Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Thinglink Uses (probably not new, but you know).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I don't understand "tax the rich" rhetoric

Not THAT kind of class warfare!
There is one thing in politics that I’m completely unable to understand. I can’t even put my brain into the mode of recognizing the thought process- the thinkers’ logical path- that leads to this belief. This is, of course, the progressive tax system and its proponents as identified by their cries of “tax the rich.”

First, let’s discuss the “paying their fair share” argument. What exactly does that mean? I love how such a subjective term as “fair share” is used here, as opposed to “equal share” or “proportionate share”. What is the fair share of someone who makes $10,000/year? Is it zero dollars? Is that fair? What about the services they use? What about the high income earners? According to this the top 5% of earners pay 60% of all taxes, but only ear.35% of personal income. Is that fair? So, what is fair? The best answer I can come up with is that “fair share” is more than whatever they’re paying at the time the argument it being made. Fair share for the top earners = more; for the bottom earners it = less. It does not, however, equal a percentage of income in any way, shape, or form.

Second, let’s look at the next argument I hear most often. “They can afford it.” This is perhaps the most immoral, horrific argument I’ve ever heard. Who cares if they can afford it? What right does anyone else have to their money simply because they can afford it? I don’t need my entire bag of chips, or even the second half of my $5 foot-long; I also don’t need to give them to you. Should I give them to you, if you’re starving- or just hungry and without cash? Maybe. I’ll entertain that argument. Should I give them to you if you are, as you’re asking me for it, looking up reasons why I should on your Smartphone- or taking a picture of my waste with your flip camera phone? Maybe, if I can lecture you on how your phone is a luxury and your monthly bill could have bought you some lunches. Now, I should do a lot of things. I should have gotten a veggie sub instead of the meatball. I should have remembered to actually bring my lunch from home. However, if I don’t, or don’t want to, I should NOT be forced to do something you think I should do. Does it make me an evil person to go eat that other half of my sandwich- and get overstuffed- in front of someone who’s dying of starvation? That’s a pretty good chance. However, it does NOT mean, at all, that I should be forced to give the other half of my sandwich to someone of your choosing. If you start doing that, I’ll never buy a foot-long again, and then we all lose. Bottom line, because someone should does not give the majority the right to force them to. This is imposing your morality on other people via guns and force- which is always wrong.

But, you say, they don’t NEED that much money. No one should ever have hundreds of millions of dollars while other people starve in the street, or die of treatable diseases. Here, however, is the rub. That money wasn’t gotten through ill means (more often than not). If it was, prosecute. However, to take the Bill Gates example- he earned his money by providing something of value at a price that matched what consumers were willing to pay. This was fair. This was good. It’s the same principle behind selling saltines. Someone got rich off of selling saltines at a price that other people were willing to pay. However, Bill Gates did this so well- he provided SO MUCH VALUE TO SO MANY PEOPLE- that he collected an almost unheard of amount of wealth… actually, he earned an almost unheard of amount of income that he- through other value for money transactions, turned into wealth. His income was taxed. The product he sold was taxed. The income the purchasers used to buy it was taxed. The products they sold to make that income was taxed. No one has ripped anyone off here. Everything is above board and good for everyone. In fact, a LOT of taxes have been paid to the government (if you’re wondering why the government should take any money from this, I’m not answering that here, but good question!) So, the windows user gets value and is happy (or decides they overpaid and doesn’t do it again), Gates gets the money and is happy. The government gets its money and should be happy.

That’s not the end, though. See, Bill Gates has provided so much value, and received so much income in exchange, that he can’t spend it all. (Well, he probably COULD spend it all, but he doesn’t want to.) So, what happens is Bill gets sales pitches to buy things- well, not things so much as parts of companies. He’s not stupid and, like every other human alive, doesn’t want to spend his money on things that don’t have a value that matches this asking price, so he spends his money on things (parts of companies) that offer a good value- maybe even, in the long run, a very good value. However, this is, in essence, the same as above. These companies have valued themselves at a certain price. Bill has agreed upon that value- or negotiated a new value that they both agree upon- and an honest transaction has been made. This company then goes on to produce something of value and sell to other people- same as above- and lots of taxes are paid. Because of Bill’s investment, this company is now worth a whole lot more than Bill originally paid for it. Bill has amassed wealth. (Same thing goes with buying gold, cotton, oil, etc. Bill buys was an agreed price for accepted value, hoping the value will increase, it’s honest and above board.)

We’re still not finished. Bill has some kids and he’s dying. He’s dying with a net worth- not just his bank account balance- of such a huge number we can’t even imagine what it would look like. I’m talking Scrooge McDuck figures here. So, Bill decides he wants to give this all to his kids, nephews, and me. Why? Because I’m a nice guy and he’s heard about me- and this is my explanation. So, he earned all this money provide value and purchasing bits of things that provide value to other people. His money has been taxed and the money of everyone involved has been taxed. Hell, even his property is arbitrarily valued and taxed annually. He pays taxes on all his employees, etc. So, why, when this money has been earned honestly and for equally provided value (and has already been taxed) should ANY of the money he wants to give to me be taxed? What claim does the government (or any other people) have on that money? I didn’t earn it? So. Bill did and he wanted to give it to me when he died. Does the reason why matter? This money has already been taxed at some level. Why should Bill just giving it to me justify another chunk of it taken away?

So, these are the things I don’t understand the reasoning behind. I don’t understand how someone can think this through, logically, and decide that Bill needs to pay even more in taxes. If someone gives me a valid reason (that isn’t extortion- he must so the poor people don’t rise up and kill him out of anger) please do so.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Amazon+Netflix+Internet = Libraries' Destruction?

Amazon is thinking about a subscription service ala netflix for books. OK, I've been predicting this for a while- but more as for a service for libraries to subscribe to. However, if this is offered like netflix, how much longer can we compete? Let's look at it, shall we. Netflix for $8/month. Internet for $15/month. Amazon for (i'm totally guessing here) $15/month. So, we've got $38 per month. Another couple of hundred per year for an e-reader and a roku box/appletv. That's about $650 per year. For a family of 4 that would be $162.50 annual per person. (the first year, this would go down to about $100/year/person after the initial device expenditures). San Francisco public library spends approximately $86 per capita. What happens when the cost in san fran is more than the companies? How long before libraries can't compete? When do we admit defeat? When is it going to be cheaper to simply provide the poor with their own devices and accounts?
Is this what my job is going to be in 15 years?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Boys don't read... crappy books.

There's a lot of response to how horrible a recent NY Times opinion about why teen boys don't read. A lot the response seems to think this article is bashing women.

I call BS. Women have- at least in the last couple of centuries- ALWAYS had female authors to read. The list is LONG. Anyone under 40 grew up reading them alongside male authors all throughout school. From To Kill a Mockingbird to Sense and Sensibility (and even Ethan Frome!) there is no shortage of women authors being taught- when the work is good. Also, it's incredibly hypocritical to say that women suffered through having to read books by men about men- that they can't relate to or don't want to- and then complain that a man might complain about the same thing in reverse! (does it matter who wrote the book if it's great? NO. So, why complain about it?)

Boys' ya fiction is bad- almost without exception- and I mostly recommend that they skip it altogether and go straight to "adult" books. I do the same with girls' books. Basically, they're romance novels- and are VERY OFTEN poorly written. When recommending books, if they aren't going to read adult books because they don't read, then they are a lost cause and they should stick with manga.

Also, let's look at the crap adults read. (other than twilight- which they do. That is the shittiest prose I think I've ever read. EVER. Had to quit it early because the fact that she made millions why being so bad at her job made my head hurt.) Romance novels? Detective novels? Romance novels sold as detective novels (I'm looking at you JD Robb/Nora Roberts)? Dirk Pitt being "co" written? How many James Patterson (with someone you've never heard of) books can be put out in a year? Star wars novelizations? Nicholas GD Sparks? I'm not going to go on anymore because it will make me cry.

Sorry, got a little off topic. The point is, most books are bad. That's a bottom line truth- ya or not, girls or boys. Also, this is a market issue. The reason we need more boys to read is because we need more boys to buy books! It's like half the market is there for the taking- or so someone thinks. Maybe they just need to start making better ya nonfiction? Or quit caring and tell them about good books to read, regardless of age or author.

Saturday, June 25, 2011



This is absolutely and unequivocally FALSE. Libraries are not free. Library services are not free. Library materials are not free. (Unless, of course you pay no taxes at all, ever, anywhere.) As I’ve stated before, the cheapest a library gets is $13 +/- per capita. Would we call other things free that cost $13 per person? Are baseball games free if you get an outfield bleacher seat? Is a movie ticket free? NO. Is the library a good deal? Yes, to those that use it, the library is a great deal. In fact, the more you use it, the better a deal it becomes. However, it is NOT free.

and it's not even inconvenient!Everyone in library land should do themselves a favor and stop spreading this lie. Instead, we should tell the truth. The library is not free; it’s something you’ve already paid for. An apt analogy (in my mind) is that the library is like a Groupon deal that get’s you $100 of food for about $13. Once you’ve paid for that, your food isn’t free, it’s just really cheap. (The big flaw in this analogy, if course, is that you would CHOOSE to buy the groupon, you have no real choice about the library- but that’s a different story altogether.)

If you think it’s free, you simply think you’re passing up a free service- like not taking that sample pizza bagel at SAMS. However, if you don’t use the library, you’re paying for something you’re not using- like buying the box of pizza bagels and leaving them on the bottom of the cart instead of taking them home. From a library marketing standpoint, I don’t see WHY you would ever tell someone it’s free. Are you more likely to use something that’s free, or something that you’ve already paid for so you might as well get your money’s worth? I definitely don’t know why Linda McMaken at Investopedia would make this ignorant mistake.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fun with Figures

My last idea got me thinking. The numbers just seems amazing to me, so I thought I would take them out to some logical conclusions. First, I was wrong about Kern County. It’s San Antonio that spends the least per capita at $13.96. Now, let’s keep looking at those numbers.

Approximately 70% (really 68%, but I’m giving the benefit to a higher number) of the population has a library card. Only 35% of cardholders used the library in between one and five times in the last year (so, at most, less than once every 2 months). 15% use the library at least almost every 2 weeks. With the in between visitors, data shows that 76% of cardholders used the library in the last year. (That means that 26% of cardholders used the library more than 5 times a year and less than 25).

I’m going to quit picking on San Francisco and use San Antonio as my example base. Let’s use their population of 1,513,800 as listed in the lit. So, we can fairly assume that approx 1,059,660 people in San Antonio have library cards. We can also fairly assume that only 805,342 have used these cards in the last year- and 254,318 haven’t. So, these numbers show 708,458 people in San Antonio haven’t used the library AT ALL in the last year. This is 47% of the population!

Now, let’s look at the budget and break it down like CB4-

$13.96 per capita expenditure gives San Antonio Public Library a budget of a little over $21mm annually. That gives the library a budget of almost $20/library cardholder. This means the budget is $26/library USER. I could get into shades here and only count a percentage of the minimal users, but I won’t. (in San Fran that equals out to approx $117/USER). So, the 41% of cardholders that account for the library’s real circ numbers (especially the top 15 percent cardholders) are getting a STEAL. BTW, 15 percent of cardholders equals approx 20% of USERS that drive your real circ and stats. So, in San Antonio, that’s 158,949 people that are “heavy users”. That’s 10.5% of the total population uses the library on (at least) a bi-weekly basis. These people- even assuming that they only check out 1 item each every 25 times a year- account for 3,973,725 circs/year. That’s 62% of the library’s total circulation (6,374,109 in the year of these numbers)! Also, from the same source, that means they account for 93% of library visits (4,267,488 total)!!!! This is from a minority of cardholders/users and 11% of the population!

Please someone correct my math here- because this CAN’T BE RIGHT! If they account for at least 62% of circ, can we assume that 62% of the budget is devoted toward them? I think for this thought exercise we can. So, that’s approx $13,020,000 per year. Let’s break this into cost per heavy user- we get $81.91 each. That leaves 38% of the budget to cover the remaining user pop- costing about $9.90 for each one of them. This is fuzzy, I know, but I just think it’s an interesting way to look at it.

No matter how you look at it, about 10% of the population is actually using the library. Even at (one of) the lowest spending per capita library systems in the country, these people are getting a service that should cost them at least almost $82 each for a cost of about $14 each. Does anyone else see a problem with this? Can anyone explain to me why this is fair or right?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Member, or MemberPlus?

Libraries everywhere are in (or under threat of) a budget crisis. State budget crises have rolled downhill and the local governments are being forced to trim the fat. Easy targets of such belt tightening are public libraries. For better or worse, libraries are viewed as subsidized entertainment for those unable, or unwilling, to shill out the cash for their book and audio/visual pleasures. After all, we’ve got schools to educate and spread literacy…

The top library spending per capita according to THIS (a bit dated) is in San Francisco at $68.68. The most frugal is Kern County Library at $14.43 per citizen. For the sake of argument, let us assume that these numbers are still close to accurate AND that cost of living isn’t an issue and San Francisco Library patrons get a little less than 5 times the value out of their library that those living in Bakersfield get. I will, for illustration, concede these points. The other listed libraries spread across to cover the gap pretty well. However, we must consider that the cost per LIBRARY USER is HIGHER than cost per citizen given the numbers HERE. Plus, look at the small 15% minority of users actually drive library circulation with heavy use. They sure are getting their money’s worth.

--- Just for math fun, the annual per capita cost of the library is $68.68, but if only 70% of the total population of SanFran is a library card holder (563,665, est.). The per-USER cost is actually over $98/year. ---

So, if you’re still reading beyond that riveting opening, I’m getting to my point now. What if we found a way to tap into the finances of that 15% of library card holders that are “SUPER USERS”? Using the San Francisco example with the hypothetical 70% library card holders, and the cited 15% of “super users”, that would be an estimated “super user” population of 84,550 people. These are already library members, but what if we offered them a different level of service? What if we offered to make them MemberPLUS members?

If we offered these people a special membership at an extra cost of $5/month, that would raise another $5 million dollars annually from those people that REALLY like the library. What, however, would be the perks? What would make them want to pay extra for something they are already using? What if MemberPlus members were allowed extended checkout times? What DVD checkout limit was doubled with your MemberPlus membership? What if there was streaming content available only to MemberPlus cardholders? MemberPlus patrons could be notified in advance of new books and bestsellers- allowing them first dibs on requests. MemberPlus patrons could get library e-mail addresses and cloud storage space. MemberPlus patrons could get discounts at local area businesses that support the library.

What’s the downside? These are the people that already drive our circ and usage. Our use would go up, the program would pay for itself AND fund library improvements, special programs, fill budget gaps, employ more staff, etc. Even at half the number of people, we’re talking a good chunk of change. We aren’t creating an elite class of patron, because they’re already an elite class of user. EVERY business caters to it’s top customers.

I’m interested to see if anyone moves to this- or already does it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Let's Burn the Libraries to the Ground!

It's ok to weep for the passing of ages, but who are you to blow against the wind. (And who said you couldn’t paraphrase Neil Finn and Paul Simon in the same sentence? Nobody, that’s who.)

There has been a lot of talk, and complaining, and excuse making, sentimentality, and puffery lately about libraries and their demise future. First, let me explain that I am only speaking to PUBLIC libraries. Public libraries are dying a slow and painful death. This is hard for me to say, because a public library feeds my family, but I wish someone would serve as the Institutions’ second and put them out of their misery. But, what about A country without libraries.

THINK OF THE CHILDREN! Think of what a horrible world they will grow up in without vast repositories of paper shown to them by a knowledge gatekeeper guide? Well, to this, I offer a big RASPBERRY.

After all, “Other than traveling on foot, horses were the proven method of transportation for centuries. They pulled carts, stagecoaches, covered wagons, and delivery vans. They hauled water tanks, men, and hoses to fires and for a time sped pony express riders to their destinations.”
But cars won the day.

There were LAWS that favored the horse as transportation, but CARS WON THE DAY.
I am sure that somewhere someone wept when the last wheelwright closed shop. I’m sure horse breeders took a hit. I’m sure horse breeders and wheelwrights worked to promote the social need for their professions. People suffered. Poor people couldn’t afford automobiles (some still can’t). I would bet that there were arguments made to preserve the horse drawn cart by any means necessary due to whatever advantages it had over the automobile. Cars got better and cheaper. Mass transit filled gaps for the needy. Wheelwrights learned new trades- maybe even became mechanics. Though this did not happen overnight, compared to the eons of animal powered transportation it definitely feels that way.
Public libraries, as we know them, don’t have nearly as long a history. I will not bore you with a history lesson here. I only bring it up in reference to the analogy. Technology is killing libraries as surely as the car killed the wheelwrights. Despite more people being able to read than at almost any other point in human history, it seems as if reading for recreation is in decline. Sure, movies, television, the internet have all taken a share of the entertainment pie. (Much as radio had before.) To the credit of public libraries, they have noticed and tried to shift and keep up with the time. Public libraries all over the country are now Blockbuster + Sam Goody + internet cafes + Borders + homework help + foreign language classes + etc… Blockbuster has lost. Sam Goody has lost. Internet cafes have lost. Borders lost. I’ll stop beating that dead horse. Libraries also offer downloadable e-books, videos, audio-books, etc. Maybe that’s the future, maybe not. I do know that those services are only tangentially connected to the brick and mortar- and librarian staffed- public libraries so that they cannot be their savior. Also, I’m sure there were all kinds of bells and whistles added to the last horse drawn buggies in an effort to keep them relevant.

Instead we get sentimental drivel about how libraries are good and librarians are necessary, and how the smell of library books cures cancer… ok, sorry for the drift into hyperbole, just fighting fire with fire. Librarians, much like wheelwrights probably were, are busy proving their importance. They keep stats, they showcase programming. They do things that they can record in order to justify their existence and their salaries (not to mention their Master’s Degrees). It, like the cake, is a lie. Public librarians have convinced themselves of it, however.
But wait… why not just change it? Why not let it evolve to meet the needs of its users? Because if that ever happens, and it might not if baseless sentimentality holds strong, it will be slow and painful and it will get much, much worse before it gets better. But the car overtook the buggy… yes, but the buggy wasn’t backed by massive government bureaucracy and massive national organizations with dues paying members that would be out of jobs.

I advocate metaphorically burning public libraries to ashes so something else can rise and take their place. Is it community centers? Is it an online document repository? It is public internet cafes set up in malls and strip centers? Is it small neighborhood book swaps? Is it a combination of all of the above? Is it the black swan that no one has seen coming on the horizon? I don’t fully know. As I have lamented in the past, something might be lost along with the public library, but I’m sure something was lost when we stopped getting pulled by horses too. What was that, you ask? I’m not sure- and that’s the point.

The bottom line is libraries and citizens must learn to do more with less. Innovation and change will make libraries of the future leaner, stronger, and better.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Other Shoe is Dropping

Here's my response to nice a blog post at Agnostic Maybe . Then there's his response back, and response to his response. It's all very dizzy.

Because a lot of librarians feel like they’ve been getting away with something for a very long time. They feel like the other shoe is bound to drop. I mean, how much should they get paid for showing someone where to type in the address bar? Or for writing a schedule for their clerks?

No, the believe because they know they have been getting paid for not doing a whole lot of work. They feel guilty for this and realize that someone else must figure this out one day- and that will be the end of the public library.

on May 17, 2011 at 1:52 AM | Reply Andy
Interesting comment. So, what do you do at your library, if I might ask?

Based on the feedback from my basic computer classes, that kind of information (showing them where to type in the address bar) is rather valuable. While it may be easy to me, it’s not to other people; they talk about it as it will give them confidence to go online, email, and be more active online with their kids and grandkids. But I guess that’s basically stealing from taxpayers, right?

on May 17, 2011 at 10:40 AM | Reply stuartspencersmith
I am a public service and reference librarian. I was a corporate librarian before. I understand the benefits of adult technology education, but I also see- every single day, all day long- the same people with the same problems that don’t learn- because they don’t want to. I see people demanding that I dial the phone number for them. I see a babysitting service provided by employees with Master’s Degrees. I see employees steadfastly holding on to the past instead of realizing that THEY must change for the institution to still have meaning.

I’m on the front lines of the digital divide. It’s not ebooks here, it’s DVDs, Plenty of Fish and free online MMORPGs. We are not providing education, but entertainment. We are already a community center/homeless shelter/daycare.

NONE of these things require a librarian- or at least a librarian’s education and training. So, old guard wait to retire while bitching and putting their heads in the sand. The young turks are worn down under the weight of the institution. We are left with the ones who are happy with things the way they are- and what does that say about any profession when you’re left with the ones who are happy with things the way they are?

The old guard KNOWS what they used to do and how much work it was. The young turks LONG for more work. The rest treat the patrons like they’ve interrupted an important task. The rest have convinced themselves (and maybe they really believe) that what they do is important. They are sure that they are the torchbearers- but the flame has been dying for a long time now. Most of their job duties are JUSTIFYING their job’s existence- and they’re ok with that because they are IMPORTANT.

That is what I meant. Also, I am speaking only to public libraries.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Librarian Twitter Army


I'm trying to generate a Librarian Twitter Army. This would be for information and reference professionals (and willing and qualified amateurs?) who are on twitter and would like to take the time to offer reference help via the tweety box. Unfortunately, I chose the name @LibTwitArmy without even thinking. Now twitter is acting up and it won't let me change it to @librarianarmy- which I intend to do as soon as allowed.

I'm asking people to send their questions to @librarianarmy or include #librariantwitterarmy in their tweeted queries. Kind of a Plea, kind of a MANDATE!

The point would be to provide links and references to people in need. This could maybe be a resource for people involved in the Arab Spring or Green Revolution type movements that need info, or simply homework help and everything in between.

Basically, I envision it this way- the tweet would be sent to @librarianarmy or include the aforementioned hash tag, and the @librarianarmy would retweet it to all followers, who would then answer.

Why? BECAUSE, that's why. Also, because we need to show that librarians have a place on twitter more than just an echo chamber. Plus, maybe it will save some poor soul from using Yahoo Answers. Who's in?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another Day, Another Problem Solved

Hey! Yeah, you! Yeah, you schools that are running Sorry, couldn't help it.
out of money, listen up. First, what have you been thinking? Well, whatever it is, it isn't working. Technology and dollars are not the answer. Give me your ear and I can solve your whole tangled mess, but I won't do it now. No, now I will solve one small part of it. Ready? Strap your helmets on, because you're mind might explode without extra external support!

Here we go... are you ready? Get rid of any and all school libraries that are within a walking distance to a public library branch. That's it. Problem solved. That budget is already looking better isn't it? Well, it's not writing it all off See, it's not that hard!
the books. What you need to do is PAY THE PUBLIC LIBRARY 25% of what you are saving. That way they can support the extra use and maybe even a staff member too. Do your teachers need to take a class to the library to research an assignment? Walk them there.

Now, here's the hard part, get your teachers working with the public librarians. Let them know what projects will be done, what subjects there will be a need for. Schedule trips. Trust me, the librarians will be more than glad to help you. They're seeing these kids right after school anyway, so most of them won't be strangers. Also, public libraries will EAT THE NUMBERS UP! It's called synergy. Let's make it happen.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Paid searches (or how Google keeps us from curing cancer)?

Josh Hadro
Josh Hadro had a great blog post yesterday entitled "How Much Would You Pay to Search for the Royal Wedding Guest List?" This sparked what was going to be a little comment, but turned into a small rant. I'm not even sure if I believe myself 100%, or agree with myself 100% might be more accurate, but I do know that I definitely feel this way and it makes sense on the surface.

First, isn't paying for search exactly what libraries used to offer patrons- you know, back before the ubiquity of home internet? People were willing to pay for it then, but few, and they dropped it pretty quickly as soon as a free competitor was out there. As it is, people typically refuse to go get something that’s behind a pay-wall unless it’s the only option or they’re already going to subscribe anyway.Does the NYT really think it's all that different?
Why would search be any different? Unless Google (or some other company, to be fair) has some type of proprietary control over a subject and all related information, free searches will never disappear. Someone will always do it a little cheaper, with a few more ads, etc.

Second, did they quantify the tangential information gleaned during a physical book search- such as finding out a fact that was only slightly related at the time but added to the searchers' overall knowledge with a potential to use later? THIS, I believe, is the benefit of a less direct search. I found this online, what cool logos would I have found if I had to actually search with my brain and time?
It's the accidental discovery that we are losing- and it will hurt in the long run. These discoveries change the course of research. They change conclusions we draw. This is why library co-location vs. bookstore grouping makes more sense to me too, from a “for the good of man” kind of way. Do you get that with a targeted search? This is missing, especially if you’re really good at searching. The better search engines get at brining you back what you really want to see, the less there will be this cross pollination of information. I am sad about this.

Unfortunately, this is almost impossible to quantify. When you could it would have to be retrospective and anecdotal, so the data wouldn’t allow you to draw any quality conclusions anyway.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ebooks by Subscription

I recently upgraded phones. I now, as you might have guessed from my last micropost, have a smartphone. I noticed that this phone, had I not signed a contract with my wireless provider, would have cost in the neighborhood of $600. Yep, so far I think Windows Phone 7 is pretty freakin' awesome.
Instead, I paid next to nothing because they know they will recoup all costs over the course of the next couple of years of our relationship. That's great for me and it works for them. (I'm assuming it works for them because they keep on doing it!)

This isn't new. Anyone remember when ISPs did this? I do. Don't worry, my credit recovered and is GREAT now.
I got a Compaq with a DVDRom and a good chunk of memory for a great discount because I promised to pay Prodigy $25 a month for dial up internet back in the very late 90s. I also dropped Prodigy after a few months and went to Netzero because I was a poor teenager with no concept of credit. It didn't work for them.

However, this got me thinking. Why doesn't some company, such as Amazon with their Kindle, do something like this? Why don't they offer a free Kindle with the agreement to purchase so many e-books/magazines a month from I mean, is that too much like Columbia House Records giving you a free MP3 player with you purchase 2 albums a month at regular club prices?Yep, pretty sure my brother and I got a few No, I don't think so. This could be a boon to (e)readership everywhere. Things would get purchased and read that wouldn't be otherwise. The provider would benefit just as much as the phone companies do. I wonder if they just don't need to. I mean, sure THESE GUYS do (or do they still- update your site people) it, but their catalog is limited and suspect (read: crappy). Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I'm looking at you kids to take this to the next level.

What does this have to do with libraries? Well, with better ereaders, people can check out our digital collection more. There.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Travels with the Easter Bunny

On the road to Houston & blogging from my phone.  I feel so 2008!

Happy whatever holiday you celebrate in order to eat your chocolate!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bloggorhea.. I know, gross. (3 major issues facing libraries in the next 10 years)

I got asked to list 3 major issues facing libraries in the next 10 years on a job application. I know, that seems more like a secondary interview question. Anyway, here's what I answered.

The most critical issue that will be confronting public libraries in the next That money's on a crash diet.  It'll gain all it's weight back the first time it eats a peice of bread... Trust me.
ten years is that of diminishing budgets. While it is true that cities and states are dealing with somewhat unprecedented budget crises, this does not mean that the libraries will be expected to offer a lesser quality of service to their patrons. We must learn to do more with less. We must seek out possible alternative funding sources. There is potential for following an NPR/PBS approach offering memberships with various rewards for those who donate a certain dollar amount on an annual basis, along with regular pledge drive weeks at the library locations. With concerted efforts to do more while relying on local tax revenue less, libraries can place themselves in a position to withstand the booms and busts of the future without less worry.

Another critical issue confronting public libraries in the next 10 years is the issue of Digital Rights Management. In recent days this issue has shown itself Not even libraries?  WTF DRM, WTF?
front and center in the form of Harpercollins e-book checkout restrictions. As new media appear there will be problems as the publishers fight to maintain and increase annual profits. This will also present itself as libraries move to streaming video content for their patrons in addition to allowing them to check out films from the library stacks. I believe the future of this lies in institutional subscription services for these media, in much the same way as libraries subscribe to scholarly journals today. Individual libraries and consortia will move away from ownership of materials in these forms to a rental of blocks of materials. This might take the shape of a Bestseller e-book subscription, or an African American fiction collection subscription, or even institutional accounts with Netflix or Dishnetwork's re-launched Blockbuster brand. Nevertheless, change will continue at an ever accelerating pace that libraries must keep up with.

Another critical issue that public libraries face in the next ten years is that of an aging professional staff. There was an idea a few years back about a "Silver Tsunami" that referred to the impending wave of librarian retirements and the lack of qualified professionals to replace them. What a lovely lady we've got here to help you establish an e-mail address.
Instead, the financial crisis has depleted retirement accounts and this prediction has not come true. Librarians are not retiring, but stay on with plans to do so for the foreseeable future. This leads to the issue of having to constantly teach old dogs new tricks. Never before has the library profession changed so rapidly as it has in the last ten years. This same statement will be true for the next 10 years. The one thing that will not change, however, is much of the libraries' professional staff. What these librarians learned in school, while still valuable, is less and less related to their job duties. To combat this, libraries must focus on constant and vigilant professional training and re-education. Libraries must also make room for the younger generation to fill leadership roles and help steer the library into the future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why?... NO, What, then HOW?

Alison Circle
Yesterday, Alison Circle had a great little post on her blog- Bubble Room- over at the Library Journal website. The entry I'm speaking of was To Freeze or To Flash — or Not?

I have blogged my comment to her blog below. It's always nice to know someone else at least has the same ideas that I do... sometimes anyway.

EXACTLY! This falls into the same cart as Second Life library branches and a A totally different type of Flash mob.
massive amount of library programming and marketing. Why should be the first question asked every time. Actually, what should be asked, and then how do we get there.

Unfortunately, a lot of librarians seem to work backward. They get an idea they think is "neat" or "cool" or (god forbid) "hip", and then do it without anyone asking why. This is bad business. It is this type of thinking that is bad for libraries. Instead of showing how "with it" libraries are, they only showcase how out of touch libraries are.

So, until things change, we should always ask WHY when presented with such plans. Then, we should start asking ourselves what it is we want to do and how we can start doing it effectively.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Helping vs Enabling (vs being taken advantage of)

Ok, so I just had someone come up to me and ask if they could use my phone. Not my cell phone, but my work phone. "Sure," I said... actually I said, "esta bien." Interestingly, I wanted to say, "daijoubu desu," but I didn't. So, then the person hands me a phone number, puts the receiver to their ear, and waits motions for me to dial the number. WHY DID I DO IT?!

I did it because I wasn't sure if this was in the enabling category or the helping category. I mean, what if she wasn't physically able to dial the number... OK, I'm pretty sure (99%) she could. I'm pretty sure I just got taken advantage of and treated like the hired help of the Nouvuea Riche. Besides, even if this person didn't know how, isn't it better to teacher her how to fish and all that jazz? I mean, isn't that why we (librarians) find people the resources but don't write their paper for them?

How does one tell if they are helping versus enabling? Also, is it sometimes better to simply enable than to go through the hassle of teaching? I realize this is situationally dependent, but there should be a GENERAL rule of thumb, right?

Well, here's my best answer. Usually, it's easier and faster to just to the stuff for them. However, this can set a bad precedent. Pretending like you are incapable of what they want you to do, either mentally or physically, could be fun, but the potential for insult is high. Taking the time to teach them can be frustrating and actually provide NO results whatsoever. So, just do it for them and hope it won't be a recurring thing. If it gets to be a common event, then teach. I know it sounds backwards, but it's just the smart thing to do.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm back, and Harper Collins is put on Notice.

Hello. I'm back. I know no one reads this anymore because I abandoned it a long time ago- for all practical purposes. Now, however, I'm back in the public sector, helping people help themselves.

Something that has changed since I've been away is the very real arrival of the e-book. It's not just Netlibrary anymore folks. Patrons have nooks, kindles, IPads, Android based tablets, etc. The efforts to adapt this new tech while I was away has been surprisingly forward thinking and proactive. Also, and this must be said, man I hope this is a fad that will disappear faster than slap-bracelets.

However, there has been a major kink in the works recently (well, since the beginning with some, but recently with Harper Collins) where Harper Collins has decided to adopt and insanely limited number of checkouts per e-book purchased by a library before the library would have to pay for the book again. Just to be clear, I feel this is similar to the publisher creating a book that was meant to fall apart after it had been opened a certain number of times with the aim of forcing you to buy a new one to replace it.

You can read about this EVERYWHERE- like Here or places like these.

What I'm seeing a lot of is people saying that 26 checkouts isn't enough (TRUE) and it would be OK if they raised the number of checkouts to more like 100 (FALSE!). Libraries are not in the market of providing DIVX, no matter how many people predict a similar fate for us as befell Circuit City. We buy books, magazines, DVDs, CDs etc to be used in perpetuity dependent on condition. What makes e-books different? That they don't fall apart? Are we really planning on formats not to change? Are we planning on never weeding them? Well, maybe not if people listen to ME!

First to Harper Collins and your brilliantly simply logo: Businesses that attempt to protect profits/make more money by increasing fees instead of increasing volume are doomed to fail. I'm sorry, but that's not the smart business move. How do you NOT know this?! So here's what you do instead. You offer your complete e-book catalog for an annual subscription price dependent on the size of the library system purchasing from you- direct or through an intermediary. Tell people, here you go, it's a little more expensive, but you get all this stuff for your patrons that you weren't getting before. (And don't try to tell me you don't have a very few e-books that drive the majority of your sales!) Then, let them keep paying you for access as the years go by, adjusting costs accordingly. You might think you're losing money... but you should probably talk to Netflix about that.

Second, to Libraries: Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe! If the fad goes away, stop paying. Until then, increase your holdings dramatically. Maybe pay a little more up front, but less than if you constantly repurchase every 20 checkouts or so.

So, once again I have saved the day and solved the problems. Next stop: Libya.