A bit of good news this week for e-books in libraries. Readers nationwide can now borrow the first e-book selection of the Libraries Transform Book Club: Kassandra Montag's debut novel, After the Flood (HarperCollins). A PW review described the book as "an intriguing and innovative woman-centered swashbuckling quest narrative that centers on the social impact of climate change a little over a century from now."
Sponsored by the ALA and e-book distributor OverDrive, readers can instantly check out After the Flood through October 21, with no holds or waitlists. Readers can then join in a discussion about the book on social media.
In a statement, Montag said it was an honor to have her book featured as the first Libraries Transform Book Pick.
“So many of my childhood memories are of my local library: reading by the stacks, participating in various programs, browsing the shelves," she said. "Libraries serve people of all walks of life as cultural gathering places for learning, community, discussion and reading. The Libraries Transform Book Pick continues this service and tradition, and I'm so grateful for my work to be part of that.”
The Libraries Transform Book Pick program is designed to connect readers across the U.S. with a selected e-book simultaneously through their public libraries to generate conversation across communities. A book guide and other materials are also available to help book clubs and readers foster conversation.
Heads up: Nominations will close on October 21 for the national I Love My Librarian Award. Like Kassandra Montag, you too probably have strong feelings about your local librarians, so, if you haven't already, nominate your favorites for this prestigious award. Award winners will each receive a $5,000 cash prize, a plaque and a travel stipend to attend the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony in Philadelphia on Jan. 25, 2020, during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits.
As the November 1 start date approaches for Macmillan to implement its two-month embargo on new release e-books in public libraries, more local and national coverage of the issue in the press.
Fast Company this week has a look at the issues for libraries in the digital content market, at one point suggesting that Congress could eventually consider creating "some sort of standard royalty system for lending out e-books." The article also raises the idea of a Public Lending Right (PLR), which, in some countries pays authors a few cents each time their work is lent out. "Such a law has never been passed in the United States, and it’s unclear how much appetite there is for that to change any time soon," the report notes.
I'll just come out with my two cents: a PLR in the U.S. is a bad idea, and has no real connection to the current e-book situation in libraries.
And, let's be clear about what a PLR is: it's a government grant program supported by tax dollars. But tying author payouts to library circulations is a fundamentally regressive idea, because bestselling authors who circulate and sell the most books (and who need the government payouts the least) end up getting the most from the fund, while a majority of writers, many of whom could really use the support, get nominal payouts, if anything.
For example, the most recent PLR annual report from Canada shows that roughly 71% of the more than 21,000 registered Canadian authors shared 26% of the $9.765 million PLR budget. More than 50% of authors got a check for less than $253. At the same time, 396 authors got the max payout of $3,552, taking home nearly 15% of the fund while 2,720 registered authors got nothing.
Let me be clear: we would all surely love to see more federal funding and grant programs to support authors. So why not focus our efforts on acheiving that? Why not tell our politicians to fund libraries at a higher level, so they can buy more books and promote them better, which will lead to more sales, and more importantly, more readers? And, if the goal is to support authors financially, let's do that equitably, through tax benefits and more grants to writers. Ask any librarian, they will tell you: a lot of great, important books are rarely checked out. But those books are valuable, and those authors deserve support.
Meanwhile, an ALA petition urging Macmillan to reverse its embargo is now approaching 100,000 signatures, adding more than 15,000 signatures in the last week alone. And this week, more public awareness efforts are launching, including a social media campaign.
From Gothamist, a peek at a special J.D. Salinger exhibit at the New York Public Library. "Working with Salinger’s son Matt Salinger and his widow Colleen Salinger, Declan Kiely, Director of Special Collections and Exhibitions at the Library, has created a tapestry of the author's life—a rare glimpse through "manuscripts, letters, photographs, books, and personal effects drawn exclusively from the novelist’s archive."
Curbed reports that the much celebrated $41 million Hunters Point Library in Queens, NY, has announced that it will take steps to fix the accessibility issues that were reported last week.
If you're in New York next week and looking for something to do, check this out. The New York University Libraries is hosting a conversation in partnership with the digital magazine Public Books about the role of libraries in shaping urban life. The event will feature Louise Bernard, Director of the Obama Presidential Center Museum, and a fixture at recent ALA conference, Eric Klinenberg, Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge and author of Palaces for the People. The event is the first in a new series called "Think in Public: Libraries in the Life of Cities and Communities," which will explore the different roles that libraries can play in the lives of cities, individuals, and culture at large. The event will be held October 16 at NYU’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 8th floor, 70 Washington Square South.
And, Salon this week has a piece on a theme that Eric Klinenberg has been speaking on quite a bit in recent months: how libraries are picking up the slack for our diminishing social services. “Library workers frequently find themselves dealing with patrons who have fallen through the cracks in an increasingly inadequate social services system,” the article notes, citing a report in HealthDay. “Patrons may use the bathrooms to wash clothes and clean up, and they often sleep for hours at crowded tables. Workers are often cursed at and physically threatened by patrons. Conflicts can crop up about overdue book fines and Internet rooms and computers.”
Banned Books week is over, but the issue remains. The Augusta Chronicle reports on the efforts of one school board to remove a handful of books from a reading list, including "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which depicts an autistic 15-year-old investigating the death of a neighbor's dog; Dear Martin, a novel about an African American private school student who starts a journal of letters to Martin Luther King Jr. about his struggles in life, including a violent encounter between him, a friend, and a police officer; and Regeneration, which is about a British World War I soldier who refuses to continue serving and is sent to a mental hospital."
From Boing Boing, Researchers at the University of Copenhagen analyzed 3.5 million English language books published between 1900 to 2008, finding that "negative verbs associated with body and appearance appear five times as often for female figures as male ones."
How many library books can you realistically read at one time? Gainesville.com reports on one Florida professor with quite an appetite. Until this month, the professor, Richard Burt had 728 books checked out from the University of Florida Library, exceeding the usual faculty limit of 350. He was forced to return 378 of them, and he was not happy about it. “The weird thing for me is not that a professor would want to check out over 350 books but that a library, of all places, would stop him,” Burt said. “It just seems unjust.”
Book Riot has a look at 7 Cool Things Libraries Are Doing, Beyond the Books.
And do your library story times look like this? Here's a heart-warmer from Cleveland 19 where a parent shared photos of this week of a library story time with “Miss Jackie,” who is "surrounded by young children and what appears to be confetti scattered throughout the room."
The Week in Libraries is a weekly opinion and news column. News, tips, submissions, questions or comments are welcome, and can be submitted via email.
Editor's note: The Week in Libraries will take a brief hiatus, in connection with the Frankfurt Book Fair. We will be back with the Friday, November 1 issue. PW Preview for Librarians will be delivered as usual.