Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

06/14/2015

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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Resource article: http://www.alternet.org/books/why-libraries-matter-more-ever-age-google?akid=13132.219868.IP14MJ&rd=1&src=newsletter1036759&t=19

12/11/2012

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.
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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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09/30/2011

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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02/04/2011

Publishing Pother Makes No Dent in Professional Book Publishing


Professional book publishing; which includes the legal, medical, business, scientific and technical fields; has weathered the chaotic publishing field  transformation of late and has pretty much maintained a steady flow of publishing flurry…to the tune of approximately 13 billion in 2010!

New professional books have busily occupied actual shelf space in bookstores and libraries as well as staked out new real estate in the e-book and digital online world.

Simba Information, the leading authority for market intelligence in the media and publishing industry, spills some data from it’s “Global Professional Publishing 2009-2010” report that I picked up from a MarketWire press release:

Professional books, still a foundational reference source for most working professionals, grew 1.1% to $13.9 billion in 2010, an initial step toward a full recovery. Media and publishing forecast firm Simba Information’s latest report, “Global Professional Publishing 2009-2010,” details the resilience of professional books through the recession and the explosive adoption of electronic models.

After losing sales in 2009 due to contracted library budgets and decreased exports, professional book publishing, which includes the legal, medical, business, scientific and technical fields, has nearly regained its 2008 position. Although largely due to a recovering economy, new e-book strategies and products from large commercial publishers have helped libraries make the most of their budgets and shelf space. 

“Although publishers have dealt with electronic journals for years, producing electronic books as a viable publishing product is slowly taking hold,” said Dan Strempel, lead author of the report. “E-books are now gaining a prominent foothold within the professional and academic world at large.”

Historically vilified by the scholarly publishing world, search giants, such as Google and Yahoo!, have proven to be a boon to the industry, as added exposure has increased book sales. The report finds publishers are especially excited about Google Books, which allows users to browse sample pages before purchasing the full text or designated sections.

Read and learn more

11/21/2010

An Insight into the Scientific, Technical & Medical (STM) Publishing Arena


With increasing budget constraints hitting academic institutions, libraries and corporate advertisers…constraints brought on by the current recession…the scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishers are experiencing shrinking profits.

Though not by too much in this writers opinion! Hell, The global STM publishing market saw total sales of $20.3 billion in 2009! But, then again, I am not an expert nor am I rich…and $20 billion seems a wondrous number to this peasant. This represents a decrease of 1.6% for the STM folks in 2009. Is this all that bad?….Naaah. Many are doing MUCH worse!

This report from “Insights from the Editor” at Simba Information:

After shrinking 1.6% in 2009, the market for scientific, technical and medical publishing is poised to regain modest growth in 2010. However, according to Global STM Publishing 2009-2010, a new report from media industry and forecast analysis firm Simba Information, leading report publishers will require new strategies to maintain growth in what is expected to be a painfully slow recovery.

The global STM publishing market saw total sales fall to $20.3 billion in 2009 due to a broad impact on revenue streams from the worldwide recession. As detailed in the report, academic institutions faced budget pressure, which made subscription renewals difficult. Corporate customers and advertisers also cut back their spending in light of the recession. With the economy expected to slowly recover, the report projects sales in the combined STM markets to finish the year slightly ahead of 2009 results.

These market pressures are not expected to dissipate immediately. The question is how long will they last? If library budget constraints and shrinking advertising expenditures produce a couple of soft years, the market leaders will be able to ride it out with cost containment; however, if the current situation lingers and libraries start cancelling big contracts, publishers will be under the gun to find alternative strategies.

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