Website in a Box program is moving on

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

–Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

It has been so rewarding to run the Website in a Box program. It’ s fun to see 15 Utah libraries grow their own websites.  We’ve learned along the way, and the stats for the various sites are fabulous. They are getting thousands of visitors a month, and also have their library catalogs online where a person can place a hold, or renew a book online. Residents can access Pioneer: Utah’s Online Library at every site.  There are some cool, unique sites, so look through them and see their progress.

Thanks, Shelly Drumm, for all of your help on this project. It’s been fun.
Colleen Eggett

Connecting to Collections Town Hall

The results of our recent statewide Connecting to Collections Preservation Assessment are now compiled and a final report defining the State of Preservation in Utah has been drafted by Tom Clareson, our consultant on this project.

Everyone with a vested interest in the long-term health of collections in Utah is now invited to attend a Town Hall Meeting. This Town Hall Meeting will give you an opportunity to hear from our consultant about the survey results and discuss with the Connecting to Collections Steering Committee possible next steps for improving preservation in Utah. The Town Hall Meetings are scheduled for:

Continue reading

Books are going out the door

The Boston Globe reported a week ago that the Cushing Academy, a prestigious prep school in western Massachusetts, is replacing its 20,000-volume book collection with a “learning center” containing 18 eBook readers and three giant TV screens. It’s replacing the reference desk with a $12,000 espresso machine.

“It’s a little strange, but this is the future.”

ALA executive director Keith Michael Fiels says this is the first library he is aware of to eliminate books.

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “Our feeling,” he says, “is that we love books so much that we want our students to not have 20,000, but millions.”

Continue reading

Librarians at the Gate

I’m feeling chilled, nauseaus, and faint.  No, I don’t think it’s the swine flu.

Rather, I just listened to a portion of yesterday’s Democracy Now! interview with Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Google Faces Antitrust Investigation for Agreement to Digitize Millions of Books Online.

I’ve always thought that we librarians were the heroes.  We were the ones out there on the front lines safeguarding the public’s right to free access to information.  We were the ones gathering, microfilming, digitizing, cataloging and otherwise preserving papers, documents, and books and making them available online for present and future generations.

In this great crusade, librarians were among the first adopters of computer technologies.  We have since embraced every search tool, database delivery system, open standard, digitization scheme, and Internet widget to come our way.

But we’ve let our guard down.  In opening wide the gate and in embracing geeks bearing gifts, we’ve discovered an enemy.  Our greater surprise is finding that this enemy is ourselves.

We’ve been lulled by the siren song that benevolent, enlightened library technology corporations can do the job better, cheaper, and more efficiently than armies of local librarians could ever have dreamed of doing.   Overwhelming evidence has convinced us that monopoly giants can do it better.

As a result, the question, once unthinkable:

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see the end of libraries as we know them?

Elicits a nightmarish possibility:

BREWSTER KAHLE: [Long pause]. Libraries as a physical place to go, I think will continue, but if this trend continues, if we let Google make a monopoly here, then we’ll lose 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.

I wouldn’t have felt so alarmed listening to this had I not recently read Robert Darnton’s essay in The New York Review of BooksGoogle & the Future of Books“. Darnton, by the way, is the director of the Harvard University Library and was a trustee of the New York Public Library. Both institutions were among the first five enthusiastic contributors to the Google Book project when it began in 2004. They’re now having second thoughts.

This week has been unsettling all around. I’m still pondering OCLC’s announcement a few days ago of their cloud-based alternative to traditional library Integrated Library Systems and the merits of Tim Spaulding’s penetrating critiques in his LibraryThing blog.

I’ll let history can be the judge whether alarmists like Kahle, Darnton, and Spaulding are prescient or paranoid.

I need to get back to monitoring my swine flu “twittertape.”

Editorial by Ray Matthews
Government Information Coordinator
Utah State Library

- opinions expressed here are his own -