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Librarian Blog

ROI for the library

It's not exactly BIG DATA, but we do keep track via computer of every kind of statistic you can imagine having to do with the library and its use.

Director Carolyn Manning just pulled together the information for 2015, and the numbers are interesting.

For example, our patrons got a 625% return on their investment when you consider how much sales tax went into our operations and how much that tax money bought.

We checked out more than 10,000 nonfiction books and nearly 21,000 works of fiction. If you had been forced to buy those at retail, you would have paid a grand total of about $1 million.

Our most circulated items are children's books and DVDs. If you'd bought all of those items that we checked out to you for free, you would have paid north of $1.2 million.

I think we undervalue the programs we offer. For example, we say that $75 is the value for use of our multi-purpose room. But, check out what that room would cost you anywhere else in town -- and, by the way, there aren't many rooms like it in Wimberley.

Bottom line: the total value of our services last year was a conservative $3.1 million.

Let me count the ways

Many years before I retired as a newspaper editor, I put together an ever-growing compendium of information for my reporters and editors about how to deal with numbers.

Reporters are notoriously bad about even subtraction and addition, and I needed them to understand far more than that -- like city budgets, basic economics and so on.

Every year I ran a mandatory training session for them, and I offered the course to other editors, which they took me up on.

My basic text was "News and Numbers," a handy guide to how to read graphs, how to make sense of scientific studies, etc.

I was dismayed to learn via the op-ed pages in the Sunday New York Times that the general population is as poor innumerate as my reporters and editors. Andrew Hacker, a professor, wrote a piece about this issue called "The Wrong Way to Teach Math." It should be required reading for every parent out there, as well as every reporter and editor.

What Hacker wants is what I wanted: a public that is less likely to be duped by folks who want to delude them for profit and fun and political gain.

I doubt Hacker will be taken seriously. Educators are still in la-la land, thinking anyone other than an elite few will ever take algebra and geometry and calculus and retain them long enough to make a nickel's worth of difference in the marketplace of ideas.

Now ... the other side

It's about time.

Finally, the author of a banned children's book is speaking out with her side of the story. And a very interesting side it is.

The author is Ramin Ganeshram. The book is "A Birthday Cake for George Washington." It's a children's illustrated book featuring Washington's real-life cook, Hercules, a slave.

When the book came out in January, the world of children's literature exploded in anger. Here we had Hercules depicted in the illustrations as a happy-as-a-clam chef just dancing around with delight about his plight and his work.

Bloggers, columnists, speakers, talk-show hosts, radio show loudmouths -- everyone took after Ganeshram like she was a heretic, a lunatic or racist or worse.

Now comes Gaaneshram writing in The Huffington Post about the book, the process of creating the book and the stance of Scholastic Inc., which banned the book after publishing it.

Turns out there's a lot we don't know about the publishing of children's books, namely that the writer doesn't have anything to say about the illustrations, and the writer is essentially an indentured servant to the publisher, who can dictate when and how the author can speak to the press.

Ganeshram was under a gag order about the whole thing. She speaks now out of defiance.

Her story is worth listening to, because she turns out to be a black woman, a woman of letters and a culinary expert. Her intentions were undermined by illustrators who were also black but who were obviously clueless and a publisher who gutlessly dealt with the uproar.

I feel sorry for Ganeshram. She deserved to be treated much better.

3D printing update

Kristina Minor, our librarian for young adult books, and I went to Austin Community College Highland Mall campus last Friday to get some training on our new 3D printer.

Thanks to the kind folks there, we spent a couple of very productive hours finding out all we can do -- and it's a lot.

It's very exciting to think we will be able to make small objects for our patrons right here in Wimberley.

Now, we doing more in-house training before we roll out the printer.

Watch this space for more news.

Reversing course

Several years ago, the public library looked to be on the endangered species list.

Or that was the general feel that one could take away from library journals and news reports.

Counties and cities were contemplanting or making grievous cuts in library budgets. Staffs were being trimmed. Materials purchases were down.

But, things seem to be turning around.

Library Journal just released data from its 2015 survey of libraries about funding and staffing, etc.

The bottom line is this: Libraries are seeing small incremental gains in funds for staffing and materials. We're talking on average less than 4 percent year over year.

But, with low inflation, that's not bad at all. Growth IS growth, after all. And far better than going the other direction.

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