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Jumping on a speeding train

A vast majority of adults who visit with America's librarians about what they want or need in the way of services bring up techological or digital literacy as a priority.

A survey by OCLC Research taken in June of U.S. librarians turned up that not very surprising trend. The survey results were just published by OCLC WebJunction.

One of those polled told OCLC Research that, "Patrons are realizing that digital literacy is a speeding train that they need to catch."

Wish I'd said that. It's certainly true of people I talk to here at the library.

We are continuing to take our own survey to see what people would like us to offer in the way of educational programs this fall. So far, thre seemsx to be a big demand for training on anything Microsoft. But, lots of folks also want to learn about Adobe Photoshop.

If you have an interest in such classes, please take a minute to complete the survey on our home page. Or come by the library and fill out a paper form, if that's your preference.

If you've already taken the survey, thanks!

Making peace with 'War and Peace'

Right after I retired and moved to Wimberley I came to the library to check out a book I had always intended to read but just never had time to pick up and start.

I have a master's degree in English, but no professor I ever had wanted me to read "War and Peace."

So, I didn't.

I never told anyone I hadn't read Tolstoy. I just skirted the subject if it came up.

I checked out the library's copy and lugged it home and sat down and started at the first page, and at that first page I decided I would not be reading "War and Peace" -- ever. Why? Because the dialogue was in French, not in English. I don't know French. And I will not be learning French. I have enough trouble with English.

I am making this confession now because it just so happens that one of the authors I admire, Christopher Buckley, just made his own confession to The New York Times Book Review that he has never read "War and Peace," either.

"My standard excuse for this appalling illiteracy is: 'I'm saving it for my final illness,'" Buckley told The Book Review.

He will never read "War and Peace."

Wow: Sure makes me feel better.

-- Carroll Wilson, Circulation Librarian

How bad is it?

Rumblings come from hither and yon about this or that library that is facing financial cutbacks.

But, I have generally assumed that the cuts were due to overall weakness in local government revenue streams because of the recession.

Libraries would seem to be an easy place to save some money since what we offer is more a "soft" service than a hard one like water or sewer service.

So it came as something of a mild jolt when I learned this week that The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries will begin with a working group next month to "create a common vision for public libraries."

The institute will convene dozens of business, government and library leaders to talk about our futures because, to quote from a press release, "public libraries in the U.S. are at a crossroads."

It is certainly true that the digital world offers libraries new and new and interesting challenges, but it is just not true that the rise in use of e-materials spells doom for libraries down the road, at least in the near term.

And for that near term, libraries probably need more money, not less, to help patrons get up to speed on all things digital while maintaining print collections and responding to the needs of people who cherish actual books and magazines.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what kind of common vision the institute's group comes up with.

Our vision is reflected in the district board's five-year plan, just adopted earlier this year. That vision places the library squarely at the center of a more- and more-connected community, fostering dialogue and providing various entry points for people to access information they might not be able to find elsewhere easily.

 

Of course

The reason monopolies are bad for consumers has long been made by, well, monopolists themselves.

Let a company get exclusive or near-exclusive title to some part of the market, and that company will take advantage of its position to maximize profits.

If this were not true, government would never step in to foster competition.

Little wonder, then, that Amazon, the biggest bookseller of all time, is now profiting from its gargantuan position to raise the prices of its offerings to make more and more money.

To get to where it is now, Amazon kept prices artificially low, bringing in customers so it could grow its market share.

The pricing back then was predatory.

And so it is now with prices rising.

This all should come as a surprise to absolutely no one.

But, today's New York Times carries an article that has a tone of incredulity about Amazon's price-hiking.

Now it is time for government to step in and protect book-buyers from this modern Robber Baron.

Audiobook popularity

Demand for actors to read manuscripts into audiobooks is booming, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Some actors around the New York City area can even make a living at the trade.

The demand is up for actors because demand is up for audiobooks (The NYT report says revenues for audiobooks rose 22 percent in 2012 over 2011).

In a community such as Wimberley, with a significant population that travels to and from town for work, demand has always been high for audiibooks.

We just learned exactly how popular they are last week when we confronted almost-full CD book shelves and thus the problem of taking some of them out of circulation to make room for new ones.

We first decided to look at removing books that had not been checked out more than a few times in the last 12 months, and quickly discovered that the number would be too small to make the effort worthwhile.

So we abandoned that approach and found a used book rack that we are now putting newer audiobooks on, freeing up some signfiicant space. We also took a hard look at the space and one of our librarians noticed that we could add two shelves without cramming things.

Audiobooks will continue to be a big part of our collection ... even when the new shelves and the new rack are full. We'll just have to figure out what to do when that happens.

-- Carroll Wilson, Circulation Librarian