Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Librarian transforms school bus to deliver books to kids in need

by: Amy Nile

Seated on the entrance to the Snohomish Book Cafe Bus, Osmar Mendez, 2, looks at picture books during one of the converted school bus's weekly stops at the Three Rivers mobile home park in Snohomish. Ian Terry/The Herald
SNOHOMISH — She's a school librarian turned bus driver.

Jenny Granger is delivering books to kids around Snohomish to beat the “summer slide.” Between tests in June and September, there's a general drop in students' scores. Granger says a big factor is the fact kids don't read as much during the summer.

“We can complain about it or we can do something about it,” said Granger, a teacher and librarian at Snohomish's Emerson Elementary.

She has turned an old yellow school bus into a roving bookmobile. Now she's spending her summer break bringing the library to kids in trailer parks and to places with activities for children.

“These kids are coming from very needy households and they don't have a lot of books at home,” Granger said.

The rolling Book Cafe makes four stops on Tuesdays that coincide with the times and locations of subsidized summer lunch programs. Granger encourages kids to get on board and pick out books.

“I just get out of the way and let them go,” Granger said.

She pulls into to the Circle H trailer park, where more than a dozen barefoot and flip-flop-clad children stand awaiting her arrival. Several run up and give her hugs.

“The kids love it,” Granger said. “It's like hero status.”

Leslie Hernandez, who just finished fifth grade at Emerson, said she found a book she previously borrowed but had to return before she finished it. She was excited to read the rest of the story.

“I love to get new books,” she said. “I don't like reading books twice.”

The kids can take as many titles as they can read in a week. They can hold onto the books or bring them back.

“If they love them, keep them,” Granger said. “The commitment is to read them.”

Inside the bus, the books are shelved in wooden boxes similar to those in a record store. That way kids can see the illustrations on the front as they sort through titles.

“I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover but kids are very graphic,” Granger said.

She made the bus look cartoonish with a set of hot pink eyelashes over the headlights.

Granger volunteers her time for the bookmobile. The school district allowed her to use the bus, which was about to be surplused. Snohomish Education Foundation gave her $5,000 to retrofit the bus, buy supplies and pay for gas. People around town have also pitched in thousands of books.

“This whole thing was Jenny's vision,” said Kristin Foley, a spokeswoman for the district. “It's been her passion and her dream.”

Granger started trying to get students to read more over the summer three years ago. She opened the library for a few hours each week during the break.

“It was great for the kids who came, but they weren't the ones we were worried about,” Granger said.

Last year, she tried the traveling approach in a red van from the 1970s. But more volunteer labor was needed to lug tubs of books in and out at each stop.

“We sweated and died in the heat,” Granger said. “There had to be a better way. It's a little crazy that this is what I'm doing with my day off.”

While the food program goes to areas determined by the federal government, the bookmobile could include more stops in the future.

“It doesn't matter where you live. Some families just don't read,” said Misha Dacy, a librarian at Seattle Hill Elementary.

Granger's next mission is to have ebooks available. She has a plan in the works that will allow kids to download to their devices from inside the bus. She's not sure when the technology will arrive but she is expecting it soon.

“It's an awkward conversation because people say if kids can't afford books then why do they have devices,” she said. “Well, the reality is they do.”

The bus started making its rounds in late June. Granger said interest is strong. She's had to stop her route halfway through to restock books.

“What this bus has done for our community is tremendous,” said Foley, the district spokeswoman. “The kids are so excited. It's heartwarming.”

from: HeraldNet

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

EveryLibrary Launches Fund To Aid Libraries In Crisis

by: Ian Chant

Most libraries know what its’ like to struggle with finding funding. Getting a levy or tax hike passed is hard work. Living through lean times that freeze hiring and stifle collection development can be trying. But when the rug gets pulled out from under you suddenly, it can be even worse. In order to provide some assistance when eleventh hour budget cuts come knocking, EveryLibrary, the political action committee devoted to strengthening the place libraries have at the civic table, is working on a new program with just these sorts of dilemmas in mind—the Rapid Response Fund, a pot of cash meant to give libraries facing sudden budget cuts the tools to rally supporters quickly and fight back.

According to EveryLibrary founder John Chrastka, situations that could benefit from the aid of the Rapid Response fund come up with troubling regularity in libraries around the nation. While city councils and other officials who control local purse strings have a regular order that generally functions to keep funding levels predictable, there are instances where those groups, or just a single member, can disrupt that order and call established budgets into question.

Chrastka pointed to last year’s attempt by a Parish Council member in LaFourche Parish, Louisiana to divert funds earmarked for the local library towards the building of a new jail instead as one high profile example, but said that EveryLibrary was receiving calls for help from libraries in similar predicaments every month.

Those weren’t the kinds of calls EveryLibrary was initially built to field, though. The original vision for EveryLibrary was not to respond to these kinds of sudden funding issues, Chrastka told LJ, saying that the organization has previously concentrated on building strategic plans in the long term for its partner libraries. But when he started seeing situations like these crop up more and more, it became clear that the PAC needed a more nimble arm to offer help to libraries that needed a quick burst of support, rather than a strategic plan rethought from the ground up.

While the Rapid Response fund itself is new, it’s based on a model that EveryLibrary has seen success with in the past in places like Miami-Dade County, where the mayor announced budget changes that would have severely impacted Miami-Dade libraries last fall, near the end of the budget negotiation cycle. EveryLibrary helped to get funds to local grassroots library advocates, and in the closing days, ran a series of ads on social media that helped draw attention to the library’s plight and played a role in securing $7 million in stopgap funding in the budget for libraries. While it didn’t solve the problems in Miami-Dade, Chrastka said, “putting money in fast helped them live to fight another day.”

According to Ben Bizzle, a 2013 LJ Mover & Shaker and director of technology at the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library who also serves as a strategic advisor to EveryLibrary, intensive marketing on social media is likely to be one of the main tools used by Rapid Response, as it’s easy to deploy on the fly and can make a quick, effective call to action. “The best way to reach people at the eleventh hour these days is from social media,” Bizzle told LJ, saying its a lesson taken from the good results many libraries have had goosing attendance with social media reminders in the days just prior to an event.

It’s also a cost-effective means of getting the word out to voters, advocates, and stakeholders. ”It doesn’t take a lot of money from our contributors for us to be able to make big financial differences in these libraries,” Bizzle pointed out. Rapid Response will be funded by individual contributions, as well as assistance from corporate sponsors.

To be eligible for Rapid Response help, libraries will have to meet a series of criteria, proving that their funding crisis was unexpected, that it can still be averted, that there are more than 100 hours until a vote or final decision, and that the library has a legitimate advocacy group ready to ensure the investment of funds will be met with boots on the ground action. It’s also a one-time-only action that libraries can call on in crisis. “If this is blowing up in your face every year, we need to do bigger planning,” said Chrastka.

from: LibraryJournal

Monday, July 21, 2014

Amazon Launches Subscription Service For E-Books

by: Alan Greenblatt

Amazon launched a new subscription service for e-books and audiobooks on Friday called Kindle Unlimited.

The service, which will cost subscribers $9.99 per month after a free initial 30-day trial, offers access to more than 600,000 e-books and about 2,000 audiobooks. The reading and listening experiences can be linked through a syncing service.

Such "all you can eat" subscription models have become common for music and video. Amazon now enters into a space already occupied by unlimited reading services such as Scribd, Oyster and Entitle.

Major publishers commonly charge these services a bulk fee upfront for access to their catalogs, plus additional fees each time a user reads a book, according to TechCrunch. They reserve new releases for single sales.

"Amazon is likely looking for a better deal from publishers, or for greater access to current titles, which could be why they aren't included in these test pages," TechCrunch reports.

Amazon has had contentious relations with publishers throughout the e-book era.

Among the titles Amazon has on offer are Life of Pi, the Hunger Games trilogy and the Harry Potter series. Readers can access books through Kindle or any device that has a Kindle app.

"The company already lets users of its Prime premium service to borrow one book each month for no extra charge," CNN notes.

from: NPR

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Jane Austen waxwork uses forensic science to model 'the real Jane'

Forensic artist Melissa Dring has taken three years to construct the figure, making use of contemporary eye-witness accounts
by: Alison Flood

A sculpture of Jane Austen is unveiled at the Jane Austen Centre, Bath
Criminally good likeness... Jane Austen Centre's new waxword of Jane. Photograph: Alastair Johnstone/SWNS.COM
View larger picture

The Jane Austen Centre claims to have drawn on forensic techniques and eye-witness accounts to create the closest ever likeness of the Pride and Prejudice novelist.
Their waxwork went on display at the centre in Bath on Wednesday morning. It has taken three years to create, with forensic artist Melissa Dring taking as her starting point the sketch done by Austen's sister Cassandra in 1810, the only accepted portrait of the writer other than an 1870 adaptation of that picture. She then used contemporary eyewitness descriptions of the novelist to come up with her own likeness.
Austen's nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, described his aunt as "very attractive". "Her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm, and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation. In complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well-formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face," he wrote in his memoir.
Caroline Austen, his sister, had it that "as to my Aunt's personal appearance, hers was the first face that I can remember thinking pretty … Her face was rather round than long – she had a bright, but not pink colour – a clear brown complexion and very good hazle [sic] eyes … Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally – it was in short curls around her face."
The Jane Austen Centre said its new waxwork had been "created by a specialist team using forensic techniques which draw on contemporary eye-witness accounts", and that it is the closest "anyone has come to the real Jane Austen for 200 years", reported the BBC.
"[Cassandra's portrait] does make it look like she's been sucking lemons," Dring told the BBC. "She has a somewhat sour and dour expression. But we know from all accounts of her, she was very lively, very great fun to be with and a mischievous and witty person."
Dring said the new statue was "pretty much like her". "She came from a large … family and they all seemed to share the long nose, the bright sparkly brown eyes and curly brown hair," she said. "And these characteristics come through the generations."
from: Guardian

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

For sale: the £3m library that time forgot

Books so rare they were unknown to scholars are among the treasures uncovered in a family library, in a collection going under the hammer at Christie's for £3 million.
by: Anita Singh

When the descendants of Allan Heywood Bright inherited his library, they knew it contained books of note.
After all, Mr Heywood Bright and his forebears were noted bibliophiles and the collection had been built up steadily since the 1800s.
However, they had no idea just how special the library would turn out to be. Experts called in to catalogue the dusty volumes were astonished to find medieval treasures so rare that they were unknown to scholars.
They include the only complete copy of The Mirror of Recluses, a medieval text composed in the early 15th century.
The British Library holds an incomplete version but scholars had no idea that the full version, which is over one-third longer, remained in existence.
It includes a previously unknown prologue which opens: “Here bygynneth the boke that is callid in Englysch the Mirrowr of Recluses.”
The pre-sale estimate of £50,000-£80,000 pales in comparison to that of The Missal of Ludwig of Teck, illustrated by a Master of the Prayerbook at the Habsburg Court between 1430 and 1435.
The beautifully illustrated liturgical text had never been heard of before. It is expected to sell for up to £800,000 when the collection comes up for sale at Christie’s in London on July 16.
“Nobody had any idea these books existed. They are bombshell discoveries,” said Thomas Venning, head of Christie’s book department, who described it as the most exciting find of his career.
“We approached each viewing with a sense of caution and also with a sense of wonder. We didn’t know what was going to come up.
“Many of these books are being brought to scholarly attention for the first time.”
The collection has a pre-sale estimate of £3 million but Venning said: “Nobody knows how much it will fetch because it is the unknown element that makes it so special.”
Other highlights include a previously unknown work by Catherine d’Amboise, a French Renaissance author; works of Plato bound for King Charles II; and an illuminated history of the ancient world presented to the King of Naples.
The collection was started by Joseph Brook Yates, a Liverpool banking and shipping magnate who died in 1855. He was also a social reformer who founded a hospital in the city, and president of the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society.
He left his books to his grandsons, Henry Yates Thompson and Samuel Ashton Thompson Yates, who were also notable figures in the city – the latter name lives on at Liverpool University, where the laboratory buildings are named after him.
Henry donated 52 books to the British Library’s Department of Manuscripts but the rest remained at the family seat of Thingwall Hall in Knotty Ash.
Two generations on, the family found another bibliophile in Heywood Bright, a Liberal politician, who resided at Thingwall and added to the collection before his death in 1941.
The collection of 365 books and manuscripts is being sold under the title Yates, Thompson and Bright: A Family of Bibliophiles by one of Heywood Bright's grandchildren, who kept them at home in Herefordshire.
The Christie’s specialist explained: “They are selling partly for practical reasons, because they are moving house. Also, the current generation are not active collectors.
“They knew there were precious books in there but they were not prepared for the rediscoveries we made. The collection had remained largely undisturbed since Allan Heywood Bright’s death 70 years ago.”
from: Telegraph

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Amazon and Hachette take ebooks battle into public domain

The stand-off between the internet retail giant and the publishing corporation has drawn both sides into open contention over commercial terms
by: Alison Flood

The extraordinary stand-off between Amazon and Hachette saw battle lines further entrenched on Tuesday as both parties took to the public arena to insult and accuse each other.
While titles from Hachette writers including JK Rowling and James Patterson continue to be given long delivery times by Amazon, a sanction imposed by the retailer as the pair fail to agree on new ebook terms, on Tuesday a letter from Amazon proposed giving Hachette authors "100% of the sales price of every Hachette ebook we sell". The retailer suggested that both Amazon and Hachette forgo "all revenue and profit from the sale of every ebook until an agreement is reached", saying this might "take authors out of the middle of the Hachette-Amazon dispute (actually it would be a big windfall for authors) and would motivate both Hachette and Amazon to work faster to resolve the situation".
The letter was first sent to a select few authors, and then to Hachette itself, reported the New York Times. It was printed in full by the website Gigaom.
Hachette told US press that accepting the offer would be suicidal. "We call baloney," Amazon responded. "Hachette is part of a $10bn global conglomerate. It wouldn't be 'suicide'. They can afford it. What they're really making clear is that they absolutely want their authors caught in the middle of this negotiation because they believe it increases their leverage. All the while, they are stalling and refusing to negotiate, despite the pain caused to their authors. Our offer is sincere. They should take us up on it."
Both sides offered conflicting versions of the negotiations over terms. Amazon wrote in its letter that "we reached out to Hachette for the first time to discuss terms at the beginning of January for our contract which terminated in March. We heard nothing from them for three full months. We extended the contract into April under existing terms. Still nothing. In fact we got no conversation at all from Hachette until we started reducing our on-hand print inventory and reducing the discounts we offer customers off their list prices. Even since then, weeks have gone by while we waited for them to get back to us. After our last proposal to them on 5 June, they waited a week to respond at all, promising a counter-offer the following week. We are still waiting a month later."
Hachette, meanwhile, told the Wall Street Journal: "we made an offer in April that was the largest we ever made to any retailer, and in May made another that was higher still … both offers were rejected".
Both sides' public statements about their commercial negotiations follow an open letter from hundreds of mainstream writers, including Stephen King, Donna Tartt and Philip Pullman, calling on Amazon "in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business". A counter-petition from a group of major self-published authors asked readers not to boycott Amazon in the wake of the negotiations, saying that "all the complaints about Amazon should be directed at Hachette. It is Hachette who wants to charge you more while paying their authors less."
Douglas Preston, the bestselling author who launched the open letter, told the Guardian earlier this week that the writers were not "against" Amazon as a company.
"To say we're against Amazon is like saying people who protest the war are against America. You can be against the war and still be a patriotic citizen.  I would say to the honourable counter-petitioners that we're all on the same side – that is the side of books and literature and reading – and that we should not be framing this as some kind of culture war between self-published and traditionally-published authors. Are we not in the same (leaky) boat and should we not be bailing together? Most of the world out there does not give a damn about books," said Preston. "What we're asking Amazon is something quite simple: please don't hurt authors in your effort to gain leverage in a commercial negotiation with another large corporation."
from: Guardian

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mach and mascarpone: testing how vocabulary is gendered

A survey has shown an 'awesomely sexist' discrepancy between the English words understood by different genders
by: Alison Flood

Do you know what decoupage is? Tresses, taffeta, and mascarpone? Then you're statistically more likely to be female. If you're more confident identifying a golem, a paladin, or a scimitar, then you're more likely to be a man. That's according to research from the Center for Reading Research at the University of Ghent, highlighted by MobyLives, which analysed the results of half a million vocabulary surveys, and found that "some words are better known to men than to women and the other way around". And the words? Well, as MobyLives put it, "our vocabularies are awesomely sexist".

Here goes, with the numbers in brackets being the percentage of men who knew the word, and women. These are the 12 words with the largest difference in favour of men: codec (88, 48), solenoid (87, 54), golem (89, 56), mach (93, 63), humvee (88, 58), claymore (87, 58), scimitar (86, 58), kevlar (93, 65), paladin (93, 66), bolshevism (85, 60), biped (86, 61), dreadnought (90, 66). These are the 12 words with the largest difference in favour of women: taffeta (48, 87), tresses (61, 93), bottlebrush (58, 89), flouncy (55, 86), mascarpone (60, 90), decoupage (56, 86), progesterone (63, 92), wisteria (61, 89), taupe (66, 93), flouncing (67, 94), peony (70, 96), bodice (71, 96).

"While men indulged in souped-up military wet dreams, women apparently grew up in a Victorian beauty salon, wherein they flitted about in petticoats and worried if future husbands were taking notice of their domestic skills," writes MobyLives, rather brilliantly.

Well, I know what all the words on the female list mean, apart from bottlebrush (unless it's a brush for a bottle), but I'm struggling with codec and solenoid on the male list. Codec – something Dan Brown-ish, I'm thinking, and solenoid … something to do with tonsils, or is that adenoid? Just googled them – I'm wrong, and bottlebrush turns out to be a sort of plant.

So what does this all mean? These 24 words, write the researchers, "should suffice to find out whether a person you are interacting with in digital space is male or female". Well, thank goodness! If you don't believe someone when they tell you they're female online, then throw a quick vocabulary test their way, and you'll soon know the truth.

You can take the test yourself – it lasts about four minutes, and you have to correctly identify whether a word is real, or made up. (I got 71%, described, rather patronisingly, as "a high level for a native speaker". I said yes to 3% of the made-up words, and I didn't realise that the words glanderous – "a contagious, usually fatal disease of horses and other equine species"; huarache – "a flat-heeled sandal with an upper of woven leather strips"; and tolan - "a white crystalline derivative of acetylene" were actually real.)

Anyway, I'm rather disturbed to learn that even our vocabularies turn out to be gendered. I've cheered myself up, though, with the researchers' lists of words known in the UK and not the US, and vice versa; can you guess which of these is the UK list? Yob, naff, brolly, korma, bodge and gormless, or goober, boondocks, coonskin and sassafras?

And how about the 20 least-known words in English: "the words of which less than 3% of the participants in our test indicated they were English words. For comparison, the fake words were endorsed by 8.3% of the participants on average. So, these are words not only unknown to everyone but also unlikely to be 'mistaken' for a true English word."

They are wonderfully Jabberwockian: cacomistle and didapper, chaulmoogra and gossypol and genipap … I hadn't heard of a single one, but I'm going to see if I can drop a couple into conversation at some point today – not in a brummagem way, of course, just casually.

I'll also be peppering my idle chitchat with claymores and kevlar, in my own small attempt to tackle gender stereotyping. Or maybe MobyLives's blogger is right, and it simply "shows us that men just play more video games".

from: Guardian