Archive for the ‘Bookmarks’ Category

No One Wants to Be a Stereotype

May 6, 2014


No one wants to be a stereotype. That is, no one purposely seeks to be something of a byword, a parody, or something that others might smile at, amusingly. I would hazard to say that no child has ever said, “I want to be a stereotype when I grow up!” For example, no car mechanic drives his personal car under a shade tree to begin work. And I think it’s safe to say that some preachers don’t really want to sound peachy all the time, and many professors eschew professing in off hours. Okay, two out of three isn’t bad.

But I’m going to risk the stereotype of a librarian by not only writing about a book, but also writing about a book titled The Library: A World History. Honestly, how much more stereotypical can you get? I’m saved in part because my hair is too short for a bun.

This gorgeous book is really library-porn. Or maybe it’s just book-porn for anyone who loves libraries, and that includes many people who are not librarians, and even excludes some who are. (Don’t ask me why, but some librarians bristle at those who automatically think all librarians love books.)

Architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce decided a few years back that what the world needed was a glorious picture book about the world’s libraries. Right here, smack dab (as we say in the South, but again, don’t ask me why) waist-deep in our digital age, these two embarked on a photosafari in search of the great libraries of the world, and documented them in print. At the end of their journeys, they ‘bagged’ more than eighty of the most wonderful enchanting, and sacrosanct book repositories from one end of the earth to the other. Theirs isn’t the first such book—others have been done—but theirs may be the most comprehensive and eye-pleasing.

Awash in color photographs, these libraries come alive on the page, from the smallest and most unassuming to the largest and most garish. Campbell sought to document the architectural history, the why and the how libraries developed as they did. His text is as intriguing as the photographs, from his discussion about medieval libraries and their development, to Asia’s fascinating “open air” libraries. It sounds trite to say it, I know, but if you pick this book up, you’ll be hard pressed to put it back down until you have gorged on the gorgeous.

I have seen many of these libraries in person and it was like seeing old friends with whom I have not caught up with in ages. Others I not only had not seen, still others I didn’t even know about. What’s more, the book has something for everyone, whether your tastes run to the traditional, as do mine, or the flamboyantly modern, as do those who should see a physician (but I jest), whatever your tastes, you’ll find something here to feast your eyes upon.

The Strahov Abbey library in Prague is so small and quaint as to be missed by most. When my wife and I visited it one July, the weather was dreadful: driving rains and about 48 degrees. Still, it proved the best day out of thirty we spent in Hungary. Pryce captures it perfectly. The Admont Abbey Library (Admont, Austria), gleams in almost alabaster snow. The perfect rococo design from the gold cornices on columns to the checkerboard floor proves the point Campbell makes: this library was not meant for study but to impress. It does that in spades. Finally, there is the magisterial Escorial Library in Spain. What a delight it is to view this library that became the trendsetter for all that followed after it in 1585: books were used there first to decorate the walls. It doesn’t hurt, either that the ceiling is a piebald of frescoes of saints and personifications of the liberal arts and sciences by Pellegrino Tibaldi. It just has to be seen to be believed. I know it’s theologically insipid, but I like to think that heaven will look something like this, or at least have a library like this!

Of course, the authors could have easily made a digital book. Indeed, many of the libraries are indeed online, and some of them in great detail. But seeing them in color on high quality paper gives them a life that so far anyway cannot be replicated in pixels (and is the reason I didn’t include any links in this post). But I’m glad they didn’t ‘go digital,’ and you will be too when you open the book for the first time.

Maybe I am a stereotype and don’t know it. But this is one time I’m fine with that. If there is a booklover in your life, you must get them this book. Perhaps we are approaching a time when libraries will become obsolete. But seeing these libraries assures me that that isn’t going to happen in my lifetime, or in yours.

And that fact–and this book–makes me want to break out in the Hallelujah chorus!

“The True University of these Days Is a Collection of …” eBooks?!

March 24, 2014

We do live in interesting times, don’t we? This is especially true of those of us who spend most of our working lives in libraries. The last ten years have been so filled with change that it’s almost become a byword: if you don’t like something, wait a few hours and it will change. This isn’t a complaint, just an observation.

No other area has changed so much in the last ten years as books, or, rather, I should say ebooks, and that includes the very spelling of the word: e-books, Ebooks, E-books and now, more often than not, ebooks. Because we talk about them so often, we forget that they have been around for quite some time, now chest-deep in their fourth decade.

Yes, that’s right, ebooks are approaching forty years old. But what is as surprising as their longevity is their equal lack of acceptance. We like them, sort of, but under certain circumstances, or so it would seem. They are certainly easier to search, much easier to scan quickly, and, of course, you can carry 1,000 or more of them in one hand. Further, right now anyway, they are much cheaper than their print counterparts. It would appear that even in certain cases, especially with struggling readers, ebooks may make them read more, identifying as they do new words or terms the reader has never encountered. All of these things are critically important. And yet, we’re still not at the point of full ebook embrace.

Now all of this I know sounds a bit skimble-skamble, but that is unfortunately where things are presently. Ebooks are being used in libraries, especially for leisure reading. But exactly where they will end up in the vast calculus of library services is anyone’s guess.

What makes all of this seem counter-intuitive is that many very vocal but small cadres of ebook readers proclaim ebooks for all. Some have even claimed, again, for the 100th time, that print books are dead and that libraries, if they aren’t already obsolete, should collect only ebooks. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who say that we’re rushing much too fast into the digital apocalypse, and we’ll be sorry when we get to digital Armageddon. As is the case in most such antipodean quarrels, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

The inquisitive folks at Pew did a survey on the internet and its usage. Now you would expect that those over fifty aren’t especially enamored with ebooks, and you’d be right. But guess what? It turns out that 16-24 year olds are not that enamored with them either! Nationwide, our high tech, never-without-an-iPhone-attached-to-my-ear crowd loves traditional libraries. Furthermore, according to Pew, this group also prefers print books! Some of you are doubtless thinking that must be a minority preference, but you’d be wrong. More than 70% of those 16-24 year olds feel that way.

Just last month, a survey of students at the University of Iowa (600 of them) found that the 18-22 year olds there much preferred printed textbooks to e-textbooks, even e-textbooks that had some sophisticated bookmarking, underlining and note-taking features. In fact, most students didn’t even use those features. These students used ebooks, but apparently only when they had to.

Finally, after increasing in sales year-after-year, the ebooks sales have declined in 2013, and rather significantly. Mr. Bezos, call your office, immediately!

Okay, so what’s up with all this?! Are we just technophobes, Luddites, unenlightened slobs? Foot-dragging, knuckle-headed, digital nincompoops?

I don’t think so, but I do think I have a good idea why we’re at this juncture.

The roll-out of ebooks decades ago was simply dreadful, more botched than the Obamacare website. Everything about them was wrong, but especially wrong were the ereaders, which were simply unaffordable to most, and unusable to all. (Kindles are still very substantially subsidized to make them as “affordable” as they are.) You couldn’t read all that well on any of them. The next iteration proved hyperlinked-filled with more distractions in the first paragraph (some actually on topic) that reading was like crossing a dangerous intersection in a major metropolitan area: you were so fixated on getting to the other side in tact that you often forgot why you wanted to go there in the first place.

The third iteration saw so many ebook readers rise and fall that no reader knew which device to buy. Simultaneous with this were the content restrictions: this ebook reader held content A, this ebook reader held content B. If you bought content A, you realized too late that you really wanted content B, and vice versa. It proved devilishly difficult to figure out what to do. If you could afford them—and most could not—you bought as many different contents as you possibly could, but it also meant buying and changing ereaders, too.

The iteration that brought us the iPad, not really an ebook reader but served as one, appeared to bring us to the promise land of ereading. But, alas, the late Zen-master Steve Jobs allegedly conspired with others in a price-fixing scheme to make all ebooks cost $9.99 (and all iPads $300 and up), only to be sure those ebooks would eventually get to $12.99 each. That case is now in the courts and does not promise, at least at this juncture, to bode well for Apple.

If all of this were not enough to poison the wine, ebook content providers determined to gouge libraries who dared to lend them. Libraries do not really own ebooks; they lease them. When you look back over the recent history, the question isn’t so much why ebooks haven’t yet caught on, but why they haven’t died outright. For more on the decline, see here.

What has also slowed down the ebook revolution is that readers reading etexts face a comprehension problem. What our eyes do when we read, those oddly jerky, jittery dances—what experts call saccades—are very different in print environments than they are in electronic ones. No one knows for sure whether the difference is owing to this very new way of reading, or to some hardwired make-up in our brains. Some researchers tell us that reading on a screen simply drains our brains of all our mental energies to comprehend. Apparently we exhaust ourselves just getting through the material and therefore forget what we’ve read. Certainly, there are too many distractions in web-based texts that cause us to lose our focus.

Additionally, we have read for the last millennium with a light over our shoulders. Now we’re telling our brains it will be directly in our eyes, however faint that light may be. We are discovering the switch to be a little more difficult than we anticipated, and some of us simply cannot make the switch at all without headaches, eyestrain, and more. We are also finding that those who read electronically first cannot easily make the switch to a print environment very easily at all, while those who learn to read in print first, make the switch, ceteris paribus, just fine.

So, is the era of ebooks over? Hardly. But changes will have to come to solidify their place in the reading pantheon. Doubtless those changes will come, are coming, but we aren’t there just yet. Meanwhile, Dacus continues to purchase ebooks because vendors make them altogether too fiscally attractive to ignore. It would take us more than twenty years to purchase 100,000 print books, assuming we’d have the space to house them (we do not). In one year, we can purchase that many and have them available to readers in a matter of days.

You can help us immensely if you’ll fill out the survey we recently sent out. You can also find a link to that survey on our webpage, in case you lost the email. The more data we have about ebooks, the better we can serve you.

We are well on our way to ebook paradise, but it will take longer to get there than any of us imagined. Until we sort out all of these things, however, you shouldn’t burn that library card.

Libraries are not obsolete after all, and I for one hope they never become so, regardless of the changes that are surely to come, not only with ebooks, but with all library services.

Is the Google Book Decision an Unqualified Good?

February 6, 2014

If you’ve been living on a deserted island or stranded (or not?) like the pelagic castaway Jose Ivan for over a year, you may have missed the news that Google’s mass digitization project, Google Books, won its case.

The short version of the story is that about eight years and millions of dollars ago, Google partnered with first a half-dozen or so major research libraries to scan all their books. This move was not an ill-conceived, off-the-cuff decision. CEOs Page and Brin wanted to do this–scan all the world’s books–back when Google was called Backrub. Over time, those half-dozen libraries became a dozen, then two dozen and finally closer to three dozen major research institutions. Some libraries, however, had second thoughts and dropped out. Google decided to scan everything–in toto as academics are wont to say even when not referring to the Wizard of Oz–from the title page to the back matter.

Some authors didn’t much care for this opt-out approach and said so. The Authors Guild reminded Google about this little thing we call copyright but Google being Google (and having a googol dollars at its disposal) ignored the reminder, and the matter went to court–for the next eight or so years.

Judge Denny Chin on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, held the matter and, after numerous fits and starts, decided in November 2013 to give Google the win. The matter is under appeal by the Authors Guild.

What Google won was the right to display the snippets it shows of materials that are copyright protected (anything in public domain is shown in full). Google did this without permission and without any remuneration to those holding the copyright, whether authors or publishers held it. Chin agreed with Google that the snippets were “fair use,” something many did not see coming but most hoped would be the outcome. (Left undecided was Google’s decision to scan cover-to-cover all those books without permission.) While “fair use” has long been a staple of what libraries are able to do with materials, this is the first such case in which a commercial enterprise has been able successfully to claim fair use of an enormous amount of material without asking for any permission, written, verbal, or otherwise. Fair use appears in section 107 of the US Copyright law of 1976 and can be viewed here in its inglorious entirety.

When the decision came down, the twitterverse went all atwitter. It “exploded” as the phrase has it. For example, here, here, here and here are a few of the hundreds of gleeful comments. Even librarians were in a lather of joy about it.

Almost. Not this librarian, although I know I’m in the minority when I say it. The Google Book Decision–what a publisher friend of mine likes to call “Google Book Theft”–gives me pause for a number of reasons.

First, it turns copyright and fair use on its head. Copyright was already upsidedown, and this hasn’t helped. Now the matter is nothing short of vertiginous. To say anything is NOT fair use now will be a real challenge. Many of you are doubtless thinking that would be a good thing. But no, Martha, it would not. Of all the things that can be said bad about our copyright laws–and there are thousands of things I can think of in sixty seconds–it still protects intellectual property. Determining what fair use is now is anyone’s guess. Everything is, is the way I read it now (and I bet Google does, too). Furthermore, this will provoke Congress to reexamine copyright, something it has done about half dozen times in my lifetime. And, yes, they have made it worse each time. When Congress touches copyright, the old joke about the opposite of progress is congress, really hits home.

Second, there is no evidence, no empirical evidence, that shows any additional Internet exposure of any authors’ works improves royalties. Of course, no academic expects (or should expect) to make any “real” money writing for academic presses. Those that can be named–Bloom, Edgar–can be named because they are so few in number. But to take away from academics any chance to improve those anemic bottomlines seems cruel, especially when Google with its gazillions could easily have shared (instead of giving it to lawyers). To test this idea, look what the Internet has done to music. Sure, any group can get a million hits with even a so-so song. But those million hits and $5 still won’t buy you a cup of coffee at, well, you know. Likewise, authors will now get more exposure. That will not necessarily turn into more sales. I won’t say that’s QED, but it comes pretty close.

Third, this gives the information-wants-to-be-free-crowd (i.e. most of cyberdom) a stranglehold on all intellectual property. This group believes what is yours is theirs, and what is theirs is theirs, a kind of socialism of information (and we all know how well socialism works). They shouldn’t have to pay for any information because it should all be for the common good. All of it. This sounds really good until all of a sudden, that textbook you wrote that sold a few thousands copies is now everywhere, or that rubric you created is now in 5,000 schools, all courtesy of the Internet, or that cloning technique you worked years to perfect is now everywhere you look online, all without any reference to you or the hand you had in it. It’s one thing when you do this yourself; it’s quite another when someone else does it without asking. That sounds very self-centered, I know, but it isn’t as if good ideas are superfluous. I’m not saying we do not need reforms in the whole information access calculus. But this one isn’t so much a reform as an unhinged revolution. Those can be fun, too, until they start shooting at you.

Lastly, the decision simply adds to the UGC–user generated content-that Google has expropriated. Again when we do this voluntarily, no one should complain. But for Google to decide that copyright does not apply to what it wants to do is mind-boggling. It is doubly so, since Google kowtows to the demands made on it in Europe, and especially in places like China. Here, however, intellectual property is meaningless and merely another potential revenue stream. Goolge takes what it finds and makes it “free” to the world. The “free” refers to what Google pays for the idea, not what it makes back from all those ideas.

So, is the Google Book Decision an unqualified good? Certainly it is for Google. For intellectual property, not so much. In a sense, we all work for Google now, free of charge. I suppose that fits since we all now attend the “Univeristy of Google,” for all our informational needs, right?

Energizing the Life Out of You?

December 5, 2013

It’s exam time and that means stress time.  You know it’s coming, you thought you were well- prepared, but the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft a-gley, whatever that means.  In any event, you have to stay up later, study more, and sleep less.  In order to do that, you need energy, and lots of it.  Who doesn’t this time of year?  So you reach for that energy drink in the slightly-larger than- pony-sized bottle of pure kickapoo joy juice, or a reasonable facsimile, not once, not twice, but four times a day.  We know this because we see them all over the building.

energy drinks

But wait a minute?  Should you?  According to a recent study, you need to be careful.  All those bottles of pure energy elixir are really powerful bottles of caffeine and lots of it.  Researchers didn’t know until now that they affect the contractions of the heart, specifically the left ventricle, and that can bring on palpitations, racing heart, seizures and yes, even death.  Because the effects are mainly in the heart, they may even trigger arrhythmia in normally healthy young people.

As with all such studies, the energy drink folks are complaining that the study is flawed and that they are as harmless as a cup of coffee.   Your takeaway should be that moderation is everything.  When you think you need a pick me up why not de-stress at the library de-stress center, take  a walk, a jog, or splash cold water on your face?

But whatever you do, think twice about chug-a-lugging multiple bottles of those energy drinks, or really anything that is caffeine-laden.

What a busy semester it has been

October 16, 2013

Although it’s hard to believe that Fall Break has come and gone already and that we’re halfway into the month of October, many of us at the library are feeling a little exhausted, although pleased, at the number of patrons we’ve been seeing in the library this semester. A few statistics might give you some insight into how busy we’ve been at Dacus:

For the month of September:

  • 138,644 print jobs were sent to the public printers
  • 27,393 people have walked through the doors
  • 12,443 desktop computer logins
  • 2,028 reference transactions
  • 1,715 textbook reserve checkouts
  • 1,161 laptop computer checkouts

Techo Booth

Of course there’s a lot more going on at the library, behind the scenes, that you might not be aware of. Books and electronic materials are getting ordered, cataloged and processed, electronic databases and the library website are continually maintained, PASCAL and Interlibrary Loan requests are being processed, delivered and checked out, library instruction classes are happening on a regular basis, and many other jobs are being performed to serve our Winthrop community’s academic needs. And here’s a shout out to our wonderful student workers – we could not get everything done without them! A big thanks should also go to our student workers and our security guard  who make it possible for us to keep our doors open 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.

As the fall semester progresses, we hope to see more of you in here using the resources and services we work so hard to provide. Just bear with us if we look a little on the tired side from time to time. It’s hard work keeping up with you, but we’re delighted to put forth the effort!

Is there a new library in Winthrop’s future?

September 30, 2013

If we had a nickel for ever time we’re asked this question, we might well be able to fund half a building!  Seriously, the question does come up, a lot.  Unfortunately, external sources of funding have been the hold up for well over a decade now, but with a new President at Winthrop, these and many other questions are being revisited.

Recently, the matter was treated again in this Herald article and reprinted in this Charlotte Observer article. Check out either of these articles for more information on the discussions being held about a new library.  Meanwhile, Dacus continues to tally record numbers of students in the building.  Apparently, the Internet is no substitute for a library after all!

Music Library Replaces Academic Computing Lab in Dacus

August 28, 2013


Over the summer, the Music Library moved to its new location on the second floor of Dacus Library. The Academic Computing Lab, once located there, was removed and its contents subsumed into other labs. Dacus now has almost fifty (50) public computers on the main floor alone, with almost a dozen located on its other two floors.

Furthermore, Dacus also maintains its own Mac Lab on the main floor in addition to all its PCs. Finally, by going to the Information Commons, you can check out any of our twenty (20) laptops or fifteen (15) iPads. The need, therefore, for the AC in Dacus appeared superfluous. The Music Library and its contents moved to, well, a library. For the first time in anyone’s memory, the music, scores, and music, and music reference are now all located in the music library — what a novelty!

The academic computer labs are located about the campus can be found here. If you want to save yourself some walking, you can always check the occupancy (or computer availability) in any of the labs by going here.

As always, if you need help with any question, go the Information Commons where a librarian happily waits to serve you.

Yep, We’ve Got That

August 19, 2013

Welcome to all our new students, and welcome back to all returning ones. We in Dacus are very glad you’re here! As a reminder to our returning students, and an update for all new students, here’s few things you need to know about Dacus. By the time you finishing reading this blog, I hope you’ll be saying, too, yep, they’ve got that!

New Mac Lab: On the main floor we added a new Mac lab with six (6) new Macs ready for you to use. The lab is located in the front of the building toward Myrtle Street.

New PCs: For all you PC fans we didn’t leave you out, either. By Labor Day, we should have up and running 48 PCs on the main floor alone. We also added a cadre of six on the second floor (on the Withers side of the building) and five in the basement.

Music Library: It’s here in Dacus, on the second floor. The Computer Music Technology and Classroom is now in the basement.

24-hour access: Yep, we’ve got you covered. Beginning Labor Day night, the library will be open 24/5. We will open on Sundays at 1 p.m. and not close again until Fridays at 7 p.m.. Saturdays we open from Noon to 7 p.m.. Until then, Dacus is open until midnight Mondays through Thursdays, Fridays, 8a.m.- 7p.m., Saturdays, Noon-7p.m. and Sundays 1 p.m.-midnight.

Laptops: Yep, we’ve got them, 20 to be exact.

iPads: Yep, those, too, about a dozen. Laptops and iPads are available for check out.

Kindles and MacBook Airs: Yep, got ‘em, and they, too, circulate.

Wireless?: Of course, all three floors.

Textbooks: Oh yes, we have those, too, ready for you to drop by and check out. While we cannot provide a textbook for every single class, we have the majority of them at the Information Commons.

Prizes!? Yep, we’ve got them , too, during Welcome Week, but also throughout the year. Check out the Scavenger Hunt information elsewhere on this blog.

Research Assistance: By all means. Wondering how you’ll do all those papers? We’ll we’ve got an app for that! We call it, LIBRARIANS. While we won’t write them for you, let us help you forge through the maze of information. Don’t waste your time Googling it! Instead, librarian-it. We have twelve of them ready to help you! And don’t forget our LibGudies!

Pens? Pencils? Blue books: Oh yeah, we got you covered. Just ask where the vending machine is (it should be up and ready by mid-September).

Group Study Rooms: Yep, four of them. See the Information Commons!

Technobooths? Say what?! Yep, we’ve got them and if you don’t know what they are, just ask anyone at the Information Commons.

Ebooks: You bet, over 100,000 of them.

Databases? More than 100 of them!

Chat with a librarian? Of course, see out homepage. You can text, them, too (803.272.4077).

Books? Remember them? Yes, of course, more than 400,000 of them! If we don’t have it, we can get it.

As the fourth largest academic library in the state we have what you need or we can get it. Don’t be afraid to ask us!

They Like Us, They Really Like Us!

July 18, 2013

With all the bad news about libraries and their coming putative obsolescence, here’s a bit of good news to ponder: young people like us, they really, really like us!  In the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s latest survey, “Young Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations”, young people (ages 16-29) are as likely to visit a library as they are to be online.  They are connected, to be sure.  But the survey also found they are “just as likely as older adults to visit the library, and once there … borrow print books and browse the shelves….”  Moreover, large majorities under age 30 say the library is “very important” to have librarians as well as books for borrowing. Finally, very few think that “libraries should automate most library services, move most services online, or move print books out of public areas.”  But don’t believe this biased observer. Read the report for yourself!

01 services and programs

Ebrary –There’s an App for That!

February 13, 2012

The e-reader for Ebrary now has free app at the Apple Store and can be used on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.  Not only can you read Ebrary books anywhere on your (or one of the library’s 15) iPad easily, but you can also import your own PDF documents through the app itself.

The Ebrary app will be on the library’s iPads, but you can put one on your iPhone or iPad by surfing to the apple store and downloading the Ebrary app.

As many of your know, Dacus purchased 70,000 ebooks at the beginning of the year (that number is closer to 100,000 as of this writing) through Ebrary, one of the growing number of vendors now offering electronic monographs at a greatly reduced cost.  About 80% of these titles were published between since 2000.    Moreover, we also instituted DDA, or demand-driven acquisitions.  In plain English, this option allows users to see tens of thousands of titles, nearly all of which are new (current year, 2011-2012), and pay nothing for them–literally.  Our costs are “triggered” only when someone (faculty or student) looks at ten pages or more of a given title, or ten minutes each (whichever comes first).   After three short-term loans (separate occurrences), the fourth access becomes a purchase.  Less than that, and there is no charge.

The advantages of this are obvious because in any given library, under print-only titles, at least 40% of  purchased monographs are not only not examined in the first year of ownership, but also very likely never.  With print-only titles, there is simply no way of knowing which titles will be successful and which will not until the actual books arrive.  Using DDA allows us to purchase ONLY those titles acessed since only those that are, are the ones being charged to us. 

With the new Ebrary app, patrons can now read these titles on any iPad, iPhone or iPod.


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