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Librarian Blog

Got ya covered

Our IT experts are constantly updating the security software used to guard our public-access computers. And they are about as secure as any such computers can be. But there are limitations. They are just what we say they are: publicly accessed computers. And because all kinds of people with all kinds of motives use our computers, we might not be able to anticipate literally every devious adventurer's tricks. So a reminder: If you log into FaceBook or Google or some other social media account from one of our computers, be sure you log out when you're finished. Then log out of the computer, too. Our computers will delete work from your session when you log off, or 10 minutes after they sense no activity. But, to be safe rather than sorry, log off all your accounts before you leave.  

A valuable addition

Off in the world of professional journals and publications, a storm is raging over plagiarism, fakery and lying -- just dishonesty in general. The problems seem to be worsening over time. I subscribe to a daily blog called "Retraction Watch" that reports on these various sins against scholarship. They have enough material to come out almost every single day. That's not just a shame, it's an utter indictment of modern scholarship. Other than retracting the work of bad actors, journals and related publications seem paralyzed about how to deal with this scourge that menaces scientiifc progress. Now comes PubMed, a federal database of abstracts from medical and life science journals, to actually do something other than wring hands and tear at garments. Retraction Watch reports today that PubMed will begin publishing authors' conflict-of-interest statements  with the abstracts they print. This will be a great service to readers and users, something other journals should emulate, if they can. Readers need to know who is supporting research. They need to be able to follow the money in this general venue as well as in, of course, politics.

Service fees

All across the country libraries of every size are charging a limited fine for the return of late materials, as I have noted in earlier blogs. We seem to fall right in line with our late fine of 10 cents per day for books and $1 per day for movies. But larger libraries are also seeing income from various fees for services rendered. For example, some libraries charge a fee for people who don't live in their service area to get a library card. I think Austin is doing this now. The median out-of-area fee is $32. Some libraries also charge significant fees for use of their public rooms. The median fee is $30 per hour. We have just one public-access meeting room. It holds about 50 people. We don't charge any fee at all for public use of that space. Almost all libraries charge a fee for inter-library loans, and the median is $3. We charge $2. We are also lower in terms of fees we charge for copying. The median fee for a b/w copy is 15 cents. We charge 10 cents. The median fee for a color copy is 50 cents. We charge 40 cents. And some libraries charge admission fees for events. We charge nothing. Any way you look at it, we are offering a bargain experience!

Misspeaking

Using Google and the internet search are actually not the best ways of checking out the truth of this or that. You probably know that if you've spent much time trying to find verifiable, accurate information on anything other than a health issue, about which there seem to be reams of websites that are equally trustworthy. Everything else just seems fungible. So, it is very nice to have -- in book form for easy reference -- a work that is trustworthy and accessible. I'm thinking here specifically of how often I'm coming up with a quotation to use in something I'm writing or in some story I'm telling. For example, I recently wrote some devotionals for my church and I quoted Edmund Burke as having said, "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." I've always heard that Burke said that. Now, thanks to the book I'm referring to above, I learn that Burke did not say that or write that. Someone did, just not Burke. The book is "Hemingway Didn't Say That" by Garson O'Toole. It gets a very favorable review by Fred R. Shapiro in Monday's Wall Street Journal. We don't have the book in our library yet, but I'm certain we will. And it will be well worth looking into when you're tempted to, say, quote John Lennon as having uttered this phrase, which he did not utter: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Who said that? It's in the book.

Ours are just fine

Most libraries across America charge fines for materials that are returned after the due date. We certainly do. And most of those charges are not what I would call burdensome by any measure. The fine situation was examined in a national survey conducted by Library Journal, the results of which were published earlier this week. The survey found that the median fine for adult printed material was 15 cents. The maximum daily fine was $5. I don't know what library is charging that kind of fee, but it's not in this part of the country, I'm sure. The median fine for late movies is $1 per day, with the maximum set somewhere at $6. Where do we fit? We're right there. We charge 10 cents per day for books returned late and $1 per day for movies returned late. We actually don't get many complaints about our fine structure. A guy came in not long ago asking if we were trying to raise money for something because he had kept some movies out for several days beyond the due date. The idea, I told him, was not to raise money but to keep the due date at the forefront of his mind so we could get the materials back to distribute to other folks waiting for them.
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