Friday, December 30, 2011

What Does The Future Hold For Local Booksellers?

The new year is nearly upon us and now is the season for prognostication. Many of us are looking to our personal futures and making our resolutions. So in this coming year are local booksellers going to survive economically? In this past year the e-book which has been floating around out there for the past several years really hit its stride. In addition, internet bookselling has continued to grow strong. Can your local bookstore find its niche in this climate of increasing competition? What strategies are they using to survive? Just recently, Borders Books folded. If the economics of scale is no defense what are they going to do?

Old Scrolls Book Shop (link below)
Many who have survived have moved beyond simply just selling books. There has always been a 'bookstore community' of regular visitors, but many retailers have pushed that social atmosphere to a new level. The one advantage that bookstores will always have over the internet / e-books is that they are a social setting. You can meet authors for signings. You can meet friends for coffee. Get together with a book club> There are advantages in that brick and mortar which can be exploited.

The bar scene model is the perfect example. (I heard an interview on NPR, I believe, explaining this fact. I wish I had a link to the interview. The owner went onto to explain how they are emulating the bar model.) Very few people actually go to a bar just to drink. It is the social experience which they are seeking. Bookstores have been pushing that social setting as a counterweight to the people who want the convenience of just ordering or downloading a book. Granted alcohol may have more of a draw, but it is a strategy which is helping. A bookstore has always been a great place to meet people. Now that side-benefit may be its saving factor. Barnes & Noble is a perfect example of this with their coffee shop right in the store.

Here is a great article on the subject.

Personally, I love this trend. I would not be surprised to see more of a fusing of bookstores with local coffee shops / eateries in the future. They don't have to be owned by the same person, but both seek to draw people in through their doors. It is a comfortable setting that are made for each other. It is working for Barnes & Noble why not the smaller retailers?

I feel that the shops that sell the older collectible books and out of print stuff will do fine. They can always augment their local sales with internet selling. This is an advantage over sellers of the new to market books who run straight into competition from B&N and Amazon. They should be fine.

On a side note: Have a Happy New Year everyone! I am thankful for those readers who regularly tune into my blog. I appreciate your time. I will continue with my mission statement here. Yes, this past year I didn't get too much of an opportunity to get out, but it is still something that I intend to do.

2012 is right around the corner. I wish the best to all in this coming year.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

South Hadley Approves Borrowing Measure For New Library

This is great news! I hope that the process goes through completely. There is so much wasteful spending in government. It is nice when people get it right for a change.

Link to the article

Take Advantage of History in the Present.

Many people live with the fallacy that everything which is here now will always be here. Students of history know that is the farthest thing from the truth. The world is a changing place. The weather changes. Landmarks which seem permanent can be wiped out at the whim of nature. Entropy lays it decaying hands on the world around us.

Depressing, sure as heck it is, but it is just the natural cycle of the world. We see it every year in the trees around us. Now, some things are relatively constant like trees, but some things are not. Natural landmarks or man-made creations such as local monuments. They may seem to be holding time at bay, but truly they are not. These things should be enjoyed in the present.

I just read an article which displays this point perfectly. Ancient Roman pillar collapses at Pompeii villa. Now on the onset you may say, 'Yeah, that is a shame'. Think about it though. There aren't any people who can call themselves citizens of the Roman Empire alive today. Therefore, there aren't going to be any more villas constructed dating to that period. All we can do is try to preserve the ones we have left.

I understand that jaunting over to Italy is not going to be high on everyone's 'to do' list. For many a trip to Egypt, Greece or anywhere in the classical world is probably going to be a once in a lifetime experience. That doesn't let you off the hook though. There are places right in your own backyard that you can take the advantage and visit. You might not think that they are as awesome as Chichen Itza or Hadrian's Wall, but it is your local history. I see that personal ownership as actually making it more important. This is what you have to show the world. Be proud of it! It is only relative opinion which says one landmark is more important than another.

This past year has been very chaotic weather-wise in my neck of the woods. I have had tornadoes, a hurricane and a blizzard roll through. We were lucky that the damage to local history was minimal, but it could have been far worse. Don't assume that these places are always going to be there. Between nature and man the world is chaos when it comes right down to it. If you appreciate history then take advantage of it in the here and now before all you have is memories and photographs.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Buried Treasure Found in the Passau State Library in Germany

Tanja Höls

Read this great article on the discovery.

Here is another with some additional information.

I love reading articles like this because it touches on a situation that I love - exploring in an old storage room. The items in such rooms are often forgotten. Yes, you often have to deal with dust and the items are all crammed together. You will have to feel the anger and pain of why such items are treated that way. And you will rant silently at whoever did this. Yet, without their maladjusted priorities you would never have been granted this opportunity so you just bite your lip and press on.

It wasn't quite so bad in the article. I'm sure that it was nicely organized and cleaned - smelling like old wood and books. I was just left drooling wishing that I could be crawling through an old European library. I'll even dress up as a maid. I don't care - cheap labor here!

Now there is also the numismatist in me which enjoyed this article. I would love to see those old coins when they are finally all displayed. I believe that they will be available on the library website when they are finally all cleaned up.

Now this is an extreme case, but buried treasure exists in every library out there. You just need to go out and find it yourself.

City of Passau

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holyoke Public Library Renovation Underway!

I am kicking myself for not having my eye on the ball on this one. Just a few days ago (November 17) there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the announced re-construction of the Holyoke Public Library! The building is going to be refurbished on the current site and plans to be re-opened in 2013.

Earlier this year I posted the list of construction grants offered to Mass libraries. Holyoke was not on this list (I re-checked). That is probably why I missed this announcement. There was a small grant awarded back in 2001 for planning. I am going to venture a guess that was related this construction. They were, however, awarded a grant (which did not come up in the MLBC grant records search - so much for technology! LOL.)

Per their announcement:

The $14.5 million project is being funded by a $4.3 million grant from the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program administered by the MA Board of Library Commissioners, a $5.5 million City Bond; and $4.6 million from a combination of Library endowment, separate Capital Campaign and other grants & donations.

The beautiful thing about this story is that some of the funds were publicly solicited in a charity drive. Well, Holyoke was able to get those funds and that beautiful building is going to get some loving. I love that they are remaining in the same spot. The property is scenic. I would hate to see the library lose that prime location. Well done!

Now temporarily the Holyoke Public Library has been re-located to the Holyoke City Hall Auditorium. Obviously all services won't be available, but it is good that they are not totally shutting down for the year.

I am really curious what the new library will look like. I will be present for the re-opening. As you know I have some very fond memories connected with that library. I was in there so much that I can remember vivid details from my childhood memories. This announcement was very well-received by me.

Holyoke Public Library Homepage

"A Library In A Park" ??? Did I miss that last time I visited their page. Sounds like a Mark Twain put down, but whatever. It does not do the building justice. I would say, "The Library In The Park" that is far more authoritative.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Holyoke City Hall Stained Glass Windows In Danger

I know that new arrivals who drive into downtown Holyoke are not seeing the city at its best. Holyoke like many cities who have seen their economies destroyed over the past few decades is battling urban decay. It is a sad but highly evident fact. That does not mean however that Holyoke is bereft of treasures. As I have written in the past Holyoke was once a marquee city. The investments of past city elders can be seen if you choose to look. One of those locations is the Holyoke City Hall.

The building itself looks displaced in modern Holyoke. It is akin to a building that you would find in an old European town. It is a large Gothic structure set aside brownstone flats of varied conditions. And yes, I am intimately familiar with this building having spent a good many days after school waiting for the bus there.

Adorning the building is a wonderful set of stained glass windows. Each pane depicting a stage of Holyoke's history. I've seen these windows in the Sun and they are quite remarkable. Unfortunately, like many things they require upkeep and as Holyoke's fortune's dwindled funds to support the windows dwindled. Past repair attempts were lackluster and no they are in danger of falling apart. The very lead frame is deteriorating. I am very much a devotee of stained glass art and I would hate to see these windows lost.

Honestly, I can't see the funds not being appropriated to fix the windows. It is a local landmark and was added to the National Historic Register in 1975. I'm sure that there are funds somewhere. That is money that I could support spending as a tax-payer.

Here is a link to the Masslive article on this item Fragile Future

Friday, September 23, 2011

Banned Books Week

It is the last week of September. Since 1982 this has been the appointed time for the beginning of Banned Books Week. This week is the result of the efforts of anti-censorship activist Judith Krug. Notice of this week fluctuates in the media from time to time so some of you may know of it and some may not. It is not really the hotbed First Amendment issue that many would like it to be.

The obvious point of this week (moreso back in the 80's than now) is to highlight what is available for public consumption in libraries or what could be imported from abroad through customs. The idea that books such as Huckleberry Finn or The Catcher in the Rye would be banned today is laughable. The spectrum of what is acceptable has widened considerably. In modern times with the Internet the battles over censorship has taken a more technological bent. With the availability of controversial materials on the Internet the public library is no longer the sole battleground so that battle is not really worth the effort. Without the safety valve of the Internet, then yes, censorship in the library would certainly be back in the forefront.

Now there certainly are issues about which books should be used in schools and available in school libraries. Social tolerances do change over the years and the local debates about what should and should not be available is a healthy debate. So while I am a defender of the First Amendment in regards to what I choose to read or see I fully support a parents right to have a say what is used in school.

Still though even with the muted nature of this week there is still a conflict which does occasionally spill over into the public library over what is available primarily in regards to children. While few books are actually banned, many are challenged on various grounds. This is the debate in the public square which as I said earlier is healthy in a functioning democracy.

When it comes down to brass tax the ultimate use nowadays for this week is more publicity for libraries than anything else. The whole specter of the banned and taboo does put bodies in the seats. So while you will read a story or two about some book 'banned' for a century finally being put back on a shelf in some backwater village this week while cool is much ado about nothing.

For more info of the week.

Article - Banned Books Week is just hype.

50 Banned Books That Everyone Should Read

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A.D. vs. C.E.

What 'era' are we in? Are we in Anno Domini which means "In the Year of our Lord" or are we in the 'Common Era'? You may or may not have noticed this shift. The term A.D. used to be ubiquitous in its use. Now it is slowly being revised away. This secular change has not been dramatic. It has been incremental, as they usually are. It is the usual creeping doom eroding the vibrant culture of this country. I don't remember seeing too widespread when I was in college - not too long ago I might add. I think that only one of my professors used C.E. / B.C.E. I truly started seeing the edits on Wikipedia and other places just a few years ago, so it is just starting to make itself public.

I am Catholic. I am conservative. However, I would not call myself a religious conservative. I am not a born again Evangelical. So the take that I have on this change is not one of 'right wing' religious conviction. (I do have my right wing rants). It is more annoyance at yet another baseless charge from the Ivory-tower elites in the 'Left'.

I am tremendously annoyed at this as a historian. By making the statement, 'I live in the year A.D. 2011' one is not espousing their Christian faith or any allegiance to the Church. I don't see a Jew or Muslim who says this statement casting away their faith. They are simply stating the year in which they live reckoned after the birth of a civilization changing individual. Nobody is saying that you must use this calendar. However, those people who have nothing better to do than nitpick at every reference to God in Western culture feel that the use of A.D. is beyond the pale and offensive. However, I would like to point out that the Julian / Gregorian calendar was adopted, not forced upon the world. Don't give me any nonsense about colonialism or the expansion of empire. The empires of old are gone. Nobody is preventing you from using your own calendar today.

Yes, the dating system was based in religion and more precisely the religious issues of the Roman Empire. Nobody is arguing that point. However, for most people it is just how the year is reckoned. Nobody truly cares! The reckoning point itself is flawed. Jesus himself was born anywhere from either 4 B.C. to 6 A.D.

So Why am I annoyed? Well, several reasons. As an American I am tired of seeing the hand-wringing of liberals at every public display of some American tradition based in religion, usually Christian. They assume that everybody is offended. We live in a society of free-religion, not freedom from religion. We do not live in a secular state. Religion is free and public.

Secondly, just what in the heck is the bloody 'Common Era'. That is the purely, most idiotic, point in this whole debate. What is the event which precipitates the 'Common Era'. Oh gee, what happened roughly 2011 years ago... Please, if you are going to invent a new calendar then you need to reckon that calendar from a new point. Don't sully my calendar - go use your own! You could use the birth of Lenin, the first Mayday celebration, Che Guevara's birthday, etc. You need a new reckoning point which suits your ideological bent.

Finally, why is there no outcry against the names of the months or days? It is perfectly fine to revere Roman Emperors and Norse Gods, but not O.K. to use Jesus Christ's birthday. It is purely hypocritical.

So I will use A.D. and B.C. exclusively on this blog because I am not ashamed of my culture and history.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life Discovered on the Moon!!

Read all about this amazing discovery on this date back in 1835!!

Amazing lithograph of life on the Moon!

Read all about it here!

The Great Moon Hoax

Life in the world of today offers unique advantages over living in previous areas like not dying of dysentery...

However, what today can never offer is the open frontier of what knowledge used to be. The world must have seemed more mysterious back then. Yes, I am sure that much was taken for granted, but not because everyone had Google at their fingertips. Books were real books! Some were hand written.

I would have been so fascinated if I had read those articles in the paper. If I am the same person I am today, just moved back a century I most certainly would have bought right into it. I probably would have found it quite humorous when I learned the truth. I still would have been fascinated by the wondrous night sky even more brilliant without the light pollution.

I just hope that the next discovery of life in space is the real one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Who lives in that castle over there?

Check this page out... don't get too lost in time.

Castles in Europe and Beyond

Log cabin... castle... must I choose!!

Library Construction Still Being Funded in Mass.

Dateline, July 14,2011. This news is a little late in coming but I thought that it would be a nice bit of news to relay to you especially in light of these harsh economic times.

Construction Grants Awarded to Eight Public Libraries

What I find particularly interesting is that 4 municipalities on this list are from Western Mass: Granby, Shutesbury, South Hadley and West Springfield. I will keep an eye on those projects as I learn more about them.

This current grant was authorized by bond in 1987. To date it has funded 204 construction grants totaling $320.3 million. This money is administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and they have been in existence since 1890. Its members are appointed by the governor. From 1890 to 1910 the board worked diligently to establish free libraries in towns which had none. During those 20 years 104 cities and towns (of a target of 105) had at least one free public library. Today that board is still working to insure modern and well-situated libraries to serve their communities.

Here is little more info from the Wikipedia on the MBLC:

MBLC wiki

It is nice to know that some of that money fed into that gaping maw known as Boston isn't wasted frivolously.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wheel of Time: Towers of Midnight

This is not exactly a book review. I may do some actual ones in the future. I just wanted to take time to note that I just finished this book and I enjoyed thoroughly. I've been reading the Wheel of Time series for a very long time now and like anything else enjoyed for two decades the series has its place in my life. It is something valued and important to me. Yes, I have read other series and they've been very enjoyable, but this one is first among equals in my eyes.

This book is the 13th in the series. The final book is slated for release next year. I am truly looking forward to reading it. It will be a sad day when I finally complete it because quite literally a chapter of my life will be closed. This will be an honest feeling as well. I know that people were crying in the streets after the end of the Harry Potter series, but that just smacked of something artificial. No, disrespect to the story, it is enjoyable. The ending of The Wheel of Time will be more honest. I feel the people will honestly be saddened when it is finally complete. It will be akin to the final episode of M.A.S.H. There will be no more story forthcoming. The end.

I'm not going to synopsize the whole story for you. It would take far too long and a paragraph won't do it justice. It is a well-crafted and deep story. There are many character storylines with some very honest perspectives. It is often compared to the Lord of The Rings and to share that company is saying something.

The original author Robert Jordan, unfortunately died before completing the story. However, it was taken up by Brandon Sanderson. I really want to say to those who may have read some of the story and may not want to trust Sanderson with the ending - it is good, read it! Mr. Jordan left extensive notes and Jordan had many conversations with Sanderson when he knew that he would not finish it. I am very pleased with Sanderson's stewardship.

[I don't know if this was intended by Jordan or changed by Sanderson, but Perrin is worth reading in the final books. I hated Perrin, but his story really got good.]

Note: the movie rights were optioned by Universal. With the success of Game of Thrones on HBO I truly hope that some production in in the future. I've heard the arguments against it. They don't hold any water. Just do it!

And, I'm late in returning this book to the library... I'm bad I know.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hypothetical Situation

Let's do a little role-playing here. Imagine that you are the new director of your favorite local library. One day you are walking through the stacks and you start to see that you really have quite a few dusty old books on the shelves. You are positive that a hand-written copy of the Declaration of Independence certainly could be sewn into the dust jacket of one in there. So what do you do? It would be nice to have all that shelf space for shiny new books. New books that have cutting edge discussions of new thought and technology.

You walk right over to the first offending piece of literature you see - the most certainly dated Windows 3.1 Manual. Who the heck uses this anymore? In an executive decision, you decide to practice your jump shot. You lob that ancient grimoire into the recycling bin - right where it belongs! Nothing but net!

So in a sweeping act of tremendous personal hubris you have declared all discussion of Windows 3.1 over!? Hmmm... Actually, the library is exactly where that book should be. Operating systems have moved on and most everyone has thrown away all their old manuals. So what happens if a question arises concerning Windows 3.1? It is not outside the realm of possibility. What if some guy has a grandmother who has files stored on an old computer, but there is problem with said computer running Windows 3.1. Its been so long that this guy has forgotten the more arcane details of 3.1. What does he do? Call Microsoft? Berate Granny for not upgrading to Linux? Take it to a shop? Hope the manual is for sale on Amazon? No, the first place he should think to look should be the local library. It is the perfect place for an occasionally needed piece of literature. So, yes those old manuals do have a purpose in the library.

Yes, some of those books may be old, but they do have their place. Now yes, I am sure that the case can be made on some that they are simply not needed, but like in the American justice system you are innocent until being proven obsolete.

Just a little food for thought.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

Here is a podcast from Mur Lafferty, an old mailing list associate of mine (back in the day when the Web was new and listservs were the forums of old). She has gone on to move forth some very successful personal projects. She talks at length and brings up some very cogent points on the subjects in this debate.

The whole podcast is awesome so enjoy listening to it. It also brings up the Kindle vs. Book debate. Tracy Hickman brings up some great points on the subject.

The Murverse ISBW #214 – Self Pub vs Trad Pub war / Tracy Hickman Interview

Personally my view on this debate is that both avenues to get books to the public will continue to exist. As much as the camps are becoming as divided as the right and the left in politics this energy is needed. There is a new dynamic to the world of writing and publishing. I think it is healthy. It brings writers who may never have known success to the attention of readers. Yes, the traditional circles hate the upstarts much like the nouveau riche were hated during the industrial revolution. Honestly they need to get over themselves. Publishers will always have the professional veneer and economics of scale to make them successful. They will always have that advantage. Most writers, no matter how personally successful, will still want the shiny badge that comes with being published.

Now how is this debate going to affect libraries I wonder. Do / Will self-published books end up in libraries? I need to look into this angle. I'm sure some must, but what is the scale? Can libraries afford to spend precious resources on self-published works? Hmmm...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Who is Mr. Hubbard?

My latest library excursion brought me to the Hubbard Memorial Library in Ludlow. Please note that this library is not just The Ludlow Public Library. This library was named after someone. It is easy to see the building as just a library and not even think of its actual name. I believe that it would be safe to say that if I were to ask the average resident of Ludlow who this Mr. Hubbard was I would not get much of a response. Perhaps someone would say, as a mild aside 'some rich white guy'.

I'm not going to rail against the lack of knowledge of local civic history. It is simply a sad fact of life. Many people who sought to foster the community and contribute to the community (and were successful) are oftentimes forgotten by those they serve. It is an irony that their push to move the community forward left them in a dusty anonymity. I'm not saying that that it is intentional, but it is rather a symptom of a changing society. The world is getting smaller and people are looking outward at the world. In the past communities were more tightly knit because getting the news and communicating was not easy. Then in relatively rapid succession came the radio, television and internet. At one time the local community was all there was to see, now instant information is available on local events across the globe in the remotest areas.

In all this poor Mr. Hubbard gets lost in the wash of information. Who was Mr. Hubbard, you ask? Why, he was a rich, white guy. He also cared very much for the progress of the Town of Ludlow. As founder of the Ludlow Manufacturing Company, Charles Townsend Hubbard was in the position to not only employ a great many people, but also set up a reading room for their use. After his death in 1887 his family donated a building owned by the company to the town for the establishment of a permanent library. The original reading room was located in the "Old Tavern House" (That just has such a wonderfully colonial ring to it!) not too far from the donated building.

For more information on Ludlow history you can read (thanks to your friends at Google) The History of Ludlow.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hubbard Memorial Library Photos

Last week I had a chance to visit the Hubbard Memorial Library and take a few photos. It really was a beautiful day for some photography. Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my digital camera for the trip and was forced to use my phone's camera. I must I am not terribly happy with it. Still though I was able to take a few photos of the building.

Nice little reading area outside when it is not camped by pre-teen girls.

I really love this building. A wonderfully designed brick structure. I particularly like how they incorporate the rotunda.

Ye olde sign!

Here is the front entrance. The only drawback to this library is the parking situation. The street here is a small annoying one-way. Cars exiting the parking lot seem to forget or not know this. So you have the inevitable one car entering (correctly) and one car leaving (incorrectly).

Beautiful Celtic weave on the facade of the windows.
I really have enjoyed my trips here thusfar. It is a good library to be a short drive away from.

Monson Library Up and Running Again!

As many of you tuned into Western Mass already know we were hit with a tornado on June 1st of this year. Springfield being the Acropolis of the West received most of the news attention. However, many other towns across the state were hit pretty hard. The town of Monson was one of the worst hit. Due to the damage the Monson Free Library was forced to close their doors.

Well I am happy to report that in recent days with their needed repairs completed they were given permission to re-open their doors.

In the coming weeks I shall have to take a spin up there to take a look.

Poor clock tower... I have a rather fond affinity for them.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is College Necessary For All?

A short time ago I came upon somebody asking the question of whether or not he should go to college. He was a senior in high school and was looking at options for his future. He generally hated school and had a generally bad high school experience. He was asking his forum colleagues should he spend the time and money needed to pursue higher education or invest the time learning some trade or just get a job and work experience.

This question is not as simple as it seems. The answer which society tries to ram down our throats is that you must go to college. We've all seen the commercials. If you don't go to college you are going to be some loser stuck in the rails of a dead end job. You are going to be some ignoramus, to always be looked down upon. And yes, this is true in some sectors of society where status is more important that actual merit.

I truly hate seeing those commercials on TV because they are so disingenuous in what they promise. Why if you go to college your life automatically becomes better and you are guaranteed your dream job. Yes and no, you will have an advantage. An education is an asset. However, like any asset you need to know how to use it. In addition, quite honestly, you need a little luck if you don't have the proper connections.

So here we are back at the question. Is college necessary for everyone? The plain and brutal answer to that question in my opinion is no. Now I am not of the opinion that (as Judge Smails in Caddyshack said so eloquently) "the world needs ditch diggers, too". I don't want to feel that way because when it comes to education I do want everyone to have free and open access to it.

In an ideal society everybody should be educated as far as they choose to pursue with a some minimum requirements. Unfortunately, there is the factor of the economy. How many jobs are there to support this promise that a college degree will give you all your hopes and dreams? Right now is not the case and may not be for a very long time. It is quite possible that the halcyon days of America's economic superpower days are over unless some people are elected with some smattering of economic intelligence. (Our own President saying that we need to get ourselves into more debt to pay off our bills, Lord help this country.)

A B.A. today is what a high school diploma used to be. Some would say that is great. That America has a level of education which is a tremendous success. No, that dream is now a nightmare of debt for all those promised this great dream. With no actual income to repay the loans which were blindly handed out those kids are now crippled economically. Jobs and education need to go hand in hand. Plus, an educated society is by no means guaranteed to be economically powerful.

So what to do? Well, I don't have all the answers and if I did nobody would listen to me anyway. However, one thing that I would start changing would be to stop requiring Master's Degrees for entry level positions. This will not happen, of course, but it is something that I would suggest. Perhaps a simple changing in the wording to 'must be willing to pursue' some level of degree. That would A) give the person who is interested in the field a job and B) bring the person who showed enough initiative to get the job up to the level of education that the employer wants to see. Employers need to be willing to look to other avenues of experience. Perhaps even bring back the taboo 'on the job training'.

I am curious to hear your opinions on this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I hope to get out to the Hubbard Library soon to get some photos of the outside. The weather these past few days has been rather wet. I enjoy it, but it is not good for photography. I am going to do my write up then. I should be done with book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by then. I can drop off the book and take the photos at the same time.

Electronic Books

When I was at the Hubbard Library last week I saw an interesting poster on the wall which grabbed my attention. It was concerning the fact that the library offered downloadable books for your I-Phone and other such devices. I didn't ask about it, but I am assuming that the rentals are available through the library like any other book. You would download them through the library and they would expire when the books would normally come due.

Unfortunately, it won't take long before there is some crack for this which will allow people to keep their books from auto-deleting, if there isn't one out there already. I have no tears to shed over what has happened to the music industry concerning the digital revolution. They needed to be taken down a few pegs. However, there is a lot of experienced hackers out there who are veterans who would think nothing of providing hacks for this.

I really don't like this. I hate this whole trend and it is only going to get worse. I understand that libraries need to do something to stay ahead of the curve on this. However and quite unfortunately, quite literally too, the writing is on the wall. When are books going to be obsolete? People say that it will never happen. Yet, look at all the Borders' that are closing. It is starting. Libraries are being forced to metamorphosize. You can get your movies there. You can use the computers. What happens when actual books are no longer produced?

Yes, you can download these electronic stories and read them, but they are not books. What is going to happen when the books that the libraries need to get their hands on simply aren't produced? Will libraries simply evolve into some kind of community center where you can do everything else and maybe borrow this obsolete thing called a book. Perhaps all the books will just be moved into the museums.

Don't get me wrong, I love technology, but I hate e-books. If society just sleepwalks into accepting these as the new thing then it is over. I have a prediction that schools and universities will make a jump to e-books within 5 years. They will cite economics and 'the environment' in their decision to do so. If I am wrong then I will be glad, but I don't think so. Once that happens then the dominoes will start to fall.

I was heartened though at one thing and that is all the debates I saw over this while browsing Youtube today. I am not the only one and while other's have sold out it is nice to know that the fight will go on.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Back At It!

Update, It has been a little while since I updated here. I apologize for the lack of activity. Yeah, I know, I say that. However, I should finally have the scheduling and time all figured out. Real life can be a pain at times. It is looking like I'll be doing one library visit per week (hopefully). I shall be blogging my usual non sequiturs as well.

I just had a chance to visit the Hubbard Memorial Library in Ludlow. It was a very nice experience. I don't have any photos because the lighting was really bad due to the fact that it was raining. I shall have more on that  in my next update.

Some of you may have heard there was a  very strong tornado which passed through Springfield very recently. It actually passed within a few miles of my house. As far as I am aware none of the library branches in Springfield were affected. If that is not true then I shall update you.

OK! Good to be back!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The U.S.S. Enterprise is coming to New York!

Well not quite, it was announced earlier this week that the OV-101 Enterprise is going to be landing at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. This is a fascinating story which signifies the end of the Space Shuttle era. This is a mix of both science and history which I love to see together. Plus, this is a story which began and ended for me to witness and experience in my lifetime and I find that it is a part my personal history in a way. I have always loved the shuttles and I am sorry to see them retired. The Enterprise was the prototype to the Space Shuttles which performed the very first atmospheric and landing tests of the design. It was never designed for actual space travel but paved the way for the Columbia and her sister space vessels.

All of the surviving decommissioned Space Shuttles were designated to their new post NASA homes. The Atlantis will remain in Florida. The Endeavor is going to California. The Discovery is going to the Smithsonian in Virginia and the Enterprise which was at the Smithsonian is going to New York. This disperses the shuttles across the country.

However, like all political decisions, NASA despite its scientific veneer is still a political entity, this decision does not come without controversy. The Space Center Houston adjacent to the omnipresent Mission Control in Houston feels left out of the mix. More on this story here.

I can't say for certain that the 2012 elections have anything to do with this. I don't think that anyone visiting the Smithsonian in Virginia is going to vote for Obama in the next election because the shuttle is there. However, a snub of Texas is not beyond them. So the usual Congressional investigation is promised as a result of this decision.

I personally think that this limited division of shuttles was not going to make everyone happy. There were 21 institutions in the mix wanting a shuttle. Personally, I think that the only fair way to do this is to make the shuttles traveling exhibits, but move them every five years or so to prevent too frequent a move. We wouldn't want to damage them in transit.

The good news in all this though is the fact that we have moved on. Yes, the shuttle age is over. I remember watching the very first shuttle launches on TV back in the late 70's and early 80's. I was transfixed by their sheer awesomeness. I was watching actual 'science fiction'. The Space Shuttle era is over now, but that is only to make way for the next generation of space flight technology. Despite our current economic troubles we will not be grounded forever. The Space Program has been one of the best government expenditures of money boosting both science and the human spirit. I look forward to watching what the next generation of space travel will bring us. 

The very first Space Shuttle launch. April 12, 1981.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Library Week

Hey! Guess What!

Its National Library Week! I'm sorry to say that I was reminded of this when I was watching Craig Ferguson last night. I knew it was coming up, but I forgot. However, the fact that the event has garnered some national attention is a good thing. The event started on Monday and will run through this week.

To get a little social networking buzz for the week the ALA is encouraging supporters to offer up twaikus based on your love of libraries to the plugged in masses. This is the first that I have heard of a twaiku. I must say that I approve of the twaiku. (A twaiku is simply a haiku submitted to Twitter.) They're offering prizes! Not bad for trying to come with something deep and philosophical and having come out like something babbled out while totally inebriated.

For more info...

ALA Homepage

And in Springfield...

Springfield Mason Square Library slated to reopen Wednesday with three-day celebration

Click here for the Masslive article on the opening.

I have one more branch to visit!

Citizens celebrate!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Joseph Allen Skinner

Late last month I had the opportunity to visit the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke to listen to a speaker. It had been awhile since I had the time to take in an event like that so I jumped at the chance. I was glad that I did. It is nice to do something educational while supporting the arts. The proceeds from the event went to support the museum so I was happy to pay the small fee that they were requesting.

The event was small, but the people that showed up to listen to the speaker were courteous and in good spirits. The location was the renovated Carriage House located on the Wistariahurst campus. The topic of discussion was the collection of Joseph Allen Skinner. The speaker was Cheryl Harden, Assistant Curator of the Skinner Museum located at Mount Holyoke College. For those of you unfamiliar with the Skinner family they were a turn of the century family who were very successful in the silk industry. They had many philanthropic endeavors and were successful industrialists of the day.

Joseph Skinner was the second son of the family. He was born to wealth and over his years amassed quite the collection. The topic of discussion was his diverse collection of everything. This is not just his 'stuff', but his self-described collection of items. Starting from a scientific curiosity of rocks and shells as a child. Then branching out into art and various properties. His many travels added cultural objects from around the world which was added to his amassed textile-era Americana.

The discussion delved into his history and how he became a 'collector'. This was a subject which I was able to relate to quite easily being a collector myself. It truly is a mindset that one has lurking in the psyche. There is a desire to preserve history through objects, particularly ones own history. A collection has just the same importance as a journal might have to another. It is an activity were one can look back feel a connection to the past.

The particular pivot point in history for Joseph Skinner which pushed him into that fold was destruction of his father's mill and property during a flood. It was at that point where the young Skinner, in Ms. Harden's theory, attempted to hold onto and reconstruct what was lost. That initial need to reconstruct which started with collecting little bits of what was lost in that flood and news about it snowballed over the years. It certainly is a plausible theory.

I would like to emphasize that the collection is quite diverse and is large enough to give birth to a museum.

If you would like to see a representation of his collection you can follow this link.

The Skinner Museum

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The First Museum established in the U.S. was ...

Well, when you run a blog about libraries and museums you kinda have ask yourself these questions. Then you get to find where the destination of answer leads. That is something that I have always loved about research be it online or the olde fashioned way. Half of my time spent is often reading everything save that for what I am actually looking. Then where and when of that answer is The Charleston Museum in South Carolina. It was established way back in 1773 while the state was still a British colony.

The museum was founded by the Charleston Library Society. The mission statement of the museum was and still is, "To document and explain the natural and cultural history of Charleston and the South Carolina coastal region through the maintenance, improvement and expansion of collections documenting the natural forms and material culture of this region." It was modeled after the British Museum which was created by an act of Parliament in 1753 (only 20 years earlier).

An interesting note while I was looking into the history of Charleston. The city for about 50 years had the only system of American aristocratic nobility base on plantation land acreages (A landgrave was the equivalent of a duke. A cacique was an earl. Barons made up the lower rung.) The things you learn here.

The museum itself has an eclectic base of exhibits and is fully modernized and functioning today. It has been running fairly consistently since its creation except for a few bumps in the road like the The Revolution and The Civil War. Like many other long lived organizations the original building was destroyed, but the efforts of those who wished to see the museum succeed preserved it and it is still around today. Those exhibits include archival materials, Charleston history, antique firearms, Egyptian artifacts, ornithology and "Lowcountry Textiles, including costumes, quilts, and needlework". It really has a wide range of appeal so it would make a nice family destination. The museum is beginning to digitize some of the archive material. It can be accessed at The Lowcountry Digital Library along with other Charleston places of interest such as The Citadel, The Gibbs Museum of Art and The Diocese of Charleston.

Here is the link the museum.

The Charleston Museum

Here is an awesome page on Charleston history.

Crazy Quilts!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Beauty of the Trinity College Library

If you have been following this blog then you understand that I have an affinity for libraries. It truly does not matter if the building is purely functional and has no aesthetic beauty. That does not mean, however, that I do not appreciate the classical appeal of a truly magnificent building. Beauty certainly does add to the spiritual aura of the experience. In a building where great care and thought have gone into the planning of the layout, the grain of the cut wood, the positioning of the lighting, etc,  one can be wholly be transformed.

That was how I felt when I just glimpsed at the images of the Trinity College Library of Dublin, Ireland. Being Irish myself I felt a little pride when I looked through the images. I wish that I could just teleport myself there and take in the feeling of just standing in that room. I can just imagine the smell of the old books, leather and carpentry. That is the quintessential library. The amazing part of a building like this is that it can quite literally transport you back in time. Sure it is functional library with all the modern accouterments, but still the soul is still there and that is the important thing.

In addition to the outstanding spirit of knowledge that the Long Room of the old library (depicted above) evokes other exhibits have graced the library. The library being situated in Dublin is at the heart of Irish culture. The most famous cultural icon of Ireland is The Book of Kells and it is housed in that very library. The Book of Kells has been on display in the Trinity Library since the early 1800's and has been in possession of the library since 1661 when the book was given to the library for safekeeping. The book itself is an vulgate edition of the gospels. The origin of the book is highly debated amongst scholars. One account has the book being written in part or full in a monastery founded by St. Columba on the Isle of Iona. Iona was an Irish settlement in Southern Scotland and a highly cultural Christian center. St. Columba was a driving force in the conversion of the Picts (His story a fascinating tale in itself.). At the time of the writing of the book Viking raiders were pillaging the rich monasteries which dotted along the coasts. As a result the treasures of the precariously positioned spiritual center of Celtic Christianity were removed and transferred to safer locations.

The Book of Kells was transported to the Abbey in Kells where it garnered its name. That Abbey was pillaged several times in the 10th Century by the Vikings who by then were penetrating further into Britannia. It is not known how it survived, but it did. Well, the book's luck did not last forever when it was stolen and its golden covering forcibly removed damaging the book and losing several of its folios in the process. However, it was found and returned to the Abbey were it remained until the English Civil War and the reign of Oliver Cromwell. It was during that period when  the quartering of a regiment of Cromwell's cavalry in the Abbey prompted the governor of the region of Kells to move the book.  The book was sent to Dublin for safekeeping.

How is that for a story? Medieval Monasteries and Saints to rampaging Vikings to Oliver Cromwell...

I just want to say that this library is added to the list!!

I just want to say that the external photos of the building are just as cool and I invite you to take a look.

Here is another rather cool link to check out detailing the establishment of Trinity College. Click Me!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Here Is A Sweet Little Morsel

Here are two concepts which I am sure many of you would not mind intersecting - libraries and chocolate... yes I said the "C" word. I give you The Chocolate Library. Now before you get your hopes up, no it is not an actual library with books made of chocolate like something out of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (of Willy Wonka fame). No its a store, a chocolate store in New York.

Now I was going to be satisfied with just showing the link to the store and moving on. However, the story doesn't end there. As I was poking around the website (which sadly is just a filler page, the regular site isn't ready yet) I found some links to some articles. At first I thought they were just announcements about the new store opening up. Well it is not quite that. The articles detail the travails of the man who wishes to incorporate the store under the name The Chocolate Library. Well, in New York you can't just go and do that. Why? It is because as stated in the New York Times article, "Since 2006, state Business Corporation Law, Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, Partnership Law and Limited Liability Company Law require the education commissioner’s consent for the words library, school, academy, institute and kindergarten, among others to be used in a certificate of incorporation or company name."

Yes, remember when I told you not to get your hopes up because, well, it isn't an actual library, well the State of New York apparently doesn't give you enough credit to make that distinction. And no, we can't claim this stupidity on some old Blue Law. This was written in 2006. Sometimes I honestly just want to cry at how stupid law has become in this country. Anyway, the store owner incorporated under the name Chocolate 101, but he gives his shoppers enough credit and has the sign up with The Chocolate Library name on it. Good for him (apparently that isn't illegal, but incorporating under the name The Chocolate Library is illegal without permission, *sigh*)

Well, if you are curious about The Chocolate Library here is the link. You can find the articles linked below. You can also like them on Facebook.

[The book depicted here is chocolate, but is sold by another store]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Top 25 Most Influential Librarians

I found something interesting that you might find interesting if you follow this blog. As the title says it is 25 of the most influential who have been a part of the profession. A few of the people who made the list may surprise you. I was.

Well anyway, enjoy this link for tonight.

Top 25 most famous librarians in history

Monday, February 14, 2011

Interesting Facts About The Library of Congress

Recently I happened upon the television show Who Do You Think You Are. It has been one of those shows which I have always meant to check out, but never actually got around to watching. Well a good friend of mine suggested that I turn it on because the subject of that day's episode, Tim McGraw was in the Library of Congress. Well, quite naturally I switched over. It is a fascinating show and I highly recommend it.

I hadn't caught the part of the show where they mentioned exactly why they went there specifically, however since the Library of Congress is essentially the largest functioning research library in the world it is a choice place to look up historical records. Being exactly what it is it is safe to say it has a nice historical write up. So here is the link to get the full story.

Here are a few quick fun facts on the library though. It was established in 1800 by an act of Congress to establish a library for the use of the Congress. There was no internet or nightly news. Newspapers and journalism in general was about all you had. So basically Congress needed this information nearby to be able make able decisions on the issues of the day (or so it is theorized, hah). Well anyway, The War of 1812 flares up. Washington is invaded in 1814 and the Brits burn Washington and pillage the library. Remember books were rather valuable at the time. They were not as widespread as they are now.

This looks like the end, right. Well no, they would have probably gone and built another library anyway for the same reasons that they built the first. However, the Library of Congress was Thomas Jefferson's baby. He was dismayed at the loss and offered up his own private collection to restart the new library. Former President Jefferson's library was the largest private library in the U.S. at the time. It had around 6000 books. Many of which were rare volumes. There was one hitch though and this really changed the original mission of the library. President Jefferson's library was more wide-ranging in its subject matter. The original library was purely reference. The Jefferson library contained books on religion, philosophy and art amongst others. Eventually the Congress accepted President Jefferson's offer on the basis that it wasn't really known what subjects would be called upon for research. Thus, the true Library of Congress was born.

Today the library has 883 miles in shelving. It has 144 million items in stock with 33 million books in 460 languages. All this started with an initial grant of $5000 in 1800.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It Has Been A Little While

As some of you may have noticed my blog has been on a little unintended hiatus. I've been settling into a new job and I recently moved, so I have been a little busy. Well, so long as life remains at bay for a while I should be able to get this project rolling again. I still intend to do what I set out to do when I started all this. Winter seems to have abated somewhat, so hopefully I should be able to get out and hit a few libraries. I'd like to hit one a week, we'll see on that. Once the local libraries are exhausted the further out ones will take a little planning. My GPS will certainly be working overtime.

Anyways, it is good to be back!