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More classics

Thanks to a patron of the library Penguin has donated quite a large number of paperback classics for our collection.

We now have brand-new sets of the works of Shakespeare and Steinbeck, for example.

Little Women and the Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen are on the classics shelves.

And much, much more.

These books don't need to be checked out; just come by and pick one up and promise to bring it back.

These new materials are located in our paperback-lending area.

Come check it out.

Another free service

Librarians across the country have been historically reluctant to let patrons bring stuff to drink into their facilities.

People might spill stuff onto books or, then, into computer keyboards. Or on the floor, which would be less disastrous but still a mess.

We've been in that camp, too.

I didn't come to this job through regular library channels. Instead, I was in charge of a newsroom or two where everyone had a computer keyboard and everyone drank coffee or soft drinks all the time.

I can't recall ever seeing anyone who worked for me spilling drinks into their keyboards. And, mind you, none of those drinks were covered by lids.

(Instead, we had trouble with sports writers spitting sunflower seed hulls into their keyboards, but that's another story.)

When I was living in Temple, the city refurbished the library, and they provided coffee inside the library.

I never saw anyone spill anything.

So, after coming here and getting this job I began to push for us to serve coffee -- like a bookstore does.

And today that happened for the first time.

We now have free coffee.

Come by and enjoy some.

Not so sure

The American-Statesman announced in today's editions that over the summer it will stop printing its own newspaper. Instead, the paper will be printed in San Antonio by the Hearst organization.

The move is to save money, the publisher said.

The immediate impact will be the loss of more than 100 jobs by people working in the press room.

The longer-term impact? The editor says in the artilce that nightly deadlines will be affected. But, that's not a big worry, she said, because today's reader is probably going to the web to look at breaking sports stories, etc.

I would not bet on that.

Yes, the rabid sports fan might go to the web on a smartphone or desktop to look up a score.

The causal fan will not, especially the casual fan who goes to bed relatively early in the evening -- a group that probably reads newspapers regularly.

But, I am not convinced that the rabid fan will read a game story right after the game. I wonder if the rabid fan doesn't want to see the the complete report in the morning while enjoying a cup of coffee.

Cutting back on services like this one may be necessary, but it reduces the quality of the daily newspaper -- to its detriment in a time when newspapers are under intense pressure anyway.

As an editor I hated being told to cut something when I knew that it would hurt the paper. My argument was that when you're threatened by competitive pressures you need to do what you do better than ever before rather than retreat and run. Add more, not less.

That's one big reason why I took a buyout when I did back in 2007.

Reading about LBJ

I recently spent six days in the hospital, and before that I spent several days at home trying to get well.

As wild as this may sound, for a few days at the hospital I had no television reception in my room.

The upshot: I had a lot of time to read.

Five or six years ago, my wife bought the entire set of books written by Robert Caro about the life of Lyndon B. Johnson, thinking I would love to read them. I never did. Their thickness was off-putting. Why would I possibly want to know that much about LBJ? How could you even write that much about one guy?

But, with time on my hands and not much else to read in the house I reluctantly picked up the first volume.

And in pretty short order I was hooked.

So, now I've read two and am on the last one. They're fascinating. Like watching a train wreck: You just can't look away.

Even if you're not a captive in some TV-less isolation ward, I recommend them.

A sad stat

A patron brought me a clipping from a recent edition of Oprah's magazine.

The item included a not-so-surprising statistic: 23 percent of American adults did not read a single book last year.

Why am I not surprised?

Because life today is just chockfull of distractions, not even counting television. I suspect, from what I see driving around Wimberley, San Marcos and Austin that at least 23 percent of American adults spend 90 percent of their waking hours on their smartphones. My gosh -- they can't tear themselves away long enough to take a trip to the grocery store. I've been in restaurants where I've seen couples spend their entire meal-time, each on a smartphone.

Maybe I'm more surprised that 77 percent of adults actually did read a book last year.