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Librarian Blog

A sign of the times?

Another one bites the dust.
The headline on the lead story in today's business section of The New York Times says it all: "Bookstore Chain Succumbs, As E-Commerce Devours Retailing."
The story by David Streitfeld goes into great detail about the demise of bookstore chains and independents throughout the country and not just because of lousy sales this Christmas season. These places have been folding up their tents for years, first because of the encroachment of Amazon into their business and now just because everyone is flocking online to do their shopping -- for everything from cucumbers to cars.
The story doesn't deal with this question: If bookstores go under what about libraries?
But, we have been here in Wimberley and all across the country.
We believe so strongly that people will continue to want actual books to read for themselves and their children that we've been asking you to support our effort to expand. Are are not alone. Check out the fabulous new library in Austin. If you have time, drive over to Seguin, a small town about 40 minutes from here, and take a walk-thru of their brand new $14.5 million library, a structure that would make any city of any size proud.

Best book in '17

Over the Christmas weekend I finished reading "Artemis" by Andy Weir. I thought it would be a good read because I had read Weir's first novel, called "The Martian."
Maybe you remember either the book or the movie made from it by the same name, starring Matt Damon. I loved "The Martian" in book and movie form.
I would say that "Artemis" is, well, only meh. Clearly not the best book I have read in 2017.
What book might that be?
Without a doubt, the best book I read this year was "The Second World Wars" by Victor Davis Hanson, a classics scholar who decided to write a history of the war like no other.
The New Yorker just published a piece about the book, and it has been featured in reviews elsewhere. They are all positive.
I have read a great many books about World War II. What makes this one so great is Hanson's approach from 30,000 feet, and then his fine use of the most important details. As The New Yorker writer notes, Hanson points out how the Allies miscalculated from Day One about Hitler's and Japan's capabilities and how those miscalculations give Hitler and Japan an outsized advantage -- at first.
I will leave it at that. If you are interested in world history, this is the book for you this year and, perhaps, next.

Fine or no fine?

If you return a book or movie late, should you be fined?
Right now, you are. The fine for late books is 10 cents per day. The fine for late movies is $1 per day. That's pretty hefty.
I understand that the topic among librarians across the country these days has to do with the levying of fines like these.
Are they fair?
Do they really encourage people to return materials in a timely manner. Or would people exercise their own responsible impulses and return books and movies on time without a fine system being in place?
The director of the New York Public Library has written a major piece that's making the rounds online arguing that in this day and time, with so many people struggling to pay for the basics of shelter, food and clothing, we all might consider eliminating those fines altogether because the fines discourage the very people who need access to a library from going to the library.
I don't have any idea what impact the elimination of fines would have on the Wimberley library.
And I'm not aware that this something we are even going to talk about.
Should we?

Have you read these?

The year is almost at an end, and it's time to do some tallying up.
Specifically, it's time to see what were the most popular books of 2017.
Various people do a count of this type, and few seem to agree. So, let's just dive in and look at what Amazon says were the most read titles of the year.
At No. 1 was "The Handmaid's Tale" by Atwood. At No. 2 was "It" by King. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was No. 3. Number 4 was "A Game of Thrones" by Martin. And at No. 5 was another Rowling book, this one "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."
In fact four of the Top 10 are Harry Potter books.
I must say I'm surprised by that. They have been around so long you would think they would have become passe. Not so, though.
Next week we'll look at some other metrics. So check back.

Giving them their due

In the broad category of fiction, where do graphic novels fit?
For that matter, were do collections of comic strips or panels, like those of Breathed and Trudeau, fit?
Or do they have a place at that table at all?
Apparently they do. Two new books that contain strips and graphic works are reviewed in the Sunday New York Times Book Review section from Sunday, Dec. 17.
Oddly, the reviewers, one of whom is Gary Trudeau himself, only barely mention what, to me, were important works in this particular pantheon.
They don't give more than passing mention to "comix."
Comix were sometimes subversive, sometimes outrageous, always outside the mainstream comic panels and strips produced during the '60s, for the most part.
They played a huge part in the burgeoning ridicule heaped on the Johnson-Nixon administrations as they pursued war in Southeast Asia. They were radical. And they were experimental and funny.
Perhaps there are collections of these works out there somewhere. If so, I will try to find some just to remind myself of what it was like to live in a time when you could speak truth to power and be really ugly about it.
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