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Librarian Blog

Kind of sad ...

We get, literally, thousands of books that are donated to the library each year.

I have no idea how many are fiction or nonfiction, how many are children's books, how many are new, how many old. I just don't keep track of these things.

I do sometimes browse through the boxes that have been dropped off, though, mainly looking for books I can take to one of our Little Free Libraries (we have four around town now).

I was doing a little trolling in the piles this week and found two copies in the same box of a book that set me to wondering.

Both were pristine copies of a book called "The Grandparents' Treasure Chest."

The idea of this kind of  book is that a grandparent will fill in the blanks on hundreds of pages, including a family tree. The pages are for memories and photos, and the titles on the pages are intended to jumpstart the mind.

The books were blank.

Which means that somewhere out there is a grandchild, maybe two, who don't know everthing about Grandpa or Grandma that they could have had Grandpa or Grandma bothered to write on those pages.

At first, I thought this was sad.

But, then, I reflected on how much my own grandkids want to know about my life: Not much, really.

I guess that's just the way it is today when family members live so far apart and have so little regular interaction.

Maybe that's the sad part.

If wishes were horses ...

My wish list for our library is pretty long and getting longer all the time thanks to Moore's Law and its impact on prices for technology gear.

Moore's Law, you may recall, states that computing power doubles on a routine basis and quickly.

Prices go down as costs go down.

So now we have a video camera, and that's nice, but it's just not enough. I'm reading in American Libraries Magazine about libraries around the country that have full-scale video and audio recording studios complete with green walls and Mac Pro laptops, wonderful software, etc.

They're letting adults and kids really get creative.

I mentioned in this space last week lusting after a book printer that had a pricetag of only $85,000.

Let's just add another equivalent amount to that and I'll be happy ... for the very short time being.

One handy device

My wife reads every day, sometimes for hours at a time.

She uses only a Kindle, and not even the latest version.

She loves it, and takes it everywhere with her.

I read books, old-timey paper books. I have my own Kindle, but I just can't seem to get into the experience. I certainly would not read a newspaper online -- too hard.

And the idea of reading a book on my cell phone is just completely alien to me.

Yet, that's where the reading world is heading, according to Nielsen.

The percentage of e-book buyers who read primarily on tablets was 41 percent in the first quarter of this year, up from 30 percent in 2012.

But, a poll last December by Nielsen showed that 54 percent of e-book buyers were using their phones to read books.

Right now, they are not using phones exclusively, however. Instead, they read here and there with phone useage rising.

It's something I doubt I will ever do.

Talking about books

I guess I thought book discussion clubs had been around since, well, stone tablets.

Who could resist talking about what you've just read to a person or two of like  mind?

Not so, I learned, thanks to an article in JSTOR Daily online.

In fact, the first book discussion clubs were centered in coffee houses or the actual homes of authors. Books were passed around and shared because they were very expensive in the 1700s and 1800s.

I found this reference to the earliest of what today we think of as book clubs: According to Brad Hooper ("The Mother of All Book Clubs," Booklist, Sept. 15, 2001) perhaps the earliest community book discussion club like those meeting in today's living rooms was founded in 1877, by the ladies in the small Corn-Belt town of Mattoon, Illinois (the club still meets). Beaufort, SC was not far behind: Mary Elizabeth Waterhouse founded the Clover Club literary society in 1891.

The rise of cheaper books has likewise given rise in the number of book clubs, especially, for some reason, since 1989.

JSTOR quotes The New York Times as estimating book club membership at 5 million. A large number of them, it seems, are made up for and by women.

In fact, a 2014 surbey found that among American women who read at least one book a month, 56 percent were in book clubs.

I don't know why.

Asking the right questions

Have school libraries changed along with other aspects of education?

I would certainly imagine that's the case. I have been in several public school libraries in the four years since I moved to Wimberley, and in the newer schools I see that an attempt has been made to provide plenty of materials, computers, etc. I've certainly not made a study of the situation.

But, as I think about the start of school, I also think about whether schools are going to continue to stress the importance of reading to gain knowledge, to widen one's perspective and to be entertained.

You might wonder that also. If so, here are some questions that you might want to ask your school principal as you get the kids back into the swing of things:

Theh come from the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association:

  • Is there a state-certified full-time school librarian?
  • Does your child have access to the school library anytime during the day that he/she needs to use its resources? Does the library offer remote access from home via computer?
  • Does your child visit the school library frequently with his/her class? Individually? In small groups?
  • Is the school library an attractive and convenient space where children can work individually and in small groups?
  • Does the school library have a wide range of resources in a variety of formats–books, computers, audio and videotapes–that appeal to different learning styles?
  • Does the library have the hardware and software to provide access to the Internet and other electronic resources?
  • Are the resource materials in the school library current? Are the encyclopedias less than three years old?
  • Is the school library budget adequate to provide a full range of both print and electronic resources?
  • Are children encouraged to read, view and listen both for understanding and enjoyment?
  • Are school administrators knowledgeable and supportive of the school library?
  • Does the school provide ongoing training to support teachers and staff in learning about new technologies?
  • Are teachers encouraged to work with the school librarian to extend learning opportunities beyond the textbook and classroom?
  • Is there a process for ongoing evaluation of the school library?
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