Dollars, Sense and Public Libraries

A report conducted on behalf of the State Library of Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria Network reveals what we already knew to be true – the return on investment from libraries and their services far outweighs the initial investment.

The research measures the value of Victorian public libraries’ contribution to the community through a cost benefit analysis and an economic impact assessment. Dollars, Sense and Public Libraries found that the benefits contributed by public libraries significantly outweigh their provisioning costs and represent a sound return on community investment.

The resulting report from “Dollars, Sense and Public Libraries – A landmark study of the socio-ecomomic value of Victorian Public Libraries,” revealed that over the 3 year time period of the study, on average “Victorian public libraries return $3.56 for every $1 spent.” Now that is certainly money well spent!

You can read the public report here, or the full technical report here.

Broadband and libraries unconference

Did you miss the Broadband and Libraries unconference hosted by Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries in March this year? Fear not! The presentations are available online now.

The third unconference was held on the theme Broadband and Libraries, an in-depth look at the upcoming National Broadband Network in Australia and its consequences and opportunities for libraries.

Part think-tank, part workshop, part brainstorming session, the unconference eschews the formal conference. Rather than a scheduled day of lectures and PowerPoint presentations, the day encompasses discussion and interactive tutorials guided by experts and enthusiasts in the field.

The unconference is inspired by the Library Boot Camps run in the USA. The aim of the unconference is to provide participants, or “unconferencers” with a personal learning experience whereby they can network, share knowledge and explore areas of interest.

e-book vendors and other library related technology providers were also in attendance.

A Christian speaks

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, Easter sermon mentioned libraries. The campaign to save UK libraries is receiving support from many quarters, unfortunately the message isn’t getting through to many councils.

an unscheduled stop at a local library in a rather devastated council estate revealed a lively group of teenagers who were regular users, welcomed by staff, glad of a place to do homework, gossip and feel secure. Space, opportunity, the time to discover a larger world to live in – where are the clearly articulated priorities in public discussion that would spotlight all this, so as to make us think twice before dismantling what’s already there and disappointing more hopes for the future? Talk about the happiness of the nation isn’t going to mean much unless we listen to some of these simple aspirations – aspirations, essentially, for places, provisions or situations which help you lay aside anxiety and discover dimensions of yourself otherwise hidden or buried.

BL acquires email archive of a British poet.

Recently the British Library acquired the email archive of English poet Wendy Cope. The archive contains over 40,000 items and presumably includes everything from emails sharing links, to organising lunch with a friend, to spam for viagra. Cope herself suggests that most of them are probably ‘not very interesting’ and one gets to wondering why such a haul, which also includes manuscript material in the form of school reports and early work to accounting books, would be valued at 32,000 pounds by such an esteemed institution.

Cope is known for her comic stylings which include such works as Making cocoa for Kingsley Amis and her parodies which include;

My true love hath my heart and I have hers
We swapped last Tuesday and felt quite elated
But now whenever one of us refers
To ‘my heart’ things get rather complicated.

I’m now picturing her making cocoa and writing little ditties on the back of shopping dockets. Which begs the question what value could her archive possibly have for future scholars and the curious of Britain? I guess when we see Wendy Cope herself as an example, a product maybe, of Britain of its school system and a commentator on its literary history we start to see the value it might have. The curator of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the BL explains “That very direct and succinct voice of hers, which comes through so strongly in the poems, seems to have been present very early in her teenage years”. As an acquisition Cope’s archive provides a good view into the changing nature of collection material and an important insight into the considerations a cultural institution must make about the future significance of material produced as a result of our electronic age.

Kindle for libraries

Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.

“We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” said Jay Marine, Director, Amazon Kindle. “Customers tell us they love Kindle for its Pearl e-ink display that is easy to read even in bright sunlight, up to a month of battery life, and Whispersync technology that synchronizes notes, highlights and last page read between their Kindle and free Kindle apps.”

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

“We’re doing a little something extra here,” Marine continued. “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library. Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.”

- Amazon press release

Good news, Kindle books for use in libraries. Bad news – was this achieved by library consortia – nope it was OverDrive.
I mean why would library consortia do anything about ebook licensing, when libraries find it so much easier to pay and pay and pay and pay some or other commercial entity. I don’t see why libraries bother having budgets at all, all they seem to do is hand over their monies immediately to any vendor passing by whether it be for a content licensing agreement, a new library management system, or literally anything, as otherwise they might have to work together, think a little or worse go open source!

Anne Hathaway SMH Getty Images

There are various rites of passage many female celebrities see as necessary to establish their worth. One is adopting dork chic. It’s been around for years and it has a short shelf life but only certain people can carry off library-geek cool.

Read more:

Library of the living dead – a novel way to introduce patrons to the library!

The Miller Library at McPherson College in Kansas has come up with a novel way of introducing future library users to their libraries – a graphic novel that features a zombie fighting librarian! Library of the living dead walks users (ok, runs from zombies) through each section of the library where the helpful librarian uses the collection to highlight the many and varied uses of the resources that the library holds.

Zombie fighting at Miller Library
Zombie fighting at Miller Library

I won’t give away the ending, but if you’re not convinced to read it yet, a comment from one satisfied reader might just get you over the line: Great art, great story, and epic beard action… what’s not to love? What indeed.

Nothing much to borrow

I was reading a contentious blog post by John Redwood, a Conservative politician in the UK from a government that is closing >500 public libraries. While I disagree with all his ill-thought out points, I was interested in his views of the book stock.

I lingered over the non fiction shelves. The books seemed oriented to middle class hobbies like antiques and foreign travel. I guess the book buying had been well judged to cater for the demand of a fairly affluent local community that said it wanted a public library.

Some defenders of every public library imply that they are for a different clientele. They conjure images of children from homes living on low incomes developing a passion for reading serious books borrowed from the local library. The library is seen as a force for self improvement and the pursuit of knowledge. I fear that in many cases this is no longer true, if it ever was.

To be sure public libraries have moved far from the Carnegie conception of a place whereby the poor could better themselves with the tools to educate themselves. Those tools being only non-fiction works with which to learn or enhance a skill or trade. In Australia the first public library founded by the great Sir Redmond Barry also had no fiction. Fiction was also unavailable in the first mechanics institutes. While fiction was available in the minimal number of Australian public libraries (until post WW2) it was also provided by subscription libraries (even unto the 1930s) in Australia.

I have no problem with public libraries providing fiction it is what people want and expect.

I do however think there is a point to be made about the non-fiction collections in most public libraries I have been in (and that’s quite a few).

It is no surprise that Redwood, found little to interest him as every public library collection here and there (as they should) express generally the makeup of the clientele and of the library staff, both of which are overwhelmingly female (see the ABS stats). That non-fiction collections are blessed in the areas of craft, cookery, crime, self-help, child care, travel and health is therefore no surprise.
But there is little for the young person keen to learn more than pastimes, hobbies and cures (have a look at the size of the 500s as opposed to the 600s shelves). But then that is why I suppose we have the Internet.

Why is this a problem you ask, well it may not currently be a problem in Australia which has high levels of employment, but in the US and UK where there is mass unemployment (and libraries fighting for funding) libraries need to be helping people by providing tools to learn and grow and find jobs. Offering the unemployed hobby books is not useful.