Archive for August, 2011

Has your public library done editing/self-pub workshops?

Monday, August 8th, 2011

If so, and particularly if your library has assisted patrons in using Lulu or CreateSpace for self-publishing, I’d love to hear from you–within the next three days, if possible.

Let me know who you are, what the library is, and whatever you have to say about the experience–noting which portions, if any, are NOT suitable for direct quotation in the book I’m currently finishing up. You can add a comment to this post or email me comments at


Mystery Collection Disc 26

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Another case in which the order of movies on the sleeve is not the order of movies on the disc. Reviews are in the order of movies on the disc.


The Most Dangerous Game, 1932, b&w, Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack (dirs.), Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Robert Armstrong. 1:03.

Reviewed as part of 50 Movie Pack Hollywood Legends; not re-reviewed. What I had to say in 2007:

Rich hunter on a boat trip. The buoys don’t look quite right to the captain, but the hunter insists they continue—leading to a shipwreck which he alone survives. He winds up at a castle on a remote island, hosted by Count Zaroff, who recognizes him as a great hunter and boasts of hunting “the most dangerous game.” Other than a bunch of Russian-only servants, the only other ones there are a couple (also survivors of a shipwreck), with the man a somewhat drunken mess. Eventually, it becomes clear just what the most dangerous game is. Scratchy soundtrack but an effective, fast-moving flick. $1.50.

The Phantom Broadcast, 1933, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Ralph Forbes, Vivienne Osborne, Arnold Gray, Gail Patrick, Guinn Williams, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes. 1:12.

A slow movie where the mystery is revealed halfway through and isn’t about who committed the murder. The setup: A radio crooner, who receives hundreds of love letters each day, is also a Lothario—we see a valet deliver several little boxes to various women, each containing a little bouquet and a message saying the crooner hopes to have dinner with the woman (on a different night in each case) and is singing for her. Another twist: One of his flames, who believes she’s going to move in with him and marry him, is part of a group of mobsters that wants to get rid of his manager/accompanist and take him over to rake in the big bucks.

Oh, one oddity: When the crooner sings, he’s always in a studio…with a curtain set up so you only see the hands of the accompanist. It doesn’t take long to learn the reason for that: The accompanist, a hunchback (a word that’s repeated frequently, sometimes with “little” added), is the one actually doing the singing—the crooner’s just there for appearances.

Let’s see. We get a young woman with a great voice who has to choose between her vocal career and marrying her doctor fiancée (who’s going off on a six-month cruise as a ship’s doctor to earn enough to set up his practice), since an artist can only serve one master. We get a rubout that doesn’t happen. We get someone taking the rap for someone else who, as it happens, wasn’t involved at all. And, of course, we get an ending that could be worse.

Damned if I know what to think of this one. Lethargic, and deep emotion seemed to be expressed by the same long slow looks as, well, boredom or anything else. Maybe $1.00.

Murder on the Campus, 1933, b&w. Richard Thorpe (dir.), Charles Starrett, Shirley Grey, J. Farrell MacDonald, Ruth Hall, Dewey Robinson, Maurice Black, Edward Van Sloan. 1:13 [1:09]

Lots of plot, but none of it hangs together very well. We have a gambler, a wise-cracking reporter who’s in love with a singer at the gambler’s (I guess?) nightclub and who’s also working her way through college, a murder in the campus campanile and, shortly thereafter, two other murders… And the reporter always seems to be On The Scene.

All too complicated, and far too much of it hinges on the reporter being both incredibly clever and a complete numbskull, as he privately confronts the person he believes responsible for all the deaths—apparently a Professor of Everything, as he has high-power recording and playback equipment, lots of other electronics, and oodles of chemistry equipment in his lab, along with a full darkroom—with his suspicions and evidence. There’s so much else that’s wildly implausible in this mess that the climax is no worse than anything else. At best, I give this $0.75.

Death from a Distance, 1935, b&w. Frank R. Strayer (dir.), Russell Hopton, Lola Lane, George F. Marion, Lee Kohlmar, John St. Polis. 1:08 [1:10]

This one also has a wise-cracking reporter (a 23 year old woman), along with a sometimes-wisecracking homicide detective, with the two fighting so much you know they’re going to wind up together. That’s not the primary plot, though.

The plot: We’re in a planetarium at an observatory, with a famed European professor giving an illustrated lecture, by invitation only. Suddenly, a shot rings out…and, as people start panicking, the head of the observatory tells the—well, I’m not sure just what he is, so let’s say “general functionary”—to lock the door. Thus, whoever shot the man (one of the audience, not the lecturer) must still be in the room. Police are called. Oh, by the way, the reporter was part of the audience. One audience member wasn’t on the original invitation list (but must have had an invitation to get in): a Hindu who knew the victim but asserts his innocence…and is arrested, even though the detective’s pretty sure he’s not the culprit.

That starts things off. As the movie goes along, we get an ex-con who’s changed his name and become an astronomer, lots of plot involving Arcturus (“Job’s star”) and double-dealing, an apparent second murder (or maybe suicide), the use of Arcturus itself as a murder weapon (you’ll just have to watch the picture), and a culprit who may be obvious to some viewers. Or not.

Unlike the previous movie, and apart from one or two odd plot twists, this one all seems to work, and was a pleasure to watch. Unfortunately, the sound track’s not great, there are synchronization problems, and for the first few minutes there are flashes of color noise. Those technical problems reduce this to $1.25.

Balanced Libraries now available as EPUB

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Thanks to Lulu, Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change is now available as an EPUB ebook on the iTunes bookstore, for $9.99.

I can’t speak to the quality of the EPUB conversion, since Lulu did it (they’re converting books based on some algorithm, probably sales quantity; authors have the opportunity to opt out or change prices, but I don’t plan to do either). I’d guess the conversion was done appropriately.

It’s the cheapest way to get the book. Of course, that also means I earn the least from sales. Such is life.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, my “store” at Lulu is now my “spotlight.” (Both links take you to the new page; the first one’s a redirect.) It’s a cleaner design and Lulu claims it’s a simpler URL, although I’m not sure why “spotlight/waltcrawford” is simpler than “/waltcrawford”–but in any case, it’s there, it’s cleaner, it’s easier to use, it works.

I humbly apologize if…

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

…if I ever said “No public library should consider this” to any suggested new service or tool.

…if I ever said “What a stupid idea for a book” to anybody considering writing one.

…if I ever said “Nobody would want to…” to any legal and moral suggestion.

Why so apologetic?

Well, in the last week I’ve had:

  • One person respond to a request for comments on how libraries are using social networks, as research toward a book on the subject, by at least indirectly attacking the notion of publishing a book on the topic.
  • Another person–and, unlike the first case, I’m acquainted with and respect this other person–respond to a request for examples of a new service public libraries could offer (I don’t know that any do, but my next book will be making such a service easy and desirable, I believe) with an initial response (until the concept was explained a little more) that this is not something public libraries, except possibly the very largest, should be considering.

In neither case was I asking for a critique of the idea; in both cases, I was asking for specific assistance or information.

So, if I’ve done the same thing or similar, I apologize.


I do not apologize for…

…criticizing claims that Every Library or Every Librarian should do, or know, X (with very rare exceptions).

…criticizing assertions that we’ll all be doing X (again, with very rare exceptions, breathing, eating and dieing being chief among them).

…criticizing books or blog posts or comments for being simplistic or badly argued.

Nor do I expect to be free of such criticisms.

True story

When I wrote my first book in the library field, MARC for Library Use, the first publisher to which it was submitted basically didn’t think it was of any use unless I turned it into a cataloging workbook.

I took it to another publisher–who also wasn’t certain, but took a chance. The result? Certainly the most important book I wrote for a very long time, and also the best-selling book I wrote prior to co-writing Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality. And I’ll assert that the book was directly useful to thousands of people.

So, y’know, I’m not abandoning either project. In one case, I continue to believe it’s a book that will help nearly every public library strengthen its community ties. In the other, I believe it will be a revealing, helpful and timely book when it’s published.

Writing about Reading (continued)

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

If you have yet to read the first portion of this essay (in Cites & Insights 11:4, April 2011), you should read that first—it’s less snarky and probably a lot more useful than most of this segment, which descends more deeply into universalist nonsense.

How Ebooks Will Change Reading and Writing

Some of the items discussed here may not really belong, and some may be admirable—but you’re going to see a higher percentage of what I might charitably call meretricious nonsense. In any case, here’s a whole bunch of determinism for your reading pleasure—if you still read, that is. (An audiobook version is not yet available, but I have never disabled the text-to-speech functions of PDF or, for that matter, your PC’s operating system. Would this all seem more amusing if “read” to you by, for example, a young Scottish woman? Make it so.)

For the rest of the story...

Fun with numbers: the first six states

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I’ve completed the first pass for use of Facebook and Twitter by public libraries in six states–which was, originally, all I planned to do (as part of a book project that’s not primarily about numbers as such).

Those six states make up roughly one-fifth of U.S. population (they include a very large state, a large state, a medium-sized state, a medium-small state, a small state and a very small state in terms of population). They include a total of 802 public library agencies (libraries and library systems).

Based on just those states, I can offer two “contradictory” comments, both true:

  • Most libraries in the six states studied don’t use either social network: Roughly two-thirds don’t use either one.
  • Most people in the six states are served by libraries that do use at least one of the two social networks (although “most” in this case is around 54%).

Think about it. There’s no contradiction between the two numbers. And that’s all the numbers I’ll note at the moment.

I will say this: I’m doing more than 6 states. I’ll almost certainly do another ten (two large, two fairly large, two medium, two fairly small, two small) states…and I might even do another eight beyond that. (The set of ten states includes a total of just over 800 libraries/library agencies. The set of eight includes just over 640. We’ll see how it goes.)

Raining on parades?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Maybe this shouldn’t bother me, but it does–possibly because it was just about the first thing I encountered this morning, going through email–indeed, sent at 6:05 a.m. (my time).

I won’t include the writer’s name; that’s not important. Here’s the text, other than salutation:

You said

“If your public library/library district currently uses Twitter, Facebook or both, I’d love to get some feedback to help me prepare a book on public library use of social networks, to be published by ALA Editions next.”

Have you considered that such a book would have a short shelf life if not be DOA on publication, as the social media landscape is changing so fast?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on
1. how your proposed book would/could be used by librarians (catching up with this trend, or ?)
2. the utility of books on rapidly-changing phenomena vs other means of getting the information out, e.g. blogs or ??

Sorry to sound like a wet blanket. I do wish you well on your project.

I responded as politely as I felt possible…and then did a little checking. The person who sent this signs herself as a chief researcher for a research firm. Searches for that research firm on Bing and Google turn up nothing but this person’s LinkedIn profile. That profile shows that the person is a special librarian.

Not a public librarian. Not, apparently, involved in public libraries. Not, shall we say, one of the target audience for my question.

I find myself unable to read that first question as a question, rather than an assertion. (Indeed, “Have you considered…” is such a leading form for a question that I’d generally assume it’s an assertion, not a real question.)

Since the person asking the “question” isn’t within the target audience, I have to wonder: Is this just gratuitous, well, wet-blanketing, to use her term? Does she troll the blogosphere (or lists) looking for projects of which she does not approve, then ask leading questions of those involved?

Can I expect an Amazon one-star review similar to the “review” of Open Access: What You Need to Know Now, but this time emphasizing that, you know, it’s insane to write books about “rapidly-changing phenomena”? (Facebook and Twitter have both been around for quite a while–seven and five years respectively–and I regard “social media” as a nonsense term primarily used by SEOs and marketing gurus.)

I dunno. Are there lots of people who go looking for chances to “challenge” other people, insinuating that what they’re doing is a bad idea? Or is this a special case?

[As to the preferability of spending a substantial amount of time preparing a study, then getting it out via a blog: Been there, done that, not thrilled with the results. Of course, I *also* got email from an Important Named “Research” Group that’s studied 100–count them, 100–libraries of all types on their use of social networks and prepared “data” (sorry, but for that sample size, I have to use scare quotes) that it will sell at a substantial price…. and, for all I know, there could be things about the anecdata that make it worth the money.]

Still looking for feedback…

For those of you who are in public libraries, note that I’d still love to get feedback if your library uses Twitter or Facebook or, for that matter, if your library used to use one or both and has stopped.