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Amazon adds library books to Kindle

April 23, 2011

I thought it might be time to branch out from Library Journal a bit, even though they are entirely awesome. Let’s get some regional news in here. Or some national news from a regional paper. Amazon is adding library books to the Kindle! Kindle is one of the most popular e-readers, but has been reluctant to include access to library books until now. This change will take place later this year. Columbus Metropolitan Library has many patrons come in with questions about how to load library books onto their Kindle and now they will be able to tell them that this will be possible in a few months. This news might also help libraries when it comes to state funding cuts. Because of Amazon’s marketing heft, it will assist the argument of the importance of libraries. Libraries and publishers will now be able to reach more patrons. When the system is in place, users will be able to browse for library books on the Kindle and check items out with a library card. It will be interesting to see how this affects e-book circulation considering their increasing popularity at libraries. Circulation of e-books has doubled in the first three months of the year compared to last year.

“Amazon finally adding library books to its Kindle” by Dean Narciso in The Columbus Dispatch


Like sands through the hourglass

April 19, 2011

There is this terribly awesome librarian, goes by the name of Elizabeth, who happens to share a crazy amount of my interests. The Amazing Race, Breaking Bad, Supernatural, Chuck Palahniuk, Bruce Campbell, and the list goes on. One of the few media things we disagree on is the awesomeness of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. I think it’s high camp, she thinks it’s just crap. And she’s annoyed that all I know of Survivor is what I see on The Soup. As it turns out, we even share soaps, yes I said soaps. I haven’t watched in a really long while, but I still have a fondness for Days of Our Lives. One day we were discussing our DOOL days and a patron kind of shuffles over and stealthily voices his shared obsession. Guilty pleasures unite! Ever since then, if he sees me on desk he’ll dart over to share his latest DOOL news or excitement. Sadly he’s more up-to-date with the show that I so sometimes I can’t enthuse with him. I have to say, he hasn’t replaced guest pass guy as my favorite, but I’ve grown quite fond of him. Unbridled enthusiasm is a fun thing.

Just today he happened by to share his excitement that One Life to Live and All My Children were canceled because it now meant that DOOL would be the #3 soap. That is pretty snazzy, but there’s something about the cancellation of all these soaps that makes me sad. I mean, I only ever watched Days (and Passions. I watched Passions), but so many of these soaps have been around for so long that they’re institutions of daytime storytelling. Sure, the stories can drag on and get really ridiculous, but what else are you supposed to do if you have to put out an episode five days a week all year long. That always kind of amazed me.

Reverse Samson

April 16, 2011

So you always hear about those surveys that tell us that the public really does value librarians and think we perform a valuable function, but I’m still not sure they know exactly what that function is. It’s embarrassing how many times, upon telling people that I’m in Library School, I get the question, “So what is it that librarians do anyway?” A lot of the people who ask me that question think all we do is circulation, possibly because patrons have more interactions with the folks in that department. That’s probably also why we get so many people trying to check out things at the reference desk, despite the not at all large enough “Check Out Here” sign over Circulation. Which brings me to another thing. Signage, despite what all the books tell you, doesn’t help one bit. No one is looking for the signs. They just stumble around aimlessly until they find someone they can ask. When they then notice the signs, it’s like it was the most obvious thing, but it makes me wonder why they didn’t just look for a sign in the first place. Maybe it’s because I hate to ask for help and love maps, but I always look for signs because often they are there somewhere. Maybe it’s one of those things that’s too obvious for people to consider or it’s just faster to ask.

Anyway, I got off topic there. Today we’re talking about patrons who misuse librarians. This week I seem to be some sort of personal assistant or doorman for patrons. First I had a guy have me make all his copies of some legal forms he needed. Actually, this one may be more of a point of service confusion. They get the legal forms from us, but then they’re supposed to go over to the copier to make them. I did tell him he could make copies, but instead he just handed what he wanted to me.

Next up, a patron needed help with the photocopier and decided I was going to hold things for her while she finished making her copies. This is despite the fact that she had a friend with her and there was a nearby table where she could set things. I was happy to hold things while I was helping her, but after we sorted things out I wasn’t super happy to hold things while she finished her multi-page copy job. Later that week a patron gave me a plastic bottle to dispose of for her because she couldn’t find the recycling bin. That one was kind of my fault because I would rather recycle something for a lazy patron than have them toss it because they can’t find the recycling bin. So maybe I’m more just glad she asked what she should do with her recyclable.

On their own these things don’t really bother me, but it was happening a lot this week. Also, I think I’m slightly more sensitive to this sort of misuse because of my time working at a grocery store. I graduated with the ever-useful English degree and ended up working at a grocery store, which was fine once I found good shoes to wear, but people assume that you’re an idiot if you work at a grocery store. It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t do simple math (in my defense, even when I rocked at Calculus I couldn’t do simple math). I had several frustrated customers insult my intelligence or otherwise berate me when I didn’t do what they thought I should be doing. This was after me calmly trying to explain that this wasn’t my job. I’m just not fond of people who abuse customer service positions.

Sophistication is for the weak

April 12, 2011

“Form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini.” —Paul Muldoon

This past Sunday I had the chance to participate in April’s Books Plus meeting here at MCPL. This month the topic was poetry, led by the awesome and published Dory. I knew Dory was a poet and hadn’t participated in a poetry discussion since college, so was looking forward to this program. I arrived early to help Dory finish setting up and get an idea of what she had planned. This was the first time I’d been to one of these discussions and was surprised at just how much work she’d put into the preparation. She had handouts, quotes, information about the various types of poems, and more. It was to be a full on class!

Patrons started filtering in and getting settled early. Everyone seemed to already know each other, but any newcomers were welcomed openly. We ended up with 20 attendees, not including the three of us from MCPL. We even had three men in attendance, which I guess is a rare thing. The discussion started off with Dory reading a few quotes about poetry and form with people stopping to ask questions along the way. When she finished her presentation, we went around the room and everyone got to read a poem or two, if they brought any with them. I don’t go out of my way to follow poetry so my main experience with it involves the kinds of poets you read in high school or college. The most recent poets I’m familiar with are Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon, so it was fun getting to hear poems from some folks I’d never heard of. I’m blanking on his name now, but there was one, a recent poet laureate, whose poem had a great line about the reuse of certain ideas or other poems in one’s own work. It was very amusing and fair use of him.

Though I had planned to read a Yeats poem, I ended up reading Heaney’s “Postscript” because of this line:

“Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly.”

I always did love the futility of it, commenting both on the action in the poem and the act of trying to write the poem. I thought it a better fit for a poetry discussion than “The Second Coming,” as fun as that one is.

After the discussion ended, everyone slowly filtered out, some breaking off into small groups to catch up. I even had a little chat with one of the attendees about this rather impressive journal, which was really more of a scrapbook, that she used to take notes during the discussion. I have become quite well-socialized in my old age. Anyway, there are some really creative people in this town. I already basically knew that, but it’s not everyday that I get this much exposure to this many of them at once. After that, I helped Dory clean up the space.

Something really awesome happened that day, other than learning more about poetry and eating the delicious cake that one patron always brings to these things. Wendy, the other librarian at the discussion, told me that she already thinks of me as a librarian instead of just an intern. It made me feel pretty fantastic, which was needed after being told, yet again, that my writing is unsophisticated (I maintain that sophistication, like context, is for the weak). I mean, I know that they like me here, but it’s always nice to be reminded. Also, as someone who took a heck of a long time to figure out what they wanted to do, these sorts of things help confirm that I did make the right choice. Turns out that my old friends at the Fairfield County District Library who always said I’d be good at this were right.

Librarians bite back!

April 7, 2011

HarperCollins is surprised about the intensity of the criticism over the ebook circulation cap that they announced about a month ago. Josh Marwell, president of sales, now says that the cap of 26 is not set in stone. He invites feedback and insists that they are just trying to figure out how best to approach the situation. Marwell says that when they decided on 26, their information told them that most books do not circulate 26 times, but realizes that this number might not work for best sellers. Concerns about “about the overall ecosystem,” of what he doesn’t say, mean that ebook titles will probably never be sold to libraries without some kind of limitations. Eli Neiburger, associate director for IT & production at Ann Arbor District Library, MI, states that a better model would be to provide limited-term multi-user licenses for best sellers on the day of release. He believes that this would promote book sales. Marwell holds firm in his belief that Neiburger’s model would not work. “”Our concern…[is] the potential for legions of buyers becoming borrowers, and that simultaneous use would play into that concern.”

Librarians attending “eBooks: Collections at the Crossroads,” a symposium organized by the Connecticut Library Consortium, were impressed that Marwell had shown up to discuss solutions with them. Mike Shontz, an account executive for OverDrive, who was also in attendance pointed out that discussion was more effective than outright boycott. Neiburger also pointed out the need for libraries to beef up their storage capabilities and digital infrastructure in order to handle ebook demand. He also pointed out the importance in hiring technical support staff instead of relying on the vendor for such concerns.

I have to say, I think a lot of what Marwell is saying to PR talk, especially because he still sticks to his guns on the single-user license front, but it’s nice that he at least went to the symposium. I don’t see this relationship ever being anything other than a strained one because libraries are fair use beasts at heart and publishers just want to make money. Sadly we have to work with them, for now.

HarperCollins Executive Calls Circulation Cap a “Work in Progress” by Michael Kelley in Library Journal

Why are the cops here?

April 5, 2011

As interns, we are supposed to always be accompanied by a reference librarian while we are on a desk, either in Adult Services or down in Movies and Music. This is helpful because even though I’ve been here for a while now and can answer most questions with ease and assurance that I’m passing on correct information, there are still times when I get a question I’ve never gotten before and have no clue the answer to. Also, with patrons who think you have to be a certain age to have any kind of authority, it’s good to have someone to double check certain questions with. Especially if the eventual answer is “no” shaped. Even if you already know the answer, it doesn’t hurt your case to quickly make a trip over to a reference librarian to check. A double checked “no” is generally more accepted by contrary patrons.

Perhaps because of my encyclopedic knowledge of movies, or just because I’m awesome and have been here a while, sometimes I will get left alone to tend Movies and Music. The longest was just an hour to cover someone’s lunch break, but still. It makes me feel pretty fantastic when I’m trusted with a whole department for a while. Not that Movies and Music ever gets that hectic. The craziest thing I ever saw here was a guy run in, grab Mark’s coffee mug, tear the lid off, and dump it on the floor. Only a little blood was spilled and, as the fellow’s companion told us while profusely apologizing, the guy just really liked coffee. Yes, Mark did hit his leg as he tried to prevent his mug from being grabbed, but if that’s the craziest thing that’s happened down here on my watch, that’s not bad. And that’s not even that crazy compared to what happens upstairs. So if they’re going to leave any department to an intern it would be this one. Still, it makes me feel special when it happens.

Magic! At the library

April 2, 2011

Sometimes a patron will ask me for help with something, and to them it clearly seems almost impossible, but I end up figuring out how to do it. This doesn’t happen every time, especially if the question relates to e-readers and the way they interact with Overdrive (I hate all things DRM and don’t have an e-reader), but sometimes I get lucky. When I do, the patron will often look at me like I just performed some sort of magic trick. I mean, sure, librarians are pretty magic, but it’s nice to be reminded that patrons think so too. Sometimes you can’t tell what they think of us.

This past week a patron came in wanting to know if there was a way they could transfer the music files they had on one mp3 player to another mp3 player. My personal experience is with iPods where that activity is, technically, impossible. I know how to make it happen, but I’ve yet to figure out just how much of my “special” skills I should pass on to patrons. For example, when asked whether a video can be downloaded from YouTube, what does a person say? Anyway, this mp3 player turned out to work just like a USB drive so it was pretty easy to just plug, drag, and drop. I showed the patron how to do this, but he still thought I had performed some minor miracle. Either that or he had imprinted on me. Sometimes that will happen with patrons when you’re helping them sort out an intense computer problem. I once had a patron become so attached to me that, when he saw me walking a cart back to circulation, he just followed me back into the staff area. It was strange.

But yes, it’s nice when patrons think you’re magic. Especially when you’re having a rough week.