Towse: views from the hill

March 17, 2011

Thank you, libraries!

Filed under: libraries — Towse @ 12:05 am

While the younger niblet’s away gallivanting, he asked me to write about libraries for his “Things To Be Thankful For” blog. So I did.

Thank you, Libraries!

March 4, 2011

Book huggers! Good cause!

Filed under: libraries,nonprofits — Towse @ 2:47 pm

“We need to shift our national view of libraries not as luxuries, but as necessities. When tragedy strikes in other nations, Americans are generous, but our libraries are being hit with a tsunami and there has been no call to action.”           More…

- Karin Slaughter

The DeKalb County Library is having a fundraising event March 12th (with honorary chair Karin Slaughter) as well as running an eBay auction (in progress) with lotsa goodies to raise money for the cause.

Fundraising for the Boston PL to follow in June 2011. The site is set up with hopes the fundraising efforts will expand to support public libraries nationwide..

Check it out!

September 22, 2010

Why support libraries with taxpayer monies?

Filed under: libraries — Towse @ 6:22 pm

Brilliant response to the question, why support libraries with taxpayer monies?
Kudos to Chicago PL Commissioner Mary A. Dempsey!

(Link lifted fr a comment on my son’s post about Karin Slaughter’s defense of libraries.)

n.b. When I tried to add the webcache.googleusercontent link used above to my existing Facebook comment on this letter (after I discovered that the original link has — since this morning — been redirected to FOX Chicago’s Facebook page), I was told I couldn’t reference that webcache.googleusercontent link because *someone* or *some organization* has reported it as “abusive.” I’ve sent a counter-claim to Facebook.

September 18, 2010

A note on libraries from my pal, Karin Slaughter

Filed under: commentary,libraries — Towse @ 3:47 pm

A note on libraries from my pal, Karin Slaughter.

The commentary ends with,

Kids who read become students who do well in school. Students who do well in school go to college. College students graduate to good jobs and pay higher taxes. Libraries don’t service only Democrats or Republicans. They don’t judge by class, race or religion. They service everyone in their community, no matter their circumstances. Rich or poor; no one is denied. Libraries are not simply part of our guarantee to the pursuit of happiness. They are a civil right, the foundation upon which time and time again the American dream has been built. If we lose our libraries, we risk losing our communities, our families and ourselves.

Karin speaks the truth about libraries. They are =not= a frill, people.

April 13, 2010

It’s National Library Week, so let’s talk about libraries.

Filed under: libraries — Tags: , — Towse @ 5:47 pm

It’s National Library Week, so let’s talk about libraries, but first, let’s listen to Neil Gaiman talk about why he loves libraries. (He claims librarians have asked him not to describe himself as “a feral child raised by librarians.”)

Read Twelve Ways Libraries Are Good For The Country and Ten Reasons Why The Internet Is No Substitute For A Library.

Done? Good. I’ll continue with my library-centric post. …

I was talking last night with a good friend about my pet hobby horse: the location for the revamped North Beach Library — where it should (and shouldn’t) be.

She said, well, we don’t need to worry so much about the fact that the location being considered will only allow a 10-15% expansion of the collection forever and ever after because, really, with the way technology is evolving there shouldn’t be much need for expansion in the future. Libraries aren’t growing like they used to, she said, or words to that effect.

Au contraire, I said. Library visits and circulation stats are booming. People assume that cheap books from Amazon and access to the Web are decreasing library usage, but the exact opposite is true.

Here, take a look at the 2009 California state statistics [PDF file].

Circulation per capita at California public libraries has increased 5% over the past five years. The State mean circulation per capita is 5.78 items. San Francisco clocks in at 10.11.

Stats from the ALA for the nation as a whole show similar trends.

In Los Angeles, about 18 million people visited the city’s 72 libraries in the fiscal year ended in June 2008, up 12 percent from the previous year. Result: a 10 percent spike in checkouts, to a total of 17.2 million books, DVDs, CDs, and other material.
—Los Angeles Daily News

Art Brodsky wrote Our Public Library Lifeline Is Fraying. We’ll Be Sorry When it Snaps for Huffington Post a couple days ago. He talks about the challenges libraries are currently facing.

Support your local library and the library staff not just during National Library Week but 24/7/365. They’re hard working and working harder.

A final note — an excerpt from something Vartan Gregorian wrote in 1999 (complete text here) when he was President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York:

Public libraries in our midst are so much taken for granted that their significance as living institutions is in danger of becoming lost to us. Libraries contain the heritage of humanity, the record of its triumphs and failures and of its intellectual, scientific, and artistic achievements, and its collective memory. Libraries are not only repositories of past human endeavor, they provide tools for learning, understanding, and progress. They are a laboratory of human aspiration and a source of self-renewal, intellectual growth, and hope.

Update: Another why-I-love-libraries Neil Gaiman interview, given in his role as honorary chair of National Library Week.

July 2, 2009

On this date in 1731 …

Filed under: factoid,history,libraries — Towse @ 12:07 am

… according to The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

It was on this day in 1731 that Ben Franklin founded the first circulating library, a forerunner to the now ubiquitous free public library. He started it as a way to help settle intellectual arguments among his group of Philadelphia friends, the Junto, a group of civic-minded individuals gathered together to discuss the important issues of their day.


[from Jessamyn West’s blog:]

May 29, 2009

The continuing saga of North Beach Library

Filed under: libraries — Tags: , , — Towse @ 8:14 pm

[prior screeds]

Had a heads-up from Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground mid-May:

Dear Friends of Joe D:

The next step toward civic improvement in North Beach is to say:

“Yes, I support the Library Commission and the Recreation and Park Commission in unanimously approving the North Beach Library / Joe DiMaggio Playground Master Plan, including the relocation of the North Beach Library to 701 Lombard Street, including the closure and greening of Mason Street. Completing this project will provide a much needed new library, greater green space, and improved parkland that is more accessible to all North Beach residents!”

Please show your support for the new library and future playground improvements by writing to:

Bill Wycko, Environmental Review
Officer, San Francisco Planning Department
1650 Mission Street, Suite 400,
San Francisco, CA 94103


With clicks and links to this and that. …

So, I wrote a letter. Sent it off a bit after noon today with a copy to David Chiu (President, Board of Supervisors, and also our very own District 3 Supervisor) and Luis Herrera (City Librarian).

I’d talked with David Chiu at the SPUR Urban Center opening event yesterday afternoon and told him to expect a copy of what I was sending to the City.

Mr. Wycko,

A note from Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground (FJDiMP) asked me to send you a note beginning, “Yes, I support the Library Commission and the Recreation and Park Commission in unanimously approving the North Beach Library / Joe DiMaggio Playground Master Plan, including the relocation of the North Beach Library to 701 Lombard Street, including the closure and greening of Mason Street.”

Although I am a member of the Friends group, I support neither the placement of the new library at 701 Lombard nor the closure of the segment of Mason Street that’s being asked for to facilitate the 701 Lombard location.

My concerns:

1) re closing Mason
I have suggested in the past, and continue to suggest: (from e-mail to SFPL Commission, dated 28 Aug 2008) “The City should temporarily close the [Mason] street segment for [at least] a month and see what =really= happens to the traffic patterns. Such closure would ease the minds of the neighbors, if the traffic patterns flow as the models suggest, but could put the kibosh on the idea of closing Mason if the traffic patterns change as neighbors anticipate.

“While the K-rails blocking Mason are up, label them:

Temporary closure of Mason.
Permanent closure is proposed as part of
plans to build the new North Beach Library
on the Triangle.

“In addition to the temporary closure and signage, story poles need to be erected on the Triangle, showing the outline of the new library so that neighbors can see the impact of putting the library there.”

There is considerable controversy over what effect closing Mason would have. A temporary closure would help address those issues.

2) re placing the North Beach Library on the Triangle
Luis Herrera (in an e-mail 03-Sep-2008) stated, the Triangle location, “meets our service program requirements, including additional book and materials capacity of up to 15%.”

“up to 15%” in collection expansion? The North Beach library collection has been undersized for decades. “up to 15%” expansion is far less than the community needs or expects from a new library.

Currently the NBE circulation stats show ~ 6.4 turns per collection item per year. (Circ: 250K Collection: 39K items) That figure is 26% higher than the branch library =average= for SFPL, which shows 5.08 turns/item/year. (Branch circ: 6116K Branch collection: 1203K)

Currently the NBE circulation stats show 9.26 checkouts/capita/yr. (Circ: 250K Popn served: 27K) The City’s average for all branches is 7.42/capita/yr. (Circ: 6116K Popn served: 824K) The State’s average for public libraries is 5.78/capita/yr.

The North Beach library and its collection are heavily used. A potential incremental 10-15% collection growth over the life of the building is not enough from the get-go.

My major issue with the Triangle location is that if we ever need/want to expand the library, there will be NOWHERE to expand. Any further expansion beyond what is already planned (onto Mason, assuming Mason can be closed in part to make way for the new library) will be impossible without rerouting all utilities that currently run underneath that segment of Mason. Hardscape and landscape are suitable on top of a closed Mason, but structures cannot cover the utilities because of access issues.

While you are considering the impacts of closing Mason, could you also investigate the costs (financial and environmental) of re-routing the utilities under Mason when the library needs to expand onto that area in the future? Is re-routing even possible?

3) re alternatives to the Triangle and closing Mason. Environmental impacts?
I asked Luis Herrera in an e-mail dated 03-Sep-2008: “Was any thought given to blocking Greenwich at Columbus for added space for expansion? Blocking Greenwich would raise far less outcry than blocking Mason as there is an island in the middle of Columbus at that point preventing Greenwich-west drivers from turning left onto Columbus or proceeding through onto the western end of Greenwich, and vice versa.

“The last garage access off Greenwich between Powell and Columbus is at ~735 Greenwich, which leaves a major chunk of that roadway with no current requirement for vehicle traffic access. Are there issues with what lies under Greenwich similar to the issues with Mason?”

Luis Herrera replied, “The closure of Greenwich at Columbus was not discussed as that location would also provide for the proposed size to the programmatic needs.”

As part of the environmental impacts investigation, the City should investigate the environmental impact of closing Greenwich as an alternative to closing Mason. The new library could be placed where the tot lot currently is and expand onto Greenwich as far as any underground utility issues allow. This would address some of the issues that some FJDiMP members have regarding loss of a tennis court and location of the tot lot. The tot lot would be relocated elsewhere, perhaps to where the library currently is, adjacent to the bocce courts.

Which road closure (Greenwich or Mason) has less impact?

Thank you for your time.

April 22, 2009

[URL] World Digital Library launched. FREE!

Filed under: history,libraries,maps,photographs,resource,URL — Towse @ 5:29 pm

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and 32 partner institutions today launched the World Digital Library, a website that features unique cultural materials from libraries and archives from around the world. The site — located at — includes manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs. It provides unrestricted public access, free of charge, to this material.

from the site: The WDL focuses on significant primary materials, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other types of primary sources.

See also UNESCO’s Memory of the World project.

[via LOC’s Twitterfeed]

April 15, 2009

The 18 most memorable movie library scenes in honor of National Library Week

Filed under: books,libraries,movies — Towse @ 10:45 pm

The 18 most memorable movie library scenes in honor of National Library Week

Library of Congress proudly twitters that they nab two of the spots!

March 25, 2009

Belated Ada Lovelace Day: Let us now praise techie women

Filed under: libraries,technology — Towse @ 11:54 pm

I was gone yesterday. Awoke a bit after 5A to catch the 9X over to the Cow Palace for the day-long Get Motivated! seminar (more on =that= experience to follow).

I left the seminar early (mid Michael Phelps’ presentation) to catch the 9X back to Washington Square Park, where I transferred to the 30 to get to Fort Mason where I met up with his nibs to kill time (kill time, check-in and get wristbands, kill time, stand in line outside in chilly breeze, kill time) until we were let inside (Front Row for us!) for the Zócalo/New America Foundation joint event with Craig Newmark.

“He’s just like I expected,” said his nibs.

“You should read his blog and Twitterfeed,” I answered. “He’s exactly as he is. Which is a good thing.”

(But then we’ve always identified with engineering rather than marketing and sales. …)

Writeup and video with photos here.

There I am! (We’re #3 & #4 in line. I’m wearing black, shades, carrying my handy-dandy AAAS-NSF bag stuffed full the night before with the paper/pens/stuff I thought necessary for the day’s events.)

We walked home. Walked up to Bay and headed east. Cut over onto Columbus and stopped off at LaTrappe (corner of Columbus and Greenwich) because I was in need of some moules frites and Koningshoeven La Trappe Quadrupel. Sal satisfied, we continued home, arriving after midnight.

Ada Lovelace Day had been and gone.
My post praising techie women would be late. Alas.

Let us now praise techie women

Ada Lovelace Day is/was an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.

Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Entrepreneurs, innovators, sysadmins, programmers, designers, games developers, hardware experts, tech journalists, tech consultants. The list of tech-related careers is endless.

The list of people I could honor is near endless. Grace Hopper was my first choice, but I decided my Ada Lovelace Day post should honor a living WIT. (Others chose differently, honoring, among others, Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Hedy Lamarr, Rosalind Franklin, and Marie Curie.)

Who to choose? Who to choose? Who to choose?

Let us now praise, Jessamyn West, purveyor of (since 1999) and her personal blog abada abada.

Back in 2001, I wrote the following about Jessamyn.

[n.b. This extract is from my Feb 2001 column for Computer Bits [RIP]. The column was titled, ROLL OUT THE CARPET – PASSIONS GREET THE MILLENNIAL DAWN, and covered a batch of sites run by people who were passionate about a subject. The Degree Confluence Project was mentioned earlier in the column.]

I thought I was so clever. I thought, “I’ll pop the Degree Confluence Project into Altavista [yes, Altavista was my search engine of choice in those days] and see who else links to it and maybe write about those sites.” and got sucked into hours of roaming the links of Jessamyn (not that Jessamyn) West’s personal site.

West linked to the Degree Confluence Project because she has a quirky page where you can note a latitude and longitude and find out where you’d end up if you tunneled through to the other side of Earth. I knew West was a kindred spirit because her tunneling page also links to the Library of Congress map pages, mentioned in my November 2000 column.

West has links to everything that interests her and beyond: Naked Librarians (indeed!), Tracy Kidder, confluences and her journal, abada abada — and a fine journal it is. I’d heard of the huge numbers of people these days who keep their journals upfront and personal on the Web, but I’d never had the inclination to check out the sites. “Boring, self-centered clods,” I thought. Boy, was I wrong.

West’s journal includes such life slices as the description (with pictures!) of how she wound up with a printing press last year. “It started out innocently enough, playing pool with my friend Margaret talking about getting a hobby. Next thing you know, I’m en route to a scrap metal place in Burien and before you can say “dingbat” I am the owner of a tabletop letterpress machine. As my Mom said to me ‘this is how your father wound up with the pipe organ…’ “

Dad, by the way, is Tom West, featured in Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine. On her Tracy Kidder page, West remembers how Kidder stashed himself on the couch at the Wests on weekends as he wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

West’s journal starts in January 1997. I turned my mouse to this month, then that, another year, a different month, fascinated, clicking links, watching West’s writing style and interests grow and change over the past four years. Check out West’s journal and site and you will discover what the attraction is, why I’ve becoming a peeking Sal, peering into someone else’s life and passions.

Is Jessamyn technically a technological woman? She doesn’t do HW design. She’s not a SW engineer. What Jessamyn is is a community technology librarian, a guide to the wonders of the Web and technology, a friendly host, an answerer of questions. She works to get technology working in small community libraries. She is a moderator at and runs the Q and A part of the site, Ask MetaFilter. She is the visible face (and the sometimes cranky voice) of library technology. People like Jessamyn West are the link between the technically inept and the technology available these days at your local public library.

There is a boatload of information online and for those who can’t afford to have a personal connection in their home, the public library is the nearest and friendliest place.

So, what do we need to do? Get the technology into libraries. Get the library staff up to speed on using the technology.

Add patrons with questions and problems. Voilà! Solutions. Questions answered. Problems solved. Here is how you fill out the online food stamp application. Here is how you file an SSD or SSI application online. Here is how to use Craigslist or other online resources to find rentals. Here is how to file a complaint online. Learn to budget. Repair a faucet. Find a mechanic. Be a mechanic. Here is a site that lets you study and practice for your driver’s exam.

Let us now praise Jessamyn West and her sisters in library and technology who are wielding the machetes of technology to lead the lost and bewildered through the jungles of confusion to the “good” stuff available on the ‘net.

Let us now praise Jessamyn West and her sisters in library and technology who spend their days at sometimes thankless work, without whom the interWeb and its resources would be unavailable to a large swath of the public.

(‘sted, K, Eva, others. You know who you are. Consider yourselves praised as well.)

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