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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.

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.

Whoa.

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.

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.

 

Trending in lending

More and more libraries are going way beyond books and movies to help out their patrons.

One library, for example, made news by offering to loan out cake pans. Not that many folks have a recurring need for a bundt pan, but when you need one you do need one.

Now I see where libraries in Maine (most of which might be closed at the moment because of the weather) are lending out all kinds of things: art prints, American girl dolls, volleyball and croquet sets, fishing poles, telescopes, sheet music, binoculars, backpacks, GPS equipment, and the list goes on.

That's pretty inventive, I must say.

So, I'm spending time thinking about what our patrons might like that we could provide but don't. Any ideas?