Archive for September, 2013

Breaking Dexter’s Wire: No spoilers here

Posted in Movies and TV on September 30th, 2013

A confession here: For the last few years, my wife and I have missed most of the Most Acclaimed Best Series Must Watch TV.

And we’ll probably continue to do so. Despite the TV critics who tell us that we must watch this and can’t miss that and are, I guess, woefully culturally illiterate if we aren’t chattering about the other.

On one hand, we have an excuse of sorts. We pay for limited basic cable–which is, essentially, what you’d get with a good antenna. (If we could get decent reception with an antenna, without building a tower, we wouldn’t use cable at all.) So: no HBO, no Showtime, no AMC, no…whatever.

But, of course, if we wanted to watch most of these shows we could, the same way we watch about half of the TV we do now: Delayed, on DVD/Blu-ray, from Netflix.

Don’t come back at me with “But Hulu Plus! But Netflix streaming! But Roku!” Our broadband–which will switch from AT&T DSL to AT&T “Uverse” midweek–is nowhere near fast enough for streaming to look worth a damn on our HDTV. We tried it. To get sufficient speed would mean switching our broadband provider to C…no, won’t say it…and paying a whole lot more than we do now, or than we’re willing to. For that matter, if AT&T ever actually builds out real Uverse to our neighborhood, the bill for really fast broadband may be more than we’re willing to pay, since the only thing really fast broadband would add is more TV. We’re seriously considering dropping the minimal cable we have, increasing our disc-only Netflix plan, and watching entirely from discs. We haven’t made that move yet, but…

Oh, I’m aware of most of these shows. How can you not be?

I’m certainly aware of the near-universal acclaim and loads of awards they win.

Here’s the thing, though. My wife and I like to have at least one or two characters on a show that we like–that we empathize with. We watch TV (usually about an hour a night, either broadcast or old series on DVD or Blu-ray) for entertainment. We don’t find consistently downbeat shows with antiheroes as protagonists particularly entertaining.

Telling us that they’re Great Drama doesn’t help. Telling us that they’re Daring–nah, I don’t buy that any longer. Ten years ago, maybe a dramatic show with primarily unlikable characters was Daring. Now, it’s In. At this point, doing a show like West Wing, with superior writing, directing and acting but also with mostly sympathetic characters, would be daring. To get great critical acclaim, Pres. Bartlett would probably have to become an adulterer and the rest of the cast embezzlers, influence peddlers, drug runners or possibly serial killers on the side.

If you just love these series, that’s fine: More power to you. I don’t think you’re going to run out of dark series. But, y’know, when you tell me that these are the only good things on TV, I’ll probably ignore you.

And if we really are missing magnificent acts of writing and acting that have never been paralleled on TV and will live forever in the history of drama…well, that’s OK too. Life is too short to watch TV that we don’t find entertaining…by our standards.

(This confession partly prompted by a post on a psychologist’s blog about why “we” watch these shows. It was an interesting post. It did not make me the slightest bit more interested in watching these shows.)

Erewhon Community Library: A $4 to $1 Example

Posted in $4, Libraries on September 27th, 2013

A good public library is at the heart of any healthy community, and the true value provided by a good library is hard to measure. That value includes children whose road to literacy begins at the library; newly employed workers who use the library to improve their skills and find jobs; every patron who learns something new or enriches their life using library resources; and the myriad ways a good public library strengthens its community as a community center and resource.

Those anecdotes and uncounted benefits make up the flesh and blood of a public library’s story—but there are also the bones: countable benefits, including those reported every year. Even including only those countable benefits, public libraries offer excellent value: by my conservative calculation, most provide more than $4 in benefits for every $1 in spending.

So what?

So this: Public libraries with better funding continue to show a high ratio of benefits to cost. That’s significant, especially as communities recover economically and libraries seek an appropriate share of improved community revenues.

Those are the first four paragraphs of $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets. Here’s a little more that relates directly to the book:

This book and the companion state-by-state study have two purposes:

  • To offer a detailed overview of public library benefits in 2011 and how they changed from 2009
  • To help librarians, Friends and other library supporters tell your library’s story, seeing how it compares to similar libraries on a range of countable measures.

These two volumes grow out of the earlier Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), based in 2010 data and consisting primarily of tables. I recommend either The Incompleat Give Us a Dollar… as a print book or the two ebook volumes of The Compleat Give Us a Dollar…, still available from Lulu, which combine graphs, tables and commentary and provide a more extensive background for this book.

By comparison to the earlier book, this book includes more libraries, breaks library sizes down into fewer groups, simplifies other measures somewhat and reports fewer measures. But it also adds 2009-2011 changes, graphs where appropriate, more detailed tables and textual commentary on what’s in the graphs and tables. Because all of that requires considerably more space, what was a single book is now two volumes: one by library size, one by state. (Most of this chapter and all of Chapter 2 are common to both so that the two books are each complete without reference to the other. The second volume may or may not appear, and if so will appear later.)

No more quotations. You may or may not know that the book is off to a slow start. (That overstates the success of the book, actually…) I don’t know whether this will help, but I thought I’d provide a quick example of what a library could determine from the book—and how it might or might not help the Friends or the librarians tell the library’s story to funding agencies.

Erewhon Community Library

This mythical library, in Erewhon, Alabama, is the average of two actual libraries, each having the median library service area population for 2011: 7,092 potential patrons. In most ways, the two libraries are quite different, so this profile doesn’t represent either of them. (Neither one is in Alabama: I’ve moved Erewhon there so that I can offer notes on what Volume 2 could offer, if it ever happens.)

The Figures

Here’s what Erewhon Community Library received when they sent me email (or what they already knew):

LSA

7,092

$/Cap

$38.20

Chg$/Cap

4.4%

Circ/Cap

5.1

ChgCirc/C

-17.5%

Vis/Cap

3.1

ChgVis/C

15.5%

Ref/Cap

1.25

ChgRef/C

-6.1%

Att/Cap

0.23

ChgAtt/C

12.6%

PC/Cap

0.54

ChgPC/C

33.3%

Vis/Hr

8.66

ChgVis/H

12.5%

I suspect the labels are easy enough to unravel, but just in case, they are: LSA (legal service area), spending per capita, change in spending per capita (from 2009 to 2011), circulation per capita, change in circulation per capita, patron visits per capita, change in patron visits per capita, reference transactions per capita, change in reference transactions per capita, program attendance per capita, change in program attendance per capita, visits per hour, change in visits per hour.

National Comparisons

Here’s how Erewhon compares to public libraries across the board:

  • Spending is actually about average—that is, below the average but well above the median. It’s in the $30 to $39.99 bracket, the middle bracket. 34% of libraries are in higher spending brackets; 49% are in lower brackets.
  • The change in spending is better than most, in the third of six brackets (2% to 8% increases)—with 32% in higher brackets, 49% lower.
  • Circulation per capita is lower than most, in the fourth of six brackets (and near the bottom of that bracket). Half of libraries do significantly better; 35% do worse. There’s a strong correlation between spending and circulation, and that’s probably the most important and demonstrable correlation in the book. For its spending level, it’s in the bottom quarter of circulation per capita, but not in the bottom tenth.
  • Circulation dropped substantially, more than in most libraries—it’s in the bottom bracket, with 83% of libraries doing better. For its spending level, it’s not in the bottom tenth but it is in the bottom quartile.
  • Visits per capita are also below most, in the fourth of six categories (and near the bottom of that bracket), with 51% doing significantly better and 25% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the bottom 10%: 90% of libraries spending $30 to $39.99 per capita do better.
  • But at least it’s improving, quite nicely, in fact. It’s not in the top bracket for changes in visits per capita (20% and up), but it’s in the top half of the second (7% to 19%), with 17% of libraries doing better and 67% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the top quarter but not the top tenth.
  • Reference transactions per capita are very good—near the top of the second of six brackets (0.8 to 1.29), with 17% doing better and 68% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the top quarter but not the top tenth.
  • On the other hand, reference transactions are dropping; Erewhon is slightly worse than most libraries in this regard, in the fourth of six brackets (48% significantly better, 33% worse). For its spending category, it’s in the second quarter (that is, below the median but above the first quartile).
  • Program attendance per capita is mediocre, in the fourth of six brackets, with 54% doing significantly better and 32% doing worse. For its spending category, Erewhon is just into the second quartile—that is, about 25% of libraries have lower program attendance.
  • As with visits, change is in the right direction, in the third of six brackets (32% doing better, 50% doing worse). For its spending category, it’s in the third quartile—better than most, but not in the top 25%.
  • PC use per capita is very low, in the fifth of six brackets, with 64% of libraries doing significantly better and 15% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s not in the bottom 10% but it’s definitely in the bottom quarter.
  • Ah, but PC use is improving fast—it’s near the top of the second of six brackets, with 17% of libraries doing even better and 68% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s not in the top 10% but it’s definitely in the top quarter.
  • The library isn’t especially busy, which is fairly typical for relatively small libraries. It’s in the fourth of six brackets, with 50% of libraries busier and 34% less busy. For its spending category, it’s in the second quarter—that is, more than 25% of libraries spending $30 to $39.99 per capita are less busy and more than 50% are busier.
  • Finally, it’s getting busier, in the second of six brackets for change in visits per hour, with 16% higher and 68% lower. For its spending category, it’s in the top half but not quite in the top quarter.

Is that information useful? Will it help the library fine-tune its operations and improve funding? I can’t be sure. But let’s look at libraries of comparable size.

Libraries Serving 6,000 to 8,999 Patrons

This set of bullet points is based on Chapter 7 (noting that “patrons” counts people in the legal service area, not those who have registered with the library). The brackets are always going to be the same, so we’ll just look at percentages.

  • 32% of these libraries spend more; 49% spend significantly less. Roughly one-third of libraries in this size category saw spending improve more than Erewhon, while 46% did worse.
  • For circulation per capita, half the libraries in this size range did significantly better, while 34% didn’t do as well. In the spending category, Erewhon is a little below the 25%ile—that is, more than three-quarters of libraries had higher circulation per capita.
  • For changes in circulation per capita, 34% did better and 52% did significantly worse. Erewhon is well into the third quartile for its spending category.
  • More than half the libraries in this size range (52%) had significantly more patron visits per capita, while 24% had fewer. For its spending category, Erewhon is in the bottom 10%.
  • When it comes to changes in patron visits, Erewhon did better than 65% of libraries in this size range, with 19% doing significantly better.
  • Only 16% of libraries in this size range had more reference transactions; 68% had significantly fewer. Erewhon is in the top quarter for libraries in its spending category, but not in the top 10%.
  • 47% of libraries in this size range showed either an increase or less decrease in reference per capita; 32% showed significantly more decrease.
  • For program attendance per capita, 57% of libraries in this size range did significantly better and 30% worse; Erewhon is in the bottom quarter (but not the bottom 10%) for its spending category.
  • Roughly one-third (32%) of similarly-sized libraries showed more growth in program attendance, while 49% did worse. Erewhon is in the third quarter for its spending category—more than half did worse, but more than a quarter did better.
  • More than three out of five libraries of this size range (62%) had significantly more PC use per capita, and the library is in the first quarter for its spending category (that is, more than 75% did better). Only 14% showed significantly more improvement, however, with 68% doing worse.
  • Finally, 56% of libraries in this size range are significantly busier, and Erewhon is in the least busy 10% for its spending category. But only 17% are getting busier at a significantly faster rate, while 66% are doing less.

Comparisons to Other Alabama Libraries

So how does Erewhon Community Library stack up against other Alabama libraries? It’s still in the middle as far as size is concerned—39% of Alabama’s libraries serve smaller groups while 38% serve larger groups. On the other hand, it spends more per capita than most Alabama libraries—only 13% spend significantly more while 76% spend substantially less. 24% of Alabama’s libraries improved spending more than Erewhon, and 61% didn’t do as well. As to the smaller set of metrics for state comparisons:

  • Less than a quarter of Alabama’s libraries circulated significantly more items per capita (24%), and 67% circulated fewer. For its spending category, however, Erewhon was in the lowest quartile. More than three-quarters (76%) either gained circulation or lost less. (Alabama’s libraries show very strong correlation between spending and circulation.)
  • Visits per capita are similar: 24% of Alabama’s libraries had significantly more, 51% fewer. In this case, Erewhon’s actually in the lowest 10% for libraries spending similar amounts. Only 22% had more improvement in visits per capita; 62% had less.
  • Some 22% of Alabama’s libraries had more reference transactions per capita; 67% had fewer. For its spending category, Erewhon is in the third quartile—better than half the libraries but not as good as the top quarter. A full 58% of libraries showed more improvement (or less reduction) in reference transactions per capita; 27% did worse.
  • Finally, just over half (52%) of Alabama libraries had more PC use per capita, while 20% had less; for its spending category, however, Erewhon was in the bottom quartile. On the other hand, while 36% of Alabama’s libraries saw even more increase in PC use per capita, 55% did worse—and Erewhon is in the top quartile for this measure in its spending category.

Are these facts helpful? Again, I’m not sure. In any case, barring a major and fairly rapid increase in sales of Volume 1 and Your Library Is…, Volume 2 won’t appear.

Understanding Your Story

I’ve thought of the books as providing help to libraries attempting to tell their stories to funding agencies, once they’ve fleshed out data comparisons with the real-world items that make libraries special. But maybe there’s another aspect: Understanding
your own story.

Looking at this off-the-cuff mythical example, I wonder why the usage numbers are (except for reference) not very good. Once a library knows that their resources are being underutilized, does that help them plan ways to improve the situation?

I looked at more numbers (again averaging two real libraries to create a mythical library). Erewhon spent $3.73 per capita on print materials in 2011: That’s a reasonably healthy amount, above the national average. The library’s open reasonably good hours for a small library (2,566—about 49 hours a week). There are 4.8 books per capita, which is also decent—and with 34,000 volumes, it shouldn’t be that there’s nothing worth borrowing. About 61% of the potential patrons are registered borrowers—which isn’t great, but isn’t terrible either. I do note that there aren’t many programs (86 total), and most of those programs are for kids or young adults (only 15 are for adults). Is that an issue?

So: Does all of this help, or is it just a distraction? I don’t know the answers.

C&I article links: Worth the trouble?

Posted in Cites & Insights on September 24th, 2013

For the first few years–OK, actually for the first 10.5 years–of Cites & Insights, I didn’t include hyperlinks for articles and posts I was discussing. I provided the title, the date, the author and the source, figuring that was enough. Of course, for the first few years, I assumed most everybody was printing out the issue anyway, so links would have been pointless.

Some time in 2011, I started providing hyperlinks, since PDF supports them (and since I’d also started the single-column “online version” where I assume people are reading online).

I’m beginning to wonder whether they’re worth the trouble and the slight defacement of the printed/online page. I could use feedback on this, although for various reasons the rest of Volume 13 will certainly have hyperlinks.

The peculiarities

I started thinking about whether hyperlinks serve much purpose in what’s still primarily a designed-for-print ejournal when I was editing some material and noticed a couple of cases where I forgot to include the hyperlink. I delete items from Diigo as soon as I finish discussing them, so I couldn’t just go to Diigo and pick up the link…

So I’d select the article title (typically a level-3 heading just above the discussion), plug it into Bing or Google, and probably 99% of the time the desired item would be the first result.

This made me think: If that’s what I do to resurrect a link, isn’t that what a reader can do to find the article?

The downside of including the links is that they result in underlined type (and colored type–which for people who use some printers to print copies will result in slightly higher printing costs). Oh, and that I frequently have to (or at least should) trim the URL, since what’s in Diigo is likely to include a huge suffix provided by feedburner or twitter or…

The pros

I suppose clicking on the hyperlink is a little faster than copying-and-pasting into a search engine, if you’re actually reading online. (There are also sometimes links within the discussion, but those are also usually pretty easy to replicate–I mean, if I reference a company, you can get there exactly the same way I generate the link!)

If you’re reading the issue a few months or years down the road, it’s possible that the article itself will have moved down the results page in Bing or Google. Not terribly likely except for a few very short titles, but possible.

It’s also possible that the article itself will no longer be available via a search engine–but in those cases, it’s also quite likely that the link in Cites & Insights will no longer work. (When I’m doing essays that cover two or three years, it’s not unusual to see at least 10% of the tagged items disappear because of broken links.)

Whaddya think?

I’ve been tempted to set up a C&I Advisory Board consisting of those people who contribute a significant sum within a given rolling two-year period to keep the publication running. If I did that, this query would go out as email to that group. But as of now, that group represents no more than 1% or 2% of C&I readers–or at least I hope that’s true!

So I’m asking it here. Whaddya think?

Comments or email to waltcrawford@gmail.com invited.

(Relevant comments, that is. The paratroopers and athletic shoe vendors and all the rest of the spammers that provide 99% of comments will continue to be treated as spammers.)

Cites & Insights Annuals: A new page

Posted in C&I Books, Cites & Insights on September 23rd, 2013

Since early 2008, I’ve been producing annual paperback volumes of Cites & Insights through Lulu. I went back and prepared a volume for 2006, so there are now seven such volumes, volumes 6 through 12 for 2006 through 2012.

To some extent, I do these volumes because I want to have each volume readily available, and determined that it costs just about the same to produce a volume through Lulu, even if nobody else purchases it, as it does to print all the issues and get it Velobound at the nearest Fedex Kinko’s–and the results are far superior. In 2001 and 2002, I was able to get taped-spine bindings, but they stopped offering those. I continue to toy with the idea of preparing Lulu versions of Volumes 1-5, although there are feasibility problems.

The bound volumes have several nice features:

  • They include volume indexes (only available in the printed volumes) and, except for 2006-2008, overall tables of contents.
  • A couple other items are uniquely available in the printed volumes–an introduction in one year, the phantom Cites on a Plane issue [only available online for 14 days] in another.
  • Most volumes have wraparound covers consisting of large versions of my wife’s travel photographs with type overlaid. (One volume has front and back photos; one, the year C&I almost disappeared, has a front photo and an admittedly nearly unreadable spine.) Heck, if you don’t want the book, for $23 to $27 you get an 11″ x 18″ (or thereabouts–the width varies) full-color photo you could rip off the body of the book and frame. Or not. (I happen to think the pictures are terrific, perhaps especially 2006, 2009 and 2012.)

For a while, I was regarding these volumes as an actual C&I support mechanism, pricing them at $50.

Now, they’re priced comparably to other C&I books–designed so that each sale yields around $8 net revenue. Prices range from $22.99 (for Volume 11, the slenderest of the lot) to $26.99 (for Volume 9, the fattest).

I’ve never pushed these volumes, but they’re actually pretty nice. A few copies have sold, maybe a dozen in all (not a dozen per volume!).

They also cluttered up the C&I Books footer here, on the Cites & Insights home page and on my personal website.

I’ve fixed that–and offered some highlights from each volume.

There’s now a single link on the C&I Books footer that takes you to Cites & Insights Annuals.

That page has, for each volume, the number of pages (including indexes and front matter), price, link to the book’s page at Lulu, and a bullet list of a few highlights from the volume (mostly longer essays).

Oh, and one more thing: A 300-pixel-high copy of the entire wraparound cover (again, except for 2007 and 2011). These small versions can only hint at the actual spectacular covers (which are 3,300 pixels high–although the 300-pixel versions include a tiny bit at the top and bottom that’s trimmed off the actual covers).

Take a look. You might find one or two of them worthwhile–or, for a library serving a library school or with a focus on the semi-gray literature, maybe the whole set. If there’s specific demand and promise to purchase, I’d consider doing hardcover versions (which would inherently cost $10 more), preparing volumes 1-5 (if that turns out to be feasible) and maybe fixing the spine of Volume 11 (which is currently just a little hard to read).

 

 

Self-publishing Reality Check 3

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on September 18th, 2013

It’s been a week since the last post in this series. (Actually, it’s been 8 days: Somehow, the previous post was updated rather than having a new post.)

There has been at least one sale at my Lulu bookstore—but it was Anna Julia Young–Autobiography, one of my wife’s projects. And if you’re interested in Livermore or East Bay local history, you might find it interesting. As for my books: not so much.

Since the existence of $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets vol. 2: Libraries by State depends in part on sales of volume 1 and of Your Library Is…, and since the possibility of doing Mostly Numbers or any future project that could conceivably be sold to a traditional publisher as a self-pub to do it faster and make it cheaper depends on it being plausible to do self-pub books, it seems reasonable to track what’s new out there.

I’m using abbreviations (and hiss boo a table boo hiss) so I can track this over time—and have simplified the table for width reasons:

  • $4v1/p, e, s: $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, volume 1, paperback, ebook and site license versions respectively
  • YLI/p, e: Your Library Is…, paperback and ebook versions respectively
  • iC: The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar… (paperback only)
  • C$1: The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 1, both editions
  • C$2: The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 2, both editions
Dates $4v1/p $4v1/e $4v1/s YLI/p YLI/e iC C$1 C$2/s
To 8/29

2

1

8/29-9/3
9/3-9/10
9/10-9/18
Total

2

1

(The second date is “through around 2 p.m.” and the first date on the next row starts right after that.)

These are, to be sure, still early days. I’ll keep saying that for a while… although it’s getting harder.

Next update no earlier than 8/26, a month after the three new books were published, and I may try to make it every other week, as it’s starting to get pretty discouraging to admit how things are going on a weekly basis.

Dear Fed: Why do you hate us (and other savers) so much?

Posted in Stuff on September 18th, 2013

This is a serious post. Probably the most serious I’ll post all year.

My wife and I did what we were told we should do. We saved our money. We lived less considerably below our means so that we could save our money.

Now we’re retired (somewhat earlier than planned, through no fault of our own, but never mind…)

And now the Fed is essentially saying “Screw you. We hate savers. You are required to invest and borrow. Saving is for idiots.”

Which is to say: We can’t get decent rates on CDs or other guaranteed savings–because the Fed plans to keep interest rates at essentially zero for what sounds like pretty much forever.

Would we be happy to get interest rates equal to inflation? Not really–but I don’t even believe we can count on doing that at this point.

We don’t much like risk. We spent less money–a lot less money–so we wouldn’t have to cope with risk.

That apparently offends the Fed.

As far as I can tell, the methodology being used by the Fed basically enriches Wall Street, as it forces more people to invest regardless. It’s doing a pretty good job for bankers, too. Basically, those who were already getting richer are getting even richer.

I don’t believe it’s bringing lots of people back to work. Companies that can borrow at no interest seem to keep enriching their owners, managers and shareholders, and hiring the absolute minimum number of workers they can. (If zero-interest loans were only for small businesses, which create most new jobs, that would be different.)

But for us and, I believe, a few millions or tens of millions of other people, it looks like direct punishment for not being massively in debt and for not being gamblers: Making sure that we can’t earn decent return on savings.

And I think it stinks.


I forgot to add this crucial point:

If we could get decent rates on savings, we’d spend more.

As it is, fear of long-term major issues and knowledge that we’re getting crap on our savings–and that it’s likely to get worse, not better–is keeping our optional spending lower than it should be.

The most complete story, 2010: Compleat Give Us…, an FAQ

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on September 18th, 2013

What is it?

All of the tables from Chapters 1-19 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, plus all of the graphs in Chapters 1-19 of Graphing Public Library Benefits and all of the commentary from the November 2012 Cites & Insights, all integrated into a very complete look at public library benefits and funding, by size of library, in FY2010. It’s all combined into a 361-page 8.5″ x 11″ PDF ebook (no DRM) for a mere $9.99.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Libraries serving library schools, for one.

Some larger public libraries.

State library associations.

Some library consultants.

Librarians who want a fairly detailed understanding of the situation.

How is it available?

The standard PDF ebook costs $9.99 from Lulu.

A site-licensed version (with explicit permission to mount it on a server with multiple simultaneous access/download/reading) is $39.99 from Lulu.

It is not available in print, because many of the graphs are 10-color graphs that would require color printing throughout; as a result, a paperback version would have to be priced at more than $85 (more than $75 even if I didn’t want a modest return). That seems ridiculous. (If you don’t care about the 10-color graphs and do want a print version, you should buy The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar for $26.99 paperback. It leaves out those graphs, but it does include Libraries by State, Chapter 20.)

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No, but it will disappear when there are no sales.

Will it be replaced with a newer version?

No. The “newer version” already exists ($4 to $1…), but it doesn’t replace this because it discusses fewer measures and breaks libraries down into fewer groups in order to attain a reasonable length.

What public libraries say about themselves: Your Library Is…, an FAQ

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on September 16th, 2013

li432What a library says about itself may say much about the aspirations and community sense of the library. This book collects those sayings, as sources of revelation and inspiration–about public libraries and for public libraries and the communities they serve.

What is it?

A collection of public library sayings–mottoes and slogans on the home pages of public library websites from around the U.S.

Your Library Is… A Collection of Public Library Sayings is a 157 page (plus vi pages) 6″ x 9″ paperback consisting of a four-page introduction and the slogans and mottoes, arranged by state and by library (system) within state.

I checked the websites of as many of the 9,200+ U.S. public library websites (in the IMLS FY2011 database) as I could find. After omitting some categories of sayings, I wound up with 1,137 apparently-unique mottoes and slogans and another 88 mottoes and slogans shared by a total of 205 libraries.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Nobody needs this book.

Who might want it?

Librarians (and non-librarians) who may find the range of mottoes and slogans inspirational and revealing.

Libraries that don’t have sayings (most don’t, and that’s fine) and might be considering using one…or, for that matter, libraries that do have sayings but don’t show them on their homepages.

Libraries serving library schools, again for inspiration and revelation.

How is it available?

The paperback version costs $16.99 plus shipping from Lulu. As with (nearly) all Cites & Insights Books, it’s nicely designed and printed on 60lb. cream stock, classic “library quality paper.”

The ebook version–a PDF with no DRM and 6″ x 9″ pages that should display beautifully on most ereaders and tablets–costs $8.99. No shipping. It is identical to the body of the paperback.

You can also acquire a deluxe version of the PDF ebook (adding the book covers as first and last pages) by donating $50 or more to Cites & Insights and requesting the book when I thank you for your donation.

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No. I’ve already priced the ebook lower than most C&I books.

It will disappear over time if there aren’t enough sales to keep it active.

Will it be replaced by a newer version?

Highly unlikely. It was fun to scan the 9,000+ websites and record the sayings once. I doubt that they’ll change or grow all that rapidly, and it would be a lot less fun to do it again.

Can I get a sample?

The first saying is “Generations of Readers.” The last is “Dynamic Gateways for Lifelong Learning”

A considerably longer sample is available on pages 6-15 of the (online version of the) October 2013 Cites & Insights.

Tell me a little more…

I was looking at public library websites for a research project and encountered a variety of interesting and frequently inspiring mottoes and slogans.

At some point, it struck me that these were varied and worthwhile—-clearly to the libraries that put them on their websites and quite possibly to librarians and libraries elsewhere.

It’s one thing to provide inspirational messages from one person’s viewpoint. But these are what libraries choose to say about themselves.

Methodology

I used the IMLS public library dataset for 2011 (not the outlet dataset but the set of main libraries and library systems), retrieved in order to prepare $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets. It included URLs for several hundred libraries (although the URLs didn’t always work). I copied key columns of that dataset to a spreadsheet with another column for the sayings I found.

Going through the libraries with URLs, I found that about one out of every five libraries had a motto or slogan that wasn’t an epigraph (a quotation from somebody else),”Welcome,” a saying referring to the website itself or the like. The variety and content were rich enough to persuade me to go through the rest—more than 9,000 libraries, checked for fun during breaks in more serious projects over a couple of months in the summer of 2013.

To search for the rest of the libraries, I prepared a composite key composed of the library name and the state abbreviation. For most of the process, I used Bing, since it seemed to provide cleaner results with less overhead than Google. It didn’t take long to recognize the patterns of pseudowebsites—the many auto-generated webpages that have nothing to do with the actual libraries.

I didn’t actually keep track of how many libraries I was unable to find websites for. In a few hundred cases, I located the website indirectly from a library’s Facebook page—and in a few cases, I took a motto or slogan from that page. My best guess is that I missed somewhere between 500 and 1,000 libraries, mostly small, either because they simply don’t have websites or because I couldn’t reach them.

When I found a motto or slogan, I either copied it directly (if that was feasible) or retyped it into the Excel cell. For slogans appearing entirely in capital letters, I used sentence case instead; in all other cases, I attempted to retain the capitalization used in the original. Quotation marks and ellipses were retained. A variety of ornaments used between words were normalized to middle dots (•).

Exclusions

Along the way, I added some categories of things that seemed not to make sense to include in this collection. Among those (noting that I’m not entirely consistent about these!):

  • Epigraphs (quotations from other people), as already noted.
  • “Welcome” or “Welcome to your library” without anything else.
  • “Your library resources anytime, anywhere” and other similar sayings that appear to be part of the default Plinkit template or that refer to the website rather than to the library itself.
  • “Serving xxx” where”xxx” is the name of the community, communities, county or counties served.
  • “Check us out” or”check it out” or similar sayings, although some variations are included.
  • Statements of the library’s age without anything else.
  • Statements of a library’s award-winning or number-of-stars status.
  • Library mission statements and vision statements (although a few of these probably crept in).

I did pick up mottoes contained within a library’s logo, if it was possible to read the text as the logo appeared on the website.

I do not claim perfection or consistency. A few of the sayings here should probably have been excluded. A few sayings that weren’t picked up probably should have been. This collection should be fun and maybe inspiring; it’s not a research project as such.

One other category of exclusion

The text above comes from the introduction. Thinking about it, there’s another category of exclusion that may include hundreds of libraries: Cases where the library page appears as part of the city or county website, especially as a portion of a master page, and a city or county slogan or motto appears (and not a separate library one).

The public library benefit scene in 2010: inCompleat Give Us, an FAQ

Posted in Stuff on September 13th, 2013

inc600

What is it?

The most complete book I know of to understand public library funding and service data in FY2010–more complete and detailed than the more recent $4 to $1. The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, a 433-page 8.5″ x 11″ paperback, combines the text and tables from Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four with all of the commentary added in Cites & Insights–and all of the graphs in Graphing Public Library Benefits that work in a black-and-white publication.

That’s why it’s inCompleat: It’s lacking some multicolor line graphs that don’t make sense when rendered in grayscale.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Libraries serving library schools, for one.

Some larger public libraries.

State library associations.

Some library consultants.

A few librarians who want a fairly detailed understanding of the situation.

How is it available?

The paperback version costs $26.99 plus shipping from Lulu.

There is no ebook version.

While there are sales to justify availability, The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 1: Libraries by Size includes all but Chapter 21 (libraries by state) and also includes all of the multicolor line graphs. The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 2: Libraries by State directly replicates Chapter 21 of The Incompleat… but in 6″ x 9″ PDF page images. Both ebooks are $9.99; both are also available in site-license versions ($39.99 and $34.99 respectively).

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No, but it will disappear when there are no sales.

Will it be replaced with a newer version?

No. The “newer version” already exists ($4 to $1…), but it doesn’t replace this because it discusses fewer measures and breaks libraries down into fewer groups in order to attain a reasonable length.

I do not live in Cali

Posted in Language on September 11th, 2013

Dunno why, but I’ve been seeing way too many references lately to “Cali” as short for California.

Some of them from Southern Californians, who should know better.

I do not live in Cali.

Cali is a city in Colombia.

I don’t live in NoCal either. If y’all down south want to call it SoCal, that’s your privilege. NoCal is everywhere except California. NorCal is OK, I guess, if you really must. (Although people in Chico and Eureka and Healdsburg would say that I don’t live in Northern California anyway…but let’s not go there.)

Cali? Ugggh.

I was pleased to see this when I looked up “Cali”–from the Urban Dictionary:

*The first definition has two parts, the first of which is the city in Colombia, the second of which is:

2) An annoying name for California.

*The third definition–after one for the city in Colombia–suffers from urban spelling, but:

A name that non-native Californian’s use when refering to California and trying to seem like a real Californian.
Typical of an East coaster

*The fourth:

A word for “California” used by no one who has ever lived in California. Use “Cali” and you will immediately sound like a hick.

Sigh. Unfortunately, there are people in the bottom half of the state who have used that term. Not many, perhaps, and the last part of that definition may still apply.

This being the Urban Dictionary, definitions go on and on (and get worse and worse)…

If you live in California, and find anything longer than two syllables and four letters just too overwhelming to deal with, a couple of suggestions: Move to Utah. I would mention Iowa and Ohio, but those are each three syllables.


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