Not all libraries are created equal. What would the world be if they were?

According to an article I recently read in the New York Times, Merryl H. Tisch, the former chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, and her husband, James S. Tisch, the president and chief executive of Lowes Corporation (who sits on the New York Public Library’s board of directors) will give  20 million dollars to the New York Public Library (NYPL) to “expand and strengthen its education programming, from early literacy classes to technology training.”

The article goes on to explain that owing to this gift, a new position for a director of education will be created and Tisch added that she hoped the money would help the library create more job training courses and other programs to help expose students to the library’s rich collection of resources. Christopher Platt, the chief branch library officer, is also quoted saying that, to his knowledge, “this is the first educational gift to public libraries of this scale in the country.”

Giving money—especially large amounts of money that can make a lasting impact—to support any organization and institution on a mission to promote literacy, education, and access to knowledge is admirable on every level, yet this article (and story) has left me with unsettling thoughts that I wish to share here, in hopes they are not misunderstood or taken out of context. And these are pervasive thoughts, similar to those I have often expressed on NSR in my effort to draw attention to unequal access to knowledge and books permeating our society. Continue reading Not all libraries are created equal. What would the world be if they were?

Leanpub Interview with Mirela Roncevic on Free Reading Zones

A few weeks ago, NSR Director Mirela Roncevic talked with Leanpub about her Free Reading Zones efforts and explained the experience of turning an entire country into an open virtual library as a way of showing the potential of ebooks and digital content to democratize the written word, transform the publishing industry, and envision a future in which libraries serve people beyond the confines of their buildings and assigned zip codes. She has written about it in her Lessons from Croatia Reads series on NSR (the  Sponsor of the countrywide initiative in Croatia to spread free reading) and is in the midst of writing a lengthy case study/report on the project, to be published in October 2017. Continue reading Leanpub Interview with Mirela Roncevic on Free Reading Zones

Book of the Week: Metamorphosis by Decree (Brian Pigg)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

Metamorphosis by Decree

About Author

Brian Pigg was born and raised in Florissant, Missouri. He spent time in the army and commercial construction before settling in the IT industry. The hours in front of the computer seemed like a good time to write down some of the stories that existed in his head. One of them gives birth to “Metamorphosis by Decree,” his first published book.


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

 

Unglue.it, an ebooks site that functions like a true participatory democracy

This week, we focus on Unglue.it, which also uses a collectivitst approach to DRM (Digital Rights Management), somewhat along the lines used by Knowledge Unlatched (the focus of Free Content Alert last week). Unglue.it was launched in 2012 and is based on the premise that small gifts by many users can free ebooks from the DRM fetters that bind them…in essence, ‘ungluing’ them in a virtual way.

The concept was to use ‘crowdsourcing’, as is done with sites such as Kickstarter and Gofundme. In contrast, Knowledge Unlatched uses membership fees paid by a consortium of academic libraries to purchase the necessary Creative Commons License (CCL)  giving access to verified members of those academic communities.  Unglue.it’s method at the outset was described by the Huffington Post here. As I understand it, authors who are independent (or otherwise hold the copyright to their work) set a fee for releasing their work as an ebook. If Unglue.it is interested in acquiring it for their collection, a fundraising campaign to reach that amount in a certain time frame is launched. Various incentives are offered for various levels of gifts, much like fundraising  for public radio and public television in the United States. Unglue.it gives details in its FAQ page. Continue reading Unglue.it, an ebooks site that functions like a true participatory democracy

Renewing literacy through sustained listening

Putting aside (although hardly forgetting) concerns with truly universal access to audiobooks for this post, let’s consider how listening can build engaged literacy. As the Walrus article ALA made sure to circulate broadly last week argues, literacy is as much endangered by lack of interest on the parts of those with the skills as other human epochs have experienced its fragility through lack of the skills themselves.

True literacy, when it comes to experiencing the world- and empathy-expanding powers of lengthy, carefully crafted narratives (that is, books) requires the reader to maintain connection with what the author has to say and how the author says it to a vanishing point between the book and its reader. Having the skills to decode letters, words, phrases, and passages is akin to amassing the bricks, mortar, glass, and roof shingles needed to build a house: unless you can stick with the efforts to reconstruct this pile of ingredients by following the author-supplied blueprint, you’re left with a lot full of debris or a haphazard stack that offers no fit dwelling place. On the other hand, once you’ve followed the blueprint, you then have a staging point (a house) from which you can go forth with the experience of building and dwelling in it. Continue reading Renewing literacy through sustained listening

This week in Literature and Arts

March 19, 1962: With the release of his eponymously named first album, the world meets Bob Dylan.


Happy 48th anniversary to John and Yoko, married March 20, 1969, by registrar Cecil Wheeler in a ten-minute ceremony at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar (near Spain).


Continue reading This week in Literature and Arts

Demand-Driven Acquisitions: Do Library Patrons Get What They Need?

In the years and decades leading up to the digital revolution, academic librarians often questioned how much of the content they acquired in print really got used. Did the books they purchased in advance via approval plans and other methods get used enough to justify the cost of the library’s largely speculative buying? Were those books they bought really what library patrons needed in the first place? Then the universe of content exploded online and overnight, it seemed, an ocean of digital books became available—some for purchase, some via subscriptions, some free (e.g., Project Gutenberg). New ways of building library collections content emerged—ways that would allow librarians to gain valuable insight into patron activities and answer the decades-old question at the heart of collection development: Are libraries acquiring what patrons need?

The last few years have seen a steady proliferation of business models used for selling and acquiring ebooks by libraries, each with a unique set of benefits and challenges, but no other model has held as much promise to give patrons what they needed—at the moment they needed it—as Demand-Driven Acquisitions (DDA), also known as Patron-Driven Acquisitions (PDA). This is because at its core, DDA places the user (the patron), not the librarian or the publisher, in the driver seat. For the first time in the history of institutional book buying, patrons decide, for a portion of titles, what the library collects, leaving publishers and vendors without the predictability they enjoyed for many decades before ebooks came around.

Why were so many libraries and vendors happy to give up control at first? Hasn’t the industry invested the past two decades in the argument that quality will always trump quantity in research and that content filtered by professionals—not random users, even if they were savvy researchers—is far superior to what is freely available online? And haven’t we also argued that information literacy—the ability to find and evaluate information at hand—in and of itself needs to be taught and learned? The simple, and somewhat paradoxical, answer is: by giving up control all sides would eventually benefit. For libraries, it meant that a larger pool of titles would be immediately available for discovery—the titles they would never buy outright—and this in turn meant that the library would be able to support their patrons’ research at the point of need. For publishers, it meant incremental revenue and more revenue from the backlist that libraries either overlook or never have any intention of buying through other means. And for patrons, the ultimate beneficiaries, it meant that they would have immediate access to what they needed when they needed it, while remaining blissfully unaware that their actions were driving the buying. Continue reading Demand-Driven Acquisitions: Do Library Patrons Get What They Need?

No Shelf Required is now on Facebook

Dear NSR readers,

As our readership grows and our columnists’ views expand beyond libraries and beyond the confines of the book industry, we launched our Facebook page today to reach more readers and book professionals around the world.

As you may know, NSR has been around for almost a decade but it’s taken us a while to start a Facebook page (as if maintaining Twitter feeds over the years hasn’t been hectic enough; forgive us, there is only so much social media one can take).

Our Facebook page will include much of the content published on NSR but it will go beyond and hopefully become THE PLACE where so much insightful dialog takes place it leads us in the direction of a better future for the book — one where books and knowledge are accessible to all beyond the confines of institutions (because some of us are dreamers who believe in the power of ebooks to do that). NSR will also remain the place where we keep an eye on the present and the ever-evolving book and ebook landscape (because some of us are realists with a deep understanding of the complexities of the book and library market today).

The Facebook presence will also help us reach deeper into the communities where access to books and knowledge is limited or hardly exists. Groundbreaking initiatives that push the limits of what is possible, such as what we accomplished with Croatia Reads last year (when we turned the entire country of Croatia into an open library) remain closest to our hearts and we hope to do more of those soon.

Let’s passionately agree and respectfully disagree on the future of the book. Let’s stumble and fall. Let’s try and learn. What a privilege it is for all of us to live in such interesting times for books and the written word.

Thanks for liking us on Facebook. Thanks, especially, for following us on Twitter and subscribing to our feeds all these years. Onward and upward.

MR

De Gruyter sponsors Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)

De Gruyter has announced that it is providing sponsorship for the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) to celebrate the launch of the De Gruyter Open Access Book Library on www.degruyter.com. Other sponsors include Brill, Springer, and OpenEdition. DOAB is a service of OAPEN Foundation, an international initiative dedicated to Open Access monograph publishing, based at the National Library in The Hague.

De Gruyter Open Access Book Library contains between 800 and 900 titles and is intended to draw attention to the growing number of open access books. Half of the Library contains De Gruyter’s open access books, while the other half is by publishing partners. Forty percent of the titles are in history, social sciences and philosophy, ten percent are STM books and the remaining 50 percent distributed among other humanities. Learn more about it here. Continue reading De Gruyter sponsors Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)

Book of the Week: No Place for a Lady (Thea Rosenbaum)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week. Books highlighted include a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

No Place for a Lady

About Author

Thea Rosenbaum was born during World War II in Berlin, Germany. She began her career as a stockbroker for one of the most reputable global investment management firms. She left that job to become Germany’s only female war correspondent in Vietnam, catapulting her to achieve her dream job to be a journalist and serving as senior producer for ARD German television for over two decades in the United States. She is a loving mother of two children and grandmother of four grandchildren. Thea is a proud US citizen since 2013 and lives in Florida.


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

 

In time for Women’s History month, Gale releases Women’s Studies Archive

Gale has just announced the first collection in its new Women’s Studies Archive. The archive is the third offering in an effort to publish material that supports diversity studies and provides historical context around current topics. This archive follows recentl launches of Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender (the largest digital archive of LGBTQ History and Culture) and the American Civil Liberties Union Papers (ACLU).

Women’s Studies Archive: Women’s Issues and Identities traces the path of women’s issues from past to present—pulling primary sources from manuscripts, newspapers, periodicals, and more. It captures the foundation of women’s movements, struggles and triumphs.

Full press release below.


As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Gale, a Cengage company, has launched a new archive on women’s studies that explores the many contributions of women throughout history.  Part of the growing Gale Primary Sources program, the Women’s Studies Archive represents Gale’s focus on publishing material that supports diversity studies and provides historical context around current topics. Continue reading In time for Women’s History month, Gale releases Women’s Studies Archive

Access to literacy connection: Material technology still needed

With the exception of oral storytelling, every way we share literature, published information, and literacy experiences requires some kind of material tool. From clay tablets to paperbacks, cinema screens to computer screens, live theater stages to the mobiles on which apps can reach audio files, we need to control an object of technology (or technologies) in order to get narrative access. Each newly rising literacy experience technology bridge has been met by naysayers, unwilling to give up the old—tried and true, in their estimation—material access point for something newer, less cumbersome and, often, more difficult for the naysayer accustomed to another sort of technology, to use at the start.

The reality, of course, is that everything we do as individuals is more difficult when we first try it, from dressing ourselves to negotiating a journey beyond our home. And we learn to achieve some level of technical competency because others before us have achieved competency that, through repeated use has attained popular assimilation: our general culture accepts clothing and travel outside as normative reliances on material objects. The same has become true for literacy throughout many world cultures. Literacy’s spread, in fact, depended on material things—manuscripts that preserved words and concepts developed by earlier authors and then printed books that made the transmission of scripted literature available to copious duplication (and thus wider distribution). Culturally, although of course never universally as individuals, we have achieved literacy, using yesterday’s tools. Continue reading Access to literacy connection: Material technology still needed

This week in Literature and Arts

March 12, 1922: Jack Kerouac is born in the second floor bedroom at 9 Lupine Road in Lowell, MA. His folks were French-Canadian imports who spoke French at home (Jack, baptized Jean-Louis, didn’t learn to speak English until attending grammar school).

Jack’ now been dead longer than he was alive. The short unhappy life…, but how many little boys grow up to write books that launch a literary movement?

A decade ago, I covered the opening of a sterling Kerouac exhibit at the New York Public Library that included the “On the Road” manuscript on a roll of teletype paper. Amazing to see it.

Happy 95th birthday, Jack.


Continue reading This week in Literature and Arts

Audiobook Review—The Big Break: The Greatest American WWII POW Escape Story Never Told (Stephen Dando-Collins)

The Big Break: The Greatest American WWII POW Escape Story Never Told

By Stephen Dando-Collins; Read by Paul Woodson

Recorded Books, 2017; 8.25 hours


World War II prisoner-of-war escapes immediately conjure Hollywood images of captured but undefeated allied soldiers outsmarting their evil Hun overlords. Close, but now picture the prisoners half starved; unbathed with scruffy beards, long matted hair; and dirty, ragged clothes. Quite a different impression.

Paul Brickhill chronicled that war’s most famous POW break in his 1950 volume, The Great Escape, later morphed into the all-star 1963 film. Here, military historian Stephen Dando-Collins chronicles the even greater escape of American officers from German prison camp Oflag 64 in Schubin, Poland, a year before, which proved a development and testing ground for many of the methods for the clandestine digging and hiding of dirt, and shoring and ventilating tunnels employed by the multinational servicemen staging The Great Escape.

Dando-Collins follows a linear course beginning with an intricate escape plan via tunnel leading from one of the camp’s latrines—there’s no more powerful testament to the POW’s desperation than crawling through their own waste inch by putrid inch to construct a tunnel to freedom. It was impossible to clean clothes daily in a camp where bathing was luxury enough, leaving the tunnelers reeking of human excrement day and night. Continue reading Audiobook Review—The Big Break: The Greatest American WWII POW Escape Story Never Told (Stephen Dando-Collins)

Knowledge Unlatched, supported by libraries, and made available in PDF to any reader, anywhere in the world

This week, I’d like to highlight Knowledge Unlatched (KU),  a nonprofit in the U.K. that “offers a global library consortium approach to funding open access books” (according to Wikipedia). It shares a number of similarities with the HathiTrust Digital Library, featured on NSR last week, and provides a backdrop to KU’s business model.

KU began in 2012, after two years of exploratory work by founder Frances Pinter, who has owned a publishing house since 1973 (when she was 23). The Wiki on KU details its beginnings and growth, also well-covered in two blog posts (Griffith University and The Bookseller). What is of particular interest is that both collections rely on consortia of universities and colleges to maintain their services. Continue reading Knowledge Unlatched, supported by libraries, and made available in PDF to any reader, anywhere in the world

Digital Literacy in the “post-truth” age

Rosen’s newest and timely offering, its Digital Literacy database, is meant to empower students to be savvy digital citizens and tell fact from fiction in the ‘post-truth’ age. It includes  Interactive Project-Based Activities that guide students (in Grades 7-12) to be citizen journalists; create podcasts, social media campaigns, and more. Free trial for school libraries is available here.

In Rosen’s words:

Maintaining the gold standard set by Rosen Digital’s inaugural product, Teen Health & Wellness: Real Life, Real Answers, Digital Literacy delivers curriculum-correlated content; promotes digital literacy and 21st-century learning skills; and offers research, report, and homework help.

Developed for teen learners with their unique learning styles and sensibilities in mind, Digital Literacy features a straightforward, easy-to-navigate interface. Teen-friendly articles make digital literacy and cyber citizenship both readily comprehensible and highly engaging. Dynamic videos and relevant photos enhance and extend learning. Interactive activities prompt students to use real-world Web sites and software to create unique user-generated content including: podcasts, public service announcements, multimedia presentations, digital business plans, and dynamic articles.

Digital Literacy informs and inspires learners about key digital literacy and cyber citizenship topics including entrepreneurship and careers; communication, cyberbullying, and safety; privacy and ethics; research skills and tools for the digital age; social networking; and gaming.

Digital Literacy includes resources to support and reinforce classroom instruction. Curriculum-correlated content supports Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (ELA), AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, 2016 ISTE Standards for Students (ISTE-S), and state standards for technology. Educators will also appreciate lesson plans, assessment, extension and enrichment activities, as well as the text-to-speech feature, printable research sheets, and article-specific glossaries.

NSR is pleased to announce the upcoming “Understanding Ebooks” Workshop, in partnership with ALA

Understanding Ebooks: The Challenges and the Possibilities

A 90-minute workshop

Thursday, May 25, 2017, 2:30 p.m. Eastern/1:30 p.m. Central/12:30 p.m. Mountain/11:30 a.m. Pacific

The popularity of e-books exploded with the emergence of tablets and e-readers like the Kindle and has risen steadily ever since. For librarians, this growth has meant the development of a new area of service and content delivery. For the librarian who is new to e-books and e-readers, this can be intimidating. Where do you start? How can you learn what you need to know to provide the services that your patrons expect?

In this new workshop, Mirela Roncevic, director of No Shelf Required, a well-known site on e-books and e-content in libraries and beyond, will help you get started. Roncevic will cover e-books from every angle, giving a practical overview of the e-book landscape that’s easy to follow no matter your experience working with e-books or e-book vendors. Continue reading NSR is pleased to announce the upcoming “Understanding Ebooks” Workshop, in partnership with ALA

Book of the Week: Nickerbacher (Terry John Barto)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week. Books highlighted include a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

Nickerbacher

About Author

Terry John BartoNickerbacher’s award–winning author Terry John Barto is a director and choreographer of 200+ regional theater productions, industrials, television, and cruise ship shows throughout the United States and abroad. As creative director for Wings of Dreams Productions, he honed diverse ideas into compelling fiction family stories, wrote screenplays for animation features, and inspired a team of artists to develop dolls and action figures. Nickerbacher will inspire kids of all ages to dream big.

He lives in Los Angeles, California and enjoys pilates, yoga, and hiking with his dachshunds, Hunter and Mazie. Terry John Barto is also the author of Gollywood, Here I Come!


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

 

Access to digital literacy increases potential for civic inclusion

Earlier this month, the UK government published a policy paper on “Digital Skills and Inclusion: Giving everyone access to the digital skills they need” that, in keeping with the authors’ purpose, focused on digital skill relevance to employability. Reading it from the perspective of a Stateside librarian committed to building and supporting means for transliteracy development, I see potential application to the need to educate both sides of the digital divide regarding the relevance of critical listening to critical thinking, the availability of resources to build critical listening skills, and, through access to digital audio, the tools to create listening capacity that opens channels of both understanding and empathy for civic participation to become more fully realized.

Transliteracy acknowledges that our human capacity to learn from and share informational and literary content cannot be limited to visual reading of text. Journalism has long left behind the limitation of print to transmit information through still and moving photography, spoken word broadcasts and podcasts, and interactive (social) platforms. Transliteracy describes the “ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.” The end sought through the means of transliteracy exercise, however, is to build the inclusive social and civic connections described in the UK paper on Digital Skills and Inclusion (cited above).

Attentive listening is no more a passive condition than is purposeful sight reading. We gain copious details by listening to content that escape us when seeing a text-based presentation, especially if we are either (1) a sight reader lacking fluency and thus stopped by confusion about punctuation or sentences with multiple dependent and independent clauses; or (2) an overly confident and actually lazy sight reader eager to achieve the finish line and prone to glossing past complex passages on the way to doing so.  A written passage may take several paragraphs to create, through text alone, those images and speeches and thoughts and explanations needed to present a single, momentary instant or insight. (Sequential art[ii], of course, can achieve this more efficiently). Visual performance arts, in addition to the copious acting skills of those on screen or stage, make use of scenery and costuming to impart information beyond the physical actions and words exchanged. Continue reading Access to digital literacy increases potential for civic inclusion

This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 101st birthday to Lou Costello, born Louis Francis Cristillo, March 6, 1906, in Patterson, NJ. He’s a hard guy to get a grip on; so funny yet the legend is that off screen he was quite a nasty customer. Also, despite his 5’5″ stature, Lou apparently was a gifted athlete who excelled at basketball!

Unlike Laurel and Hardy, Lou and Bud Abbott barely tolerated each other, and their relationship eventually decayed to where they never spoke off screen. Lou was a fan of Curly Howard and “borrowed” Stooges shtick for his own screen persona, and Bud, the bullying straight-man slapping around funny fat-man Lou is straight Stoogery!

Ironically, like Curly, Lou’s health was poor, and he died shortly before his 53rd birthday.

He’s pictured here with Bela in every monster-kid’s favorite comedy, A&C Meet Frankenstein.


March 7, 1923: High school lit classes are forever changes as The New Republic debuts Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”


Continue reading This week in Literature and Arts