Friday, March 1, 2013

On Libraries and Nests

There are two topics I want to discuss this time. First is the topic that-never-seems-to-die. Libraries. It’s been discussed before in YA Authors You’ve Never Heard Of (see the topics in the left frame for earlier installments). But it seems as if every year some personality decides that there is no need for libraries. This year Terry Deary said that libraries have had their day and that they are “damaging the book industry”. This despite the fact that, as a UK author, Mr. Deary is paid every time his books are checked out from UK libraries under the Public Lending Right.

The “libraries are no longer needed” refrain isn’t new – I heard it from a university president in the 90s when the campus was trying to get a new library building built and his argument then was that all information would be online. (the campus finally did get a new building very laptop compatible which ended up being named after him. *sigh*). That refrain usually identifies the speaker as someone who thinks of a library as just a warehouse of books. But libraries don't contain only books. They also have DVDs, CDs, computers, and databases. Libraries are often centers of the community - they offer classes, story hours, homework help, and access to job and testing resources.

The “damaging the book industry” refrain has been popping up more and more lately in regard to ebooks. First the complainers were publishers who were unhappy that ebooks lasted longer than print books and wanted to limit how many times an ebook could be circulated before the libraries had to buy a new copy (did they not know that libraries have mending departments that repair damaged print books, thus upsetting publishers’ estimates of how many times a print book could be circulated before falling apart?). Then there are those authors who see every checkout of an ebook as a lost sale, both now and in the far future. Some have gone to the extreme of comparing libraries to ebook pirates (which is when I give up trying to reason with them, as they have passed the point of listening to any other side).

However, Mr. Deary didn't single out ebooks. Yet, as more than one blogger has pointed out, libraries and bookstores have coexisted for some time now. Indeed, in my town, the libraries (public, school and academic) buy books from (and thus support) the town's one independent bookstore.

It has been encouraging to see authors rally to the support of libraries. Julia Donaldson and other British authors responded to the article in Guardian, while Rita Meade listed ways to help local libraries.John Scalzi remembered how libraries contributed to his love of reading. The comments on his blog are also heartening. So many people responded with their own recollections of using their public or school libraries or their observations of how the usage of libraries have increased in this economy. Foz Meadows focused on disproving the economic side of Deary's argument as well as pointing out that libraries help create new readers.

This past January, the Pew Research Center released the results of a new survey on Americans' attitudes toward and expectations of public libraries. The summary can be found here. It appears that people feel that print books are still important but also want more digital services from their libraries (including more ebooks).

Where do you stand on the subject of libraries?

On to my second topic. Activity has started up once again at the various nest cams I watch. The eagles in Colorado have three eggs so far, as do the owls (also in Colorado), the falcons in San Jose have four eggs, the eagles in Decorah, IA, have laid one in a new nest (without a cam), while the eagles in MN are rearranging their nest. (see the video for tips on how to tell the two apart). Usually nesting among these groups would begin around March, but the seasons have been starting earlier every year. This can be difficult for some locations, as there are still snowstorms this time of year (both Colorado nests and mothers were covered with snow February 21st) and last year the eagle nest in Colorado lost all its chicks in one storm.

There is now a Facebook page for the Raptor Resource Project, which covers several nests. There is also the Raptor Resource Project website with various links to nest cams.

1 comment:

  1. Of course you caught my attention with the library topic. Reports of the death of the library have been greatly exaggerated. All you need to do is work in one to realize that. The tiny little town library I have the pleasure of serving in is an invaluable resource to the community, especially to the less affluent. Complaints about lost sales do not take into account that many people could never afford to buy all those books. Neither would they take a chance on an author they've never heard of if it cost them money. Those who can afford to, buy the books anyway rather than wait for the library copy. Once again, it shakes down to a class issue: Those with money (who are always looking for ways to acquire more) are quick to dismiss as unnecessary and burdensome something that serves those for whom money is a scarce resource.

    Thanks for a great post, and for the chance for me to climb up on my soap box.