Friday, November 06, 2009

The Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Report from The Library of Congress is Now Available Online

The 2008 report has been released and is now available online. The report is for the 2008 fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2008 (84 color pages; PDF).
Here are some Fast Facts about the Library of Congress for FY 2008:
+ Welcomed more than 1.6 million onsite visitors
+ Provided reference services to 545,084 individuals in person, by telephone and through written and electronic correspondence
+ Recorded a total of 141,847,810 items in the collections:
+ 21,218,408 cataloged books in the Library of Congress classification system
11,599,606 books in large type and raised characters, incunabula (books printed before 1501), monographs and serials, music, bound newspapers, pamphlets, technical reports and other printed material
++ 109,029,796 items in the nonclassified (special) collections, including:
++ 3,005,028 audio materials, such as discs, tapes, talking books and other recorded formats
++ 62,778,118 manuscripts
++ 5,357,385 maps
++ 16,086,572 microforms
++ 5,674,956 pieces of printed sheet music
+++ 14,388,175 visual materials, as follows:
+++ 1,207,776 moving images
+++ 12,536,764 photographs
+++ 98,288 posters
+++ 545,347 prints and drawings
+ Circulated more than 22 million disc, cassette and braille items to more than 500,000 blind and physically handicapped patrons
+ Registered 232,907 claims to copyright
+ Completed 871,287 research assignments for Congress through the Congressional Research Service
+ Prepared 1,529 legal research reports for Congress and oth er federal agencies through the Law Library
+ Recorded more than 85 million visits and 610 million page views on the Library’s website. At year’s end, the Library’s on line historical collections contained 15.3 million digital files
+ Employed a permanent staff of 3,637 employees
+ Operated with a total fiscal 2008 appropriation of $613,496,414, including the authority to spend $50,447,565 in receipts
Access the FY 2008 Annual Report (84 color pages; PDF)
You can access annual reports for the years 2000-2008 on this page. All reports are in PDF.
Source: Library of Congress

Friday, October 30, 2009

Self-Appointed Censor at Tennessee Library

Posted by birdie

According to the Daily Herald, someone has been crossing out dirty words in books, and employees at the Maury County (TN) Library aren’t happy about it.

“It bothers me because nobody is holding a gun to their head making them read these books,” said Elizabeth Potts, director of the county library. “If they don’t like them, they should just return them.”

Library Director Elizabeth Potts shows one of several books which have had “dirty” words marked through. Others have editorial comments added.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Librarians Won't Give Child 'Porn' Book

[These ladies are being defiant to the rules of the library, they should be fired, imo]

Two Nicholasville librarians are fired for not allowing a kid check out a book. The women say the book contains pornographic material inappropriate for children.

The two women say they were fired last month when they wouldn't let a young girl check out a book from The League of Extraordinary Gentleman series. Now, both women say they're less concerned with their jobs and more concerned with keeping material like this out of children's hands.

"Residents in Jessamine County do not realize that these books that are so graphic are available in the library let alone to their children," former Jessamine County librarian, Beth Bovaire, said.

Beth Bovaire worked at Jessamine County Public Library up until a month ago. She and Sharon Cook worked as librarians- the two were fired last month when they say they didn't allow a child check out a book from the league of extraordinary gentleman series.

"My friend Sharon had brought it to me on Wednesday, and she said 'look at this book it's filthy and it's on hold for an 11 year old girl,' and I said well okay, lets take it off hold."

The Jessamine County Library director says it's against their policy to speak about employee terminations but he did give me a copy of their policy and it clearly states the responsibilities of the child's reading must lye with the parents and not with the library.

The women say the books contain lewd pictures of men and women in sexual situations that are inappropriate for children.

"If you give children pornography, a child, a 12 year old, can not understand and process the same way a 30 year old can," Sharon Cook said.

The women say parents these days are swamped and it's far too easy for a child to check out a book without them ever knowing. The women hope the library will reconsider their policies to make sure children aren't checking out inappropriate materials.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Three Tweets for the Web, by Tyler Cowen

Welcome the new world with open arms—and browsers.

The printed word is not dead. We are not about to see the demise of the novel or the shuttering of all the bookstores, and we won’t all end up on Twitter. But we are clearly in the midst of a cultural transformation. For today’s younger people, Google is more likely to provide a formative cultural experience than The Catcher in the Rye or Catch-22 or even the Harry Potter novels. There is no question that books are becoming less central to our cultural life.

The relative decline of the book is part of a broader shift toward short and to the point. Small cultural bits—written words, music, video—have never been easier to record, store, organize, and search, and thus they are a growing part of our enjoyment and education. The classic 1960s rock album has given way to the iTunes single. On YouTube, the most popular videos are usually just a few minutes long, and even then viewers may not watch them through to the end. At the extreme, there are Web sites offering five-word movie and song reviews, six-word memoirs (“Not Quite What I Was Planning”), seven-word wine reviews, and 50-word minisagas.*

The new brevity has many virtues. One appeal of following blogs is the expectation of receiving a new reward (and finishing off that reward) every day. Blogs feature everything from expert commentary on politics or graphic design to reviews of new Cuban music CDs to casual ruminations on feeding one’s cat. Whatever the subject, the content is replenished on a periodic basis, much as 19th-century novels were often delivered in installments, but at a faster pace and with far more authors and topics to choose from. In the realm of culture, a lot of our enjoyment has always come from the opening and unwrapping of each gift. Thanks to today’s hypercurrent online environment, this is a pleasure we can experience nearly constantly.

It may seem as if we have entered a nightmarish attention-deficit culture, but the situation is not nearly as gloomy as you have been told. Our culture of the short bit is making human minds more rather than less powerful.

The arrival of virtually every new cultural medium has been greeted with the charge that it truncates attention spans and represents the beginning of cultural collapse—the novel (in the 18th century), the comic book, rock ‘n’ roll, television, and now the Web. In fact, there has never been a golden age of all-wise, all-attentive readers. But that’s not to say that nothing has changed. The mass migration of intellectual activity from print to the Web has brought one important development: We have begun paying more attention to information. Overall, that’s a big plus for the new world order.

It is easy to dismiss this cornucopia as information overload. We’ve all seen people scrolling with one hand through a BlackBerry while pecking out instant messages (IMs) on a laptop with the other and eyeing a television (I won’t say “watching”). But even though it is easy to see signs of overload in our busy lives, the reality is that most of us carefully regulate this massive inflow of information to create something uniquely suited to our particular interests and needs—a rich and highly personalized blend of cultural gleanings.

The word for this process is multitasking, but that makes it sound as if we’re all over the place. There is a deep coherence to how each of us pulls out a steady stream of information from disparate sources to feed our long-term interests. No matter how varied your topics of interest may appear to an outside observer, you’ll tailor an information stream related to the continuing “stories” you want in your life—say, Sichuan cooking, health care reform, Michael Jackson, and the stock market. With the help of the Web, you build broader intellectual narratives about the world. The apparent disorder of the information stream reflects not your incoherence but rather your depth and originality as an individual.

My own daily cultural harvest usually involves listening to music and reading—novels, nonfiction, and Web essays—with periodic glances at the New York Times Web site and an e-mail check every five minutes or so. Often I actively don’t want to pull apart these distinct activities and focus on them one at a time for extended periods. I like the blend I assemble for myself, and I like what I learn from it. To me (and probably no one else, but that is the point), the blend offers the ultimate in interest and suspense. Call me an addict, but if I am torn away from these stories for even a day, I am very keen to get back for the next “episode.”

Many critics charge that multitasking makes us less efficient. Researchers say that periodically checking your e-mail lowers your cognitive performance level to that of a drunk. If such claims were broadly correct, multitasking would pretty rapidly disappear simply because people would find that it didn’t make sense to do it. Multitasking is flourishing, and so are we. There are plenty of lab experiments that show that distracting people reduces the capacity of their working memory and thus impairs their decision making. It’s much harder to show that multitasking, when it results from the choices and control of an individual, does anyone cognitive harm. Multitasking is not a distraction from our main activity, it is our main activity.

Consider the fact that IQ scores have been rising for decades, a phenomenon known as the Flynn effect. I won’t argue that multitasking is driving this improvement, but the Flynn effect does belie the common impression that people are getting dumber or less attentive. A harried multitasking society seems perfectly compatible with lots of innovation, lots of high achievers, and lots of high IQ scores.

With the help of technology, we are honing our ability to do many more things at once and do them faster. We access and absorb information more quickly than before, and, as a result, we often seem more impatient. If you use Google to look something up in 10 seconds rather than spend five minutes searching through an encyclopedia, that doesn’t mean you are less patient. It means you are creating more time to focus on other matters. In fact, we’re devoting more effort than ever before to big-picture questions, from the nature of God to the best age for marrying and the future of the U.S. economy.

Our focus on cultural bits doesn’t mean we are neglecting the larger picture. Rather, those bits are building-blocks for seeing and understanding larger trends and narratives. The typical Web user doesn’t visit a gardening blog one day and a Manolo Blahnik shoes blog the next day, and never return to either. Most activity online, or at least the kind that persists, involves continuing investments in particular long-running narratives—about gardening, art, shoes, or whatever else engages us. There’s an alluring suspense to it. What’s next? That is why the Internet captures so much of our attention.

Indeed, far from shortening our attention spans, the Web lengthens them by allowing us to follow the same story over many years’ time. If I want to know what’s new with the NBA free-agent market, the debate surrounding global warming, or the publication plans of Thomas Pynchon, Google quickly gets me to the most current information. Formerly I needed personal contacts—people who were directly involved in the action—to follow a story for years, but now I can do it quite easily.

Sometimes it does appear I am impatient. I’ll discard a half-read book that 20 years ago I might have finished. But once I put down the book, I will likely turn my attention to one of the long-running stories I follow online. I’ve been listening to the music of Paul McCartney for more than 30 years, for example, and if there is some new piece of music or development in his career, I see it first on the Internet. If our Web surfing is sometimes frantic or pulled in many directions, that is because we care so much about so many long-running stories. It could be said, a bit paradoxically, that we are impatient to return to our chosen programs of patience.

Another way the Web has affected the human attention span is by allowing greater specialization of knowledge. It has never been easier to wrap yourself up in a long-term intellectual project without at the same time losing touch with the world around you. Some critics don’t see this possibility, charging that the Web is destroying a shared cultural experience by enabling us to follow only the specialized stories that pique our individual interests. But there are also those who argue that the Web is doing just the opposite—that we dabble in an endless variety of topics but never commit to a deeper pursuit of a specific interest. These two criticisms contradict each other. The reality is that the Internet both aids in knowledge specialization and helps specialists keep in touch with general trends.

The key to developing your personal blend of all the “stuff” that’s out there is to use the right tools. The quantity of information coming our way has exploded, but so has the quality of our filters, including Google, blogs, and Twitter. As Internet analyst Clay Shirky points out, there is no information overload, only filter failure. If you wish, you can keep all the information almost entirely at bay and use Google or text a friend only when you need to know something. That’s not usually how it works. Many of us are cramming ourselves with Web experiences—videos, online chats, magazines—and also fielding a steady stream of incoming e-mails, text messages, and IMs. The resulting sense of time pressure is not a pathology; it is a reflection of the appeal and intensity of what we are doing. The Web allows you to enhance the meaning and importance of the cultural bits at your disposal; thus you want to grab more of them, and organize more of them, and you are willing to work hard at that task, even if it means you sometimes feel harried.

It’s true that many people on the Web are not looking for a cerebral experience, and younger people especially may lack the intellectual framework needed to integrate all the incoming bits into a meaningful whole. A lot of people are on the Web just to have fun or to achieve some pretty straightforward personal goals—they may want to know what happened to their former high school classmates or the history of the dachshund. “It’s still better than watching TV” is certainly a sufficient defense of these practices, but there is a deeper point: The Internet is supplementing and intensifying real life. The Web’s heralded interactivity not only furthers that process but opens up new possibilities for more discussion and debate. Anyone can find space on the Internet to rate a product, criticize an idea, or review a new movie or book.

One way to understand the emotional and intellectual satisfactions of the new world is by way of contrast. Consider Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The music and libretto express a gamut of human emotions, from terror to humor to love to the sublime. With its ability to combine so much in a single work of art, the opera represents a great achievement of the Western canon. But, for all Don Giovanni’s virtues, it takes well over three hours to hear it in its entirety, perhaps four with an intermission. Plus, the libretto is in Italian. And if you want to see the performance live, a good seat can cost hundreds of dollars.

Instead of experiencing the emotional range of Don Giovanni in one long, expensive sitting, on the Web we pick the moods we want from disparate sources and assemble them ourselves. We take a joke from YouTube, a terrifying scene from a Japanese slasher movie, a melody from iTunes, and some images—perhaps our own digital photos—capturing the sublime beauty of the Grand Canyon. Even if no single bit looks very impressive to an outsider, to the creator of this assemblage it is a rich and varied inner experience. The new wonders we create are simply harder for outsiders to see than, say, the fantastic cathedrals of Old Europe.

The measure of cultural literacy today is not whether you can “read” all the symbols in a Rubens painting but whether you can operate an iPhone and other Web-related technologies. One thing you can do with such devices is visit any number of Web sites where you can see Rubens’s pictures and learn plenty about them. It’s not so much about having information as it is about knowing how to get it. Viewed in this light, today’s young people are very culturally literate indeed—in fact, they are very often cultural leaders and creators.

To better understand contemporary culture, consider an analogy to romance. Although many long-distance relationships survive, they are difficult to sustain. When you have to travel far to meet your beloved, you want to make every trip a grand and glorious occasion. Usually you don’t fly from one coast to another just to hang out and share downtime and small talk. You go out to eat and to the theater, you make passionate love, and you have intense conversations. You have a lot of thrills, but it’s hard to make it work because in the long run it’s casually spending time together and the routines of daily life that bind two people to each other. And of course, in a long-distance relationship, a lot of the time you’re not together at all. If you really love the other person you’re not consistently happy, even though your peak experiences may be amazing.

A long-distance relationship is, in emotional terms, a bit like culture in the time of Cervantes or Mozart. The costs of travel and access were high, at least compared to modern times. When you did arrive, the performance was often very exciting and indeed monumental. Sadly, the rest of the time you didn’t have that much culture at all. Even books were expensive and hard to get. Compared to what is possible in modern life, you couldn’t be as happy overall but your peak experiences could be extremely memorable, just as in the long-distance relationship.

Now let’s consider how living together and marriage differ from a long-distance relationship. When you share a home, the costs of seeing each other are very low. Your partner is usually right there. Most days include no grand events, but you have lots of regular and predictable interactions, along with a kind of grittiness or even ugliness rarely seen in a long-distance relationship. There are dirty dishes in the sink, hedges to be trimmed, maybe diapers to be changed.

If you are happily married, or even somewhat happily married, your internal life will be very rich. You will take all those small events and, in your mind and in the mind of your spouse, weave them together in the form of a deeply satisfying narrative, dirty diapers and all. It won’t always look glorious on the outside, but the internal experience of such a marriage is better than what’s normally possible in a long-distance relationship.

The same logic applies to culture. The Internet and other technologies mean that our favorite creators, or at least their creations, are literally part of our daily lives. It is no longer a long-distance relationship. It is no longer hard to get books and other written material. Pictures, music, and video appear on command. Culture is there all the time, and you can receive more of it, pretty much whenever you want.

In short, our relationship to culture has become more like marriage in the sense that it now enters our lives in an established flow, creating a better and more regular daily state of mind. True, culture has in some ways become uglier, or at least it would appear so to the outside observer. But when it comes to how we actually live and feel, contemporary culture is more satisfying and contributes to the happiness of far more people. That is why the public devours new technologies that offer extreme and immediate access to information.

Many critics of contemporary life want our culture to remain like a long-distance relationship at a time when most of us are growing into something more mature. We assemble culture for ourselves, creating and committing ourselves to a fascinating brocade. Very often the paper-and-ink book is less central to this new endeavor; it’s just another cultural bit we consume along with many others. But we are better off for this change, a change that is filling our daily lives with beauty, suspense, and learning.

Or if you’d like the shorter version to post to your Twitter account (140 characters or less): “Smart people are doing wonderful things.”

*Not everything is shorter and more to the point. The same modern wealth that encourages a proliferation of choices also enables very long performances and spectacles. In the German town of Halberstadt, a specially built organ is playing the world’s longest concert ever, designed to clock in at 639 years. This is also the age of complete boxed sets, DVD collector’s editions, extended “director’s cut” versions of movies, and the eight- or sometimes even 10-year Ph.D. But while there is an increasing diversity of length, shorter is the trend. How many of us have an interest in hearing more than a brief excerpt from the world’s longest concert?

6 Ways We Gave Up Our Privacy

October 12, 2009

Privacy has long been seen as a basic, sacred right. But in the Web 2.0 world, where the average user is addicted to Google apps, GPS devices, their BlackBerry or iPhone, and such social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter, that right is slowly and willingly being chipped away. In fact, some security experts believe it's gone already.

Here's the story of how privacy went the way of the dinosaur, how we willingly let it happen and how we might be able to get some of it back.

Adding to this sobering reality is that public and private entities have a growing array of tools to track our movements, habits and choices. RFID tags are on more of the items we take for granted. Those discount cards you use at the grocery store offer companies an excellent snapshot of the choices you make. And in the post 9-11 world, the government has greatly expanded its power to spy on you with such laws as The Patriot Act.

"Your credit card company and your loyalty card program memberships track your purchases, travels, expenditure levels, and blend that into offers that meet your lifestyle profile," said John Zurawski, vice president of Authentify Inc. "Firms sell GPS devices specifically to be hidden in vehicles permitting anyone to track your movements. The RFID Tollway passes states offer to speed you through their toll roads know where you've been and how fast you drove." Based on an informal survey of privacy and security experts, here are six examples of how we've willingly allowed our privacy to be taken away, and how we might be able to get some of it back.

1. Google
Google apps such as Gmail and Google calendar allow individuals and organizations to bring order to the hectic process of scheduling and communicating. But when you input company agenda items into the applications along with other proprietary information and potentially embarrassing things like an upcoming doctor's appointment, you're giving up privacy to Google, said Chicago-based business consultant Mark Cummuta, who specializes in compliance, security and CIO challenges.

"When Google first started, it said it would only use that information internally, to get a sense of the things you like and talk about," he said. "All that information used to be gathered in a way where you explicitly gave permission, through things like surveys. But Google can easily poke around without seeking permission, and they don't explain to you how they know what they know."

2. Social networking
It's getting increasingly harder NOT to find someone on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or all of the above. Then there's Myspace and a lot of lesser-known social networking sites. If you use these programs -- and you probably do -- chances are pretty good that you give up a lot of your privacy every day, willingly and even happily. Security experts have spent a lot of time ringing the alarm bell over this lately, because bad people can easily take the personal tidbits you post and use it against you, for everything from marketing to blackmail.

"Privacy is evaporating because Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and blogs are raising a generation of kids and adults who have no concept of privacy or the ability to truly understand that nothing digital is ever forgotten or destroyed," said Raj Goel, owner of security compliance consultancy Brainlink International Inc. "Ten years from now, kids will be Googling their mommy's spring break pictures and their daddy's Facebook profile, if they don't do so already."

3. RFID tags and loyalty cards
In this fast-paced world, people use special transponders to blow through highway toll stations without stopping and pay for gas without having to swipe a credit card. Then there are those cards you present at the grocery store for discounts. All have technology that can be used to track your movements and habits, right down to the time of day you typically go through a toll plaza each morning on the drive to work.

"Let's add RFID chips, the Real ID Act and the PASS Act to the list as well. How about chips in passports? We're lulled into a false sense of security and people aren't realizing that they are simply giving those rights to privacy away," said Julie Davis Friend, president of Gemstone Partners, a firm that advises organizations on issues surrounding identity theft and new legal requirements."

4. The Patriot Act
Given all the debate about the evils of The Patriot Act and how it gave the government a ridiculous amount of power to spy on people, we often forget that citizens were perfectly comfortable giving away privacy in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, when people were consumed with the desire to stop the next terrorist attack from happening. [See also: Eight Years After 9-11: Better Security or Just Luck?] Many a security expert will argue that the law did indeed improve our safety and prevent more attacks. In other words, enacting it was the right thing to do. But it's also universally accepted that civil liberties were eroded under the law.
Notes Zurawski: "The Patriot Act granted broad powers to law enforcement to enter your home with 'probable cause' and no warrant."

5. GPS
GPS navigation used to be a luxury item. Now most of us use the technology. It's relatively inexpensive to buy a GPS device that's bolted to the dashboard. Higher-end cars come with built-in GPS. And there are plenty of free navigation apps available for the BlackBerry and iPhone. The flip side to fewer people getting lost is that the providers of those systems can track your whereabouts without breaking a sweat.

6. The Kindle
Here's one you may not have seen coming. The increasingly popular Kindle allows us to tear through books on the go. But the device also "keeps track of what you read, how quickly you read it, what you may have read over several times, and can delete content you've paid for without your knowledge should it become 'necessary,'" Zurawski said.

Getting back some privacy
The good news in all of this is that there are steps people can take to protect more of their privacy. Educating younger folks on what they are giving away is a good place to start, those polled said. Businesses should steer clear of something like Gmail if they have sensitive data to send someone. And consumers can demand that government agencies crack down on the privacy-stealing practices of private-sector companies.
"The FTC could take on Facebook, Myspace and other sites that target kids the same way they expanded HIPAA's scope and brought online health care databases under their purview," Goel said. "When my goverment grows up, I want them to be the FTC -- the only national agency that's done anything meaningful about consumer privacy and security in the past decade."

Q: What can a reference librarian do that I can't do on Google?

A: They know about more sophisticated strategies to find information and more efficient ways to find information than Google and teach you. They can teach you to evaluate those sources you find on Google and get better, more accurate results.
 ...'s BookServer: A Plan to Build an Open Web of Books

Posted by Blake

RWW Points Out The Internet Archive has just unveiled their ambitious project called BookServer, which will allow users to find, buy, or borrow digital books from sources all across the web. The system, built on an open architecture and using open book formats, promises that the books housed there will work on any device whether that's a laptop, PC, smartphone, game console, or one of the myriad of e-Readers like Amazon's Kindle.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Calif. Library Association Asks Congress to Do What Judiciary Did Not


SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Library Association (CLA) has just announced a resolution calling on Congress to dramatically revise the up-for-renewal USA PATRIOT Act, passed hurriedly in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks. Librarians have been front-line opponents of certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act since its passage. The Act has made it possible, under Section 215, for the FBI to request and obtain library records for large numbers of individuals without reason to believe they are involved in illegal activity. This jeopardizes the basic ethics of the library profession, expressed in the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association.
Expanding on the American Library Association’s PATRIOT Act resolution last July, the CLA resolution goes further to address imminent First and Fourth Amendment concerns with Section 505. This provision grants the FBI broad authority to sidestep constitutional safeguards though use of National Security Letters to obtain information.
CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee chair, Mary Minow, a leading expert on library law, said, “It’s past time for the blatantly unconstitutional aspects of this legislation to be removed from the books, and now is the opportunity for Congress to act.”
Two sections of the PATRIOT Act are currently up for reauthorization, with sunsets at the end of December 2009, and librarians across the country see this as an opportunity to correct those provisions that attack basic civil liberties. CLA’s resolution calls for Congress to allow Section 215 to sunset, to amend Section 505 to “include a clear exemption for library records,” and in general to intensify Congressional oversight of the use of the Act.
* CLA Resolution on 2009 Reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act (PDF, 481k)
For more information, please contact:
Mary Minow, Chair,
CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee
Amy Sonnie, Member,
CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee,
or cla_ifc  [a t]  earthlink [dot]  net

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chomsky Book BANNED @ Guantanamo

Professor Noam Chomsky may be among America's most enduring anti-war activists. But the leftist intellectual's anthology of post 9/11 commentary is taboo at Guantanamo's prison camp library, which offers books and videos on Harry Potter, World Cup soccer and Islam.

U.S. military censors recently rejected a Pentagon lawyer's donation of an Arabic-language copy of the political activist and linguistic professor's 2007 anthology "Interventions" for the library, which has more than 16,000 items.

Chomsky, 80, who has been voicing disgust with U.S. foreign policy since the Vietnam War, reacted with irritation and derision. "This happens sometimes in totalitarian regimes,'' he saod by e-mail after learning of the decision.

"Of some incidental interest, perhaps, is the nature of the book they banned. It consists of op-eds written for The New York Times syndicate and distributed by them. The subversive rot must run very deep.''

Prison camp officials would not say specifically why the book was rejected but Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, a Guantánamo spokesman, said staff reviews "every proposed or recommended library item to assess force protection issues associated with camp dynamics -- such as impact on good order and discipline.''

The banned book showed the bespectacled professor-emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in button-down shirt and sweater staring out of a black cover of a 2007 edition printed by a Beirut publishing house.

A rejection slip accompanying the Chomsky book did not explain the reason but listed categories of restricted literature to include those espousing "Anti-American, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Western'' ideology, literature on "military topics,'' and works that portray "excessive graphic violence'' and "sexual dysfunctions.''

The list of approved material includes poetry, fiction, art, math, history, religion, politics and current events.

A Pentagon defense lawyer sent the book to Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a confessed al Qaida member who had worked as Osama bin Laden's media secretary in Afghanistan at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

A military jury convicted Bahlul, 40, of soliciting murder and conspiracy and sentenced him to life in prison in November for creating al Qaida propaganda. The key evidence was a two-hour video he made by splicing fiery bin Laden speeches with Muslim bloodshed and stock news footage of the aftermath of the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Aden, Yemen.

Bahlul is currently the lone war crimes convict at Guantanamo, where the prison camps commander ordered him separated from the other 245 war-on-terror captives at the U.S. base in Cuba under an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions that forbids holding detainees with convicted prisoners. Two earlier convicts were sent back to their native countries, Australia and Yemen, and are now free after serving short sentences.

Prison camp staff would not say how many donated books have been refused.

But DeWalt said detainees are forbidden from receiving gifts of books as personal property. Instead, he said, books sent to the captives are evaluated for their suitability for the library -- a trailer where Defense Department staff have catalogued a collection that recently ballooned to more than 16,000 books, magazines and videos even as the Pentagon is downsizing the prison camp population.

President Barack Obama has ordered the prison camps closed by early next year, a deadline the White House now says it may miss.

Meantime, staff there say quality-of-life improvements will continue until the last detainee is gone.

The library is also a featured stop on weekly tours for reporters, members of Congress and other invited guests brought to the sprawling prison camp compound in a Pentagon bid to demonstrate that the much-maligned detention center is "safe, humane and transparent.''

Library staff have since 2005 described the Harry Potter series as a borrowing bestseller among the mostly devout Muslim population -- and shown off translated versions in the stacks that separate Arabic from Urdu, French from Farsi and cover more than a dozen languages.

Other reportedly popular items include old World Cup soccer playoff videos, a French cuisine cookbook published in Beirut and scholarship on the Koran, pre-screened to make sure they contain mainstream messages.

For a time, Richard Nixon's "Victory Without War" flew off the shelves, a librarian reported. So much so that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed referred to it during a war court hearing earlier this year.

But not Chomsky, who in recent years got high-profile plugs from two of America's most ardent adversaries.

In September 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez held up Chomsky's 2003 "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance" in a speech at the United Nations that also likened President George W. Bush to Satan, and gave the book a bump in sales for several weeks.

A year later, bin Laden popped up in a keep-the-faith video address to his followers that proved he was alive and ridiculed the U.S. invasion of Iraq while praising the professor's "sober words of advice prior to the war.''

DeWalt said "force protection reasons'' barred him from explaining why any title or author was banned but said as of this week there were no Chomsky works of any type at the Guantanamo library in any language.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Librarians fight back against cuts with 'good library guidelines'

New guidelines say that a good library should be accessible, with opening hours which suit local needs, and with regularly refreshed print, audio-visual and online resources
Public library in north London
Good libraries should be accessible and well-stocked, according to new guidelines from CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

With the prospect of closure threatening up to a third of the UK's libraries, a group of librarians have put together a set of guidelines to help the sector address its problems.

The guidelines were launched at today's public library authorities conference in Bristol by CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, whose chief executive Bob McKee estimated that there were problems of "varying degrees of severity" at as many as 50 of the 150 public library authorities in the UK.

The CILIP guidelines include the provisions that a good library should be accessible, with opening hours which suit local needs, and with regularly refreshed print, audio-visual and online resources. Staff should be knowledgeable and well-trained, and involved in the local community – especially encouraging those unable or unwilling to visit the library to join.

McKee said that it would be increasingly important that libraries and local authorities understand what is expected of them with the prospect of cuts in the government settlement for the next financial year.
"We know it's going to be a tough spending round and the danger is that if libraries' statutory provision is defined in weak terms, and education and social care are defined in strong terms, then libraries will be squeezed. I've been involved in four government reviews of public library service. Two during the Thatcher/Major years and two during the Blair/Brown years and none of them have managed to produce a clear and comprehensive statement of what is expected of public library provision," said McKee.

He pointed to the situation in the Wirral, where the council's plans to close 11 libraries were dropped last week following local campaigns and a public enquiry. "That's a welcome move, but the financial problems faced by Wirral and other local councils won't go away," he said. "Clear guidance is needed on what local councils are expected to provide in their role as public library authorities ... We hope that the CILIP guidelines will help to provide that clarity and leadership."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Scanning the Horizon of Books and Libraries, by Amy Goodman

Posted on Sep 29, 2009

By Amy Goodman

A battle is raging over the future of books in the digital age and the role that libraries will play. One case now before a U.S. federal court may, some say, grant a practical monopoly on recorded human knowledge to global Internet search giant Google. The complex case has attracted opposition from hundreds of individuals and groups from around the planet.
Google announced in 2004 its plan to digitize millions of books and make them available online. Books in the public domain would be made freely available. Newer books, published since 1923 and for which copyright still exists, would still be online, but viewable only in what Google called “snippets.” Two groups, The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, sued, alleging copyright violations. In October 2008, the groups and Google announced a settlement to the lawsuits, dubbed the “Google Book Settlement” (GBS). Google would pay $125 million and create the Books Rights Registry, a new organization that would direct funds from the settlement, and future revenue from book sales, to the copyright holders. Google would be empowered to not only display works, but also to become a massive, online electronic bookstore.

The settlement grants Google, automatically, permission to scan, display and sell books that are still in copyright but are deemed “out of print,” and for which the copyright holder cannot be easily found. These are referred to as “orphan works.” The status of orphan works has been the subject of much debate, and legislation has been proposed to make orphan works more available to the public. The GBS gives Google, and only Google, the legal right to digitize and sell these works.

UC Berkeley Law professor Pamela Samuelson wrote recently, “The Google Book Search settlement will be, if approved, the most significant book industry development in the modern era ... [and] will transform the future of the book industry and of public access to the cultural heritage of mankind embodied in books.”

Brewster Kahle co-founded the Internet Archive, a digital library aspiring to provide “universal access to human knowledge.” It houses 150 billion Web pages, 200,000 movies, 400,000 audio recordings and more than 1.6 million texts. Kahle opposes the GBS. Google scans large library holdings and returns to each library digital versions viewable only on a limited number of computer terminals that Google provides.

I asked Kahle how he sees the future of libraries. “Libraries as a physical place to go, I think will continue,” he said. “But if this trend continues, if we let Google make a monopoly here, then what libraries are in terms of repositories of books, places that buy books, own them, be a guardian of them, will cease to exist. Libraries, going forward, may just be subscribers to a few monopoly corporations’ databases.” Kahle’s version of the digital library, which he and others are building collaboratively, is open and shareable, without strings attached as with Google’s deal. Kahle co-founded the Open Book Alliance, which filed an opposition to the GBS, equating the settlement with oil price-fixing schemes set up by railroad barons and John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in the 1870s.

After Judge Denny Chin, who is presiding over the case, called for public comment, opposition began flooding in from around the globe, from sources ranging from the governments of France and Germany to scores of publishers and authors and artists including folk singer Arlo Guthrie and author Julia Wright, daughter of Richard Wright, who wrote the classics “Black Boy” and “Native Son.” Marybeth Peters, head of the U.S. Copyright Office, called it an “end run around legislative process and prerogatives.” Judge Chin proposed a “fairness hearing” for Oct. 7 to decide on the Google Book Settlement.

On Sept. 18, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an opposition brief. It read, in part, “the breadth of the Proposed Settlement—especially the forward-looking business arrangements it seeks to create—raises significant legal concerns. ... A global disposition of the rights to millions of copyrighted works is typically the kind of policy change implemented through legislation, not through a private judicial settlement.” Judge Chin announced a delay of the hearing. The Open Book Alliance, along with many others, applauded the delay and is calling for an open, transparent process going forward to deal with the future of book digitization and the issue of orphan works in a way that best benefits the public interest.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banned Books Week - September 26−October 3, 2009

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 26−October 3, 2009

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

For more information on getting involved with Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, please see Calendar of Events and Ideas and Resources. You can also contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220, or

Banned Books Week Video: Puppet Book Banners

To kick off Banned Books Week 2009, our new Banned Books Week PSA featuring the puppets from “Crash Pad” is out! Watch as Chad, Rustle, and Mooch misinterpret the meaning of Banned Books Week and Herb comes to the rescue. Also check it out at AL Focus.

Banned Books Week Read-Out! in Chicago, IL, on September 26

The American Library Association, the McCormick Freedom Museum, and the Newberry Library invite you to join us along with ALA President Camila Alire and frequently challenged author Chris Crutcher, in a FREE event to celebrate your freedom to read! The Banned Books Week Read-Out! will take place Saturday, September 26, from noon to 2:00 PM [...]

New Book Censorship Map Reveals National Problem

Have you ever wondered where challenges to books in the United States actually occur? A new book censorship map featured on the site illustrates that censorship efforts take place all across the country. The Google map displays more than 120 book challenges—from Maine to Florida and from Long Island, New York, to San Francisco, [...]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The menace of the public [library] option

by M.C. Blakeman

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of all the current assaults on our noble republic, perhaps none is more dangerous than the public option - specifically, the public library option.
For far too long, this menace has undermined the very foundations of our economy. While companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble struggle valiantly each day to sell books, these communistic cabals known as libraries undercut the hard work of good corporate citizens by letting people read their books for free. How is the private sector supposed to compete with free? And just what does this public option give us? People can spend hours and hours in these dens of socialism without having to buy so much as a cappuccino. Furthermore, not only can anyone read books for free in the library, they can take them home, too. They get a simple card that can be used at any library in town. No checking on the previous condition of books they've read. No literacy test. Nothing. Yet, do these libertines of literature let you choose any book you want, anytime you want it? No. Have you ever tried to get the latest best-seller at a public library? They put you on a waiting list for that, my friend. And if you do ask these government apparatchiks a question about a book, they start talking your ear off, and pretty soon they're telling you what to read.
Of course, if you break one of their petty rules and return a book late, you have to pay fines that mount grotesquely each day. Even if you die, your overdue fees keep piling up. Is that not a death tax? How long must the elderly live in fear of burdening their children with these unfair sanctions on their estates?
Don't be fooled for a minute. Somebody has to pay for these "free" libraries, and I'll tell you who it is, pal. Those good ol' suckers, the American taxpayers, that's who.
Have you ever wondered who's really behind this public library option? And don't you think it's fishy that they mask their nefarious activities with benign-sounding names, like Friends of the Library? What's their real agenda - and why do they have so many "volunteer" meetings, anyway?
No, my fellow Americans. We cannot wait until we're all goose-stepped into a massive book checkout line. This assault on capitalism and our very way of life has got to end. Be subversive ... burn your library card! Go out and buy a book!
M.C. Blakeman is the co-author of "Safe Homes, Safe Neighborhoods" (Nolo Press).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Association for Rural & Small Libraries - Join NOW!

[Did you know that the majority of libraries in the United States are Rural? - I didn't know either..and I work in one...But since I attended the 2009 ARSL Conference in Gatlinburg, TN - and JOINED as a member of this group - I know that fact and many more facts that will allow me to better assist my community]

Membership Opportunities

"The mission of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries is to provide a network of people and materials to support rural and small library staff, volunteers, and trustees to integrate the library thoroughly with the life and work of the community it serves."

Individual Membership


  • Demonstrates support for rural and small libraries
  • Helps provide a voice for rural and small libraries on the national library scene
  • Access to a wide variety of rural information sources in one location on ARSL's website — a "one stop shop for all things rural"
  • Regular sharing of success stories and problem solving on rural library issues on the ARSL listserv.
  • 20% discount on annual ARSL conference designed exclusively for rural and small libraries
  • 15% discount on The Rural Library Services Newsletter. Please contact the publisher for more information, letting them know you are a member of ARSL.
    The Rural Library Services Newsletter
    Susan Hill Pieper
    Paulding County Carnegie Library
  • Opportunity to vote for and run for the ARSL Board of Directors

Red-Hot and Filthy Library Smut


Red-Hot and Filthy Library Smut

Now, coming upon this post as you are, unawares, I feel I ought to clarify the title (which was alternately going to be sex libris) straight away by telling you what this post is not, in fact, about. By “library smut” I am in no way referring to the photo books on native peoples, or the illustrated health manuals, or any of the other volumes which, in your childhood, you lurked about the library aisle to find with the sole purpose of sneaking guilty glances at naked bodies. Nor am I referring to the “risqué” novels by Miller, Cleland, Réage, or Lawrence you leafed impatiently through as a teenager. No. What I’m talking about here is the full-frontal objectification of the library itself. Oh yeah.

Yesterday I came across a truly gorgeous book of photographs by Candida Höfer titled, Libraries, a title which pretty much says it all, because that is just exactly what it is, one rich, sumptuous, photo of a library interior after another. It’s like porn for book nerds. Seriously. They are gorgeous photos, nearly all without visitors and just begging to be entered. (ha. sorry.)

See below for 14 examples which I particularly liked, but keep in mind these 500px wide version can’t really compete with the big, glossy, real thing.















Hope you enjoyed… but not too much… you filthy, beady-eyed perv.

You can pick up your own copy here.
(I’m sure they will ship in a plain brown paper-bag if you ask really nicely.)

Alternately, since I didn’t offer much by way of reading in this post I offer the following supplimentary material:

The obligatory Wiki round-up on the subject.

A history of private, royal, imperial, monastic and public libraries

Survivor: The History of the Library from History magazine.

Libraries & culture from University of Texas Press.

And hell, though it’s only tangentially related The Briar Press page:
Eleven Presses That Made History (Via.)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Reading Underground

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

A CITY RITUAL Austin Ferrier, on his way to work, reads Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American” on the B train.

Published: September 3, 2009

THE middle-aged woman with the black cardigan around her shoulders had assumed a meticulously calibrated posture: feet shoulder-width apart, arms slightly bent, fists loosely clenched, muscles relaxed yet alert.

She was not preparing for a tae kwon do bout, but performing her personal version of the underground battle engaged in daily by millions of New Yorkers: reading, intently, on a sardine-can D train hurtling swiftly toward Brooklyn in the evening rush. Without holding on.

“I am a New Yorker,” the woman, Robin Kornhaber, 54, told me as if those five crisp words explained everything. “I can do anything on the subway.”

Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper like Ms. Kornhaber, who lives in Park Slope and works on the Upper East Side, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

Even without a seat, even while pressed with strangers into human panini, even as someone plays a keyboard harmonica and rattles a cup of change, even when stumbling home after a party.

There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train. There is a lawyer from Brooklyn who for the past two months has catalogued what she and other commuters are reading on a blog, “The Subway Book Club,” and a student at the New School who spent the summer passing out 600 donated books to subway riders to spread her passion for reading.

And then there are those reading the readers, imagining their story lines. That man in a suit studying “Rosetta Stone Level 3 Italian” on the No. 2 train must be preparing to meet his fiancée’s family in Tuscany. The woman reading a young-adult novel at 81st Street is probably a teacher preparing for class. We are usually left to wonder, but I recently spent 12 hours crisscrossing four boroughs underground, asking people what they were reading and why.

Bob Alderson, 46, the man learning Italian, is a patent lawyer, with no imminent overseas travel plans, but aspirations. “Someday I want to visit Italy, so I’m studying,” he said.

And the woman reading “City of Glass,” an urban fantasy involving a slavering demon and several warlocks? Kimberly Nessel, 26, a dog walker with a graduate degree in forensic psychology, said she became addicted to young-adult fiction with dark plot lines when she worked in a bookstore.


C train at 135th Street, 9:30 a.m.

The blue bag balanced on her lap was packed full of health care administration textbooks and homework, but Deborah Hairston, who works in the cancer unit at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital was using her commute to peruse the catalogs that stuff her mailbox each week.

“Sometimes I find things I want to buy, but most of the time I am just browsing,” she said, paging past a display of bead-embellished Chadwicks cardigans. “I don’t want to read the news or get involved with anything too heavy. I have enough of that in my life.”


B train at 96th Street, 10 a.m.

To learn the Talmud, many of its students read one of its 2,711 pages each day. And it helps to have a chevruta, or study partner. Harry and David Zinstein, brothers from Washington Heights, generally conduct their Daf Yomi — page of the day, in Hebrew — study sessions en route to work on the Upper West Side.

Except on Wednesday, which turns out to be a kind of day of rest for Harry, the elder of the two Zinsteins at 28. A manager at Mike’s Bistro, a kosher restaurant on West 72nd Street, Harry Zinstein forgoes his subway Talmud study those days to read the Dining section of The New York Times.

“It’s the only thing I read on the train except for the Talmud,” he said, his thick, leather-bound Babylonian text tucked inside his messenger bag for later consumption. “And it’s the perfect length for the commute.”

David Zinstein, 19, who is studying in Israel but spent the summer working for his brother, sat to the right, reading his Aramaic tractates (with English translations). “I always read the Talmud on the subway,” he said. “Even on Wednesdays.”


A train at 23rd Street, 12:30 p.m.

Donalay Thomas is the kind of reader who creates a private space for herself among the multitudes, whether she is squashed by the door or has a whole row of seats to herself. With her iPod earbuds firmly in place (“On the Ocean,” from an R & B album by K’Jon) and a thick hardcover (“Resurrecting Midnight,” by Eric Jerome Dickey) open on her lap, Ms. Thomas, head down, can zone out and leave the world behind.

“I always listen to music while I read on the train because it sets the mood for me to get lost in the author’s plots,” said Ms. Thomas, 21, a model in between jobs who lives in Englewood, N.J., and was headed to West Fourth Street for an afternoon of skateboarding. “I can become one of the characters that I’m reading about.”

She does not, however, get so lost in her books that she loses touch with fellow passengers. “I’ll ask other readers if they’re enjoying a book I’m familiar with,” Ms. Thomas said.

Then she turned to a woman across the aisle. “Your stop is next,” she said, proving that she had been paying a little bit of attention to everything all along.


B train at 42nd Street, 1:30 p.m.

If every restaurant in New York employs at least one actor, then every subway car seems to carry at least two — rehearsing for a part, or just daydreaming about one.

An actress named Rachel, who is 25 and wore dark sunglasses that may or may not have been helping her get into character, was in from Los Angeles, with several auditions lined up, including one for the part of Sosa in “The A-Team,” a movie remake of the 1980s television series. “Sosa is an aide to the secretary of defense,” she explained. “I am trying to channel her. She is sexy, but official.”

Across the aisle, James Wright, 31, was dressed casually, sitting beneath a dark suit and starched white shirt on a hanger. On his way to an audition for a soap opera, “As the World Turns,” he was reading Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” — he aspires to play Biff some day — to warm up.

A few minutes later, another actress, Angelica Ayala, was gesticulating forcefully and mouthing the words to her part, a woman with multiple names and personalities. Ms. Ayala, 45, made no apologies for her theatrical display.

“I just have to do what I have to do,” she said. “People might stare, but I need to rehearse.” Her play, “Peccatoribus,” was being staged at the Pregones Theater in the Bronx.

“It’s a play about war and fighting for yourself,” she said.


N train at 59th Street, 4 p.m.

Having finished “The Nimrod Flipout,” a book of short stories by the Israeli writer Etgar Keret, on her morning commute, Alysia Vallas, on her way home to the Upper West Side, pulled out the journal in which she had been recording a summer’s worth of impressions of New York.

“I generally write little vignettes about daily occurrences I’d like to remember,” she said. “Strange places I’ve visited, people who have caught my eye on the subway, things of that nature.”

The journal, a patterned hardcover, also includes carefully drawn tables and notes on guitar chords she researched at the New York Public Library.

Ms. Vallas, 21 and a student at Grinnell College in Iowa, spent the summer as an intern at the Queens Library HealthLink. She said she typically used her train time to read or write.

“It’s the one the time of day that you have completely to yourself with no sort of immediate obligations, unplugged,” she said. “Although you’re surrounded by people, the anonymity is really forgiving.”


2 train at 42nd Street, 5 p.m.

The day-campers from Tremont United Methodist Church in the Bronx, ages 5 to 8, were exhausted. They had been going full speed with activities since 7:30 a.m., including a field trip to the New York Hall of Science in Queens.

Waiting on the platform at Times Square, the children plotted how to score a coveted rush-hour seat, planning who would sit on whose lap if the options were scarce. Hands were held tight, and two of the youngest girls rested their heads against each other’s for a moment.

As the train pulled into 42nd Street, Jesus Figueroa, a Tremont counselor for six summers, readied the campers to board: “Get your books ready.” An explosion of titles — “Jig and Mag,” “A Rose, a Bridge, and a Wild Black Horse,” “The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle” — were pulled from backpacks.

According to a church rule, Tremont campers must read whenever they win a seat on the subway. Each day, campers select a book from the church library or bring one from home. They practice reading in short increments — 20 minutes here and there — and keep reading journals to document their progress.

“The books keep them occupied while they ride and help them stay on point with their reading skills,” said Mr. Figueroa, 20.

On the train, even campers who had to stand took to their books. An 8-year-old named Christopher used both hands to hold “Time Together,” supporting himself by twisting one of his black Nike Shox around the pole behind him. Next to him was Steven, also 8, who cracked open “50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth” with one hand and held on to a counselor with the other.

With an index finger following the words on Page 4 of “Mary Anne to the Rescue,” a book in the Baby-Sitters Club series, 8-year-old Laronda perched intently on her seat between two men scanning newspapers. For a moment, she looked up to offer an assessment of the task at hand. “This is a lot of work,” she said, “but it’s fun.” And then she turned back to the book.


D train at Grand Street, 5:45 p.m.

Fellow passengers would probably never suspect that Carlton Clarke, standing in the middle of a crowded car, was consumed with the ramblings of a disaffected teenager.

With a logo bag from the accounting firm where he works slung over his shoulder and a stack of papers bound by a black clip balanced on his left palm, Mr. Clarke appeared to be taking his work home with him to Brooklyn.

But he was, in fact, three chapters into J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” a copy of which he had printed from a downloaded version circulating around his office book club, which meets weekly and turns 50-somethings like Mr. Clarke into armchair literary critics.

“I’m only part of the way into this book, but I already have questions about where it could be going and whether or not it can get there,” he said, bracing himself as the train lurched across the Manhattan Bridge.

In recent months, the book group has read the first and second installments in Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” series. “That was a different kind of reading experience because they are graphic novels,” Mr. Clarke said. “I had never been exposed to that genre before.”

As for “Catcher in the Rye,” Mr. Clarke could not remember whether he had read it before. “Maybe I did, in school, but either way, this is different,” he said. “I definitely never read it on the subway before.”


7 train at Queensboro Plaza, 6:15 p.m.

On a crowded car hurtling toward Jackson Heights, Panee Ma was immersed in a solitary pursuit, radiating monklike calm.

For two years, Ms. Ma has used her round trips from Queens to the garment district, where she spends long days applying intricate beading to clothing by hand, to read “The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra,” a six-volume Buddhist literary masterpiece. And here she was, on a warm Wednesday evening, most of the way through her last book.

Ms. Ma, 68, a native of Korea who came to New York in 1981 via Thailand, speaks in heavily accented English. Her reading goal is simple: “I am learning through these books to become a better human being and get better at English.

“I try to improve myself every day,” she added, thoughtful about the necessity of combining her spiritual life with the grime and noise of the subway. “I am trying to learn to live life as a Buddha. I don’t want to waste any time.”

An earlier version of this article misidentified the state in which Grinnell College is located and misstated part of the title of the Eric Jerome Dickey book being read by Donalay Thomas.