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Librarian Blog

Faster access is here

In the last decade the number of public-access computers in U.S. libraries has doubled.

That's significant because library computers are generally used by people who don't have one at home and/or can't use one at work. Without library computers, they would have no options, and they would be the equivalent of readers who had no access to books.

But, news reports surfaced today saying that while libraries have increased the number of computers, they have not gotten the band width needed to really work on the Internet.

That surprises me. I guess the issue is money, but no library can afford to shortchange patrons on band width these days.

Here at the Wimberley Village Library, Time Warner Cable just upgraded our Internet service speed, so our access is pretty darn fast.

We're secure

Nobody's asked the question, but the answer is that, yes, our online catalog system is more secure than ever.

You've probably heard of the Heartbleed Open SSL bug, the glitch in "secure" Internet sites that meant they were eminently hackable.

Biblionix, the company that built and maintains our computer system, let us know today that as soon as they heard about the Heartbleed problem, they jumped on a fix. That fix means that you can set your own password when you log into our catalog system. Or you can continue to use your card number and phone numer. It's up to you.

Not that anyone would want to hack a library's system. I mean, what would they want to find out?

OK: This is true

I'm dubious about a lot that passes for real research these days.

I see too many reports about studies done badly to keep from being a confirmed skeptic.

But, this one is true. I know because it  describes me.

The Washington Post published a report on studies done by Maryanne Wolfe, a Tufts University cognitife neuroscientist. She was startled to watch her reading habits change the more she went online. One night she sat down to read Herman Hesse's "The Glass Bead Game."

"I'm not kidding: I couldln't do it," she said. "It was torure to get through the first page. I couldn't force myself to slow down so that I wasn't skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself."

I am getting that way.

I'm very impatient these days when I read The New York Times on Sundays. It's almost painful to look at a page full of type and try to dive into it. Instead of diving in, I'm like a rock skittering across the surface.

This problem will be widespread, if not already, and may doom books and long-form journalism before anything else does.

ILL-gotten gain

Since it's National Library Week, we're asking visiting patrons to write down on a huge sheet of butcher paper what they love about our library.

One woman just came in and said, in response, "Oh, there are so many things!"

And that's true.

At the top of my list as a patron, and not as a staff member, would have to be inter-library loan or ILL.

I think it's wonderful that I have free access to books and periodicals that are on the shelves and racks at this library, and it's doubly wonderful that I have access to the collections of hundreds of other libraries.

For example, I am doing some genealogical research on my family in Hopkins County, Texas, during Reconstruction. We don't have anything about Hopkins County. But, I've been able to use ILL to find out all kinds of interesting things.

And that's not because I did anything special or complicated. I just filled out a form at the circulation desk, and a volunteer by the name of Gerin Hood spent a whole lot of time finding the books and pamphlets for me.

She'll do the same thing for you.

Another book bites the dust

Library Journal is reporting today that the school board in Meredian, Idaho, has taken a young-adult novel off its student reading list.

The book is "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie.

Parents objected to the book being on the list because of profanity and racial epithets, the Journal says.

The New York Times lists the novel as among the nation's best sellers in the category.

The high school librarian said she'll keep the book on her shelves.

I haven't read the book and won't. There are too many books I want to read and too little time.

Frankly, I'm just surprised that, given today's general political climate, so few books are said to be objectionable.