National Poetry Month

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets, inspired by the success of Black History and Women’s History months, designated April as National Poetry Month. Today, I celebrated by ordering a copy of this year’s poster, offered free while supplies last to teachers, booksellers, and librarians.  This poster, offered annually, is one of my favorite perks as a librarian.

If you do not teach, sell books, or have a Masters’ Degree in Library and Information Science, copies of the posters are available for $5 from the Academy of American Poets website.  Check out the poster gallery and get inspired by a photograph of Emily Dickinson’s dress.

This year’s poster features the line, “bright objects hypnotize the mind” from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, “A Word With You.”  If that doesn’t spark your interest in poetry, register on the Academy of American Poets website to receive a poem a day to your email address during the month of April.  You’re sure to find something that does.


We Really Mean It!

“Please, stay in touch” is among the most overused phrases of modern American life.  I’ve used it countless times in my work as a library director, usually as the closing sentence in a conversation with a library supporter or detractor.   Sometimes, I have stayed in touch.  Often, I have not.

Since September, that phrase has taken new meaning for myself and our library staff.   We are now offering Library e-News to the public so when we tell patrons we want to stay in touch, we really mean it and we’re following through. 

ABBE  library patrons now are offered the choice of eight e-newsletters, including monthly newsletters specific to our five largest libraries as well as a Kids e-newsletter, Teens ‘n Tweens e-newsletter, and This Just In e-newsletter.   The library newsletters include program descriptions, dates, and times, book reviews and spotlights on specific library websites and databases.

I’ve heard from many library patrons who really enjoy receiving This Just In, our e-newsletter dedicated to publicizing  the newest books, audios, and videos added to the ABBE collection.   Our e-newsletter editors look for titles which are a little off the beaten track such as the recently featured non-fiction title, Fordlandia: the Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City.  This book, which was a recommendation for purchase from an Aiken patron, details the automotive mogul’s failed attempt to establish a Ford Motor Company manufacturing presence in Brazil in the last century.  Since being featured in the e-newsletter, it has checked out several times. 

Patrons can register for the e-newsletters of their choice directly from our website or by visiting the service desk at an ABBE library.  Once the subscription is processed, the e-newsletters and occasional special announcements will be sent directly to patron e-mails.

So please let us stay in touch with you.  We really mean it!

ABBE Digital Branch Expands with Project Gutenberg

Earlier this month, ABBE Regional Library System expanded its Digital Branch collection through the addition of more than 15,000 public domain titles available from Project Gutenberg (PG.)  I’m glad to report that more than 2,000 documents have been downloaded from PG via the ABBE Digital Branch Library in just a few weeks.  An impressive statistic considering this use took place in late December at the height of the holiday season.  Apparently, losing oneself in Hamlet’s soliloquy or in one of Sherlock Holmes’ cases is a great way to escape from annoying holiday duties.

The PG collection started in 1971, decades before Internet giants such as Google or Amazon existed.  PG founder Michael Hart was a University of Illinois student when he began recruiting volunteers to transcribe public domain books which he uploaded to a university computer.  His goal was, and remains, to encourage the non-commercial creation and distribution of eBooks.  He named his effort after German printer Johannes Gutenberg who invented mechanical movable-type printing in the 15th century and is credited with spreading learning to the masses. 

Thirty-nine years have passed since Hart digitized his first e-text, a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence.  Hart is still involved in the daily work of PG, however, since 2000 PG has been supported by a private, non-profit foundation.  In August 2010, PG’s epubs became more widely distributed than ever thanks to its partnership with OverDrive, the company which provide ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, and videos to public libraries such as ABBE.

If you are interested in joining the other library patrons who have downloaded PG ebooks, visit the link on the ABBE webpage under Current News and Events or from ABBE’s Digital Branch webpage.  Either link will take you to a screen which allows you to browse the 15,000 ebook collection by subject or title and save the ebook to your computer.  Start making your selections now and disappear into a classic.  It’s almost time to start taking down the decorations.

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 25-October 2, 2010

Banned Book WeekIt’s the end of a long day.  You’ve only got one more errand before you get home to your family, the dinner table, and the homework routine.  You pull into the front parking lot of the public library, jog up the front steps and head for the online public library catalog.  In one hand, you’ve got your library card and in the other hand, your daughter’s required reading list from school.

Earlier in the day, you scanned the list and were pleased to see some of your favorite classics.  You key in To Kill A Mockingbird and wait for the search results.  You notice something odd.  Every copy in the library system has been withdrawn.  Well, books do wear out and the library’s had a lot of budget cuts, so you move to the next book on the list, Beloved by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison.  To your frustration, all fourteen copies listed in the catalog have been marked withdrawn.  You begin to move through the list of titles more quickly.  Of Mice and Men.  All copies withdrawn.  The Great Gatsby, Native Son, Brideshead Revisited, The Lord of the Flies  — all withdrawn.

Frustrated, you flag down a librarian who regretfully explains to you that, due to the efforts of a local citizens group, Decent People United Against Smut, these classics as well as others have been removed from the library’s collection.

Think For Yourself--and Let Others Do the Same!Orwellian nightmare?  Not if some Americans had their way.  Each day, across the country, one of our most basic freedoms — the freedom to read — is in danger.  In communities large and small, censorship attempts every year threaten to undermine our First Amendment freedom to read.  The rights and protections of the First Amendment include children as well as adults.  While parents have the right — and the responsibility — to guide their own children’s reading, that right does not extend to other people’s children.

When we speak up to protect the right to read, we not only defend our individual right to free expression, we demonstrate tolerance and respect for opposing points of view.  And when we take action to preserve our precious freedoms, we become participants in the ongoing evolution of our democratic society.

Read Banned BooksVisit the library during September 25 to October 2, 2010 and celebrate your freedom to read during Banned Books Week.  Check out some of the  lists of books which have been challenged or banned  online and take one home, read it, and decide whether you like it or not.  Think for yourself and let others do the same!

ABBE Opens Digital Branch Library

ABBE Digital Branch Library

In September, the ABBE Regional Library will unveil its newest service: downloadable audiobooks, ebooks, and video, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the library’s website.   

Download Audiobooks, eBooks & VideosThis new service, powered by OverDrive, is free to ABBE patrons with a library card.   Patrons can browse the collection, check out with their cards, and download to PC, Mac, and many other mobile devices.  

To get started, patrons will need to download free software, available on the library’s website.   Titles can be enjoyed immediately or transferred to a variety of devices, include iPod, Sony Reader, and others.  Some audio titles can also be burned to CD to listen to on-the-go.   At the end of the lending period, the titles automatically expire.   There are no lending fees.

We’re able to offer this new service thanks to a federal Library Services and Technology grant, administered by the South Carolina State Library.  

When I began to discuss plans for the new service with staff, library board members, and Friends’ officers earlier this summer,  I was heartened by their enthusiastic response.  Based on these conversations, as well as comments received on the library’s website,  many members of our community are interested in or are actively making the shift to downloadable audio and electronic books.  That is certainly the case in other parts of the  country. 

Bestselling author Laura Lippman’s latest thriller,  I’d Know You Anywhere was released on August 17 and sold more e-book copies than physical hardcovers in its first five days of publication.   Some futurists are predicting e-books will capture 25% or more of the publishing market in the next two years.  I’m not sure how quickly that will happen but it is clear from these statistics we are in the midst of a sea change.  This fall, ABBE patrons can begin testing the waters.

Audiobooks, eBooks & Video 24/7


How Libraries Stack Up: 2010

Every year, Americans visit the library more often than we go to movies or sporting eventsEarlier this year, OCLC, a non-profit library cooperative, published a colorful and eye-opening two-page report on the state of American public libraries in 2010.  The report, entitled How libraries stack up: 2010 provided ten statistics illustrating how Americans use libraries today.  Most of the services highlighted in the report, such as assistance for job seekers, are offered by the fourteen libraries of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library system.  The libraries are managing to provide these services despite several years of flat or declining revenue.

One statistic from the report which particularly impressed me was the number of annual visits to U.S. public libraries in 2007: 1.4 billion.  We Americans, according to this report, visit public libraries more often than we attend movies (1.3 billion visits per year) and six times more often then we attend sporting events, which clocks in at a paltry 218 million visits!

I’m drawn to this statistic because it makes me feel more in step with my fellow Americans, which is a nice change.  Like many other people in this report, I visit the library often.  However, I’ve only seen three movies in the theater since 2004.  As for live sporting events, I’ve seen only four horse races since I moved to Aiken in 1992.  Fortunately, I brought along a library book to read when I got bored which, for me, is three to five minutes into any sports event. 

I’m pleasantly surprised by this statistic because it flies in the face of American pop culture as reflected by the Today Show, morning radio deejays, and the features section of USA Today newspaper.  From these outlets, it’s easy to get the impression that everyone in American is keenly interested in which movie sold the most tickets Saturday night or which star athlete is being traded.  But I’m not so sure that is the case.

I’ve been providing copies of this report to our State and county officials since its release.  I’m hoping they will be pleasantly surprised by the library statistics, too, and support public libraries as avidly as public libraries support their communities.

A Fond Farewell to Our Original Search Engine (The Card Catalog)

ABBE's Original Search Engine


This month, the ABBE Regional Library System will be auctioning two pieces of its history: card catalogs which housed the library’s paper catalog from the late 1960s until they were replaced by an online public access catalog in 1993. 

As I prepared to write this blog entry, I held a debate with myself as to whether I needed to define card catalog for my reading public.  Since my reading public at this point is small in number and devoted to library services, I will forgo the explanation and trust that many of you recall using your card catalog in school and at the public library, pre-1990s. 

Before Bing, Google, and Yahoo, card catalogs were the original search engines.  The card catalog originated from manuscript lists used in medieval Islamic libraries.  The type of card catalogs we are auctioning in July, with multiple drawers for bibliographic records, came into widespread use by libraries in the nineteenth century.  After serving library users for close to 200 years, they were all but obsolete by the early 1990s, replaced by computers. 

In most communities, the demise of the card catalogs in schools and public libraries was hardly noticed.  The exception was San Francisco where grumpy New Yorker writer, Nicholson Baker,  launched a protest in 1996 against that library’s plans to migrate from a card catalog to an online catalog.  Baker was unsuccessful in halting the migration, which, he successfully documented, was accompanied by the destruction and loss of many older books. 

Fortunately,  I’m not expecting any dramatic efforts from the public to return us to the card catalog this month. Instead,  I am hoping our auction will net several hundred dollars for the purchase of new books.  And I look forward to seeing a new life for these interesting pieces of furniture, perhaps storing baseball cards or craft supplies.

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