Alan Bennett on libraries




I have been discussing libraries as places and in the current struggle to preserve public libraries not enough stress has been laid on the library as a place not just a facility. To a child living in high flats, say, where space is at a premium and peace and quiet not always easy to find, a library is a haven. But, saying that, a library needs to be handy and local; it shouldn’t require an expedition. Municipal authorities of all parties point to splendid new and scheduled central libraries as if this discharges them of their obligations. It doesn’t. For a child a library needs to be round the corner. And if we lose local libraries it is children who will suffer. Of the libraries I have mentioned the most important for me was that first one, the dark and unprepossessing Armley Junior Library. I had just learned to read. I needed books. Add computers to that requirement maybe but a child from a poor family is today in exactly the same boat.

Alan Bennett in the London Review of Books –

Stop Victorian Library Cuts

Well we all thought here in Australia, that libraries would not be facing the cuts seen by our colleagues in the US and Europe. But in Victoria (the birthplace of Australian public libraries) the state government has indicated cuts to council funding for libraries.

A campaign has begun, the media are supportive and councils are opposing, and there is of course a facebook page to bring it all together.

There is also a petition

Please do what you can to help.

Philosophy articles on Pirate Bay

Users of Pirate Bay searching for the latest episode of True Blood (yeah I know you use Isohunt, I was just being funny), may be confused by the number of philosophical items suddenly available.

The war with publishers that libraries and academics have been fighting for many years over the price of scholarly journals, may be entering into a decisive phase.

Firstly there were online only academic journals, then things like PLoS, then repositorities in every university and now due to hacktivism there are even articles on Pirate Bay

If enough scholarly material becomes freely available for researchers, academics and the public then the charging of thousands of dollars a year for individual journal access to libraries will become a thing of the past. Which will be a great boon for the dissemination of knowledge throughout and especially the developing world.

The next step is ensuring that peer review continues outside of these journals. Already journal reviewers and editors do not get paid for their services, and neither do authors (publishers take all) so it just requires organisation, something which universities should not find too hard given the will.

Knowledge a bad thing in Iran

“Like poisonous, dangerous and addictive drugs which are not available for everyone without restrictions … as a publisher, librarian or an official in the book industry, we don’t have the right to make [such books] available to those without knowledge,” he said. “We should provide them with healthy and good books.” Iran’s Supreme Leader quoted in The Guardian



Kindle to rent books

Kindle Textbook Rental webpage

Is this the rise of the online circulating or subscription library?

Amazon/kindle is now offering to rent textbooks. If this takes off, how long before other book types will be offered?

Circulating and subscription libraries existed for very many years in Australia and elsewhere offering rental of popular (mainly fiction) works, until they were replaced by free public libraries.

Given the right price there is no reason why this business model could not come back. At the moment due to licensing restrictions imposed by some vendors public libraries that lend ebooks, are generally unable to lend an individual ebook out to more than one borrower at a time. Therefore just as with paper books a reader generally cannot get immediate access to very popular works from a library. 

If they can get that immediate access for a reasonable fee from an ebook retailer, it would be a very attractive proposition for many readers. See this interesting article on circulation libraries in Melbourne 1930s-1960s, it does tend to show that commercial competition could be successful even where there were public libraries.

Will public libraries renegotiate or object to the licensing conditions they are currently offered, and demand multiple simultaneous use for all their ebooks, or will they let commercial vendors determine their future.

And if ebook publishers or retailers, in the future, get to lend more books than the libraries, will they then negotiate with government to take over library provision themselves. The digital revolution remains disruptive.

NLA and wikileaks, bad cataloguing has consequences

Twitter posts about the NLA

A cataloguer at the NLA, used the LC subject heading ‘Extremist Web sites’ to classify a number of works to do with Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

Wikileaks supporters noticed it –

And, unsurprisingly a large number of people found the use of the term defamatory, given that the heading is normally used for hate/villification web sites. The NLA’s Twitter and Facebook were thus inundated.

Why did it happen?

Let us be sure it was not some conspiracy on the part of the NLA. It was done by a staffer, who didn’t understand the nature of the material.

It is not the intention of this blog to attack an individual cataloguer, as every cataloguer makes mistakes once in a while. But it has been highlighted as it is symptomatic of a wider cataloguing issue at the NLA.

Why are there some cataloguers in the NLA who don’t understand the material that is presented to them – that’s the question, and its one that most current and every ex-NLA staffer knows the answer to. See the post from 30 June.


What is a Library

An article in Time magazine asks ‘Is a bookless library still a library
Silly question, really. There are no bookless libraries, there are still very few libraries that don’t have at least some paper books. There are a few libraries that now only have electronic books in them, but that’s a different proposition.

But even if there were a library with no books of any sort, but there were librarians, yes, it would still be a library.

A library is a building or other structure whereby the services of librarians may be obtained, and access to data, information or knowledge provided.

A group of books in one place is called a Collection. Where there is some intellectual or proprietorial input into the Collection – it is a Formed Collection. Is everyone clear now.

Library Renewal

Is your library concerned about the best ways to provide for online content access? If not, it should be! Things are continuing to change rapidly and there is a lot of discussion going on about access to online content, whether it be e-books, online journals or streaming music. The folk over at Library Renewal are working to promote, and are hosting, a wide-ranging discussion about the issues involved. If you’re interested, take time to have a look and have your say … or buy the tshirt! Or the zine! (take a tour below)

Murdoch family a criminal enterprise – proven at last

I have in the past on this blog raised the spectre of Rupert Murdoch and his evil empire a few times.

There are very many reasons to despise the role that Rupert Murdoch and his media interests have played over the years.
Within the context of librarianship, it has always been plain that Murdoch and his staff/children do not like libraries.

A few examples are:
The past attempts around the world to remove or be further paid for the use by the public of print newspapers in public libraries
The attacks on librarians in the UK who supported striking print workers unions and refused to stock his titles in public libraries (1986/7)
James Murdoch’s public attacks on the British Library
The refusal to allow in Australia, for Murdoch newspapers to be archived by the NLA (note that Fairfax (SMH) allow this because they are decent)
HarperCollins ebook licencing restrictions
Fox News’ attacks on US libraries and librarians
Murdoch’s support to remove fair dealing or fair use exemptions in copyright laws

Now that we know from the revelations coming out of the UK that the Murdoch empire is truly just a vast criminal enterprise, there is some consolation that its days may yet be short.

Above is the final goodbye from the filthy scandal sheet (or some would say newspaper) that brought about Murdoch’s woes. Note how they are ‘proud’ to show off their past, is there a single worthwhile story in any of their choice of glorious historic front pages – some sleazy attacks on the Royal family, tv soap stars and criminals, what a proud record for Murdoch’s 40 odd years of ownership of this anti-worker, sexist, racist and homophobic rag.

Thanks Nick Cave

Nick Cave, a long term UK resident is helping to save one of the hundreds of public libraries under threat in the UK.

Cave said: “I wholeheartedly pledge my support to the campaign to save Kensal Rise library. Accessible local libraries are vital to communities and to children. Reading fuels passion, interest and ambition – please don’t take that away.”


You can help save the historic Kensal Rise public library, that was opened by Mark Twain, by bidding for items, such as Nick Cave’s handwritten lyrics, from the campaigns ebay auction site the money is being raised to pay for the legal costs of fighting the closure decision in the courts.

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

Prime Minister's Literary Awards

The winners of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were announced at the National Library of Australia this morning. Award winners included:

  • Fiction: Traitor, by Stephen Daisley.
  • Non-fiction: The hard light of day, by Rod Moss
  • Young adult fiction: Graffiti moon, by Cath Crowley, and
  • Children’s fiction: Shake a leg, by Boori Monty Pryor, illustrated by Jan Ormerod.

The full shortlist of entries in each field are available on Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2011 shortlist.

During her speech, prior to the presentation of the awards, Prime Minister Gillard talked about the upcoming National Year of Reading in 2012:

Friends, I know many of you are also keen supporters of the proposed National Year of Reading in 2012. This is an initiative of libraries and library associations around the country, and has quite rightly garnered support from many of you here today. Of course, every year is a year of reading in this most literate and literary of nations. But in 2012, we can take time out to affirm the place of books, reading, ideas and libraries in the fabric of our nation. To that end, I’m proud to announce that the Australian Government will provide $1.3 million in funding to help make the National Year of Reading a success.

The full transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech can be found here.