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Librarian Blog

Just throw them away!

In addition to lacking a conscience, a San Francisco-area librarian certainly has need for an imagination.

The ABC affiliate in the San Francisco-Oakland communities reported this week that Carmen Martinez, director of the Alameda County Library, owned up to throwing awa 172,000 books in the last two years.

People found some of them recently and raised cain. They said the throw-aways included some works that had been published in the last four or five years, including a biography of Willie Mays.

The controversy surfaced this week when Martinez met with angry patrons.

Gosh, she said, what was I supposed to do? I have to buy new books and I don't have new shelving. Something's gotta give.

Apparently Ms. Martinez operates in a vacuum. This problem faces every single library on the face of the planet. Old stuff has to go away to  make room for new stuff.

So, why not do what we do:

A. Have a Friends of the Library book sale where you can get rid of a lot of the old books and make some money;

B. Have an area in the library where you regulary sell books and, again, make a little money;

C. Have a shelf in the library where you just give books away free of charge.

 

Unexpected preferences

The Washington Post published a story on Feb. 22 with some surprising information. Turns out that studies show that young people prefer books to digital materials when it comes to reading in certain situations.

For example, "A University of Washington pilot study of digial textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free."

What?

Seems that students like books because they can focus more on reading them and comprehending what is in them. Digital devices seem to be too distracting.

People seem to be accustomed to scanning and skimming online, not actually "reading."

Still, some online science and math texts are preferred by students and teachers because the materials are actually portals to more granular offerings that help the users solve problems.

I wonder about the reading habits of much younger kids, though. Will they like books as much as their big brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers and grandparents?

Paying top dollar

Twelve of the top 25 jobs in terms of pay and demand did not even exist 25 years ago.

They are all related in some way to computers and databases.

For example, at No. 3 on the list compiled and released this week by Glassdoor is Software Architect. Average base salary is $130,891, and there 3,229 openings right now.

Analytics Manager is at No. 8, paying an average of $116,000.

The other 13 on the list are more traditional. What's No. 1?

Physician takes the top. Average base salary is $212,270, and there are 8,000 openings. Pharmacy Manager is No. 2 with a base salary of $132,000.

I wonder what would be at the top of this kind of list if it were compiled in Sweden, Norway, England, Denmark, Germany, Japan?

Seeing is believing?

I haven't seen the movie "Selma" and won't.

And I'm kind of glad in a way that it did not win big at the Oscars last night.

Why?

I don't think people who present "history" but deliberately distort parts of it for their own purposes should be rewarded.

I never cared for Oliver Stone's approach to movie-making, either, taking historical "facts" and messing with them.

The problem with "Selma" was its portrayal of the role of Lyndon B. Johnson in getting civil rights legislation passed. The movie makes Johnson into a bad guy. The fact is, he was the good guy in terms of the promotion of civil rights, period.

I'm concerned about all of this because I've long felt that people believe more about the history they see in movies than they do in what they read or hear elsewhere.

My "feeling" is apparently well justified by the facts uncovered by memory scientists.

Jeffrey M. Zacks, a professor at a St. Louis university, wrote an op-ed piece published in The New York Times on Feb. 15 establishing that movie "facts" about history do prevail when people try to remember what happened.

"Studies show that if you watch a film -- even one concerning historical events about which you are informed -- your beliefs may be reshaped by 'facts' that are not factual," he writes.

And then he points out that research also shows that there is not much that can be done to undo those "facts" after the fact, as it were.

Once they're there, they're there.

So, in my opinion, they shouldn't be there in the first place.

It all adds up

The most expensive textbook I bought when I was in grad school cost me $35.

That was in about 1973. Today, inflation would have pushed the price of that same book to more than $186.

Wow.

No wonder students and their families are looking to professors to do something a little different in this age of the Internet and e-publishing.

The Bryan-College Station newspaper recently reported on a discussion undertaken by Texas A&M librarians about the high cost of textbooks, and the librarians noted that research last year showed that students pay an average of $1,200 a year on books.

The librarians and students seem to be contending with recalcitrant, old-fashioned professors who refuse to update their text preferences.

This is not only not in the best long-term interests of the professors but certainly not in the best interests of students and their families who are facing ever-rising debt loads to be able to afford a college education.

In fact, reluctant profs should be called on the carpet about this kind of thing, tenure be darned.

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