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Showing posts from January, 2013

How to get your book in a library

You've written a book. You want it to be in your local public library. Why? Because you want to be read, and libraries are where the readers are. After all, collecting books - gathering, organizing, and publicly presenting the intellectual content of our culture - is what libraries do. So all you should have to do is swing by the library, drop off your book (they might even buy it from you), and the next thing you know, the public will be clamoring for more copies. Wouldn't it be nice if things worked like that?The job of the library: a history Because, of course, they don't. But before I get into how you should approach your local library, let me give you a little history. When public libraries first caught on (at the end of the 19th century), they were cast by civic leaders as serious sanctuaries of learning, places where intelligent laypeople could sit quietly, contemplate Great Literature, and stay abreast of the important political issues of the day. Early libra…

The importance of backups

After fiddling around for a bit today with some more virtual machines (Xubuntu and Kubuntu) then booting back to regular Ubuntu, I noticed an error message. I realized that I'd gotten out of the habit of making regular backups.So I fired up Backintime, and ... it failed. Finally, I realized there must have been too much in the home folder (some config files may have tripped it up), so I just set it to copy my Documents and a few things I do want to save (email). Then it worked fine. Remember, boys and girls, better to save before the crash than wish you had afterward.Oh, and Xubuntu and Kubuntu are both very good looking, although KDE just seems to have more overhead than it's worth. Ubuntu with Unity is fine.P.S. Later I booted the Linux Format disk and tried out Lubuntu, based on LXDE. Once again, this particular front end to a Linux distribution is both snappy and soothing. It is both familiar (bottom row with start menu and little panels to show running apps) and minimalis…

500 books in the home

This study -- "Family scholarly culture and educational success: books and schooling in 27 nations" -- has lots of citations (here's a good example). This 20 year study of 27 nations (itself impressive) was authored by MDR Evans, Jonathan Kelley, Joanna Sikora and Donald J. Treiman, and it comes from a journal called Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 28 (2010) 171-197.
We should be doing a lot more with this. The "sticky" fact for me: if a child (between the ages of 0-5) of any socioeconomic level and despite the education attainment of the parents has 500 books in the home, it's as good as having two parents with Master's degrees.
How do people get 500 books in the home, especially if they don't have a lot of money? Can you spell "library?"

Forbes on why libraries matter

Here's David Vinjamuri's 2nd article for Forbes, "Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More." While I'm not sure I agree with all his conclusions (for instance, there was never a time when we could buy everything, I don't think we should stop buying popular titles now, and I don't think we steal sales from publishers), I'm impressed by a lot of things in it. He did his homework. He sees the rise of a library that is far more of a community center, and a bridge across the digital divide. He write, "Libraries support three core missions: promoting reading, offering access to information and anchoring communities." He hints at a role I think will be key for libraries in the future, as important to society as our children's department today (he doesn't talk about the role of libraries in aiding and abetting early childhood literacy): finding, improving, and marketing the work of local authors.On balance, the piece is one of t…

Being Wrong

Last Sunday, I was invited to speak at the Prairie Unitarian Universalist Church in Parker. My topic was the wise and extraordinarily well-written book Being Wrong, by Kathryn Schulz. My "sermon" (you may call me Reverend LaRue) doesn't quite follow her own fascinating structure. But here's the talk. How does it feel to be wrong?You say you feel sinful, lazy, stupid, foolish, inadequate. But you're wrong. It feels just like being right -- or (as Schulz says in her Ted talk), it's like Wile E. Coyote running off the cliff in pursuit of the Roadrunner. At that moment, he does not feel wrong. It's only when the clouds of dust disappear and he realizes he's standing in space that he realizes he's wrong. And only then does he fall.Being Wrong and Childhood: The Sally Ann testSally and Ann are in a room. Sally puts a candy bar in a basket, closes the lid, and leaves the room. Ann takes the candy bar out of the basket, and hides it in the cupboard. Now…

Snapshot: DCL's digital branch

First, see this useful and insightful Digital Shift piece about Douglas County Libraries' most recent purchase, featuring our very articulate and astute Collection Manager, Sharon Nemechek. We were instructed by our board to develop a "digital branch." As of the beginning of 2013, our collection of digital content looks like this: * Library owned and hosted content – 21,000 items (10,000 from Smashwords, 11,000 from midlist and independents)
* OverDrive – 9,748 items
* 3M – 6,200 items
* Project Gutenberg – 500 items
* Zinio - 160 Total: 37,608 Over the course of 2012, DCL spent almost $700,000 on digital content -- on top of what we already spend for print. Bottom line: I'm pleased to say that we now own more ebooks than we lease (through OverDrive). We may be the only public library in the world that can make that claim.

Peter Brantley on Smashwords and agreements

Brantley's latest Publisher Weekly blog highlights the important points of our recent deal with Smashwords (buying 10,000 self-published titles for $40,000). First, the price per copy, $4, is quite a ways away from the $84 Random House charges libraries for a single copy of an ebook. Second, our Statement of Common Understanding -- a brief, clear, 2 page document crafted by lawyer/librarian Mary Minow -- is just a much, much simpler way for publishers and librarians to do business than a host of weirdly restrictive terms set out by corporations that must then be managed by the institutions most injured by them -- public libraries. The adoption of these terms by so many authors and both traditional and emerging publishers is a very good sign of the times. And I like seeing what I call positive market pressure: good news about people who see clear advantages of working with, not against us. At some point, surely authors and publishers will just find this an easier and more PR-frien…

VMware and me

It's not a complete waste of a day, but it's close: I installed VMware on my Windows laptop, then set up a couple of virtual machines to test: Bodhi Linux and the latest Peppermint OS. Both are lightweight distributions based on Ubuntu. Both are minimal installations, that then take a little while to customize. Live CDs used to be the way I would take a look at a new distribution. But that process uses up CDs (and now DVDs), most of which I never look at again -- and Linux distributions change rapidly. The other problem with the Live CD is that you don't really know how easy it is to work with it until you've installed it. But nobody really wants to partition, install, and wipe out something that doesn't work. I played around with USB distro installs for awhile, but they didn't always work, and still require rebooting.Virtualization is the answer. You set up a software-only machine, just a file within your regular or "host" operating system. With VMwa…

Software reflections

As usual, the end of the year makes me thoughtful not only about what I do, but also the tools I use to do it. Much of my life is spent with computers, and so it makes sense to take a step back and look at the larger picture of that from time to time. I now use four operating systems: Windows 7 at work, Ubuntu 12.04 at home, iOS on iPad in many locations, and my Android smartphone. A great deal of my work has moved to the cloud, where I can gain access to it from all these devices. Google has my Calendar, Tasks, and Contacts. the calendar syncs to my Exchange server at work (although I understand that Google doesn't offer that program anymore). Many of my working files are on Dropbox, where I work with them from Office suites on all the individual platforms (Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, Polaris Office, QuickOffice). There are difference between them, but all of them do the modest work I need from them (mostly editing small word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation files…