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Librarian Blog

NSA and libraries

Back during the Cold War, some smart alec wandered into a public library somewhere and found a book on how to build a nuclear weapon.

A stunned media reported the incident, mainly to warn about how easy it might be for terrorists (or the Soviets) to get that kind of information.

So, libraries do have some potentially dangerous materials (not even mentioning the hazardous ideas that can be spread via the printed word).

Thinking about that got me to cogitating about whether the NSA, whose agents seem to have a lot of time on their hands, might have or might be snooping into what library patrons are reading.

I checked with the people at Biblionix, the company in Austin that provides our database management system. Clark Charbonnet of Biblionix said he's not heard of the NSA trying to get library data.

"If it helps any, in all the years with all of our customers, I have not heard of a single case where law enforcement wanted any patron data," he wrote me in an e-mail response to my questions.

OK. But, I wonder what Ed Snowden has in his treasure trove about libraries.

'The Hit' of 2013

The most-checked-out book in our library last year was Baldacci's "The Hit."

Patrons checked it out 39 times.

But, "Second Honeymoon" by "Patterson" (or whomever writes his stuff these days) was a close No. 2 with 34 check-outs.

"Never Go Back" by Childs was No.3  with 28. No. 4 was "Hidden Order" by Thor. And No. 5 was a tie between "Inferno" by Brown and ""Silken Prey" by Sandford with 26 each.

All the top 5 were works of fiction.

Two books tied for No. 1 on the non-fiction side of the house. They were "Girls of Atomic City" by Kiernan and "Salt Lick Cookbook" by Roberts. Both were checked out 15 times.

The number of times a book is checked out may or may not be an indicator of its popularity in a given year.

Take "Sycamore Row" by Grisham, for example. The book was not available all 12 months.

And the number of check-outs also depend on the actual number of books that are available to patrons. We might have four or five of really popular works and only one of others from less well-known authors.

Still kind of interesting.

Looking for a laptop?

If I were looking to buy a laptop I know what I would choose.

In fact, I have already chosen it. And I have bought it.

After looking around at what's out there, I decided to spend about $250 and buy a Chromebook made by Samsung.

I like Samsung products. I have a big old Samsung TV, among other things. I like the feel of the Samsung Chromebook and the play of the keyboard.

And I like Google, which is behind, in front of and all over the Chromebook.

With this little gadget, I am completely plugged into Google's products. I use Google for word processing, email, search, etc. So, the Chromebook made sense in that context.

And I am not plugged into Windows, which is generally a pain in the you-know-what, glitchy and prone to be hacked.

The price was right, as well. You can't buy a Windows laptop for $250.

So, if you're in the market, check out one of these products.


Saved you cash in '13

Every time a patron checks out something from the library, we give him or her a receipt.

On the very bottom of the receipt is a statement that updates the patron on how much has been saved in cash dollars by checking out free materials as opposed to buying the same materials at retail.

In 2013, we saved our patrons $1,912,262. That's pretty darn close to $2 million.

I'd say that's not an insignificant amount of money.

And that doesn't even come close to calculating the entertainment value of the books and DVDs and music our patrons enjoyed last year.


New tablet or laptop?

Flurry, a data analysis company, reports that the wifi tablet market is reaching the saturation point.

From other articles I read, it appears that smartphones are replacing laptops, tablets, desktops and books, along with traditional cameras.


Nevertheless, if you received a tablet (like a Kindle or Nook) or an iPad with a Kindle app, we can help you borrow books from the library.

Keep in mind, though, that not all the major publishers allow us to buy e-books, so you may be disappointed in what's available.

Drop by.