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Librarian Blog

Engaging boys

When my son was in junior high school, he was falling behind mainly because he was not a reader.

He didn't exactly struggle with the act of reading. He just couldn't get interested in what he was given to read.

So, we bought him comic books and graphic works. At least we figured he could conjure out some basic things, like what constituted a plot and what carried the action in a story and what went into making a character sound real.

He did make it through high school and got a college degree, but he still never reads much. He's a great story-teller, though.

David Cutler in a blog at Eductopia suggests that getting kids like my son to read is still a challenge, and he suggests teachers of English and history turn to comic books that are available to help their students learn to like story-telling and the narrative aspects of history.

Specifically, he recommends "Kingdom Come" by Mark Waid and Alex Ross for English teachers and "Uncanny X-Men" and "Tales of Suspece #39) for history teachers.

My take on this is: Well, it sure can't hurt to try.

Early reports from CES ...

A blogger from American Libraries is sending updates almost minute-by-minute from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

So far, from reading his blogs and tweets, I am picking up on the following:

+ Wearable electronic devices are good for fitness tracking but little else;

+ 4k video may go straight to streaming via Netflix and other services and bypass everything else, which would over time eliminate our DVD collection;

+ Makerbot is stealing the show with its new 3D printing devices that cover a spectrum of needs.

Wish we could get us a Makerbot here at the library. It's on my wish list for this year. We'll see.

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.

Not the Nook?

The Nook went nowhere over the holidays.

The Barnes & Noble answer to the Kindle experienced a 61 percent drop in sales compared with a similar period in 2012.

Does that mean B&N is doomed, since its book sales are flat?

I'm not sure.

I have seen hints that the e-reader market may be becoming saturated. If that's the case, then the Nook is probably in no worse shape than the iPad and Kindle, etc.

But, if the market is not saturated, then it does not bode well for B&N, the last of the major booksellers.

One analyst talking to The New York Times for today's editions says it's time for B&N to get its act together on the Nook.

Great advice ... except ... what, really, can they do? The Nook isn't necessarily broken. It's just not a Kindle and B&N isn't Amazon.

In the digital world these days, trying to outdo Google and Amazon is next to impossible. Not nice, maybe, but that's the way it is.

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.