to books of any kind, and many illiterate men gained the opportunity to learn to read.

“What’s really interesting is that soldiers were interested in non-fiction, technical books,” Bertram added. “You would think they’d want to read a fiction book, something to take their minds elsewhere, but they were really interested in non-fiction.”

Despite the overwhelming interest in non-fiction, there were a few fiction books that resurfaced as favorites amongst military personnel, such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Great Gatsby. “These books were almost pulled out of obscurity and brought into popularity during WWII,” Bertram notes. “They were already classics, but they regained popularity during this time thanks to the soldiers.”

The practice of bibliotherapy gained traction during the two World Wars, as many soldiers used reading to treat PTSD, paranoia, insomnia, and other psychological disorders commonly suffered by veterans. Nurses read to injured and blinded soldiers to ease their suffering.

“US Army Hospital Ward Service, circa 1945” courtesy of the
American Library Association Archives. Used with permission.
Paranoia seeped into these libraries as well, in the form of censorship. Certain books were banned from the libraries in camps, several of them being pro-German sentiment books, pro-socialist books, and books about pacifism. The war department wanted them pulled from libraries or completely destroyed. For citizens in the United States, the military demanded that all books on explosives, invisible ink, and ciphers be removed from libraries, and that any patron who requested such materials have their name put on a list to submit to the FBI for questioning.

Even with the careful curation by high-ranking officials, ALA sent over 10 million books to the armed services camps during its Victory Book Campaign from 1942–1943. Reading materials were distributed to various military branches, such as the Army, Navy, American Red Cross, prisoners of war, and even the “war relocation centers,” a euphemism for the Japanese-American internment camps in the United States.

At the end of World War I, these camp libraries were taken over by the military, but one library in particular was created independently to serve the American ex-pats who remained in Europe after the war. ALA founded the American Library in Paris in 1920 to serve in part as a memorial for Alan Seeger, a young American poet, who was the son of Charles Seeger, a leader in the group of American ex-pats. The library was meant to be a haven for armed forces personnel serving their allies in World War I.

“One of the original missions of the library was to teach and show off the advances Americans had made in the field of library science,” said Charles Trueheart, current Director of the American Library in Paris. Library science was a very progressive subject, and the United States was far ahead of the French in that regard at the time. The library was a symbol of the United States becoming a true world power.
Photo of the American Library in Paris in 1926.
Photo “10 rue de l’Elysée” from the American
Library in Paris. Used with permissi

“Americans moved to France in large numbers to build these big institutions that they didn’t build anywhere else in the world,” Trueheart admitted.

After the First World War came the second, and the purpose of the library morphed. “It was the only library in Paris or France that had books in English and could stay open because of Vichy connection,” said Trueheart.  That connection is slightly controversial.

Throughout WWII, the library survived in large part due to Countess Clara Longworth de Chambrun. After the first director, Dorothy Reeder, was instructed to return home to the United States for her safety, Countess de Chambrun took over control of the library as the Nazis occupied France in 1940. Due to her son’s marriage to the daughter of the Vichy Prime Minister, Pierre Laval, the library was able to remain open throughout the war. The library continued to operate with occasional confrontations with the Nazis, and even though her family was tied to the enemy, she aided in the resistance. While the library remained open under the guise of being compliant with the Nazi cause, de Chambrun ran an underground book service to Jewish patrons.

The value of this library, and the other camp libraries, throughout both World Wars was immeasurable. The American Library of Paris was a lending library, where people came to read and borrow books, and it was the only library in Paris or France that had books in English and could stay open during World War II.

“There wasn’t anything like this and it was a treasure,” echoed Trueheart.

These libraries were safe havens for soldiers and civilians alike, and their existence during times of war is a true testament to the constant need for libraries.
Featured image credit: Photo of military personnel and a librarian in a camp library in France in 1919 from the American Library in Paris. Used with permission.

Source: Oxford University Press Blog

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Colorado Public Library: How Denver Public Library Balances Books And Being A Homeless Shelter

By Michael Sakas
May 17, 2017

The downtown Denver Public Library.
A visit to the library likely means checking out a book or movie. But the Denver Public Library says its central location has another job these days — it’s somewhat of a homeless shelter.

“That is a role that we have not asked to play, but are playing,” says Michelle Jeske, the city librarian for Denver.

When the doors of the library open at 10 a.m. a mix of people usually wait outside to be let in. Some have materials to return or pickup, and others are seeking shelter.

James Short, who describes himself as residentially challenged, is one of the group waiting to get in. He’s a writer, and says he comes to the library nearly every day to work. Without a home, “I’d be drinking a lot more Starbucks coffee and using their internet,” Short says.

Of the crowd gathered at the Central Library on this day, Short was the only one willing to be interviewed. One man said he was too high to talk. Another didn’t want the plasma center to know he was homeless or he wouldn’t be able to donate.

Elissa Hardy, one of the Denver Public Library's social workers, points out that the library is one of the few public bathrooms in the city. “We don't open until 10 a.m. [weekdays]. So as you can imagine, if you're leaving shelter at 5 or 6 in the morning, that's five to six hours that you don't have access to the bathroom.”
James Short, left, describes himself as "residentially challenged."
He uses the library to do his work. Pictured at right, homeless
patrons carry belongings as they wait for the library to open.

Two years ago, the Denver library didn’t have a social worker on staff. Before Hardy, she says that the Denver Library was doing the best it could. Now it’s becoming a lot more common position for libraries.

“When I started, this was the third city to get a social worker in the library,” Hardy says. “And now they are dozens around the country.”

Hardy admits she never saw herself working for a library, simply because she knew it as the place “where I could come to get my books.” But she’s here, saying hello to patrons as she walks the seven floors of magazines, newspapers, and (yes) books. The building is huge — 540,000 square-feet. In 1990, Denver voters approved a $91.6 million ballot measure to build the central library and other branch locations.

Today, Hardy says this multi-million dollar building is basically serving as Denver’s largest day shelter.

“I think that, the reason people often come here though, even though there are some other day shelter spaces, is because there are things to do. And there's resources, you can be another human in the community,” she says.

Hardy finds that most of the people who wait outside in the morning head straight to the computers on the fourth floor. That’s where some of them, like Short, do their work. Sleeping in the library isn’t allowed, but a few people appear to be nodding off at tables with their belongings tucked under their seats.

Jeske, Denver’s head librarian, says the social workers were necessary to both better serve the homeless population and to help out the library staff.

“Those of us who went to grad school to be librarians didn't go to grad school to be social workers,” she says. “And were in fact, kind of bridging that role a little bit in ways that were not necessarily comfortable for us.”

The specialized help from the library’s social workers has been beneficial, but it's difficult to find a balance between being a library for everyone, Jeske says, and helping the homeless. They don't want priorities, like children's learning, to suffer. Hardy's position is seen as a way toward finding balance.

It wasn’t seen that way at first though. When Hardy started, she “certainly heard some staff having concerns that this isn't a social service setting” or worries that more people would be invited in. That pushback has softened, and she’s now seen as a resource.

Elissa Hardy, above, is one of two social workers at the Denver Public Library. She started the position two years ago, to better serve the homeless community at the library. Mary Stansbury, bottom left, is the head of the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Denver. Michelle Jeske, bottom right, is the city librarian for Denver.

Mary Stansbury, the head of the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Denver, says a social worker role is a natural fit for a library setting.

“Public libraries have for decades have been essential organizations, not just for homeless people but also as a conduit for connecting the agencies in whatever community that library might be in, that serve the homeless,” Stansbury says.

As Stansbury sees it, libraries provide a safe place. There are security guards, places to sit where you won’t be asked to leave and you’re off the streets. She admits, universities could better prepare librarians for that environment. She hasn’t found a library science program that has a class just on how to serve the homeless. The topic is explored in an existing DU class, and faculty are considering making it a requirement.

"It's certainly one that helps students dig pretty deeply into understanding, how do I empathize with this other person that may smell bad or, won't look me in the eye?” Stansbury says.

DPL social worker Elissa Hardy gets exactly where Stansbury is coming from.

“People don't go into the field of library science thinking they're going to be working in a homeless shelter essentially,” Hardy says.

In the summer, Hardy says many people without a home travel through Denver. Often the first place they go is the library. It could be to find a book. But maybe it's to ask, where are the food lines? Where can I find a shelter? And she says, the library is here to connect people to the resources they need.

Source: Colorado Public Library

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The Gaurdian: Major Report on Libraries' Future Slammed as Over-Optimistic

May 2, 2017

Carnegie Trust’s analysis ‘seriously avoids the truth of what is happening’, according to library campaigner Tim Coates

public library sign in Hereford.
In the balance … public library sign in Hereford. Photograph: Alamy

A report on the future of public libraries from the prestigious Carnegie Trust has been slammed as “over-optimistic”, amid calls for it to be withdrawn. Leading library campaigner Tim Coates has filed a formal complaint with the charity’s trustees, claiming that the report, published last month, “seriously avoids the truth” about the long-term decline of the sector and misrepresents data on library use.

In an open letter, Coates says that the report, called Shining a Light, omits key evidence about the impact of cuts and underfunding and “seriously avoids the truth of what is happening”. He adds that the report “fails to draw the right conclusions from data in the research it has carried out”.

The report recommended a five-point plan to save a sector that has been in the frontline of savage cuts imposed on local government over the past 10 years. Among the recommendations were that libraries make better use of data to improve their offer and provide better online services; focus more on demonstrating how they help deliver government policies; and provide innovation and leadership training for staff.

Coates writes that the report avoids key evidence about “the essential, continuous and destructive decline of use in public libraries in the UK”. The report draws conclusions without evidence and fails to highlight key findings from the research done on behalf of the trust by Ipsos Mori, claims the former managing director of Waterstones, adding that it failed to research the views of lapsed library users or to highlight the role of leadership in the sector’s rapid decline.

Data overlooked by the report, according to Coates, include figures collated annually by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) on library usage and expenditure. In December, the latest Cipfa survey revealed UK public libraries had taken a £25m hit to budgets and 15m drop in visitors as a result of swingeing cuts by local authorities faced with reduced grant from central government and the rising cost of social care.

“I wrote the complaint because we have had so many reports from the Libraries Task Force and other bodies and they all ignore the really serious reality of what is happening to our libraries,” Coates said. “The whole public library service is effectively closing down.” He added that although the Carnegie report highlighted a general appreciation of libraries among the public, it failed to tackle why visitor numbers were in rapid decline.

“What the report says is that everybody understands what a wonderful thing a library ought to be,” he said. “But the reality is that when they visit their local library they don’t find anything in there that is any use to them. That is the problem.”

In his letter, Coates pointed to research that he claimed was “wrongly described” in Shining a Light. This included a lack of emphasis on the fact that only 6% of library use is of computers, down from 15 to 20%, 10 years ago. He also claimed that a finding that the single biggest improvement library users want is improved book stock was not given sufficient weight in the report.

Nick Poole, chief executive of the library and information association Cilip, said the reasons for the decline of libraries ranged from the impact of technology and funding pressures to reduced spending on books, and agreed that “swift and decisive action” was needed to improve the situation.

However, he gave only partial backing to Coates’s complaint. “We need to reconnect with what people want and expect from their libraries; to deliver the best value for taxpayers locally, regionally and nationally; to set out a clear investment programme; to excite people about what their local library has to offer; and convince national and local politicians that libraries are a good investment,” he said.

Coates was pessimistic that this would be possible without a fundamental restructure of library leadership, which, he said, lacked accountability. “The librarians blame cuts by local government, local government says it’s because of money taken by central government and central government says it is the fault of local government,” he said. “No one is responsible and they all blame everyone else.”

The Carnegie UK Trust expressed surprise at any suggestion the report was over-optimistic. “There is clear evidence from many sources of the pressures libraries are experiencing,” said a spokeswoman. “Our report quotes the number of library closures and job losses reported since 2010 and the headline of the media release displayed on our website was ‘Call for action as new study reveals drop in frequency of library use’.”

She added that Coates’s complaint would be given “proper scrutiny” and the trust would be writing to him in the next few days.

Source: The Gaurdian

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Huffington Post" Portraits Of Librarians Celebrate America’s Bookish Unsung Heroes

“Libraries are more important to our world than people realize.”

By Claire Fallon

Librarians hold a deceptively humble, yet powerful, role: Whether you’re a young child or an adult, a new student or an erudite academic, they offer guidance to rich worlds of literacy and scholarship. Librarians are on the front lines, putting a friendly face to the idea of book love and helping millions of Americans get the resources, encouragement and support they need to become avid readers.

Who our librarians are, then, actually matters a great deal. In Kyle Cassidy’s new book This Is What a Librarian Looks Like, the photographer reveals portraits of hundreds of librarians, sharing both their sunny faces and their thoughts on the value of libraries. The result: a colorful tapestry of men and women of all ages, races and ethnicity, some dressed conservatively and some with tattoos and brightly dyed hair, but all bursting with smiles and enthusiasm for their life missions.

In his introduction, Cassidy writes that he began the project after one of his future subjects, Naomi Gonzales, asked him to attend an American Library Association meeting. “She promised me,” he recalls, “that librarians were both friendly and photogenic” ― a bold claim that is backed up by his project. His book, which features guest essays by writers like Jeff Vandermeer, Neil Gaiman and Amy Dickinson, doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges libraries face in an era of threats to public funding and a rising emphasis on digital resources over print collections. Nonetheless, the tone is heartwarming and optimistic, encapsulating the idealistic value for the written word and commitment to equal opportunity that many associate with libraries.

Above all, the volume is a touching reminder of the loving human work that keeps our libraries thriving, ready to help us when we need them. Below, we’ve excerpted several portraits from This Is What a Librarian Looks Like:

Latanya N. Jenkins, Reference Librarian for Government Information and African American Studies - Samuel L Paley Library

“The greatest challenge we face today is the lack of a comprehensive way to make resources available. Libraries provide access to information, connecting people and the things they’re looking for. If my library shut down tomorrow there would be chaos.”

Kyle K. Courtney, Copyright Advisor at Harvard University Library

“Libraries are more important to our world than people realize. We are the ‘holders of forever’ ensuring access to our cultural heritage while providing the free access and flow of information to anyone in the world. All you have to do is ask.”
Naomi Gonzales, Public Health Coordinator at National Network of Libraries of Medicine

“To me, libraries will always be a place of discovery and empowerment. We help equip people with the knowledge they need to face their challenges, no matter how personal or epic.”
Jessie Nachem, Librarian at the Wright Institute Oakland Public Library

“Libraries are centers of discovery and a safe place to go where one is encouraged and supported in finding information that is empowering and transformative. That process is what inspires me to be a part of librarianship.” 
Leontine Synor, Trustee at East Cleveland Public Library

“Libraries are resources for those who otherwise would not have access to information due to finances, educational achievement, and other barriers. Libraries also serve as a safe space for those who are met with circumstances beyond their control, and provides them a place to learn, interact, ask questions and locate resources.”
Susan K .McClelland, Adult and Teen Services Librarian at Oak Park Public Library

“Librarians are warrior princes and princesses wielding book love like words! We are ever vigilant, curious, intelligent, and kind. Libraries are the banners that we carry proudly into the fray! Forward, ever Forward!”
Dolly Goyal, Library Director at Los Gatos Library

“There’s a huge and growing barrier to technology facing a large portion of our population. Millions of people don’t have direct access to technology or understand how to use it. Libraries provide free tools and e-literacy services with patience and compassion.”
Taina Evans, Library Information Supervisor at Brooklyn Public Library

“Librarians empower users in their pursuit of knowledge, learning, and in discovery and research across all disciplinary fields, transcending race, color, and creed. By far the most valuable institution available to the public for free. I love working here, empowering others.”
Erik Toussaint, Library Program Coordinator at FOKAL (Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty)

“Libraries are important for getting people to gather and share community values. Their openness to the world facilitates communication and knowledge. Many people cannot afford technology or access to the internet. We need the library to help with that. Without libraries there would be a radical decrease of academic performance, less connection among people of the community, no more space for expression or learning of new skills.”
Images and captions courtesy of Black Dog & Leventhal. This Is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Librarians, Communities, and Access to Information will be published on May 16 and will be available on Amazon or from your local indie bookstore ― or check your local library!

Source: The Huffington Post

Toronto Star: Toronto's radical librarians critique Little Free Library

By David Hains
May 10, 2017

University of Toronto reference specialist Jordan Hale has co-authored
 a critique of the book exchange system known as Little Free Libraries. 
The "take-a-book, leave-a-book" structures are largely located in white, affluent neighbourhoods in Toronto, study authors say, not areas most in need.

Toronto’s radical librarians do not like the Little Free Library organization.

In a study published in the Journal of Radical Librarianship, which is real, Ryerson librarian Jane Schmidt and University of Toronto reference specialist Jordan Hale argue that the neighbourhood mini-libraries don’t live up to their stated goals.

“Who could critique a little birdhouse of books?” Hale rhetorically asked Metro, adding she is strenuously pro-literacy and pro-trading-books-by-the-side-of-the-road. But their paper does just that.

“We posit that in absence of any research or evidence of an issue to be addressed . . . simply encouraging literacy in an already information-rich and privileged environment is hardly a heroic charitable act,” Schmidt and Hale wrote.

“We don’t have any issue with book swaps or exchanges,” Hale explained in an interview, adding she has obtained many excellent books that way. She is not, however, pro-Little Free Library, stating her issue is with the organization, not the idea.

The Wisconsin-based non-profit started in 2009 when Todd Bol erected a charming “take-a-book, leave-a-book” structure on his property. After his successful experiment went viral online, the organization grew. There are now 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries worldwide.

The registration fee for each library ranges from $42 to $89 (U.S.), and the organization sells pre-fabricated units for $179 to $1,254. Participants can also build their own unit and pay just the registration fee.

Hale and Schmidt mapped out the locations of the registered take-a-book, leave-a-book fixtures in Toronto. She found that they were predominantly located in white, affluent neighbourhoods and clustered in locations already well served by the public library system. Despite the organization’s stated goal, they were not located in “book deserts,” those neighbourhoods most in need.

Little Free Library also provides no-cost depots through a donor-driven fund, but Hale claims, “We didn’t see any evidence that the money was going anywhere.”

The non-profit told Metro that they have set up hundreds of units through the donor program, including 40 in the U.S. over the past eight months, and look to continue to add.

“Through these Little Libraries, millions of books are shared each year,” spokesperson Margret Aldrich wrote in an email.

Hale expressed concern that some jurisdictions turn to Little Free Libraries following cuts to full-scale libraries, but they are not an adequate substitute.

She encouraged people to support their local public library, use the community-led library tool kit and to support literacy initiatives in communities that need them most.

Source: Toronto Star