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Librarian Blog

One brave bookseller

Harper Lee's novel "Go Set a Watchman" didn't sit well with Peter Makin.

Peter is owner of an independent bookstore in Traverse City, Mich., and he recently broke with the galloping herd of critics and commentators over the value of this book that is supposed to be related in some semi-independent way to Lee's landmark book "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Peter told people who bought "Watchman" that he would refund their money.

According to Infodocket, he posted this comment at his website: "It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as 'Harper Lee's New Novel.' This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic ... We therefore encourage you to view 'Go Set a Watchman' with intellectual curiosity and careful consideration; a rough beginning for a classic, but only that."

I applaud Peter Makin for his courage.

But, I wonder if he might also take a look at a whole passel of books that are being churned out by publishers that are nothing more than hooey and hockum. For example, I just put aside two books that were highly touted, both works of nonfiction. One was about a guy who trained elephants during WWII in Burma. The other was about the development of character. The former was a strange foray into spiritual kinsmanship between animals and humans, something I consider ridiculous. The latter was just a republication and regurgitation of something the author had already written in his newspaper columns. Nothing new there.

Would Peter refund my money on those two items?

Peter doesn't have to; I checked him out of the library.

We need spellers

Our first Wimberley Library Adult Spelling Bee is approaching, and we have several teams that are sponsored but are not, well, teams in the truest sense.

That is, they exist in name only and need spellers as participants. Each team is made up of three spellers.

Help!

If you sign up with us to be a team member, we will assign you to a team. On spelling bee day, you will get a free lunch and a guaranteed good time.

Contact me at the library if this sounds like something you would enjoy.

Better: Find a couple of friends and put together your own group to be sponsored by someone who will pay the entry fee.

Up, up and up again

U.S. college students are weighed down by unprecedented costs, and they graduate with unprecedented debt accumulated to get their degrees.

No news there.

The latest news is that the prices just keep right on rising. The National Center for Educational Statistics reported recently that between 2012-2013 and 2014-2015, the average tuition and fees at four-year public, nonprofit institutions rose 4 percent. And that's with inflation factored into the equation. 

What else in this country rose 4 percent, adjusted for inflation, over that period of time? Well, the Consumer Price Index rose less than 2 percent in 2013 and 2014.

So, we hear a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the persistent price increases for college attendance.

But, nothing at all is being done about it.

A cynic would suggest that's part of a broader plan to dumb down Americans.

But, wow, that sounds like something right out of science fiction, doesn't it?

Still ... you have to wonder.

Kids as programmers

An increasing number of basic and simple programs are coming on the market to enable even very young children to build codes to run things like robots and to build animations, among other things.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that the kids will be all the better for learning to code and getting an early start on computing. Thus, it follows, society will be better off, as well, since some of these youngsters may grow up to be real nerds of the techie variety.

The latest issue of The Economist has a lengthy article about these kiddie programming guides, such as Scratch and KIBO and Blockly, and the author adopts a somewhat (and suitably) skeptical tone. He or she makes a very good point: Computers, which are in everything these days, are so plebian that it would be an absolute wonder if anyone cared how they work other than the select few in Silicon Valley and Austin who need to know.

An example, not taken from The Economist: Flight is so common and so taken for granted that very few people actually need to know how a 777 stays in the air. Everyone else doesn't care. And that's perfectly OK.

In an uproar

Texas librarians are in a tizzy, my library director tells me, because of interpretations coming out of Austin about libraries and guns.

Seems the Texas State Library & Archives Commission staff has been looking into how new gun laws will affect libraries and the ruling so far is that state law prohibits libraries from keeping people who carry guns out.

That's right, it appears that people with pistols under their belts, on their hips and in their pockets can mosey on in and check out the latest shoot-'em-up by Cussler or Patterson.

This is all a cause for consternation, I am told.

I can't see why.

My plan is to start wearing my M-16 on one shoulder, my AK-47 on another, a .380  pistol on my hip and a Bowie knife between my teeth.

Go ahead: Make my day.

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