Annoyed Librarian
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Books for People Who Don’t Read

It seems unlikely that the level of fiction available in English could get any lower, but darn it James Patterson is going to try. And since that guy is a really successful producer of fiction for the masses, he’ll probably succeed. To date, he has published 156 books that have sold more than 325 million copies worldwide. But Mr. Patterson is after an even bigger audience. He wants to sell books to people who have abandoned reading for television, video games, movies and social media. That seems like an impossible goal, though, for a lot of reasons. Reading, even reading the fluffiest of fluff, requires a mental engagement that’s different than passively watching a movie or the immersive experience of contemporary video games. Lots of people don’t like it. That’s why they barely read novels after they finish school. The idea is to write short novels with fast plots that can be read in a single sitting. That’s not saying a lot since people seem to be able to sit for hours watching ...
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Chasing Pirates

The latest excitement in the scholarly publishing industry is the rise in prominence of Sci-Hub, a website that makes “some 47 million research articles” available for free to anyone who can manage to track down the current Internet address. It seems like a site that’s been around for a while, but few people had heard about it until it was sued. Streisand effect and all that. A professor writing at Times Higher Education suggests that “the scholarly publishing community has been hit by its own version of Napster.” What is decidedly not Napster about this case is that the circulation of research is at issue, and not the music of Metallica. Alexandra Elbakyan, the researcher from Kazakhstan who started Sci-Hub, makes this very point about Napster and the need for change. Musicians receive royalties for music sold; researchers need access to each others’ work, for which they largely do not receive royalties. There might be some other differences, but we’ll get to that. The New ...
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Insert Cute Punny Title about Sewing and Charity

I don’t normally do human interest stories about libraries. They’re rarely annoying and usually pretty boring. But when I saw this one about a sewing circle at a Washington state public library, I thought about that article a few weeks ago criticizing public libraries for allowing knitters to use their meeting rooms to knit. At the time I suggested that libraries don’t have to be either/or, but can easily be both/and, and this is a sterling example of that. What started life as a community sewing circle has become a charitable effort. People gather every month in a library meeting room with their sewing machine and a lot of donated cloth and they sew things. Okay, that is boring, but they don’t sew just anything. They sew items that will specifically be needed by area people. For example, they sew “pouchlike bags that can be closed with drawstrings. Medical Teams International, a nonprofit based in Tigard, Ore., uses them in its global healthcare work. After treating people ...
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The CIA Librarian Nonstory

Stories like this one appeared in a few places last week. “The CIA is hiring… a $100,000 librarian,” reads the headline, because apparently Fox News has become a job posting center for library jobs. The opening sentence is even more pointless: “The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is hiring more than just spies.” Has some reporter been living under a rock for the last 70 years? When I first started seeing it, I thought, what a pointless story, and then moved on, but it kept nagging at me. Why consider this news at all? That the CIA hires more than spies must seem obvious to any dullard who has ever worked in or heard anything about a large organization. At a minimum CIA headquarters would need custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries, and all the other jobs necessary for an organization to function. Does the reporter think CIA agents empty their own garbage? Also, as we know from the documentary The Hunt for Red October, the CIA hires PhDs. Maybe they’re technically ...
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Librarians are Here if You Want Them

Maybe it’s because their day to day work life is so tedious, but librarians like to be inspired. How else can one explain the excitement when anyone even remotely famous says something nice about libraries or librarians. The speech reported on here is the most idealistic I’ve read for a while. We find out that “libraries are vital to freedom of speech,” for example. Maybe in Sweden where the speech was delivered, but in America the Constitution is vital to freedom of speech. Libraries just help distribute the speech. But that’s enough, because librarians are “defenders of the right to knowledge,” at least when they’re not clearing printer jams or teaching people how to play videogames. There’s more. Supposedly, when the door to books, magazines, and newspapers is opened to the world, “who knows what people might think or do? When it comes to the freedom to express oneself: to write, draw, paint, act or protest then restrictions have often been levied by governments and other ...
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Best to Just Stay Where You Are

During election seasons, lefty types in America sometimes talk about how they’ll move to Canada if somebody they don’t like is elected President. Recently I read about some television host who claimed she’d move to Canada if Donald Trump even wins the Republican nomination, but I think she might have been confused at the time. Canada, our supposedly perfect neighbor to the north, is idealized like crazy among the American left, since it’s the closest the Americas get to the alleged perfection of the Scandinavian countries. It has a population a bit less than twice the size of Finland, Sweden, and Norway combined, but it still manages to approximate those Scandinavians. Of course, the U.S. has a population ten times that of Canada, and 32 times that of Sweden, so maybe that’s why the U.S. hasn’t achieved such perfection. When you’ve got 320 million people all clamoring for different things, it is, as the Facebook relationship status says, complicated. Anyway, that’s the ...
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