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Librarian Blog

Not gonna work

The New York Times had another breathless article today about autonomous automobiles.

This time the subject was the fact that Big Insurance is staying up nights worrying about these driverless cars.

About once a week, one major news outlet or another has a story about the dramatic breakthroughs being made by Google and rivals in the pursuit of cars that will drive themselves. They all assume that driverless cars will one day actually be on the road in huge numbers.

I'm here to say, Baloney.

Not saying that building an autonomous car isn't possible. I'm sure it is. I'm just saying that it's highly unlikely you'll ever buy one.

What could be scarier than getting on I-35 in the only autonomous automobile among a legion of drivers who don't have a clue what you're doing. You're out there amongst the 18-wheelers, two-wheelers and careening four-wheelers and you have no control.

And what could be less fun than driving between here and Kerrville on the back roads while in the protective cocoon of a driverless car?

Just saying.

Our most popular

In this space last week I listed the most popular books checked out of the New York City public libraries in 2015.

And they are very different from the most popular here at the Wimberley library.

The No. 1 book to be checked out in 2015 here was "Girl on the Train." That book had 32 check-outs; we had multiple copies. No. 2 was "Endangered," and No. 3 was "The Assassination Option: A Clandestine Operations Novel."

Those were our top works of fiction.

On the nonfiction side of the house, the No. 1 book as "New Treehouses of the World." There was a tie for No. 2: "Bettyville: A Memoir" and "Strawdale Gardens."

The top DVD was "Wild," followed by "Birdman" and "Fury."


Urgent fix needed

I guess I was still at The Canyon News when I first heard about college English departments having to develop what they called "bonehead English" courses because high-school grads weren't up to the task of mastering regular old freshman English.

Then I heard somewhere about the development of similar math courses for the same reason.

That must have been in the late 1970s.

Here we are 40 years later and absolutely no smarter about how to educate children.

In fact, we seem to be doing more things wrong when it comes to getting kids up to speed.

And we keep kidding ourselves by massaging various numbers that are supposed to tell us how we're doing.

Want to measure success on test scores? Fine: some teachers will just lie about the scores one way or another.

Want to measure success by graduation rates? Fine: just about everyone fix those  numbers, too.

The New York Times reported yesterday that more kids are graduating than ever, but they can't do college work.

And that means they probably can't do real work in the world outside our educational institutions.

Still, we blather on about accountability, while nobody gets held accountable.

When I was growing up, I believe principals held teachers accountable, and superintendents held principals accountable, and superintendents wanted to be in the business of educating kids, not polishing their resumes for the next move up the ladder.

Maybe that's just too simple a way to look at it.


The Top 10 in NYC

The New York Public Library just released the Top 10 most-checked-out books of the year, and the top one was a bit of a surprise to me.

"Leaving Time" by Jodi Piccoult ranked No. 1.

The No. 1 book was not a surprise at all: "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins. Nor was No. 3 at all startling: "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee.

Rounding out the Top 5 were No. 4, "NYPD RED 3" by Marshall Karp and James Patterson; and No. 5, "Prodigal Son" by Danielle Steel.

To get a Wimberley perspective, "Leaving Time" was checked out 15 times this year by our patrons. On the other hand, "The Girl on the Train" was checked out 32 times, and "Go Set a Watchman" was checked out 33 times. Patteron's book had 20 checkouts, and Steel's had only 11.

Next time I'll write about the most popular books checked out of our library in 2015.

Fewer new titles

The rate of creation of new magazines in the United States is slowing. MediaFinder.com, a database of North American publications, found that 113 magazines were launched this year compared to nearly 200 in 2014.

Fewer closed, though. Nearly 100 shut their doors in 2014, but only 35 went out of business in 2015.

It's really hard to imagine that there is a niche market out there that doesn't have its own publication already -- and for a long, long time.

How many magazines about running or biking or hiking or travel or doll-making or baking or -- well, just name an activity -- can there possibly be?

I would certainly guess that growth is rapidly occuring in online publications, but I don't have numbers on that.

In the world of paper and print, I'm just surprised.

Although I guess I shouldn't be. After all, we get hundreds of new books on niche subjects every single year, over and over and over again. How may books do you need on running or biking or hiking or travel or doll-making or baking? There'll never be too many, apparently.

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