Blog Archives

450 new books in one week

In the last week I’ve acquired more than 450 books. They’re all stacked in piles in my conservatory; separated into  fiction/non fiction and further sorted into adult/children; true crime, fiction; sport, biography/autobiography etc.  At a rough estimate this lot would cost more than £3,000 new.

They’re not going to be added to my TBR however. In fact I sincerely hope their time with me will be short lived.

In case you think I’ve flipped due to an over-indulgence of chocolate this weekend, I should explain that this mountain of books is all destined for a book sale I’m organising in April in aid of the community library we’ll be opening in my village in June. It’s our first fund raising event and we thought what could be more appropriate for a library than to bring people together who love books. Donations have been coming in all week – I know there are more to come – so all we need now is for  a few people to come and buy.

It’s been rather fascinating to see what kind of books my neighbours gathered together as their contributions. I was expecting to get multiple copies of crime fiction from the likes of James Patterson and Jo Nesbo but we’ve not had one even. What I didn’t expect was to find some of my neighbours are fascinated by true crime – I think we’ve had books on everyone from the Moors murderers (my UK readers will be very familiar with that notorious couple) to the reformed drug dealer Howard Marks and the organized gangs who stir up trouble in football matches. I never realised that the quiet little man who I see in the newsagent every Sunday was so much into this kind of world. Nor the chap who sits in the pub doing his crossword over a pint, is such a world traveller – his donation was full of travel guides on places like Vietnam, Sweden, Russia. Thailand as well as long distance cycle paths.

50 shades wallNo-one has been brave enough to hand over copies of 50 Shades of Grey yet though. I know they’re out there because they keep turning up in the charity shops. In fact one of those had so many copies they built a fort from them and appealed to people not to give them any more!

I really hope all our books get sold otherwise I might need to start getting creative myself.




A future without books?

BIGbibliotechThe good citizens of a community in San Antonio, Texas might have beamed with anticipated pleasure when the city fathers announced they were getting a new, purpose- built library.

It was big news for a community that doesn’t have a bookstore and has never had a library to call its own.

Not unreasonably, many of its residents expected that part of the $1.5M cost would go a long way to paying for a few books. Imagine their surprise to learn that theirs will be the first bookless and paperless public library across the whole of North America.

Many libraries around the world are switching funding from the purchase of paper copies of books, to  buying digital versions. Just last year Imperial College in London announced that over 98% of its journal collections were digital, and that it had stopped buying print textbooks. Other academic institutions have experimented with this approach, particularly in their science and technology faculties.

But the new BiblioTech facility in Texas will be the world’s paperless public library.  Readers will visit the Apple-inspired building to download e-books directly onto tablets, smart phones, PCs and e-readers from an initial collection of around 10,000 titles. If they don’t have their own devices, they’ll be able to borrow one apparently.

The county commissioners and officials are excited about their new baby, seeing it as the first step in a much bigger project that will see similar facilities open in other parts of the state. “We are trailblazing,” said the county’s top elected official, County Judge Nelson Wolff. “…the world is changing and this is the best, most effective way to bring services to our community.”

Traditionalists (and I hold my hand up to being one of them) might react with rolling eyes to such comments. The first time I saw this picture I imagined that using it would be an antiseptic, soulless experience completely alien to  the musty, dusty but oh so atmospheric libraries of my formative reading years. Even now, as libraries have modernised and refurbished, I still can’t imagine getting the same thrill from selecting a book from an on line catalogue rather than taking it down from the shelf and browsing a few pages before deciding if it’s for me. Orange walls and green bar stools don’t make the experience any more pleasurable. If they were going to spend a few million dollars, couldn’t they have done something inventive and pleasurable.

Like this new library in Maranello, Italy which seems to float in water.

Maranello Italy

Or this one in Mexico city where the architects designed a concrete and glass frame around the front of an old house

Mexico city

But once the initial reaction wore off, I began to think that maybe these good burghers of Buxton county are not only smarter than I gave them credit for, they could be considered community heroes. Woolf is a personal fan of the printed book — he owns about 1,000 first editions though not an electronic reader. “I am a guy who likes that physical book in his hand,” Mr. Wolff said. “But I also realize I am a bit of a fossil.”

Faced with rapidly growing populations in  suburbs and satellite towns outside the San Antonio city limits he knew the residents of these areas wanted more services. But no-one would be happy to see their local taxes escalate to pay for them. His plan not only gets people access to a library for the first time, he’s doing it at at a significantly lower cost than the traditional approach.

And he’s given the new facility a very strong community education focus through partnerships with local schools, digital literacy courses and late opening hours.

The new BiblioTech site is due to open later this summer. Whether it will get the positive reaction the officials are hoping for, therefore remains to be seen. There was a public outcry in Newport Beach, California in 2011 when residents learned their city was planning a bookless library. Eventually the city fathers backed away from the plan. Will Buxton become a failed experiment or will convenience and the preferences of a new generation of readers prevail?

One comment from a local father could hold the key.

I’m not likely to use a library containing only e-books, but my kids probably will. I really hate those little screens. But my teenage kids—that is the only way they want to read now.”

A dream library

I’ve  always been a fan of public libraries and today I found one that reminded me off just how good they can be.  I must have been to the ‘city’ of Midland, Michigan on business at least 30 times in the last few years but had never been inside the Grace A Dow public library until today.

The building itself is nothing remarkable. Neither is the inside decor. But close to the entrance is something I’ve never seen before in libraries at home the my part of Wales –  a small coffee shop.  What a great idea. In a country awash with Starbucks outlets it was a pleasure to see some independent business In operation. But what was even more delightful – it’s run by a voluntary Friends of the Library group who just happened to be having a big book sale  at the time I visited. So of course I couldn’t resist a browse which turned into a purchase of four books ( a bargain at only a dollar each). All the proceeds go to the Friends fund so they can bring in speakers and also fund books for  young readers when they visit.  What a great idea – wish my local library did something simliar.

what also impressed me – this is a library designed to be open at times when people who are in work all day can get to it. Every weekday evening it’s open until 8pm and even more remarkably on a Sunday afternoon. So no more rushing to finish work early just to squeak through the doors five mins before closing time at  5.30pm or waiting until the one late night in the week. Very civilised. So naturally families were taking advantage of it.

my local library could take a few lessons from their counterparts over here. I know they are strapped for cash but this is about attitude and taking a  genuine interest in serving the community. And why not recruit interested people to be volunteers?


%d bloggers like this: