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A very hard choice

The librarian of Congress is retiring at the age of 86 after 28 years on the job.

The New York Times reported this week that the president, who will appoint the new librarian, is beseiged by good advice from every sector. Some say he should name an academic; others say it should be a professional librarian; still others a technology expert; and even others, a management guru.

I have no advice because I have never had much to do with the Library of Congress.

But, I might be inclined to suggest he look very long and hard at a professional librarian. That's because a real librarian is likely to truly understand the depth and breadth of issues now facing public libraries. Those issues are not all technological, but technology does pose the most significant challenges, I would think.

Librarians also have a default setting about things like privacy and the importance of keeping what's publicly funded in the public domain.

There's more to libraries these days than just books, and a librarian would seem to be uniquely positioned to make the inevitable hard choices that loom ahead for every library in the world.

A flat industry

The publishing industry in this country is not growing.

It's not declining, thank goodness, but it is not showing anything like robust growth, even when you add in e-books.

The industry just released its revenue figures for 2014, and they were about the same as in 2012 after a slight dip in 2013.

Revenue isn't growing and the number of units sold is not growing, either.

Nevertheless, there was growth in certain categories. Children and young adult revenues grew by 20.9 percent. In fact, that category is now bigger than the adult fiction market.

Why? Because so many adults are now reading YA. At least I think that's the case. Consider the popularity of the Mockingjay books and A Fault in our Stars.

Most well-read cities?

Amazon announced last week the 20 most well-read cities based on sales of books, magazines and newspapers in print and Kindle formats from April 2014 through April '15.

Seattle finished at the top of the list, which is no suprise.

Portland, Ore., was second. Again, no surprise there.

I was interested to see that Austin finished in sixth place. I guess I expected a place that's a state capital and home to a large university to be better read than No. 4 Tucson, Ariz., and No. 5 Washington, D.C.

But, wow. The No. 3 city on the list is LAS VEGAS, Nev.

How do people who live or visit Vegas have time to read anything?

Turns out they read a lot of romance novels there, but still ...

Enough to rank No. 3?

I'd never have bet on that.

The Zombie invasion!

We lived through the Zombie Invasion of June 13, 2015!

The proof is on our new YouTube channel. Just search there for Wimberley Library. Not only do we have videos there from our first Wacky Wednesday events, but also the Zombie movie that our teen volunteers and others made Saturday afternoon.

The movie was the last part of an afternoon devoted to learning how to make a short movie.

But I think the participants may have learned more about the application of makeup!

Whatever ... we had a lot of fun. Check it out.

One role we play

The website blog American Libraries has interviewed James Patterson about why he is giving out hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to school libraries.

He's concerned, he tells the magazine, that so many school libraries are neglected and under-funded, and many don't have librarians anymore.

He thinks they will continue to serve a valuable purpose. Here is one major observation:

What role do school libraries have in a child’s education?

I think that for every school in the country, the first school trip should be to the school library. Not a trip where they hear all the rules and “don’t do this, and don’t do that.” It should be to get a sense of what’s there. You can visit every country. You can visit space. You can learn about every animal. You can learn about the universe. There’s so much information. We can find out so much about other people. What are different ways to look at the world? That’s the huge thing. Kids—and a lot of us—tend to think everybody looks at the world the same way we do, and it’s not true. There are as many ways to look at the world as there are people, and in libraries, you’re going to meet the most fascinating minds that have ever been on the planet.

I've been critical of Patterson in the past. I regret that I was short-sighted.

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