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Librarian Blog

It didn't work out

"Homegrown," a big book featuring posters from the Austin music scene in the late 1960s and 1970s, was debuted Sunday at Texas State University's library.

I went over there Sunday afternoon for the opening of an exhibit of the posters, and to hear a program about the book and the items.

I did buy the book, and am well pleased with it.

But, after waiting for more than 30 minutes for the program to start past the published time, I just left. I didn't want to be there all afternoon.

The reason I had an interest in this particular book and exhibit is because I was editor of the student newspaper in 1968-69 at what was then West Texas State University, and we published a tabloid-style newspaper so that we could upon occasion produce our own rock 'n' roll type poster front pages. We had an artist on the staff who could mimic the psychedelic style, and so we appeared more relevant than we probably were.

We picked up the idea from the music scene in Austin and San Francisco, but particularly Austin because several of us traveled from Canyon and Amarillo to go there for parties, and we were taken by the poster art.

I was surprised that several people had collected the posters and saved them over all these years. But, I'm certainly glad they did.

Maybe pen and ink was better

Right after the lunch hour today, stuff started going wrong.

First, the copy machine defaulted to a setting I've never seen written in English that I couldn't understand. Maybe if I were a Xerox repairman ...

Then, we couldn't get the fax machine to work.

And now we have just noticed that our middle thermostat is reading 77 degrees, but we had it set at 68.

I work with a couple of people who remember how it was when you had card catalogs, pencils, pieces of paper and maybe a rubber stamp with the date on it.

Days like today make me feel like I'm walking along the razor edge, just one step from losing all control over everything.

Unexpected preferences

The Washington Post published a story on Feb. 22 with some surprising information. Turns out that studies show that young people prefer books to digital materials when it comes to reading in certain situations.

For example, "A University of Washington pilot study of digial textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free."

What?

Seems that students like books because they can focus more on reading them and comprehending what is in them. Digital devices seem to be too distracting.

People seem to be accustomed to scanning and skimming online, not actually "reading."

Still, some online science and math texts are preferred by students and teachers because the materials are actually portals to more granular offerings that help the users solve problems.

I wonder about the reading habits of much younger kids, though. Will they like books as much as their big brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers and grandparents?

Just throw them away!

In addition to lacking a conscience, a San Francisco-area librarian certainly has need for an imagination.

The ABC affiliate in the San Francisco-Oakland communities reported this week that Carmen Martinez, director of the Alameda County Library, owned up to throwing awa 172,000 books in the last two years.

People found some of them recently and raised cain. They said the throw-aways included some works that had been published in the last four or five years, including a biography of Willie Mays.

The controversy surfaced this week when Martinez met with angry patrons.

Gosh, she said, what was I supposed to do? I have to buy new books and I don't have new shelving. Something's gotta give.

Apparently Ms. Martinez operates in a vacuum. This problem faces every single library on the face of the planet. Old stuff has to go away to  make room for new stuff.

So, why not do what we do:

A. Have a Friends of the Library book sale where you can get rid of a lot of the old books and make some money;

B. Have an area in the library where you regulary sell books and, again, make a little money;

C. Have a shelf in the library where you just give books away free of charge.

 

Seeing is believing?

I haven't seen the movie "Selma" and won't.

And I'm kind of glad in a way that it did not win big at the Oscars last night.

Why?

I don't think people who present "history" but deliberately distort parts of it for their own purposes should be rewarded.

I never cared for Oliver Stone's approach to movie-making, either, taking historical "facts" and messing with them.

The problem with "Selma" was its portrayal of the role of Lyndon B. Johnson in getting civil rights legislation passed. The movie makes Johnson into a bad guy. The fact is, he was the good guy in terms of the promotion of civil rights, period.

I'm concerned about all of this because I've long felt that people believe more about the history they see in movies than they do in what they read or hear elsewhere.

My "feeling" is apparently well justified by the facts uncovered by memory scientists.

Jeffrey M. Zacks, a professor at a St. Louis university, wrote an op-ed piece published in The New York Times on Feb. 15 establishing that movie "facts" about history do prevail when people try to remember what happened.

"Studies show that if you watch a film -- even one concerning historical events about which you are informed -- your beliefs may be reshaped by 'facts' that are not factual," he writes.

And then he points out that research also shows that there is not much that can be done to undo those "facts" after the fact, as it were.

Once they're there, they're there.

So, in my opinion, they shouldn't be there in the first place.