Archive for the 'Books and publishing' Category

liberation management: a non-review

Posted in Books and publishing on July 6th, 2014

I tried, Really, I did! Apparently once some years ago, three or four times in the last couple of weeks.

But I just couldn’t! Right around page 225 of 834, I decided I don’t need a soporific and no longer care why Tom Peters is/was so important.

The book title’s in the post title (the first two words, with “necessary disorganization for the nanosecond nineties” as a subtitle), all-lower-case and all, It’s by TOM PETERS, all upper case (with the T and M in yellow, the O in red, and “PETERS” in green with a red shadow–all very impressive).

Inside the book, oddly enough, the orthography is more normal!

Oh, sorry, reading Peters, I got in the habit of thinking every second or third sentence should end in an exclamation point–possibly as a way to enliven some seriously plodding prose.

The copy I have is a $15 mass-market paperback published by Ballantine (it’s a Fawcett Columbine book) in 1994, two years after Knopf published the hardcover. Both are divisions of Random House. The book’s copyright is held by “Excel/, A California Partnership” (I assume the slash is part of the corporate name but the comma isn’t). “A Note About the Author” at the end tells us that Peters is founder and chief of The Tom Peters Group (which, he tells us in the book, is really five different corporations or something like that), which is in Palo Alto even though “he and his family spend much of their time on a farm in Vermont, thanks to the information technology revolution (the Fax machine).”

Really. In 1992, the Fax machine (capital-F) was an “information technology revolution.” Maybe so; while the commercialization of the internet and the first ISPs go back to 1989, by 1992 it probably wasn’t very widespread.

Oh yes: there’s a doorstop of a book that I should say something about.

The first thing to say is that, if Knopf is/was supposed to have high editorial standards, they sure seem to be missing on this book. The proofreading is fine, but a good editor should have sat down with Peters and said something like “Drop 90% of the exclamation points, try saying things five or ten times instead of thirty or forty times, cut this by 75% and we might have a decent book–with a lot of editorial work.”

But, of course, Tom Peters was already hot stuff by this time, based on a book (with a coauthor) that may or may not have had falsified data (the link is to Wikipedia’s article; on one hand, I can believe Fast Company sensationalized a headline, since the magazine tends toward sensationalism–but on the other, based on too many other business books to count, I certainly believe that Peters cherry-picked at the very least).

This quote from an LJ review of this book is cogent: “Peters doesn’t have the benefit of an official coauthor, and it shows” (In Search of Excellence and his second book did have coauthors).

What I learned from the 200 pages I did read:

  • Tom Peters is 100% certain that every company in America must transform itself (long before now) into small self-selecting project teams that work closely with customers to meet their needs–pretty much “we’re all consultants of one sort or another,” although he doesn’t put it that way. (Somehow, I don’t see that working in ordinary retail at all, but I lack Peters’ vision.) It is, of course, true, as every student of Steve Jobs and Apple knows, that its successes in the iStuff category came about strictly because Jobs and small groups met with potential customers to see how Apple could best meet their needs…oh, wait…
  • Peters is Very Sure of Everything He Says! Hey, he’s a multimillionaire at this point so who am I to quibble? (One of the links from the Wikipedia article has him dismissing the fact that 98% of internet startups–companies done the way he thought everybody should do things–had failed. In essence, he said “So what? Some succeeded.”)
  • Peters is upfront in saying that everybody has to be a businessperson and, at least implicitly, that everybody must create and keep building Their Own Brand.
  • What comes through loud and as clear as the turgid prose allows is this: Peters’ future is 100% for extroverts. There’s no room for introverts in the “nanosecond nineties.” If you’re not out pushing yourself into project teams, creating your own new projects, and being assertive about everything…well, you’re toast.

Some of that may be unfair. In any case, I gave up. I’m sure others read this brick all the way through, were enlightened by it, and went on to found the only companies that could possibly survive the nineties and beyond. No, I don’t intend to read Peters’ more recent books. I’ll give some other absolutist guru a try.

 

 

 

 

Big Blues: a book review (of sorts)

Posted in Books and publishing on June 21st, 2014

My nonfiction book from the most recent library trip was Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM, by Paul Carroll (New York: Crown, 1993, ISBN 0-517-59197-9).

Partway through reading it, I posted something mildly snarky on Friendfeed about enjoying this sort of book now and then: the “doomed business” book for a business that later turned out to be not quite so doomed as all that. (I read a similar book about Apple, written during the period when it was most plausible to suggest that Apple was a goner.)

I’ve finished it now. This isn’t really a review, but a few comments on this book–and, I think, the problems with this sort of book in general.

Not a bad book

It’s not a bad book. In some ways, it’s a good book, although I would have expected Crown to do a better job of editing–a few items are repeated to the point of annoyance (e.g., the overhead projectors built into rosewood desks). On the other hand, the book was clearly done in somewhat of a hurry: it appeared in 1993 and covers events through April 1993.

Carroll covered IBM for the Wall Street Journal for seven years. That gave him a wealth of contacts. IBM didn’t cooperate on the book (company policy), but he quotes lots of people by name and a few anonymously.

I think the first sentence in the previous paragraph may also point up a possible flaw in the book: To some extent, if you’re covering one company for quite a long period, it’s hard not to become a homer–hard not to start seeing things from the company’s perspective.

Thus, it strikes me that Carroll hammers pretty hard on the notion that Intel and Microsoft were pretty much nothing companies made into giants because IBM didn’t maintain enough control over them. He seems to take it personally that, by 1993, both companies were showing profits of one or two $billion…while IBM took an $8 billion loss in 1993.

The perils of prediction

The biggest problem with the book is that Carroll seemed to think he could predict the future, at least enough to tag IBM post-1993 as a relatively minor company. He also seems not to have regarded the new CEO (Lou Gerstner, an “outsider”) as having much chance of turning things around in any major way.

In 1993, almost certainly IBM”s worst year, it lost $8 billion. It went from over 400,000 employees in 1985 to 225,000 in 1995–although it had started to regain revenues at that point, up to around $72 billion gross.

Here’s the thing: In 2013, IBM had just about $100 billion gross revenue and $16.4 billion profit–and 431,000 employees.

Fact is, Gerstner and his successors did turn IBM around. They got rid of commodity divisions, things where they never could turn a big profit. Mainframes–seemingly irrelevant by 1993, as I read Carroll–never really went away. And IBM put together a package of higher-value services and products that seem to have served it in good stead.

Not that Intel and Microsoft have done too badly either. I keep hearing how Microsoft is irrelevant and doomed, but in 2013 it had roughly $78 billion in gross sales (about 3/4 of IBM) and $21.9 billion in profits (about 4/3 of IBM!), with around 127,000 employees. Intel’s a smaller company, with $52.7 billion in gross sales in 2013 and $9.6 billion in profit (with 107,000 employees), but it’s not exactly in its last throes either.

The final chapter makes much of the devastation caused by IBM’s drop in stock prices and by firing people. I can’t speak to the latter, but the former is interesting. To wit, looking at stock prices for late July, adjusted for splits:

  • In 1980, IBM was at 16
  • In 1985, it was at 33
  • In 1990, it had declined to 28
  • In 1993–at bottom–it was down to 11
  • By 1994, it was already back to around 16
  • By 1995, it was back to nearly 28: in other words, people who held IBM stock in 1990 and didn’t give up on it were whole.
  • In 2000, it was roughly 112
  • In 2005, it was down to roughly 84
  • In 2010, it was up to 128
  • In 2013, it was up to 197

If you bought IBM in 1985 and sold in 1993, you got shafted.

If you bought IBM in 1985 and hung on to it until 2000, you did pretty well…

General lesson?

I’m not sure there is one, other than “prediction is hard.”

As I remember, one key element of the Apple book’s negativity was that it seemed clear that Apple would never gain a substantial share of the PC market. That turned out to be right: Apple doesn’t have a substantial share of the PC market. But it does have some other little products that seem to be doing OK–OK enough so it had $170.9 billion in gross revenue and $37 billion in profits in 2013, with 80,000 employees. Just as IBM is no longer primarily a mainframe computer company, Apple isn’t primarily a personal computer company.

Times change. So do companies–even big, old, apparently-sclerotic ones like IBM.

Thanks, a reminder and a clarification

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on March 26th, 2014

Thanks

Somebody purchased a campus-license/site-license copy of The Big Deal and the Damage Done yesterday or this morning.

That’s the fifth such sale. I count each such sale as the equivalent of four copy sales. The book might yet reach 100 copy-equivalents before it goes out of print.

In any case, it’s appreciated and I trust the campus/consortium/whatever will find it useful.

Reminder

As noted in this post, The Big Deal and the Damage Done will go out of print on or about May 14, 2014.

Clarification

Since some of you dealing with ebooks may read “out of print” as “will disappear,” I should clarify–as I did in the earlier post:

Cites & Insights Books do not have DRM. Ever.

Once you’ve downloaded a Cites & Insights Book, it’s yours. To keep, sell, give away, lend, backup as often as you want, transfer to multiple PDF-reading devices, whatever.

Of course, you won’t be able to download a new copy from Lulu after it goes off sale, but the copy or copies you’ve purchased–including ones with explicit permission for multiple simultaneous downloads/reading–will not be affected in any way.

[Worth noting again that, in fact, Lulu no longer supports or allows DRM on the PDFs that it sells. But it was always an option and I never chose the option.]

Making Book S16: The Big Deal and the Damage Done

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on January 20th, 2014

First, I got irritated by both pundits and academic librarians asserting that circulation was dropping—and continuing to drop—in all academic libraries. Not some, not most, not ARL, but all. After getting enough counterexamples to demonstrate the falsity of that generalization (which in no way kept people from continuing to make it), I decided to look into it in more detail, since I’d figured out how to use Access databases (one of the forms in which NCES makes the biennial academic library surveys available) in Excel.

The result was a two-part article in the March 2013 Cites & Insights: “Academic Library Circulation: Surprise!” (comparing 2008 and 2010) and “Academic Library Circulation, Part 2: 2006-2010.” (The link is to the online-oriented one-column version, because the graphs and tables are easier to read in that version. I’d like to say those articles changed the discussion, or at least that people who were aware of the articles stopped claiming that circulation was falling everywhere. That’s not the case, more’s the pity. (Some people are unwilling to let the facts get in the way of a good story.)

Around the same time, I was seeing claims that the Big Deals in serials subscriptions had solved the serials crisis. I was also seeing lots of reports, formal and informal, about the extent to which monographic and other budgets were being destroyed because of continuing rises in serials costs. I should also mention this (from the acknowledgments):

Thanks to the Oregon and Washington Library Associations; without their invitation for me to do a preconference on open access for their joint 2013 conference, I might never have been inspired to do this study. Thanks also to Wayne Bivens-Tatum, whose January 18, 2013 Academic Librarian post “Politics, Economics, and Screwing the Humanities” also encouraged me to do some quantitative analysis.

The rest of the story, from the book’s introduction:

I believe that Big Deals did some good—but they also did some damage, damage that gets worse as the amount spent on serials (in Big Deals and otherwise) continues to ratchet up faster than inflation.

Damage is done to scholars and students in the humanities and social sciences, where books continue to be key, as money continues to be shifted to serials (most of it for STEM—science, technology, engineering and medicine) at least in many libraries.

Damage is done to libraries as serials take an ever-bigger chunk of the total budget, leaving less for not only books but also staff, preservation, computers, archives, programming and new initiatives.

I began looking at actual numbers while preparing a preconference on open access. One of the sillier arguments against open access (and especially against gold OA) is that there’s really no serials problem—that Big Deals solved it.

That’s only true if “solved” takes on a fairly unusual meaning. In 1996, before Big Deals had become common, taking U.S. academic libraries as a whole, serials took 17% of all spending. Books (including back runs of serials and other materials) took 10.4%.

In 2002, at which point Big Deals were well established, serials were up to 22.5% of all library spending—but books were up a little too, taking 11.9% of library spending.

In 2010, serials were up to 26.1% of all library spending—nearly as much as books and serials combined in 1996. Books? Down to 10.6%–frequently of reduced budgets.

Meanwhile, the remainder budget—that is, everything except current serials and other acquisitions—fell from 72.6% to 63.3% of library budgets overall. That’s a serious drop.

How much of serials spending is for electronic access? At a minimum, it’s grown from 15% in 1998 (the first time it’s broken out) to 70% in 2010, doubling its market share since 2004 (when it was 35%).

Curiously enough, those simple numbers understate the real damages—because the damage is in the details, and a number of very large academic libraries managed to do a reasonable job of maintaining decent budgets across the board, somewhat masking what was happening elsewhere.

The book goes into some detail. It’s sold reasonably well (more than 50 copies, fewer than 100). It’s still available, as a $16.50 paperback, a $9.99 PDF ebook (no DRM), or a special $40.00 PDF ebook with an explicit campus/site/consortium license for multiple simultaneous download or use.

The book will continue to be available until shortly before a newer & better version (not self-published) appears; at or after that point, there may also be a complementary self-published book exploring some other quantitative aspects of academic libraries in the current millennium.

Crawford, Walt. The Big Deal and the Damage Done. 2013

And that’s it…

For now. Other than the complementary book mentioned above, I have no plans for future self-published books. Doesn’t mean they won’t happen, just that I have no current plans.

Making Book S15: The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar…

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on January 17th, 2014

I’ll keep it short this time—and I’m leaving out The Compleat Give Us a Dollar…, v. 1 and v.2,, um, compleatly. Those two—which combine all the commentary, graphs and tables that were in Give Us a Dollar… and its complements and extensions, are certainly available, but only as ebooks (vol. 1: libraries by size; vol. 2: libraries by state) or site-license ebook (vol. 1 only). They’re not available as print books because they have lots of multicolor graphs and would be very expensive as print books. Well, not as expensive as the traditional books I’m seeing that analyze library expenditures—not by a long shot—but that’s a different story. So far, nobody’s purchased either book at all, so they don’t really exist as books yet.

The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four: Public Library Funding and Benefits in 2010 removes the multicolor graphs from the other two books and combines them into a single volume—increasing page size to 8.5″ x 11″ and making the graphs and tables correspondingly bigger (also using a larger set of fonts for the text and tables).

It’s a handsome big book—425 pages, 8.5″ x 11″. It’s not available as an ebook (buy the two Compleat… volumes instead). The cover is, you guessed it, big top and bottom wraparound strips consisting of a mosaic of larger images from library websites. Actually, the two strips are the original strips from which $4 to $1‘s two strips were trimmed and reduced in size. It is, if I may say so, snazzy. The type is big and easy to read. The charts and graphs are big and easy to read.

And so far, I’m the only one who has read them. Sort of a shame, that. It will continue to be available for some time to come at a mere $26.99.

Crawford, Walt. The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four: Public Library Funding and Benefits in 2010. 2013.

You know, I was just about to sign off with “And that’s it for now…”—but it’s not. I missed one, possibly because I’m working (or will be soon) on an update, and that one may be—depending on how you measure it—the second most successful Cites & Insights Book I’ve done. We’ll get to that.

Making Book S14: Your Library Is…

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on January 15th, 2014

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 in the book 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.

So far, with a single word change, this is all from the introduction. Originally, I planned to produce this book as a perk for donors to the $4 to $1 project—but that crowdfunding project failed. Meanwhile, I really liked the book, so I put it out as a paperback and ebook.

The book

The book includes 1,137 mottoes and slogans that appear to be unique, and 88 mottoes and slogans shared by more than one library (a total of 205 libraries).

Except for the introduction, it’s all either sayings or credit, arranged alphabetically by state and by city within state. I include the library’s name as given in the IMLS data (except for capitalization) and the 2011 legal service area.

The cover has one big color strip running around the bottom 40% or so—it’s actually two mosaic strips (or is it three?) butted up against one another. All the images are from libraries with sayings in the book.

I think the 157-page paperback is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve assembled and believe many librarians would find it inspiring. So far, people or libraries have purchased eight paperback copies and one PDF ebook. It will continue to be available for quite some time—and it’s a great little book.

Crawford, Walt [int. & comp.]. Your Library Is… A Collection of Library Sayings. 2013.

Making Book S13: $4 to $1…

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on January 13th, 2014

Full title: $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets: Volume 1: Libraries by Size

This followup to Give Us a Dollar… did three things:

  • It used newer data (2011 rather than 2010
  • It included changes (from 2009 to 2011)
  • It combined graphs, commentary and tables in what I believe is a good, interesting, worthwhile mix, instead of being pretty much all tables.

But that also meant that, in order to work at all, it had to simplify somewhat—breaking libraries down into 10 size groups rather than 18, breaking most other measures into five or six rather than 8 to 10 brackets, using fewer metrics.

Even with all those simplifications, the more complete and integrated approach meant splitting the results into two parts—with Libraries by State a separate (and probably larger) book than the 205-page Volume 1.

The cover uses library website image mosaic strips similar to the special Oregon/Washington Give Us a Dollar, except that the back cover fills in the space between the bottom and top strip with even more images. I think it’s a great cover. Too bad almost nobody’s seen it.

To give this more readable, more approachable, more sophisticated book the widest possible audience, I took an ISBN (which means the publisher is technically Lulu) and, since it’s now free, opened the paperback up to global channels. You should be able to order it through Ingram, for example.

I planned to do Volume 2 a little later, based on early sales of Volume 1, since I figured Volume 2 would have a smaller audience.

But here’s what’s happened—at least so far:

  • Two paperback copies and one PDF ebook have been purchased from Lulu (not including my own paperback copy).
  • One paperback copy has been purchased from Amazon.
  • The most recent Lulu purchase was August 29, 2013. The only Amazon purchase was October 31, 2013.
  • There have been no purchases for more than two months.

It’s fair to say that Volume 2 is unlikely to appear any time soon. I was hoping to reach hundreds of libraries this time around, and I really do believe it’s a useful book. Four? That goes beyond disappointing. But, of course, it could take off again any day now.

The Lulu and distribution price of the paperback book were both $25, but I offered a 20% discount for the Lulu paperback. In early October, I said I’d drop the discount unless at least one copy was sold in October. It was—but now that I look at it, it wasn’t a Lulu copy. I have now dropped the discount.

[Total number of site licenses sold: Zero.]

Crawford, Walt. $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets: Volume 1: Libraries by Size. 2013.

Making Book S12: Graphing Public Library Benefits

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on January 10th, 2014

As noted earlier, I eventually grew unhappy with Give Us a Dollar… because it was so table-heavy. I remedied this to some extent with supplements in Cites & Insights, but those were mostly text.

So I produced Graphing Public Library Benefits: An Experimental Supplement to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13): Public Library Funding and Benefits.

Whew. Quite a title. Here’s what I said in the introduction:

This book is an attempt to do two things: Provide graphs to supplement some of the tables in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) and illustrate some of the choices and issues involved in making visual sense of datasets, specifically the datasets used for that book. It’s an 8.5×11″ PDF (or, if at least two people tell me they’ll buy it, a very expensive print book) because I wanted to make the graphs as wide as possible—and because, in most cases, I felt that multicolor graphs would be readable where graphs using that many different line types simply wouldn’t. (If there’s a print version, the added cost will be entirely production: I’ll make the same amount per copy, give or take a dime or so. But production costs for books with color are much higher than for black-and-white books.)

If you don’t have the other book, you should get it. It’s almost entirely tables and provides a richly detailed picture of nearly all of America’s public libraries and how they measure up on the quantifiable metrics reported to the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences for fiscal year 2010. You may also want to get Cites & Insights for November 2012 and Fall 2012; those issues provide textual commentary (and in the latter case, an additional set of tables) lacking in the book.

In the first chapter, I considered ways you could graph the information in the book—including several alternatives in a couple of cases.

The rest of the book was almost entirely graphs; in all, 222 pages (8.5″ x 11″ PDF), most pages with two graphs, some with three. If I’m counting correctly, 597 graphs in all. (If I’d done Chapter 20 in the book, state-by-state, there would have been hundreds more and the book would have been at least 100 pages longer.)

I almost left this one out as “the book nobody saw,” but that’s not quite right: In fact, after I reduced the PDF ebook price to $4, there were two sales. And since the book is explicitly labeled CC BY-NC, it’s possible that lots of other people have copies. Not likely, but possible.

(How expensive would the book have been in print form? The production cost would have been something like $48.90, so I would have charged around $59.)

The multicolor graphs had ten different colored lines; there’s no way to provide enough different line patterns to make ten lines readable in black and white.

Still…it’s an interesting project with a lot of neat graphs, and if anybody contributing to Cites & Insights at the sponsor level would rather have this than something else, I might be willing. It’s a fairly big PDF (8.5MB), but then it’s a big, slow-loading Word document (basically the same size).

Crawford, Walt. Graphing Public Library Benefits: An Experimental Supplement to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13): Public Library Funding and Benefits. 2013.

Making Book S11: Give Us a Dollar…Oregon/Washington Edition

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on January 8th, 2014

To my great pleasure, I was invited to give three speeches during the 2013 Oregon & Washington Library Association(s) Annual Conference (the two states hold combined conferences in some years, separate ones in some years—I’ve spoken at two other WaLA conferences but never at OrLA). The three speeches—actually one workshop and two speeches—were related to Open Access: What You Need to Know Now (the workshop), The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing and Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. As part of the agreement, I prepared a special edition of Give Us a Dollar… focusing on Oregon and Washington libraries and, unlike the original book, combining commentary, graphs and tables.

The special edition appeared as a free PDF (after all, the associations were paying an honorarium and expenses) and a hardcover 70-page color book: Color because some of the graphs needed color for easy reading (although you could make sense of them in b&w), hardcover because the production cost was already going to be so high. I assumed that a handful of libraries might find the hardcover worth having, but that most libraries and librarians would pick up the PDF—which, after all, could be printed out fairly cheaply on a color printer, and if you did it reduced about 7% to 5.5″ x 8.5″, it would fit four pages to a sheet.

I think it’s a neat little book. Doing something similar for later data for any other state or group of states would be feasible; so far, that hasn’t happened.

For the cover design (PDF and hardcover), I tried something that I think worked very well; I’ve since used the same technique for three other books (coming later). To wit, I made a mosaic wraparound strip for the top of the cover and another one for the bottom of the cover (wraparound only for the hardcover, since the PDF only has one cover page), each strip made up of images taken from library websites (or in some cases Facebook pages), deliberately using images from a range of library sizes.

As usual, I enjoyed the conference a lot. Vancouver (the Washington State one, across the river from Portland) was nice; I was able to do some fairly long walks, including one to Fort Vancouver; the people were interesting; the talks went reasonably well.

There were seventeen downloads of the free PDF ebook. I apparently own the only copy of the hardcover book. Such is life.

Crawford, Walt. Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four: Oregon and Washington Library Benefits and Spending. 2013.

Making Book S10. Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on January 6th, 2014

As is frequently the case, the preface tells the story of how this book came to be—but this time it’s an extended discussion. Portions:

In the fall of 2011, I studied the presence of public libraries on Facebook and Twitter as background for an ALA Editions book (Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries…). As research progressed, I wound up looking at (or for) the websites of every public library in 38 states (5,958 in all) and gained a new appreciation for the diversity and community connections of America’s public libraries.

During that study, I became skeptical of the many stories I’d read that assume public libraries are shutting down all over America. When my attempts to get actual numbers (how many libraries had actually closed and remained closed, neither reopening, being replaced by comparable libraries or at least reopening as volunteer-run reading rooms?) were unsuccessful, I decided to answer the question for myself. With help and advice from Will Kurt and others, I concluded that only about 32 public libraries (not branches but library systems and independent libraries) have closed during the 12 years from 1998 through 2009 and remained closed, with nearly all of those 32 libraries serving tiny groups of people. (That study is documented in two issues of Cites & Insights, my free ejournal at citesandinsights.info: April 2012, citesandinsights.info/civ12i3.pdf, and May 2012, citesandinsights.info/civ12i4.pdf. An update covering FY2010 closures appears in the October 2012 issue, citesandinsights.info/civ12i9.pdf.)

The study of closing libraries reminded me of speeches I’d done many years ago at state library conferences discussing the health and diversity of libraries. In preparation for some of those speeches I would download current library spreadsheets from the state library and do some analysis of funding and circulation. I consistently found that better-funded libraries did more—and quite a bit more, sometimes showing more cost-effectiveness than less well-funded libraries. I wondered what I’d find with a slightly more sophisticated analysis of the whole nation’s libraries. This book is the result.

Thanks to IMLS and the state libraries, it’s easy to get comparable figures for all the public libraries in the U.S., albeit with some delay.

This book was based on the 2010 data (the “(2012-13)” in the title is because if it sold well, I planned to do future annual editions). It consisted primarily of tables—lots of tables—with some text.

I actually did a preliminary edition (based on 2009 data); it sold six copies (4 paperback, 2 ebook). The full edition—about 50% longer, with newer data and more careful analysis—sold 74 copies through Lulu (4 hardcover, 32 paperback, 38 PDF ebook) and 7 copies through Kindle Direct/Amazon (all Kindle ebook).

Looking at the book later, I concluded that it needed more text and maybe graphs. I provided some text in Cites & Insights (November 2012 and Fall 2012 issues), and later tried to provide supporting graphs in a way people would find worthwhile. But that’s another story.

Admittedly, this book actually sold better than any Lulu book except Balanced Libraries, although I was hoping for a few hundred sales. Hope springs eternal…but, again, that’s another story.

The book’s still available. (The hotlink below is for the paperback; for other versions, go to lulu.com and search “give us a dollar”)

Crawford, Walt. Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-2013) 2012.


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