Forbes Wants to Close Libraries

I just read Close the Libraries and Buy Everyone An Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription, a Forbes article written by Tim Worstall. It’s a poorly-researched opinion piece about … well … what the title says. Getting rid of libraries and giving everyone a Kindle Unlimited subscription instead.

Yes, Forbes posted this. Thanks, Forbes!

Who is Tim Worstall? He’s a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, a UK-based think tank. Working at a think tank, you’d “think” that Tim would get his facts straight, or at least do a bit of research first… apparently  not the case, which makes me wonder about the quality of research done at the Adam Smith Institute. Tim also has a blog, where he apparently likes to cuss. Alot.

I left a comment on the Forbes article – here’s what I said:

Tim – you say that it’s “well known that only a small fraction of the population actually reads books at all.” Then you claim (but don’t cite) that only 8% of people buy more than one book a year.

Three things:

1. If you think no one reads, why would you want to shift tax payer dollars from a known, traditional institution (the local library) to a global corporation? That seems silly – you’re still paying tax dollars for something you don’t think anyone does.

2. I challenge your statistics. I’m not sure about UK stats, but I know American stats. According to Pew Research, in January 2014, 76% of American adults ages 18 and up read at least one book in the past year. So that trumps your “well known that only a small fraction of the population actually reads books at all” statement.

And the average number of books people read over the past year is 5. I do believe an average is larger than 8%, no?

3. The larger problem isn’t lending books though – you actually want to get RID of local libraries altogether. You say this – “Let’s just close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription.”

That argument, for starters, could also be said this way: let’s buy everyone garden hoses. Then we could get rid of the local fire department! Brilliant, right? Wrong. Because the local fire department also has quite a lot of knowledge about what they do – they are professionals.

The same goes for your local library. Yes, they still lend books – both print AND ebooks. They also work really hard to buy the BEST books for your community (having access to 600,000 ebooks from Amazon doesn’t mean they’re all readable books).

And the library does a lot more than that.

So – you mentioned that you have a local library. Instead of someone providing a plane ticket for you [he suggested in the comments that someone buy him a plane ticket so he could visit their library], why don’t you simply get in your car and visit your own local library for starters, and see what they do?

At least when you write your next opinion article, you’d actually know something about libraries :-)

A couple of other things to point out from this very obviously uninformed article:

Tim says this – “The first being that paid subscriptions is exactly how lending libraries started out.” He mentions WH Smith as an example of a fee-based lending library.

WH Smith is a UK bookseller. They operated a circulating library service from 1860 to 1961, and even created ISBN numbers (who knew?) – got this from Wikipedia.

But Tim is missing a HUGE fact – libraries have been around for centuries, and … I know it’s hard to believe – weren’t actually created by good ole WH Smith. Again from Wikipedia – “The earliest reference to or use of the term “lending library” yet located in English correspondence dates from ca. 1586…” Most of those have NOT been subscription-based libraries.

Tim also says this: “ the stock of books available [from the Amazon Kindle thingie] is far larger than any physical library (other than copyright depositaries like the British Museum) has available to readers. 600,000 titles is, at a guess, some 550,000 greater than the library system of my native Bath and North East Somerset purchases with its share of my council tax (that is a guess by the way).”

Again, quite wrong. First of all, my library has 450,000 titles – already coming close to that number that Tim thinks is unreachable by all but the British Museum (I think he really meant the British Library).

The larger issue with the Kindle service is this – just because Amazon’s Kindle service is offering 600,000 ebooks doesn’t mean they’re all actually GOOD books.

Amazon’s service focuses heavily on classics, some popular series, and their self-published ebooks. Read more about it at the Washington Post.

Most libraries are much more choosy than that, and work really hard to buy the best books, and the books our customers actually want to read. Unlike Amazon.

So there you have it! Go read the article and see what you think!

 

Libraries and Tumblr – last one from #BEA2013

I attended a session on Tumblr and libraries, mainly because I have to admit – I don’t get Tumblr. I use it personally as a blog, but it is HUGE as more of a discovery tool for content, especially visual content. And a bunch of librarians also use it as a discussion/sharing tool (check out http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/tumblarian).

Looks like some libraries are using Tumblr very successfully!

The panel included:

  • Molly McArdle, library journal (moderator)
  • Rachel Fershleiser, Tumblr
  • Angela Montefinise, NYPL
  • Erin Shea, Darien Library
  • Kate Tkacik, Bank of Montreal Library

Some library-related Tumblr sites:

Random things I heard during the presentation:

  • NYPL has over 100,000 followers on their tumblr account
  • NYPL posts light and fun stuff – they are trying to humanize the organization via Tumblr
  • They also use Tumblr posts as press releases, sending out the link instead of a traditional press release. Cool.
  • Easy to share stuff with followers via the reblog button
  • 108 million blogs on tumblr
  • Use hashtags – you can follow those – i.e., #tumblarian – librarian tag on tumblr
  • Tumblr skews very young. 20% teens
  • Gifs – show your emotion about how you feel about something
  • ROI – tumblr numbers don’t count non-tumblr users that look at a page. Only tumblr users views count…

Image by AJ Cann

Reinventing Spaces & Places – Internet Librarian 2012

This was the closing keynote, and had some really cool ideas on reinventing libraries.

Speakers – Erik Boekesteijn, Jaap Van De Geer, Paul Pival, and Jeff Wisniewski

Grand pronouncement: We cannot save libraries by doing more of what we have done before, because the outcome will be the same.

Simple observation – media consumption is very obviously shifting. So we need to shift, too.

Opening random thoughts (random because of me, the notetaker, anyway):

  • Jaap and Erik wanted to have the best library in the world. So they toured the US and collected best practices in libraries.
  • Libraries need a new business model. Don’t focus on books – focus on stories.
  • Showing pictures of a beautiful library … With no people in it. Versus a new Apple Store that is full of people.

Where to start?

Viewsy – tracks people’s cell phones to measure foot traffic in a building. More info from their website:

“We provide a way to digitise an analogue world, turning visitor foot traffic into measurable insights that can be analysed and acted upon. We do this by measuring anonymous phone data from each customer walking past and through your store, data which is then analysed and presented for you on an easy to use online dashboard.”

What are successful spaces doing?

  • Library of 100 Talents – the teens designed their own youth department. Looks like a really fun place
  • Creation spaces –  TFDL digital media commons as example
    • 12 Mac pros with full a/v editing suites
    • 4 soundproof editing suites
    • DJ mixing board
    • Etc.
  • Fountaindale Public Library – 7000 square foot of digital media creation studio
  • Westport CT Public Library’s maker space – Placed in the middle of the library, in the stacks

Learning outside the classroom

  • Providing spaces where students an share ideas in public locations – promotes peer learning
  • Can also serve as formal learning spaces
  • Collaborative spaces can be in wide open areas and should have multiple uses

Renting out spaces

  • Assen public library in the Netherlands
  • They have a television studio
  • They make their own programs, but also rent out the space to professionals to use

Keys to success:

  • Involve the community
  • DOK library as an example
  • UrbanMedia Space Arhus Denmark – another example

What do the users say?

Paul played a video of students talking about the library. They want to collaborate, and want to have quiet study spaces. Go figure.

But the point here? Actually go ask your patrons what they want the library to be, then try to build that.

We don’t know what the future holds….

So create/design with flexibility in mind.

  • Flexible libraries/spaces
  • Flexible teams
  • Flexible furniture
  • Flexible infrastructure (add more wifi than you possibly imagine you’d need)
  • Raised floors – so you can put data and networking in the floor.
    • Me – that’s huge, considering in some parts of my library we have to drill to install more wiring. And that’s pricey.
  • Agile walls (you can move them easily)
  • Flexible technology – iPads replace desktop computers at north shore public library
    • No mediation required – there are check out stations / kiosk that will dispense iPads…
  • Interactive walls and flexible content
  • Marketing your space

What if you don’t have any space?

  • Reclaim that space – kill the large reference desk
  • Get rid of things that aren’t used (ie., 75% of your collection, perhaps)
  • Share space (airport library in Amsterdam)
  • Crossover with museum

Bucharest Metro Digital Library – poster walls of books with QR Codes. Scan and immediately download the book. Nice.

Bring Back the Funny – Internet Librarian 2012

Speaker – Jennifer Koerber, Boston Public Library

Bringing humor back to your job can relieve tension, make work fun, etc.

Mostly work is serious …. but let’s not take ourselves too seriously!

Hillsdale Public Library – being goofy with some signs, pushing limits a bit with them. For example, they put a sign reading “dive into a good book! Sign up for summer reading” by their flooded parking lot.

Craigshead County Jonesboro Public Library – their funny billboards

The idea – take them a bit farther, push the limits

Smartphones – best tool ever for bringing funny into the library. Take photos of funny stuff, use them for inspiration, etc

Don’t just share what’s not allowed in the library. Share what IS allowed, too, in a fun way.

Get a pulse of what will work in your community. Don’t scare people off while pushing the limits. So use humor that works in your local community – not necessarily the humor you would personally use.

That was physical world stuff. What can you do digitally?

April Fools Day jokes on websites as example. Whole Foods did a fun one.

Recycle your ebooks here! Funny one… at free-ebooks.net

Me – Hmm… This could be fun. Thinking…

Kodak – new service – print your own kittens!

Elsewhere on your website:
– Avatars for library staff can be fun
– Fun with titles, 404 pages, etc

Lawrence University changes text on the website to pirate on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Those moving pictures! Videos…

Craighead’s comedy video series – on YouTube
– Other fun videos mentioned

Laugh at yourself, too!

Be a children’s librarian for one day – you will develop a sense of humor and get used to being the center of attention.

Enter the Library Market & Drive Sales with Lessons from Patron Profiles #BEA

BEAThis is a presentation all about book research and the library market… could be interesting…

Rebecca Miller, Editor in Chief, School Library Journal

giving an overview/breakdown of public library book budgets

2011 – public libraries carried an average of 4000 ebooks.

ebook budgets spiked in 2011 over 101%

Kelly Gallagher at Bowker Market Research

talking about their Patron Profiles study…

9046 US public library ssytems

16,698 public library buildings

169 million public library users …

Meet the power patron – customers who visit the library at least weekly (physical visits):

  • 61% female, average age – 48
  • average income – $61,000
  • 62% with a college degree or higher
  • 39% with kids under age 18
  • what do they do at the library? 65% borrow books and media. 59% browse shelves. 40% search the catalog. 43% place holds on stuff.
  • clear link between borrowing and buying: 61% – purchased books by an author whose works were previously borrowed from the library. 37% – purchased book previously borrowed fromt he library. 35% – used the library to discover new authors or genres
  • library patrons are also buyers

Ebook users read more.

Ebook users – 67% purchased books by an author whose works were previously borrowed from the library. Wow.

Takeaways – libraries are a win-win system for marketing, sales, and discovery for books and publishers.

Skip Dye (Random House)

wants to encourage discoverability – this research helped them

wants to be format-agnostic

Said it’s up to the consumer how they want to read/listen. However they want to do that, that’s what is important.

future of print – Skip is old-fashioned. Thinks the format will survive, but change.

George something from Baker and Taylor

talking about exploding digital content in libraries

He also said they should be device agnostic

66% of public libraries experienced a “dramatic” increase in ebook requests

average holdes-to-copy ratio target is 6:1, but actual is closer tro 12:1

Hmm – claimed their Access 360 desktop reader is format agnostic. To that I’d say no it’s not. Can you open up a book from Overdrive through it? I’m guessing not.

showed Orange County Library’s Axis 360 ebookstore – an example of buying the book through a library