Sunday, September 30, 2007

Vancouver Libraries on Strike

We have been without a contract for 273 days
We have been on strike for 70 days

Please add your name to our online petition
encouraging the City of Vancouver
to engage meaningfully in negotiations

Direct public feedback
is the best motivator of civic politicians.

hy is the Vancouver Public Library closed?

Cupe Local 391, the local that represents library workers at VPL, has been trying to negotiate a fair collective agreement with our employer since December 18, 2006.

Unfortunately, we have been met with nothing but stonewalling and delay. Because we've seen no authentic negotiation on the part of our employer, library workers are left with no choice but to take job action.

hat are we bargaining for? We have four key issues:
  • Pay equity
  • Improvements for part-time and auxiliary workers
  • Improved language for job security
  • Improvements for health benefits
hy Pay Equity?

Being paid fairly is a human right. The library is a predominantly female workplace and, as a result, library workers have been underpaid for decades. It is only ethical to pay library workers fairly in a way that compensates them for the required education and skills necessary to do the complex job of facilitating library service.

hy improvements for part-time and auxiliary workers?

Almost half of CUPE 391 members are either part-time or auxiliary workers. Of these 380 workers, only 50 members receive any kind of pro-rated health and vacation benefits. The rest of these employees receive only a small percentage in lieu of benefits that comes nowhere near fair compensation.

hy do we need Job Security?

Contracting out is a big threat to our workforce and the public services we provide. Contracting out is a trend that offers no real savings while negatively affecting our ability to offer a quality service. We can not afford to lose talented people who care about the communities in which they work.

hy Improvements for Health benefits?

Changes in the delivery of health services necessitate updates to our health insurance plan. We have not proposed anything in our health benefits package that is not in-line with other public service employees.

hat can you do to get your Library services back?

Please write, e-mail and phone your concerns to:

VPL Board Chair Joan Andersen, City Librarian Paul Whitney
and the Vancouver Public Library Board
c/o Vancouver Public Library
350 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 6B1
Phone: 604-331-4003
Fax: 604-331-4080
Mayor Sam Sullivan and City Council
Third Floor, City Hall
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4
E-mail the Mayor and Council:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

CA State budget bad news for public libraries

The California 2007-08 state budget is bad news for public libraries. Two major library programs suffered significant cuts, apparently in an effort to accomplish a budget with zero deficit. In Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's words: "I am deleting the discretionary $1 million legislative augmentation to the Public Library Foundation. ... In addition, I am deleting $7 million in order to further build a prudent reserve in light of the various uncertainties in revenues and spending that we face this year."

"Library on the lake" opens to public

A library built on water opened to the public on Tuesday in eastern China's metropolis of Shanghai, giving people the pleasure of reading with great scenery.

The library is built on the Xiayang Lake in western Qingpu district of Shanghai, covering an area of 8,000 square meters, according to the local-based Xinmin Evening News.

In the six reading rooms of Qingpu Library people can choose from 330,000 books and 800 kinds of newspapers and magazines in collection. Among the six reading rooms, there is one designed especially for children, and one for literature fans.

The reading room for children is decorated as a pleasure ground. Equipped with computers, children can read digital books with multi-media effects, probably with the help from their parents.

The reading room for literature fans boasts of antiquity. With wide space and comfortable sofas, it can also be the site for literature salons.

Every reading lamp in the library uses energy saving bulb, a friendly gesture to the beautiful surrounding.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Flashback 2002

Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive has a dream. No, that's too narrow. He has a lot of dreams as well as the energy and money to realize them. I knew him long before he had lots of zeros in his bank account, and he has always been enthusiastic about his projects at Thinking Machines, at Apple when he developed what became WAIS, the Wide Area Information System - the very popular database in the early days of the public Internet. More recently the San Francisco non-profit, The Internet Archive, was established to collect and making available all of the past Internet information. In a step to distribute this information around the world Kahle made a large gift to the Library of Alexandria which now has a very strong information technology department (see The public search engine for the Archive is the Wayback Machine. At no charge anyone can use the Wayback Machine to search for Web pages unavailable elsewhere. The most recent collection is coverage of the September 11, 2001, events in New York and Washington. At press time had more than 100 terabytes (100,000,000 megabytes) of files.

Another project is the building of a digital library of books that are in the public domain ( A number of libraries and individuals have embarked on similar projects such as Project Gutenberg (at, Liber Liber in Italy (, and the Million Book Project ( Kahle is working with these and others. Last week, Kahle wrote me asking for the names of librarians who would be interested in talking about the importance of libraries and how digital technologies can help. Kahle was preparing for a cross-country trip to publicize the digital library, and The Archive was hosting a party on September 27.

Michael Ward, an e-book publisher and head of Hidden Knowledge ( accompanied me and took the photographs included in this article. We had been in contact since my early experiments with optical character recognition in the early 90's. Ward's Web site includes a number of original e-books for sale as well as some free material such as the Memoirs of General William Sherman, an homage to the traveler Burton Holmes, and a collection of old magazine covers. During the ride from San Jose to San Francisco, I learned that there are many text digitizing projects going on, some well supported and others that are labors of love, especially by science fiction readers. Some of the barriers are technical, but improvements in scanning technology, low cost storage, and better connectivity make the solutions apparent. The growing problem is copyright, and one battle will be fought in early October at the U.S. Supreme Court when the justices hear the arguments in Eldred v. Ashcroft ( which challenges the act that extends U.S. copyright protection another 20 years (so that Disney won't lose control of Mickey Mouse!).

There are those who do not care about copyright laws and have Web sites filled with a mix of out-of-copyright material and scanned versions of more recent texts. is trying to do for ascii versions of books and essays what Napster did for music. Others such as, the Open Meta-Archive, and the book sharing on the Usenet group alt.binaries.e-books either ignore or challenge the current laws in the United States and other countries. There is, of course, a lot of lower profile activity that is not publicized. I had met one enthusiast at a recent conference who claimed he has 25,000 books in ascii, and they could be delivered on a $100 80 GB hard drive. He gave away CD-ROMs of his hundred favorite texts. His cost: ten cents.

Kahle's project is completely within the law, but as Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News writes (, the industry that controls much of the music, movies, and text cares little about fair use and is convincing Congress - with generous doses of campaign donations - that future digital technologies, especially those for consumers, must be crippled to protect their interests. They want restrictive laws which would stop the flow of material into the public domain for another twenty years.

The Party

The Internet Archive is housed in an old house in the Presidio, a former Army base in San Francisco. The old building is nothing like the typical high tech venture in this area: tilt-up concrete construction or a multi-floor showplace set in an industrial park. For one thing, survived the Internet bubble. The office is filled with wireless networks, racks of servers, high speed data lines, plasma screens, and massive printers. Out back of the Archive was parked a Ford Aerostar van, covered with bright lettering, "Bookmobile ... Print Your Own Book ... 1,000,000 Books inside (soon) ..." and on the roof was perched a satellite dish.

The bookmobile
(photo by Michael Ward of Hidden Knowledge).

I wandered down to the back of the van where Kahle stood under a small structure. In the shade was a table that held a binder, some books,and a guillotine paper cutter to trim the pages. He explained to those gathered round (including a CBS cameraman) how the printing worked. The books that reside in his archive or others can be downloaded in a number of formats, and some, like The Wizard of Oz, are saved as a set of color page images which are compressed. The bookmobile prints about twenty pages a minute (two on one side of a sheet of paper) and the complete work is assembled by hand, and placed in a cover and bound using a device that heats the glue applied to the spine of the pages. A guillotine paper cutter is used to trim the book. Staff of the Archive were printing other examples inside the office and giving them away to the guests. I grabbed a copy of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, while others were looking at books by Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain. Each of them had the look and feel of a good trade paperback in a plain cover.

Kahle was planning to leave from a public school in East Palo Alto, California, head through Sacramento and eastward across Highway 80. He planned to stop at the bookmobile convention in Columbus, Ohio, which usually only welcomes vehicles made by the show sponsors. However, the used Ford van, small as it is, certainly is no threat to the current model for moving books and videos to people far from a branch library.

We talked about other countries which use boats (Venezuela) and camels (Kenya), and carts (Zimbabwe) to bring materials to readers. In my home state, librarians used to ride horses into the remote hollows and valleys in the rural parts of pre-war Kentucky.

Brewster Kahle (left) and Steve Cisler (right) discussing book mobility
(photo by Michael Ward of Hidden Knowledge).

I asked about the connectivity. Kahle said the Hughes Direcway system runs at about 64 kpbs upstream and up to one megabit downstream. Motosat is a company that modifies this consumer product so that it works with a mobile connection. Park the van in a level area and make sure that the southern sky is visible because the antenna must see the satellite. The Motosat system uses GPS to aim the dish and establish a good connection Another company, Tachyon, Inc. is selling a mobile network connection. The Burning Man event has been using one since 1999. This sort of connection is of great interest in other countries and in parts of the U.S. where land lines have not reached. The bookmobile VSAT connection is connected to an 802.11b (Wi-Fi) network which surrounds the van, so anyone in the neighborhood could bring a laptop and connect to the server and choose her own books or copy some that had already been requested.

Network gear in back of van
(photo by Michael Ward of Hidden Knowledge).

What I found inspiring was the way all the technology was assembled off-the-shelf and used with a large collection to deliver a very tangible output that could be used by any reader at very low cost. It was not just a printout; it was a book. Even without a satellite (or wireless) connection, the collection of books could reside in a large cache on a few hard drives and the books accessed and printed locally. Of course the selection would be less than what was offered by or its partners.

Brewster Kahle assembling a book
(photo by Michael Ward of Hidden Knowledge).

A newspaper reporter questioned the practicality of the Internet bookmobile. Wouldn't it be better to print materially more cheaply at a central location and then distribute them normally through book stores, online sales, or libraries? There are large print-on-demand systems such as Xerox Docutech that large organizations can afford. When I worked at Apple we were able to print and bind the proceedings of a conference in the evening and distribute 300 copies the next morning. However, these are enormously expensive. The bookmobile reminded me of an itinerant vegetable cart which is a now a rarity in the United States. Because Kahle is especially interested in providing materials for young people, perhaps it could be likened to an truck that roams a neighborhood selling frozen bars of ice cream, except the books are freely distributed. The Internet Bookmobile is one way of showing people a simplified version of how a book is produced. Of course it avoids the process that begins with an author trying to find a publisher, and for the chosen few, the editorial process that follows.

A stack of finished books
(photo by Michael Ward of Hidden Knowledge).

Kahle wants to attract attention to the effort to build a collection of books, and by ending up in Washington, D.C. during the Eldred v. Ashcroft hearing at the Supreme Court, he can supply a very visual spectacle for the media who have a hard time showing any news when the battle is over intellectual property. Kahle plans to park in front of the court building, set up his press and bindery and give away books to those in the vicinity. I expect he will be hassled by Capitol Hill police, if he can even drive a van near the building.

Trimming a book with the guillotine
(photo by Michael Ward of Hidden Knowledge).

What happens after that? Kahle hopes to find financial support to keep the bookmobile on the road year round. He estimates it will cost $100,000 including the salary for the driver-printer. At the party several people, Including this reporter, expressed interest in taking the vehicle on a tour for a couple of weeks. Because much of my work is in other countries I thought about the practicality of such a mobile system in a place like Honduras or Mozambique. The barriers to a successful tour in the United States are far less than in many other countries, but even a touring unit would not necessarily need a mobile satellite to connect to the Internet. It could connect up a selected stops such as telecenters or schools with an existing connection. As I mentioned earlier, the collection could be cached on a few large hard drives. Assuming there were material of interest in Spanish or Portuguese or the predominant language of the region, the demonstration of the printing and binding would be very engaging. The books chosen might form the basis for a community collection or, as in the present trip, just given to individuals who come see the bookmobile. Kahle has begun sending short messages from some of the stops between California and Washington, D.C. ( He reports the young boys like the paper cutter best of all! You can follow the progress of the trip, make contributions to the effort, and see some of the other bookmobiles in use. End of article

About the Author

Steve Cisler is a consultant whose background is in public and special libraries. He is currently a GLOCOM fellow; the Center for Global Communications is a self-funding, non-profit research institute affiliated with the International University of Japan. He has been a teacher in the Peace Corps, a wine maker and search and rescue coordinator in the Coast Guard. Now he focuses on public access projects and community computing projects in the United States and developing countries. He has written for Online, Database, American Libraries, Library Journal, and Wired. Steve has two sons and lives with his wife in San José, California.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Online shopping can benefit Fayetteville Public Library

Supporting the Fayetteville Public Library is as easy as shopping online.

MyLibraryBookstore is a new service that allows patrons to shop for books, movies and music online, with a portion of the sale going to the library.

“ It adds another convenience to customers using our Web site and catalog, ” said Louise Schaper, library executive director.

Schaper said that all proceeds from the sales will be spent on increasing the library’s collection. The service was recently made available by the library’s primary supplier, which is also a major supplier to Amazon. com, she said.

The library had a previous service through Amazon, Schaper said, but when this came about it seemed like a better fit.

“ We were able to customize it in a way we were comfortable with, ” she said.

The service is through Baker & Taylor, which is the library’s primary supplier of books and audio and visual material. The company was founded in 1828 as a bindery and subscription book publisher, according to its Web site, www. btol. com.

The company discontinued publishing in 1912 to focus on distribution. It now claims to be the “ world’s largest distributor of books, DVD, music and videogame products to libraries, retailers and other resellers, ” according to its Web site.

Schaper said the service is compatible with the software used by the library, allowing the service to be integrated with the library’s catalog. It will allow people, when they search for a book and find it checked out, to buy it if they don’t want to wait, she said.

The service can be accessed through the library’s Web site, www. faylib. org. A link is among the alternating banners on the home page, and a link to the service can be found under the pull-down menu, Support FPL. The service operates similar to other online shopping sites, and residents don’t have to log in through their library account.

Entering the site through the library’s Web page will ensure that the Fayetteville Public Library receives proceeds from sales.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Creating the 21st Century Library

By Aaron SarverAugust 31, 2007

When you enter the Prelinger Library in San Francisco, the first thing you notice is "rock star" librarian Nancy Pearl--in action figure form. It's the first hint that you've stepped inside an unconventional library. Megan and Rick Prelinger's vision of engaged learning is at

odds with the weighty atmosphere that often pervades spaces containing 40,000 items--ranging from books to maps to films--intended for research purposes. Rick first achieved fame in the archivist world when his collection of 60,000 16mm educational films, known as the Prelinger Archive, was purchased by the Library of Congress in 2002.

Three years later, after the dot com bust had dragged down commercial rents, the couple leased a 1,700-square-foot warehouse space in San Francisco's SoMa (South of Market) neighborhood and moved their massive book collection out of storage. (This is what happens when two archivists gets married.) Four long, 15-foot-high rows of bookshelves loom over guests, but the extraordinarily high ceilings make the book towers less imposing. Boxes of "ephemera" sit neatly stacked up against the far left row. And the back of the library has an unruly pile of boxes of books waiting to be shelved.

The Prelinger Library eschews the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress systems, and is organized instead by what Megan calls "a map of my brain." Books are grouped by topic, in a related fashion. Western U.S. history merges into agriculture, which merges into urban planning. Since space is limited, there is a decent amount of churn. Under-used items are phased out and new ones brought in. During my visit, a few boxes of the recently defunct magazine Punk Planet (see page 38) had just arrived. With funding from the Internet Archive, the Prelinger Library is digitally scanning the books in its collection that are not under copyright protection for use on

In These Times recently sat down to talk with Megan Shaw Prelinger.

What makes someone start her own library?

One of the multiple barriers put in place by major research libraries is that they don't enable ordinary people to make use of extraordinary materials. So the idea of making a library was fed by my experience that college and university libraries' closed stacks inhibit browsing and the process of random discovery. I always felt like I had my best ideas or developed my best projects when I was wandering and looking for certain things, but then finding things I didn't expect.

How did this "process of random discovery" inform how you structured your library?

Even at public libraries, the subjects I was interested in were scattered. They were either not present at all or organized in a way that made no intuitive sense to me. Neither Dewey Decimal nor Library of Congress as an organization method made any intuitive sense to me. It's like organizing your record collection or book collection at home. I've always used organization as a way to create juxtapositions and cluster little sets of coherency in my own book collection in a way that pleases me.

Is it fair to say that your organization of materials is an implicit critique of the way people are taught to learn or to research? That you want to explore ideas in the way that someone like Walter Benjamin did, rather than through a rigid system imposed by very structured institutions?

I think it's an explicit critique. We tell people that you're going to find things "intershelved." You're going to find government documents next to nonfiction and fiction. Materials are clustered by subject and we want people to have the shelf be an experience unto itself.

If it doesn't occur to you or it isn't explained to you that printed ephemera, historic magazines, photograph collections, maps, fiction can all be equally meaningful to your area of inquiry, you might not know to look for those things. So we try to create a browsing experience that can't be had anywhere else. People come in and ask, "There's no computer?" They have been trained to formulate a query rather than just engaging the shelves unmediated.

How do you think the digitization of books should effect how libraries manage their print collections?

In the library and document preservation worlds, there exists a concern that the growth of the digital environment will result in the end of print, and that books and newspapers need to be rescued from the digital future. I don't believe that. Books as artifacts will always have value apart from their digital counterparts.

Yes, the online environment obviously offers mass dispersal into the world and that's not possible in a print library environment. But part of our library project is about collapsing the polarization between print and digital, and looking toward a third way where a library can be a hybrid analog-digital space. Books are both retained and valued, and where a digital collection exists, maybe it allows more freedom with what the analog collection can do, because you can always do a keyword search of the digital collection. Maybe the benefits of one liberate the other.

How much consideration does the Prelinger Library give to creating a public space where scholars and regular patrons can meet each other?

A lot of living and contemporary authors donate materials to the library. People will pick up a book and say, "I didn't know about this book," and we'll tell them the author is a professor at Berkeley and that he has said you could go talk to him. When you're browsing at a terminal, you're not going to bump elbows with someone who's interested in the same things.

Are there any specific things you're looking to add to the collection?

We look to preserve the historiography of underreported historical narratives--primarily North American because that's our history. Usually when things like that become available, we want them.

With 1,700-square-feet of space we can't position ourselves as rescuing all print. But with something like the Bureau of Indian Affairs records [which the Prelinger Library recently received from another library that was about to discard them], that was very clear. Talk about underreported historical narratives--you can hardly get more underserved than Native American cultural history. There are Bureau documents from the 1870s when white ethnographers lived among Native Americans and wrote, "We think most of the Indian raids on the neighboring white settlement camps are being perpetrated by white settlers dressing up as Indians and robbing their neighbors." What happened? That idea--that observation--has been buried, dismissed and ignored for 130 years. When you read things like that, it legitimates the act of rescuing these documents and makes it even more urgent to do so.

Copyright has come into play in digitizing works. You were part of the lawsuit Kahle-Prelinger v. Gonzalez that was about orphaned works. Can you explain what the term orphaned works means?

In the United States, everything published prior to 1923 is in the public domain and everything published since 1963 is automatically under copyright. So there's a grey area between '23 and '63 where only about 15 percent of all copyrights were renewed. So we're able to digitize 85 percent of stuff in that 40-year period. Large changes in the law in 1998 extended copyright, so even if the author elects to let their work enter the public domain, the government automatically renews that copyright.

Now copyright is very difficult to opt-out of. It's life of the author plus 70 years. If the rights-holder no longer exists and the institutional author, say a textbook company, is dissolved, then the copyright laws protect no one. In a lot of cases, works being digitized bring authors new audiences that they didn't have before. So our argument is that existing copyright renewal laws do a disservice. We want the opportunity to digitally disseminate works that have been abandoned by their authors.

Are there any specific works that you think need to be digitized so they can be available for research?

Textbooks and songbooks. Tour guide books that explain how to go on excursions and investigations. If those were digitized, we could layer a map from 1965 onto a map from 1945 and trace landscape changes. You can do that for earlier years, but history becomes locked up in 1963.

So if an author is deceased and his or her books are out of print, it is still illegal to digitize them, even though there are a dwindling number of physical copies of the work?

Right. That's tragic. It doesn't serve the authors. The legislation was devised to serve corporate interests. Yes, there are authors who are selling millions of books who want their copyrights to be held in their family in perpetuity. They should have that right. All we want is to be able to digitize works if we've done due diligence to locate an author or a rights-holder and if that rights-holder no longer exists or is supportive of digitizing the work.

Like other librarians, do you see yourself as a defender of civil liberties?

Yes and no. As an unincorporated library, we were never subject to the Patriot Act. In a broad sense, you can view the Prelinger Library as a democratizing project. Pushing history out of dusty corners and making it relevant and usable to people doing work today.

To me the idea of a library as an arcane space and privileged space, a space separate from relevance to everyday life, is wrapped up in the general historical trend of anti-intellectualism. Libraries should be social spaces and idea playgrounds--places where people are free to get excited about ideas.

Aaron Sarver joined In These Times’ staff as associate publisher in 2001. A steering committee member of the Independent Press Association-Chicago, Aaron works in print and audio and for various media outlets.

Librarians Respond To AP Poll Findings That Americans Don't Read Enough Books

posted by birdie on Saturday September 01
from the read-a-book dept.
One out of every four adult Americans did not read a book last year, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press and Ipsos.

Pennsylvania librarians respond: "I was disgusted by that" said Jeanne Williamson, library director at the Milton Public Library. The article really upset me."

Peggy Stockdale of New Columbia said "I think they're missing out on a great joy. You're never bored if you read. You can go places where you otherwise can't, and you learn."

Melanie Weber, head of adult services at the Public Library for Union County in Lewisburg, said not only is reading for enjoyment or in-depth informational purposes but it’s also a great model for young people. Adults who read have kids who read. Story from Standard-Journal,.