Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Libraries Are the Last Defense Against A Google-Apple-Amazon-Facebook Information Oligopoly

John R. Austin

John R. Austin

Open and free access to information, and thus knowledge and education, is being stripped from our core rights as humans and citizens of the world. We are being force-fed what to read, how to read and in what format to read available content. And in the ever-increasing digital age this results in taking advantage of our less fortunate citizens, resulting in even greater disparity among the economic classes.

Do you realize that the supersonic explosion of data creation due to new technologies has resulted in 90% of all existing data being less than two years old!

Tonight we will examine how we must stop the control of information by a few monied private concerns (an oligopoly) by strengthening a venerable, existing, democratic institution dedicated to the free access of information by all.

Key excerpts from tonight’s research resource:

“Over 90 percent of Americans feel that libraries are a vital part of their communities. Compare this to 53 percent for the police, 27 percent for public schools, and just 7 percent for Congress, and you’re looking at perhaps the greatest success of the public sector.”

“The risk of a small number of technically savvy, for-profit companies determining the bulk of what we read and how we read it is enormous. The great beauty of the rich, diverse library system that has developed over the past century and a half has been the role of librarians in selecting and making available a range of material for people to consult and enjoy. No one pressing an ideology can co-opt this system; no single commercial entity can do an end run around the library system in the interest of profit.”

“What gets short shrift in BiblioTech, then, is the importance of retaining some kind of monastery of dusty knowledge, a church of books. Print has been around since human ancestors drew tracks in the dust and is still the only form of durable information that requires no mediation—that is, no device to interpret it. Reading a book is the most direct relationship a person can have with information apart from listening to someone speak and there must be some kind of common cultural institution filled with pews of comfy chairs and the musk of paper. Like the bicycle, the book is the best thing for what it does and will likely be around as long as humans are around because, as James Bennet wrote in the Atlantic, “technologies have a way of supplementing, rather than simply replacing, one another.””

““It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the fate of well-informed, open, free republics could hinge on the future of libraries,” Palfrey writes in his conclusion. In fact, the fate of our republic hinges on the vitality of all public life, and libraries should not be required—even on double or triple budget—to take on the whole burden.”

“We certainly need a free and open institution, prepped for the 21st century, where people can engage themselves in democracy. But then, of course, we also need a democracy.”

Read the rest of tonights incisive research article:

Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google

Written by Amien Essif and published in AlterNet


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The 42nd Street Library – Its Deep Significance

A vintage illustration of the stacks built below the New York Public Library's reading room..

A vintage illustration of the stacks built below the New York Public Library’s reading room.

I love and am enormously curious about unique and great things past, present and coming in the future. I’m like a child in a toy store RE these things and that’s what makes me a forever student and keeps me young. 

Tonight’s post is about current events that affect an almost spiritual, mystical, omnipotent and untouchable literary existence/rite.

“… a research library is a timeless repository of treasures, not a popularity contest measured by head counts, the current arbiter of success. This is already the most democratic of institutions, free and open to all. Democracy and populism seem to have become hopelessly confused.”

“You don’t ‘update’ a masterpiece. ‘Modernization’ may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language.”

Both of the above excerpts are by Ada Louise Huxtable, architectural critic for The Wall Street Journal, and the author of the following article from the Journal:

New York Public Library – Undertaking Its Destruction

There is no more important landmark building in New York than the New York Public Library, known to New Yorkers simply as the 42nd Street Library, one of the world’s greatest research institutions. Completed in 1911 by Carrère and Hastings in a lavish classical Beaux Arts style, it is an architectural masterpiece. Yet it is about to undertake its own destruction. The library is on a fast track to demolish the seven floors of stacks just below the magnificent, two-block-long Rose Reading Room for a $300 million restructuring referred to as the Central Library Plan.

The plan would consolidate three libraries—moving the popular Mid-Manhattan circulating library (just across Fifth Avenue at 40th Street) and the underused Science, Industry and Business branch (in a 34th Street building that runs from Fifth to Madison Avenues) back into the main building to eliminate substantial operating costs. Two million to three million of the five million volumes in the stacks—including the more specialized material many of us depend on, and referred to by the library as the “least used” books—would be moved to Siberia. (Excuse me, to New Jersey, where the offsite storage is located.) Books would be returned in an optimistically estimated but unreliable 24 hours, by truck, on the traffic-jammed New Jersey Turnpike.

The vacated stacks would house a state-of-the-art, socially interactive, computer-centered Mid-Manhattan branch designed by the library’s chosen architect, the British firm of Foster+Partners. This “repurposed” space—a common real-estate term—would also make room for writers, scholars, seminars, adult education and children’s activities. We are being assured that, with savings estimated at $7 million to $15 million, closed collections could be reopened, dismissed librarians rehired, and book-collecting resumed, reversing cutbacks that have downgraded a noble institution.

Demolishing the stacks, with the elaborate engineering involved, providing additional offsite storage for the books, and reconstructing the space, would be paid for by the sale of the two vacated Fifth Avenue buildings, a promised $150 million city (read: taxpayers’) contribution, and a fund-raising campaign.

The rationale for the plan is a 41% decrease in the use of the collections in the past 15 years, and the increase of online accessibility of the most popular material, with only 6% of print sources consulted in a given year. A 78% drop in the use of the Science, Industry and Business library, with most of the material already online, makes that branch expendable. The Mid-Manhattan circulating library is heavily used, while its quarters have deteriorated badly. Corrective action was inevitable.

The library’s embrace of the future is commendable; it has been on the frontiers of change in technology and practice for some time. But some of these numbers are misleading. A research library is devoted to the acquisition, maintenance and availability of collections of amazing range, rarity and depth, much of which will not be consulted for decades, have not been digitized and probably never will be. If we could estimate how many ways in which the world has been changed by that 6%, the number would be far more meaningful than the traffic through its lion-guarded doors. The library’s own releases, while short on details, consistently offer a rosy picture of a lively and popular “People’s Palace.” But a research library is a timeless repository of treasures, not a popularity contest measured by head counts, the current arbiter of success. This is already the most democratic of institutions, free and open to all. Democracy and populism seem to have become hopelessly confused.

Not surprisingly (except to the library), the plan is highly controversial. For most critics it’s about devaluing the primary purpose of a research library by reducing the accessibility of its resources. A letter of protest has been signed by more than a thousand famous writers and distinguished scholars, with a particular outcry about the removal of the books. Indeed, the loss of so many books got so much flak that Abby and Howard Milstein generously donated $8 million in September to complete a second storage level, underneath Bryant Park just behind the library, to keep about 1.5 million of the banished volumes on site, a proposal previously dismissed by the library as unfeasible because of dampness and water seepage. This is clearly meant to mollify critics. But it is also a red herring. The stacks will still be demolished.

Other dissenters fear that an august institution is being turned into “a vast Internet café,” an accusation the library considers a grossly unfair misinterpretation of the plan. But such skepticism was inevitable. The library lost credibility in 2005 after it sold Asher B. Durand’s painting “Kindred Spirits” (1849), a depiction of the poet William Cullen Bryant and the painter Thomas Cole in a Catskills landscape, in a closed auction—something New Yorkers considered a betrayal of their artistic and literary patrimony.

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A Lionhearted Library

A sign at the front desk solicits donations to help run the struggling Adams Memorial Library in Central Falls, R.I.

We’ve all read stories where the protagonist stands up against overwhelming odds, never gives up or stops searching for the way to victory … Well, I’ve just learned of a grand old library in Central Falls, R.I. that is crying out with every fiber “never say die!”

This from Dan Barry’s This Land column in The New York Times:

The Money May Be Lacking, but a Library Refuses to Go Quietly

If you were to assemble a city from scratch, you would need a few things to make this place of yours more than just a functioning municipality; to make it a community. So, along with a City Hall and a few schools, you would have a building where an elephant king named Babar rules, where it is a sin to kill a mockingbird and where everyone from Homer to Snooki has a story to tell.

That is, you would need a library.

But in the losing battle of the square-mile city of Central Falls to avoid bankruptcy this year, parts of what made this municipality a community became expendable, among them: the Adams Memorial Library, a handsome Greek Revival building that for a century has been an intellectual refuge amid an urban expanse of triple-deckers and old mills.

In July, a state-appointed receiver closed the library to save money. The six staff members lost their jobs, while residents lost access to the statewide network that allowed them to borrow from the libraries of other towns. The handsome building went dark, its books unread, its videos unwatched, its computers unavailable to those looking for jobs.

But some people refused to close the book on a place that deeply mattered to this financially poor, ethnically rich city. Central Falls has more than enough boarded-up buildings; no need to add its library too.

The library’s survival hinged on the fact that while its operating costs are covered by the city, the building itself is owned by a private trust. Seizing the moment, the trust’s board of directors used this enforced downtime to make repairs in the old building and to install a library card system for Central Falls alone.

A month later, on Aug. 1, the Adams Memorial Library reopened with limited hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Its reference and checkout desks are now staffed by a rotating band of volunteers, including Jerauld Adams, 41, the board chairman of the library trust, and Thomas Shannahan, 68, a board member and former director of the library. They hung a sign on the front door that said, with some defiance:

“Welcome to YOUR library.”

Mr. Shannahan, bearded and wiry, ran the library from 1989 until 2004, when he resigned amid some political strife; in Central Falls, it seems, there is always political strife. He grew up a couple of blocks from the library, in a building that included the family residence, a rooming house, his father’s bar and a cocktail lounge called the Nut House — at one time a “jumping joint,” he said.

The bar and cocktail lounge are gone, as are the Holy Trinity Catholic church and parochial school that Mr. Shannahan attended as a boy. But the library is still here, he said with pride, as he walked past several patrons hunched before computers aglow with Facebook chatter.

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Limiting E-Book Circulation – A Librarians point of View

Harper Collins  has initiated limited access licenses to e-content for library circulation purposes. A new model meant to retain old print and ink attritions renewal profits. Appears publishers are having a hard time giving up an old print profit process that is simply no longer required in the new “E” world…I guess you can’t blame them.

Christopher Platt, director of collections and circulation operations at the New York Public Library, has some trade-offs from the library’s viewpoint that make a lot of sense and should make the adjustment to library ebook circulation much smoother.

Christopher Platt writing in Publishers Weekly:

The Happy Reader Equation: A Librarian on HarperCollins’s E-Book Pricing Model

HarperCollins generated a lot of controversy and debate with its new pricing model for e-books capping usage. In this week’s issue of PW, Connecticut librarian Kate Sheehan weighs in on the issue, and in PW Daily today we offer another piece by NYPL’s Christopher Platt, who takes a slighter different tack.

Recently, Harper Collins announced a new pricing model for e-books that caps usage, after which it would require a library relicense the title again for another set of uses. They further clarified that by mimicking the hardcover-to-paperback replacement purchase model, the price of the title would come down as it ages.


It has been a momentous few years for publishers and libraries. The economic downturn hit publishers hard, forcing cost-cutting, downsizing, and a review of business models. During all of this, the rapid advance of e-reading became the bright spot on publishers’ balance sheets, and now they are focusing intensely on ways to provide interesting content, engage new readers, and generate revenue in that arena.
Libraries were hit hard too, many of us enduring major fiscal challenges that strained our resources in the face of skyrocketing use. Libraries have downsized, cut back spending and services, and in some cases even closed during a time when their communities needed them the most. For many librarians, the announcement of e-book use limits from a major publisher must have felt like yet another in a long line of punches to the gut. 
HarperCollins is a publisher that has worked hard to build up a great track record supporting libraries, and I know they are a team of dedicated individuals who recognize the value we bring to the table. They, like many of us, are tasked with the difficult job of revising long-held models to stay profitable and relevant. As content and demand have grown in the e-book retail market, publishers have been revising e-book pricing models, and it’s no surprise they are now looking at the library market. I know the other trade houses are watching with great interest, and I applaud HarperCollins for being courageous enough to make the first move. This call for understanding is directed to all trade publishers and my respected library colleagues.
Librarians: public libraries are valued institutions. Remember that we are just one portion of the formula that gets titles to readers, and the only step that is not-for-profit:
Author + Publisher + Wholesaler + Library = Happy Reader


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Are They Ebooks or Digital Books?

I never thought about this question before, but, a distinction is emerging. E-books are thought of as licensable entities that come with possible restrictions and digital books are digitized library collections. Lorcan Dempsey, who writes Lorcan Dempsey’s Weblog (on libraries, services and networks)explains the difference in more detail:

I was in a meeting with a group of folks from research libraries the other week. I was interested in a particular terminological issue: ‘ebooks’ and ‘digital books’ were each being used in conversation. I asked was there a pattern of consistent use here. ‘Not complete consistency’ was the answer, but there was certainly a tendency to use ‘ebooks’ for materials available for license from external providers, and a tendency to use ‘digital books’ for materials digitized from library collections.

So, in this context, it is easy to see how each expression has a different – if overlapping – set of associations. Ebooks may evoke an environment currently fragmented by provider platforms, with restrictions on use, and managed in a licensed e-resource workflow. They are for reference, information, reading. Digital books may evoke a digital library environment, an aspiration to provide higher level research services based on text mining, entity identification, and so on, and various funding and cooperative initiatives which aim to increase the corpus. The Monk Project or the international Digging into Data Challenge are examples of a direction here.

Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how these environments evolve as ebooks/digital books grow in number and usage. Ebooks and digital books – to continue to use these ambiguous terms – will become more important in the practice of research and learning. There are at least three big drivers in the environment the group above was discussing. The first is around moving physical collections to the cloud as libraries balance service between local collections, shared offsite collections and digital collections. There are early discussions about policy and service frameworks within which libraries can reduce their print inventory and the opportunity costs associated with it (see here for example). The second is around the demand environment, as books in digital form offer a better fit with research and learning workflows which are increasingly network based. The increasing availability of books in digital form supports patterns of discovery, analysis and use now common with other resources. Think for example of the practice of ‘strategic reading’ (or ‘reading avoidance’) where researchers are found to prospect the literature broadly in a digital environment, searching, consulting abstracts, scanning for terminology, diagrams and so on (interestingly described by Renear and Palmer here). For many purposes, people will prefer the digital versions and will shift use. This is not to say that people will not continue to read physical books, but it is interesting to consider the pattern of adoption (and continued development) of the journal literature. The third is around the environment of supply, where there is major current activity. The post settlement Google Books institutional product offering, Amazon’s attempt to ‘iPodify’ books, the rise of the iPhone, and a range of other developments point to rapidly changing opportunities.

So the relationship with the book literature is going to change in significant ways, which may make the ebook/digital book distinction advanced above less relevant. In fact, Google Book Search already moves beyond it in important ways. And libraries are exploring various syndication models (with Amazon, for example, or Kirtas) or in collaboration with publishers such as the the Cambridge Library Collection, for example. Fragmentation, of technical platform, of format, of business model, and so on, will complicate service provision..

This poses major questions for libraries at all levels. From a (current) workflow point of view, we will see a shift of more activity out of the ‘bought’ materials workflow into the ‘licensed’ materials workflow. From a collections point of view we will see a rebalancing between local, shared and third party print and digital provision in ways now being worked through. There are bigger issues, already with us with the journal literature, about the curation of the scholarly record, about sharing of materials, and about assuring the type of access that is compatible with use and re-use in research and learning.

I think that libraries may be underestimating the impact and pace of change in the book world …


More On Book Reviews…The ALA (American Library Association)

This post explains how to get your book reviewed by the American Library Association (ALA) and into libraries.

Q. I’ve just written/published a book. How do I get it into libraries? Doesn’t ALA tell libraries what books to get?

A. Please be aware that individual libraries are responsible for their own collections. There is no one place that distributes books to all libraries — and that includes ALA. Although, some main libraries purchase books for their branches as well as themselves. And some libraries purchase their books through such distributors as Baker & Taylor, Ingram Book Services, Emery-Pratt Company, and other book suppliers and wholesalers. At best, ALA can review your book in its publication, Booklist. For more information on telling libraries about your own book, first access the ALA Library Fact Sheet 5 – Marketing to Libraries, which lists strategies for informing the library community about your product or service. Then access the ALA Library Fact Sheet 3 – Lists of Libraries, which lists companies and groups that sell library mailing lists and mailing labels, and includes a suggestion (at the end) on how to compile a list of e-mail addresses for libraries. You might also want to contact book distributors directly to see if they would be interested in providing your book to libraries. You can find directories of library vendors, including book distributors, on the ALA Library Fact Sheet 9 – Library Products, Services and Consultants. If you are a publisher wishing to donate books to libraries, please see ALA Library Fact Sheet 12 – Sending Books to Needy Libraries: Book Donation Programs for groups and organizations that accept and distribute book donations to library and other recipients, as ALA does not provide this service.
Q. How do I submit my book to ALA’s Booklist review periodical?
A. See the Inside Booklist web page, which provides submission guidelines and contact information.

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