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Librarian Blog

No doubt about it

I have written before about the revelatory slide show that was presented at a conference on parenting that I attended in Austin years and years ago.

The slides were photos taken from MRI images of children's brains. They were taken by a child neuroscientist in Houston.

What the MRIs showed was indisputable evidence that children who are neglected lack significant brain development.

Those of in attendance were stunned at this physical proof of something we had only taken on faith. Parenting mattered. Love made a difference -- in major, major ways.

This morning I was listening to a report on NPR about Harvard researchers who have studied Romanian orphans and found through EEGs that those who were neglected were severely damaged.

Clearly, we have been shown over and over again for years piled upon years that every child must be nurtured.

The question, of course, is how we make that happen.

And I don't have a good answer.

Really big data

The same day I posted in this space a blog about big data a new book came into the library with my name on it as a reserve about the very same subject.

It's called "Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture," and it is by Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, the two guys who invented the Ngram Viewer that Google now makes available.

I have used Ngram Viewer for research, but was unaware of its background and the sorts of searches being performed by scientists and students of the humanities and mathematics such as Aiden and Michel.

This book is a fascinating look at this important search engine development.

Right now, Google has scanned in about 30 million books of about 150 million available. So Ngram Viewer can only access that number in a word or ngram search. The two authors think all books will be in the database by 2020.

Check out Ngram Viewer by going to Google and searching its apps, or go to Google Books.

Some numbers are up

Carolyn Manning, our library director, has compiled circulation data for 2013. It appears that we have seen a healthy increase in circulation of young adult books. In 2012, a total of 2,462 YA books were circulated. That number rose to 3,070 for 2013. E-books borrowed also increased year over year.

In 2012, 3,232 books were borrowed through Overdrive. That number bounced to 4,951 from 3,232 the year before.

In the youth categories, we saw increases in board books, picture books, junior CD books and kits and puppets.

Overall, though, the number of total items circulated in 2013 was down from 2012 and from 2011.

Part of that decline was in the number of hours patrons logged onto our 15 public-access computers. And another big part was a decline in the number of adult fiction books checked out.

Depicting cool data

So much data, so little time ...

As an editor and then as a teacher I tried to emphasize to my copy editors and reporters and students the importance of knowing something about numbers. All too many of them didn't listen.

I'm not great at math, but I do have an interest in numbers and how they can be manipulated in the "lies, damn lies and statistics" manner.

Just as intriguing to me in the last half-dozen years or so has been to see what people can do with datasets and computer mapping programs, among other types of dataset illumination.

I guess I could easily spend full-time looking at maps built on datasets. My wife forwarded me an e-mail that had about 20 websites to visit with different dataset images to see and enjoy.

One I found today that's interesting is a map of all the wind turbine sites in the United States.

Very cool.

Check it out at this site.

We depend on volunteers

The library has just one full-time employee, and that's our director, Carolyn Manning.

The other eight of us are part-time.

We're open six days a week and at least eight hours each of those days.

It's easy to see that staffing all those hours would be impossible without our volunteers.

We have at least two volunteers every morning and two every afternoon and two on the evenings we are open.

But that's not all. We also have volunteers who handle our inter-library loan program, who catalog our materials and who cover and repair our books and DVDs.

On top of those, there are the many members of the Friends of the Library, who do such tasks as organize an annual book sale.

Today, we are honoring all those volunteers.

THANKS to all of them!