Sunday, September 25, 2016

Atlas Obscura: The Fierce, Forgotten Library Wars of the Ancient World

The dark trade of collecting books used to get really messy.

By Lauren Young
August 26, 2016

An artistic interpretation of the Library of Alexandria based on
archaeological evidence by O. Von Corven. (Photo: Public Domain)

In the Hellenistic Era—that's 323 BC to 31 BC, for all you numbers fans—the Library of Alexandria, Egypt was a research hub of high prestige. But while certainly the largest of its time and the most famous, the Library of Alexandria wasn’t the only institution of its kind. Libraries throughout the ancient world competed to be the best Greek library, in rivalries that proved as dangerous and unscrupulous as actual wars.

Perhaps the most vicious rivalry of all was between the libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum in the city of Pergamon—present-day Bergama, Turkey. In this conflict, the ego-driven kings of both cities enforced various sneaky maneuvers to stunt the growth of the opposing collections.

“The library was a means [for the kings] to show off their wealth, their power, and mostly to show that they were the rightful heirs of Alexander the Great,” says Gaëlle Coqueugniot, an ancient history research associate at the University of Exeter.

When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his empire stretching from Macedon to the western border of India was divided into three dynasties: Antigonids, Seleucids, and Ptolemies. All of the kings of Macedonia competed to become the commander’s rightful successor. The struggle for royal supremacy spilled into scholarship and preservation of Greek culture, giving way to a new wave of elaborate libraries.

Rulers grew their cities to prove that they were the rightful heir of Alexander the Great.
(Photo: Berthold Werner/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The libraries that existed previously in Mesopotamia and in Egypt were primarily personal collections or kept in temples. In the third and second centuries BC, there was a boom in the number of institutions that kept books.

The Library of Alexandria, which ultimately consisted of approximately 500,000 scrolls and boasted early texts by Euripides, Sophocles, and Homer, was first conceptualized by King Ptolemy I. The Ptolemaic dynasty was able to spend big on the institution thanks to the riches of Egypt’s fertile land and resources from the Nile, including papyrus, the ancient world’s main writing material. As a result, the library had an edge in development over others. The Ptolemaic kings were determined to collect any and all books that existed—from the epics, tragedies, to cookbooks.

“The Ptolemies aimed to make the collection a comprehensive repository of Greek writings as well as a tool for research,” wrote former classics professor at New York University, Lionel Casson in Libraries of the Ancient World. To obtain this comprehensive collection, “the Ptolemies’ solution was money and royal highhandedness.”  

A bust of a Ptolemaic king, most likely Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
(Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen/CC BY 2.0)

During the Ptolemaic hunt for centuries-old books from Greece, it’s said that a new industry emerged of forging ancient books to look more antique, thereby increasing the rarity and value. While the evidence of such a forgery trade is difficult to determine, Coqueugniot finds it probable since the kings were so bent on having the most prestigious texts in their library.

“Of course the Library of Alexandria was probably the largest one, but out of all the other kings that tried to be in competition with the Ptolemaic kings, Pergamon was the closest,” says Coqueugniot. It contained about 200,000 scrolls.

An illustration of the acropolis at Pergamum. (Photo: Wellcome Images/CC BY 4.0)

The Library of Pergamum wasn’t built until a century after the Library of Alexandria. Pergamon was originally part of the Kingdom of Antioch, but when it gained its independence in the late third century BC, the monarch wanted to be among the elite international powers. To better support Greek culture, the city started building the library. There’s a legend, wrote Casson, that citizens who moved to the growing acropolis and happened to own some of Aristotle’s prized collection buried the books in a trench to keep them hidden from royal officials. King Eumenes II finished the library of Pergamum, eagerly trying to catch up to Alexandria’s in size and quality.

“If we can believe tales that went the rounds in later centuries, the Ptolemies were not at all pleased by the challenge on the part of an upstart dynasty to the preeminence of their famed institution,” wrote Casson.

They were competing for the same books, the same parchments, and even the scholars’ of the two institutions had conflicting interpretations and edits of texts, says Coqueugniot.

“The Library of Pergamum managed to attract some scholars on editing and commenting on Homer—the Iliad and the Odyssey—which was exactly the main specialty of the main Library of Alexandria,” she says. Since Homer’s poems were meant to be read aloud, there are several written versions. Both libraries tried to obtain all of them, comparing which were the oldest and most genuine.

A fragment of Homer's Iliad on papyrus. (Photo: Public Domain)

Much like how athletes are drafted to rival teams in today’s sports, libraries “attracted scholars by offering one better wages than the other kings,” she says. The rivalry “probably stimulated the production of the scholars in both centers, but it was also quite unhealthy meaning that some scholars we know were imprisoned so they couldn’t leave to the other part of the world.”

It’s said that Ptolemy V threw Aristophanes of Byzantium, a grammarian and critic, into prison after hearing rumors that he may leave Alexandria to join the academics in Pergamum, wrote Casson.

One of the Ptolemies’ most drastic schemes to strike down the Library of Pergamum was the sudden cut of its trade of papyrus with the city of Pergamon. The Ptolemies hoped that if the main component of books was limited and hard to obtain, it would prevent the Library of Pergamum’s collection from growing. However, Pergamon came up with an alternative. Roman writer and scholar Marcus Terrentius Varro documented the event: “the rivalry about libraries between king Ptolemy and king Eumenes, Ptolemy stopped the export of papyrus … and so the Pergamenes invented parchment.”

Papyrus plant, Egypt banned trade with the city of Pergamon. (Photo: mauroguanandi/CC BY 2.0)

While it’s not possible for Pergamon to have invented parchment since scriptures on stretched leather have been found earlier in the east, the lack of papyrus may have pushed the king to expand the use and development of leather as a writing material, Coqueugniot says. The word for parchment in Latin, “pergamīnum” literally translates to “the sheets of Pergamum,” she says.

Even though the rivalry between the great libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum may have made the world of academia messy and political, the effort poured into the institutions’ development changed the state of scholarship and preservation. Without the feud for royal power and respect for Greek culture and academics, libraries may have never gotten the attention they needed.

Source: Atlas Obscura The Mysterious Ancient Origins of the Book

The debate about ebooks vs paper books is nothing new. Keith Houston explains how a very similar debate raged as the first books came to be in ancient Rome.

By Keith Houston
August 22, 2016

The book is changing. Electronic books, or ebooks, are more portable than their paper counterparts, capable of being carried in their hundreds on a single reader or tablet. Thousands more are just a click away. It can be argued that ebooks are more robust than paper ones: an ebook reader can be stolen or dropped in the bath, but the books on it are stored safely in the cloud, waiting to be downloaded onto a new device. It is not too much to say that books and reading are in the throes of a revolution.

Not everyone is happy about this. Book lovers, publishers and booksellers alike are watching the book-vs-ebook sales battle with great interest, and when Tom Tivnan of The Bookseller reported recently that ebook sales had dipped for the first time, he sounded almost relieved: “For those who predicted the death of the physical book and digital dominating the market by the end of this decade, the print and digital sales figures […] for 2015 might force a reassessment.” Physical books may have the upper hand for now, but the debate is a long way from being settled.

Book lovers, publishers and booksellers alike are watching the book-vs-ebook sales battle with great interest (Credit: Getty Images)

The odd thing is that the current angst over the book’s changing face mirrors a strikingly similar episode in history. Two thousand years ago, a new and unorthodox kind of book threatened to overturn the established order, much to the chagrin of the readers of the time.

Scroll with it

Rome in the 1st Century CE was awash with the written word. Statues, monuments and gravestones were inscribed with stately capital letters; citizens took notes and sent messages on wax-covered wooden writing tablets; and the libraries of the wealthy were stocked with books on history, philosophy and the arts. But these were not books as we know them – they were scrolls, made from sheets of Egyptian papyrus pasted into rolls anywhere from 4.5 to 16 metres (14.76ft to 52.49ft) in length. For all their ubiquity, however, they were not without their flaws.

Ancient Rome was awash with the written word – but with scrolls made of sheets of Egyptian papyrus rather than books (Credit: John Clark, The Care of Books)

For one thing, it took both hands to read a scroll properly. Unless the reader was seated at a desk (in which case paperweights or wooden pegs could be used to pin down the springy papyrus), the only way to read a scroll was to unwind it carefully from the right hand and, passing it to the left, to roll it up again. Writers and copyists usually wrote in columns a few inches wide, so that the bulk of the fragile papyrus in the scroll could be kept safely rolled up. Even so, archaeologists have found scrolls whose bottom edges have been worn away where they rubbed against the reader’s clothing.

This, then, was the second major problem with scrolls: papyrus was not an inherently long-lived material, especially if removed from its hot, dry Mediterranean comfort zone. Having taken a liking to a historian who shared his name, Tacitus, emperor from 275 to 276, had to send out new copies of the historian’s works each year to replace those that had rotted away in Gaul and Germania. Papyrus will also crack and tear if it is folded too often, leading naturally to the gently curved shape of the scroll itself – and so to the fact that most scrolls carried writing only on one side. Only if the text on the front of a scroll was no longer needed would its owner flip it over and use the other side; a double-sided scroll was just too difficult to read otherwise.

Shrouded in mystery

Sometime in or before the First Century CE a new kind of book appeared that promised to address the scroll’s shortcomings. The evidence is sparse but telling: archaeologists have discovered a few key scraps of papyrus whose text unexpectedly continues from the front to the back, and whose neat margins one might expect to find in a paged book. And that is exactly what these fragments are: they are leaves from the first paged books the world had ever seen. We know that the Romans called this new kind of book the codex (from caudex or tree trunk, because of its similarity to their wooden writing tablets), but how the codex came to be in the first place is shrouded in mystery. The first written mention of the codex appears in the words of a Roman poet named Martial, who encouraged his readers to buy his books in this new, paged format:

“You who long for my little books to be with you everywhere and want to have companions for a long journey, buy these ones which parchment confines within small pages: give your scroll-cases to the great authors – one hand can hold me.”

Written between 84 and 86 CE, Martial’s sales pitch tells us not only that paged books were known of in the First Century CE but also that some of them, at least, were made from a new material called parchment. This alternative to papyrus, invented in a Greek city-state some centuries earlier, was made from cleaned, stretched animal skins by means of a bloody and labour-intensive process, but its smoothness and strength made it an ideal writing material. Archaeologists have since confirmed Martial’s claims via fragments of parchment codices dated to the First Century – and yet, these few tantalising finds aside, we still know very little about where or why the codex was invented, or who might have done so. Even the question of whether the first codices were made of papyrus or parchment has never been satisfactorily answered.

A model of a ‘Nag Hammadi’ codex, made in the style of a cache of 4th Century books found in Egypt in 1945 (Credit: Irina Gorstein (book model), Adam Kellie (photography))

Whatever the truth of the matter, the paged book was a considerable step forward from the scroll. Codices leant themselves to being bound between covers of wood or ‘pasteboard’ (pasted-together sheets of waste papyrus or parchment), which protected them from careless readers. Their pages were easy to riffle through and, with the addition of page numbers, paved the way for indices and tables of contents. They were space-efficient too, holding more information than papyrus scrolls of a comparable size: referring to the works of the prolific writer Titus Livius, Martial raved that “narrowed into scanty skins [parchment] is bulky Livy, the whole of whom my library does not contain”. Robust, efficient and accessible, the codex was literally the shape of things to come.

A modern model of a diptych, or two-fold writing tablet
(Credit: Image courtesy of Peter van der Sluijs / CC-BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia)

Yet the people of Rome, and of the lands surrounding it, were split over the merits of the codex. Rome’s pagan majority, along with the Jewish population of the ancient world, preferred the familiar form of the scroll; the empire’s fast-growing Christian congregation, on the other hand, enthusiastically churned out paged books containing Gospels, commentaries and esoteric wisdom. Of course, we know how this story ends: by the Sixth Century, both paganism and the scroll were on the verge of extinction and Judaism had been firmly eclipsed by its younger sibling. Pulled along in the wake of the Christian church, the paged book found its place in history and society.

The ebook of the 21st Century may not have as devout a following as the codex of the ancient world, but it inspires strong opinions nonetheless. Will it displace the paper book in its turn, or will it be the one to go the way of the scroll? Time, and booksellers’ profit margins, will tell.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Designing Better Libraries: When Libraries Don’t Provide Value

By Steven Bell
August 29, 2016

Librarians tend to agree that their libraries deliver value to community members. But what exactly does that mean? What type of value? Time saving value? Life changing value? Those are quite different. What value do libraries offer? New research identifies 30 types of value of four levels in a Maslow’s like hierarchy. We need to be intentional about designing for value delivery.

Librarians of all types, but especially academic librarians, know how important it is to communicate how the library adds value to the community. Librarians increasingly aim to gather data and stories to demonstrate, both quantitatively and qualitatively, that the library contributes to the success of community members – and does so in different ways to deliver what community members need.

While there is general agreement within the profession that establishing the library’s value is something we all need to do, there is likely less agreement on exactly what value is and the best ways to gather and share the appropriate evidence to support claims of value.

One way to better communicate the value libraries provide is to understand how our community members would define value and then build the capacity to explain our value on their terms.

Research by two customer strategy consultants has identified 30 things that could be described as components of value. While the authors of “The 30 Things Customers Really Value” acknowledge that what constitutes value can vary from person to person, they believe their 30 building blocks of value cover most fundamental human needs.

Looked at this way, how many of those components of value do our libraries deliver? Assuming there is capacity to deliver on only a limited number of different types of value, what do we then prioritize? With only limited resources how might we transform our efforts to deliver value of great meaning to most of our community members – the ones that give them the greatest reward.

The authors identified four categories of values. At the base of the value pyramid is functional value. These are fairly basic services such as save people time, simplify things for them or facilitate their organization (think the Container Store).

The next highest order value is emotion. When a company like CVS offers wellness services or Disney offer fun experiences it appeals to our sense of emotional well being. When community members express affection for their library (e.g. “I love my library”) that signals an emotional connection. Engaging community members in ways that connect them to our libraries emotionally provides a unique value element.

Beyond emotion lies life changing value. Educational organizations offer the value of acquiring new skills or abilities that can lead to life changing opportunity. Offering a community to which members can belong is valued by those who with to be a part of something bigger then themselves – and it can be life changing. A library literacy program volunteer achieves life changing value by contributing to an organization that does change lives and improves the quality of the community.

At the top of the value pyramid is social impact. There is only one value associated with this category, self-transcendance. This is comparable to Maslow’s self-actualization on the hierarchy of needs. Few of us achieve it, and far fewer organizations can deliver this type of value.

TOMS is a shoe company that donates shoes to charity for each pair purchased. It provides value to its customer by making a social impact. Consumers see value in contributing to world betterment, as much as that is possible with a shoe purchase. It is within the realm of possibility to believe that libraries can move community members along the path of social impact by contributing to the betterment of lives through education, offering a safe place and community improvement.

My big takeaway from this HBR blog post and the longer article on which it is based is that when it comes to value delivery, libraries that seek to design for a better experience must go beyond just talking about value, as in “our library brings value to community members”. Noble ideas and statements don’t deliver value.

Programs and services with linkages to the value pyramid do. We need to be more explicit about what that library value means, how exactly we deliver value and to intentionally design for value delivery.

If librarians are unable to articulate what elements of value they provide to the community – and exactly how it is accomplished – then perhaps we don’t provide value. And when we do say we provide value we need research to confirm what we do and how it brings value to the community.

Since no organization can promise all 30 types of value, the authors recommend targeting those values that would be most important to community members based on their expectations. Then intentionally design operations to meet or exceed delivering on those values. We can also be clear on values that we are unable to offer, such as supporting profit making or offering sensory appeal.

What might that look like for a library?

Functional Value

  1. Saves time
  2. Informs
  3. Connects
  4. Reduces effort 
  5. Organizes

Emotional Value:

  1. Provides access
  2. Wellness
  3. Fun/Entertainment

Life Changing:

  1. Provide hope;
  2. Affiliating/Belonging

Social Impact:

  1. Self-transcendence

You might argue with some of these choices, but it appears that we mostly deliver functional value. That’s worthwhile, but like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, how do we deliver higher levels of value that get community members emotionally engaged with the library?

Let’s continue to deliver cultural programming that invites community members to engage with authors, local artists or faculty research. Let’s be the unique community resource that offers stress-busting programs, such as therapy dogs or on-site massages. Let’s offer educational opportunities, such as literacy and reading appreciation programs, that can be life changing for community members.

Then there are those ways in which libraries deliver value just by being what they are – collections of information and community centers of knowledge building. Libraries provide access to collections that alone can create both life changing experiences and opportunities to explore and discover a self-transcendent path.

I am reminded of the story of Marla Spivak, who during her TED Talk on bee colony collapse, shares how she originally became interested in bees – which led her to become one of the world’s most prominent bee experts. She tells the audience that she was in the library one day as a teen, found a randomly placed book about bees, and just picked it up for no particular reason. The rest is history. Her story encapsulates all that we need to know about the types of value that libraries can deliver. Libraries can change lives. Libraries do have social impact.

Source: Designing Better Libraries

Pew Research Center Internet, Science & Tech: Book Reading 2016

By Andrew Perrin September 1, 2016

A growing share of Americans are reading e-books on tablets and smartphones rather than dedicated e-readers, but print books remain much more popular than books in digital formats

Americans today have an enormous variety of content available to them at any time of day, and this material is available in a number of formats and through a range of digitally connected devices. Yet even as the number of ways people spend their time has expanded, a Pew Research Center survey finds that the share of Americans who have read a book in the last 12 months (73%) has remained largely unchanged since 2012. And when people reach for a book, it is much more likely to be a traditional print book than a digital product. Fully 65% of Americans have read a print book in the last year, more than double the share that has read an e-book (28%) and more than four times the share that has consumed book content via audio book (14%).

But while print remains at the center of the book-reading landscape as a whole, there has been a distinct shift in the e-book landscape over the last five years. Americans increasingly turn to multipurpose devices such as smartphones and tablet computers – rather than dedicated e-readers – when they engage with e-book content. The share of e-book readers on tablets has more than tripled since 2011 and the number of readers on phones has more than doubled over that time, while the share reading on e-book reading devices has not changed. And smartphones are playing an especially prominent role in the e-reading habits of certain demographic groups, such as non-whites and those who have not attended college.

These are among the main findings of a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,520 American adults conducted March 7-April 4, 2016.

The share of Americans who have read a book in the last year is largely unchanged since 2012; more Americans read print books than either read e-books or listen to audio books

Following a slight overall decline in book readership between 2011 and 2012, the share of American adults who read books in any format has remained largely unchanged over the last four years. Some 73% of Americans report that they have read at least one book in the last year. That is nearly identical to the 74% who reported doing so in a survey conducted in 2012, although lower than the 79% who reported doing so in 2011.

Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when Pew Research Center first began conducting surveys of Americans’ book reading habits (for additional details on the number of books read per year by different demographic groups, see Appendix A).

Readers today can access books in several common digital formats, but print books remain substantially more popular than either e-books or audio books. Roughly two-thirds of Americans (65%) have read a print book in the last year, which is identical to the share of Americans who reported doing so in 2012 (although down slightly from the 71% who reported reading a print book in 2011).

By contrast, 28% of Americans have read an e-book – and 14% have listened to an audio book – in the last year. In addition to being less popular than print books overall, the share of Americans who read e-books or listen to audio books has remained fairly stable in recent years.

E-book readership increased by 11-percentage points between 2011 and 2014 (from 17% to 28%) but has seen no change in the last two years. Similarly, the share of American adults who listen to audio books has changed only marginally since Pew Research Center first asked about this topic in 2011 – at that point, 11% of Americans had listened to an audio book in the last year, compared with 14% now.

Nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively; just 6% are digital-only book readers

In total, 34% of Americans have either read an e-book or listened to an audio book in the last year, but relatively few Americans read books in these digital formats to the exclusion of print books.

More than one-quarter (28%) of Americans read books in both print and digital formats (which includes e-books and audio books). Some 38% read print books but did not read books in any digital formats, while just 6% read digital books but not print books.

Relatively few Americans are “digital-only” book readers regardless of their demographic characteristics. However, some demographic groups are slightly more likely than others to do all of their reading in digital format. For instance, 7% of college graduates are digital-only book readers (compared with just 3% of those who have not graduated from high school), as are 8% of those with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more (compared with 3% of Americans with incomes of $30,000 or less). Interestingly, young adults are no more likely than older adults to be “digital-only” book readers: 6% of 18- to 29-year-olds read books in digital formats only, compared with 7% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 5% of those 50 and older.

College graduates are roughly four times as likely to read e-books ­ and about twice as likely to read print books and audio books – compared with those who have not graduated high school

As was the case in previous Pew Research Center surveys on book reading, certain groups of Americans read at relatively high rates and in a wide variety of formats. These include:

College graduates – Compared with those who have not attended college, college graduates are more likely to read books in general, more likely to read print books, and more likely to consume digital-book content. The typical (median) college graduate has read seven books in the last year.

Young adults – 80% of 18- to 29-year-olds have read a book in the last year, compared with 67% of those 65 and older. These young adults are more likely than their elders to read books in various digital formats, but are also more likely to read print books as well: 72% have read a print book in the last year, compared with 61% of seniors.1

Women – Women are more likely than men to read books in general and also more likely to read print books. However, men and women are equally likely to read digital-format books such as e-books and audio books.

The share of Americans who read books on tablets or cellphones has increased substantially since 2011, while the share using dedicated e-readers has remained stable

Tablet computer and smartphone ownership have each increased dramatically in recent years, and a growing share of Americans are using these multipurpose mobile devices – rather than dedicated e-readers – to read books. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of Americans who read books on tablet computers has increased nearly fourfold (from 4% to 15%), while the share who read books on smartphones has more than doubled (from 5% to 13%). The share of Americans who read books on desktop or laptop computers has also increased, although by a more modest amount: 11% of Americans now do this, up from 7% in 2011.

By contrast, 8% of Americans now report that they read books using dedicated e-reader devices – nearly identical to the 7% who reported doing so in 2011.

About one-in-five Americans under the age of 50 have used a cellphone to read e-books; blacks and Americans who have not attended college are especially likely to turn to cellphone – rather than other digital devices – when reading e-books

Previous Pew Research Center studies have documented how several groups – such as blacks and Latinos, and those who have not attended college – tend to rely heavily on smartphones for online access. And in the context of book reading, members of these groups are especially likely to turn to smartphones – rather than tablets or other types of digital devices – when they engage with e-book content.

For instance, 16% of blacks report that they use their cellphones to read books. That is nearly double the share of blacks who read books on traditional computers (9%) and four times the share who read books using dedicated e-readers (4%). Hispanics are less likely than blacks as a whole to read books on cellphones (11% do so), but Hispanics are also substantially more likely to read books on cellphones than on e-readers or traditional computers. By contrast, whites tend to turn to a range of digital devices when reading e-books: 13% read e-books on cellphones, but 18% read e-books on tablet computers, 10% use e-book readers and 11% engage with e-book content on desktop or laptop computers.

Cellphones also play a relatively prominent role in the reading habits of Americans who have not attended college. College graduates are far more likely than those with high school diplomas or less to read books on tablets (25% vs. 7%), e-book readers (15% vs. 3%) or traditional computers (15% vs. 6%). But these differences are much less pronounced when it comes to reading books on cellphones. Some 17% of college graduates read books this way, compared with 11% of those with high school diplomas or less – just a 6-percentage point difference.

Along with these groups, Americans under the age of 50 are especially likely to consume e-book content on cell phones: one-in-five (19%) do so, compared with 9% of 50- to 64-year-olds and just 4% of those 65 and older.

The share of Americans who read in order to research a specific topic of interest has increased in recent years

In addition to asking whether – and on what devices – Americans read books specifically, the survey also included a broader set of questions asking about reasons that people might read written content of any kind (including books, but also magazines, newspapers or online content).

Among all American adults:
  • 84% ever read to research specific topics of interest (29% do so nearly every day).
  • 82% read to keep up with current events (47% nearly every day).
  • 80% read for pleasure (35% nearly every day).
  • 57% read for work or school (31% do so nearly every day).

A similar share of Americans report that they read for pleasure, for work or school, or to keep up with current events compared to the most recent time these questions were asked in 2011. However, the share of Americans who read in order to research specific topics of interest has increased by 10-percentage points over that time frame, from 74% to 84%.

Older and younger adults are equally likely to read for pleasure or to keep up with current events; younger adults are more likely to read for work or school, or to research a topic of interest

In some cases, the factors associated with high rates of book readership are the same ones associated with reading for specific purposes. For instance, college graduates are more likely than those who have only attended high school to read books in general – and they are also more likely to read for all four of the specific motivations examined in this survey.

At the same time, there is not always such a direct relationship between book reading and overall reading for specific purposes. As noted earlier in this report, young adults are more likely to read books than older adults. And when asked about specific reasons why they might read a range of content, these young adults are much more likely than older adults to say that they read for work or school, or to research a specific topic of interest. However, Americans of all ages are equally likely to indicate that they read (whether in book form or otherwise) for pleasure or to keep up with current events.

Source: Pew Research Center

Friday, September 23, 2016

CBC News: 'The Thingery' aims to bring new kind of library to Vancouver neighbourhoods

Why buy when you can borrow? That’s the philosophy behind Vancouver’s new sharing initiative

By Megan Devlin
August 28, 2016

An artist's rendering of what a Thingery would look like in a Vancouver neighbourhood. The idea is to repurpose shipping containers to house a community borrowing library of tools, sports equipment and other shareable items.

A new pilot project will give Vancouverites the chance to take home everything from hammers to snow shoes, free of charge — as long as they return it within a week.

The Thingery is a new sharing project that set up shop in East Vancouver Saturday for one day to gauge the public's interest in a permanent library that would offer books, tools, sports equipment and more.

Founder Chris Diplock hopes it's here to stay. His long-term vision includes shipping containers nestled within Vancouver neighbourhoods that act as local lending libraries of "things."

"We've got some types of lending libraries currently in Vancouver," Diplock told The Early Edition guest host Stephen Quinn. "The tool library, our book-lending library. But we really wanted to expand what we can share through our lending libraries."

Not just what we share, but how we share, says Diplock

Diplock says he learned through research with The Sharing Project that people prefer to share when there is a social connection between borrower and lender — and that's why he wants to bring this project to the community level.

He's gauging interest with a series of pop-ups in Mosaic Creek Park using a shared van before he commits to getting the shipping containers, which can cost up to $10,000 to buy and retrofit. He'd also need to sort out a permit from the city.

"We're just starting those conversations," he said. "But a big piece of why we're doing this engagement is to bring that community support to the table, which we think is going to be a huge asset."

What kind of 'things' to expect

So far a few dozen items have already been donated, including snow shoes, rollerblades, hockey sticks and golf clubs.

"It's not uncommon for people to say 'I got all this stuff, I want to put it to good use. Let me throw it into this community lending library and see people use it,'" he said.

His experience working with the Vancouver Tool Library showed him there's actually a very low rate of people who borrow and don't return items. Eventually, like the tool library, The Thingery will be membership-based.

Membership fees would go toward a staff person in the container helping borrowers sign things out.

Quality, not quantity

Saturday's Thingery pilot was run out of a Modo car share van parked at Mosaic Creek Park in East Vancouver. The next pop-up is this Wednesday, Aug. 31 from 6-10 p.m. (Chris Diplock)

Diplock says a big lesson the tool library taught him was that people working together tend to pool their funds together to buy better equipment.

"If I go buy something I'm going to buy the cheaper version. If we're working together we're probably more likely to buy a better quality tool. A little more expensive," he said, adding that higher quality goods means a longer shelf-life for the library's items.

That pooling of resources means less demand for goods production, he says. In the end, it means fewer dead batteries ending up in landfills.

After Saturday's event, the next Thingery pop-up is happening at Mosaic Creek Park on Wednesday, Aug. 31 from 4-10 p.m.

Source: CBC News

Business Insider: Libraries of the future are going to change in some unexpected ways

By Chris Weller
Aug. 24, 2016

Jay Walker

Your idea of a library might be a musty, carpeted room with outdated technology, but don't ditch your library card just yet.

According to David Pescovitz, co-editor at Boing Boing and research director at the Institute for the Future, a Palo Alto-based collective that makes forecasts about our world, it's likely in the coming decades that society's traditional understanding of a library will get completely upended.

In 50 years' time, Pescovitz tells Business Insider, libraries are poised to become all-in-one spaces for learning, consuming, sharing, creating, and experiencing — to the extent that enormous banks of data will allow people to "check out" brand-new realities, whether that's scaling Mt. Everest or living out an afternoon as a dog.

To understand how libraries will change by the mid-21st century, Pescovitz says people need to understand what function they currently serve. At their core, libraries in the information age provide a public means of accessing knowledge, he says. That's what people crave.

The hallmark of future libraries, meanwhile, will be hyper-connectivity. They'll reflect our increasing reliance on social media, streaming content, and open-source data.

AP/Christof Stache

The definition of a library is already changing.

Some libraries have 3D printers and other cutting-edge tools that makes them not just places of learning, but creation. "I think the library as a place of access to materials, physical and virtual, becomes increasingly important," Pescovitz says. People will come to see libraries as places to create the future, not just learn about the present.

Pescovitz offers the example of genetic engineering, carried out through "an open-source library of genetic parts that can be recombined in various way to make new organisms that don't exist in nature."

For instance, people could create their own microbes that are engineered to detect toxins in the water, he says, similar to how people are already meeting up in biology-centered hacker spaces.

microbes Ho New/Reuters

Several decades from now, libraries will morph even further.

Pescovitz speculates that humans will have collected so much data that society will move into the realm of downloading sensory data. What we experience could be made available for sharing.

"Right now the world is becoming instrumented with sensors everywhere — sensors in our bodies, sensors in our roads, sensors in our mobile phones, sensors in our buildings — all of which all collecting high-resolution data about the physical world," he says. "Meanwhile, we're making leaps in understanding how the brain processes experiences and translates that into what we call reality."

That could lead to a "library of experiences."

In such a library, Pescovitz imagines that you could "check out" the experience of going to another planet or inhabiting the mind of the family dog.

What probably won't change that much are librarians and the physical spaces they watch over. Pescovitz suspects that humans will always need some sort of guide to make a foreign landscape more familiar. Whether humanity turns that job into one for artificial intelligence is another matter, he says.

"We talk a lot about information and the information age, but really what I think people are looking for is wisdom and knowledge," Pescovitz says.

That has been true for thousands of years and will continue to be true for thousands more, no matter how weird the future might get.

Source: The Business Insider

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Montana Standard: One-on-one: New librarians love to guide patrons

By Renata Birkenbuel
Aug 12, 2016

Two new librarians at Butte Public Library bring one-on-one flair and fresh personalities from Bozeman.

Shari Curtis, programming librarian, was a Bozeman librarian for nine years — seven at the Montana State University Library and two at the public library.

Shari Curtis stands in the doorway lading to the mural by John Carle painted on the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library.

Adam Kish, Butte Plaza Mall branch manager, transitioned from Twin Bridges Public Library after working as a student in an MSU architecture library.

Butte Public Library Mall branch manager Adam Kish  has been on the job since February. 

Both convey a wealth of knowledge and ideas.

“I’d like to expand the Tech Time and get into robotics,” said Curtis, who runs a popular technology-centered class for pre-teens and teens, ages 8 to 12, during summer break and after school starts.

Kids learn everything from computer coding, video games, and building primo Legos. They play Minecraft on laptops. As a teacher-librarian, Curtis said she learns from them.

“It’s neat to see because I don’t know how to play Minecraft,” she said. “So other kids become the teacher for one another.”

She also teaches adults various basic technology classes, such as tips on downloading electronic audio books — big patron favorites.

“The importance of information literacy is something we’re hitting hard,” said BPL Director Steph Johnson. “Researching is one skill; evaluating facts is another.”

Curtis teaches how to evaluate types of websites, including government, education, military, commercial, and organizations.

Curtis has two masters degrees — one in library and information science and another in history. A bachelors in history and a certificate in museums qualifies her to create exhibits like the permanent “Images of Butte” historic photographs and the “40 Years of NCAT: Scenes of Sustainable Agriculture” in the third-floor Carle Gallery.

Kish, 44, earned a degree in earth science from MSU, but working at a campus architecture library hooked him.

After graduation, at Twin Bridges Public Library, he worked his way up from volunteer, janitor, assistant librarian, then director.

An Ohio native, he worked a series of Yellowstone National Park jobs before college. He draws upon his diverse experiences in his new job as mall branch manager.

“I think the mall branch is great,” he said. “I enjoy getting the chance to help people one-on-one."

"Here we are more direct with people and think of the library as a community space, rather a place where someone would 'shush' you. That’s not my style. I want people to feel comfortable here.”

His goals are to expand the mall library so teens and kids will have “more room to breathe.” He draws a mix of retired seniors and youngsters, who may access laptops and desktops as well as books.

Both librarians fit tidily into Johnson’s vision of working with patrons one on one.

“Make an appointment, if possible,” Johnson added. “But walk-ins stand a pretty good chance of getting help, too.”

Curtis aims to connect with local teachers, too.

“I’d like to see what we can accomplish in terms of education and social needs,” added Curtis. “I’d love to partner with the high schools and middle schools.”

Curtis’s stocky stuffed doll mascot, actor Ed Asner’s character from the animated film “Up,” hints of her personality.

She plans to give him a beard and call him Granville Stuart, founder of Deer Lodge, gold prospector, businessman, civic leader, vigilante, author, cattleman, and diplomat who played a prominent role in the early history of Montana Territory. It’s her playful way of educating younger patrons.

“I got into library work because I like people,” said Curtis. “I’m part teacher, part party planner.”

Source: Montana Standard