Palo Alto Weekly
Spectrum - November 19, 2010
Editorial: Flexible libraries or rigid book warehouses?
Palo Alto libraries confront a new generation of readers who mostly prefer their 'books' on Kindles, iPads and not-yet-imagined sources
Suggestions that Palo Alto library refurbishing and rebuilding should include flexible designs to accommodate greater use of digital devices rather than traditional bound books have run into some not-too-surprising resistance.
That resistance comes from longstanding members of the Friends of the Palo Alto Libraries, a citizens' group that over the years has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to support library operations through its community book sales.
It surfaced at a community meeting Tuesday night to discuss design concepts for the library rejuvenation planned for the Main Library and already underway at the Downtown Library branch and an entirely rebuilt Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.
The issue is whether extra space should be created for patrons using digital devices.
The catch is that the architects and library officials are also suggesting either leveling off or reducing the number of "real" books, and thus sacrificing some shelf space in the redesign.
Interim library Director Ned Himmel said use of e-books in the library system has climbed 30 percent in the past year — but that impressive-sounding figure is hollow, based on a minuscule .6 percent of overall circulation. He also noted that Amazon.com is now selling more e-books than hard-copy new best-sellers.
He predicted that the digital era will only grow.
It is the proposal to level off or cut back the book collection for the Main Library that rallied the Friends' leadership, who showed up with about 20 supporters Tuesday night to lambaste the idea. Longtime Friends member Ellen Wyman said it would be dishonest in terms of a pledge to expand the collection that was made prior to the library bond vote in 2008.
"If they want to pass another bond in the next eon, they better not do it," she warned about any cutback in the collection.
We agree that the city should adhere to pledges made in 2008, but it's also increasingly clear that readership habits of the younger generation — and many in the older generation — are changing as fast as new technology emerges.
Collection size notwithstanding, building in flexibility to accommodate the gadgetry within the libraries is far better than seeing patrons fade away from our new buildings over time, leaving them predominantly as book warehouses guarded by a few lonely staff members.
Posted by Library Commissioner,
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 24, 2010 at 11:01 pm
Come on Palo Alto: relating to penetration of iPads on Campus - COPA says...
"On campus? Around 100%. You seem to forget that you can read them on a computer as much as an iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, ...."
About iTunes viability re: lost files, you said "You can download it onto any number of devices, the limit is only for the number of concurrent devices. If you sell a machine, you simply de-register it and register another one and download everything again. That's if you don't transfer your library manually. If they ripped stuff then, yes, they'd lose unless they had the original."
Yes, two of these people had coincidental multiple device failures; one had failed to back up her machine - and there went her investment. Another had his briefcase stolen, with MacBook and iPod - ta-ta investment. That aside, the point is that it it NOT more convenient, or cheaper - either for the institution or the patron - to loose access to hard media (books, CD's, DVD's) in place of stremed or downloadable digital media. Currently, the cost of hardware, and the insanely complex nature of iTunes (just look at the updates, etc. etc - and all the stuff you need to keep track of, compared straightforward use of hard media.
Next: read this: Web Link There are reams more data about actual purchase and USE of these devices as replacements for print. Yes, we are going to see an uptake, but it's not here, yet, AND let's see what happens when more of the 35 tablets projected for introduction to the market (most, Flash-based) drop into the tablet retail channel. Tablet penetration is clearly NOT 100%, or even 10% of that number - like I said, go to channel source research and see what people are actually DOING with their money, instead of *saying* they will do. Soon, many colleges will use tablets, but they will be distributed by the college, NOT made as a choice by the student.
Next, concurrent use of iTunes files - yes, you can share, but you can share on a limited number of concurrent devices, and you CANNOT trade files. Why not? I bought it, why can't i resell it, in limited numbers, or trade it? I can borrow a library CD and let my friends listen to a file that I've burned from the disk, or let a friend borrow the CD, or tell her about it, so she can borrow it. iTunes? You have to pony up.
Next, let's consider working with a simple piece of plastic, called a CD, that one can listen to in a CD player that lives on a computer or as a remote device in one's car or living room - let's compare that with iTunes Web Link. Now, granted, iTunes made it possible to access individual audio files for less than one could buy a CD for, but what did that cost the consumer? Hmmm, let's see - first a computer - anywhere from $600 for a flimsy Dell, to $2500+ for a top line Mac. Then, maybe a iPod and/or iPad, or even an iTouch - so another another $400-$1500. So you've got skin in the game for $1000- $4000 *before* you start buying inferior quality Mp3's - you know, the files that don't let you hear the full dynamic range of a piece of music, and the files that are now ordinarily compressed UP, so the entire dynamic range of the piece is distorted. So where do i go to hear the music as it was recorded, at full fidelity? Either I buy the CD, or I go to a LIBRARY. Does that describe egalitarian public access to culture, to you? Maybe you're rich, but most people aren't. Sorry you lost your battle for the Library Bond, and all the distorted lies that were put out there failed, but there is no "back door" out there for you to have your way, now. This whole "let's get rid of bookmbecgause eBooks are replacing paper" is not only wrong (read the stats, and the deception in Amazon's numbers - c'mon, do it!), but in fact print use is *increasing* along with digital use!! So, why should we limit print and force people to buy devices. Heck, the iPad doesn't even do Flash!
Then, consider the constant upgrades, in terms of personal time, lost data, frustration, blown machines, lost machines, etc. etc.
And this statement: "It's all there now! Overview combined with Bluefire. Palo Alto libararies already support it. We just need to beef it up from it's current 1700 odd titles." Do you have any idea what the cost is to maintain the constant updating of this infrastructure; dealing with upgrades; hardward incompatabilities; rescoring licenses; risk from lawsuits of someone cracks DRM and widely distributes; etc. etc. etc. Again, the picture os a pretty one as long as one maintains the blank stare of a technonapped (as in kidnapped) mind - where one has inculcated every little bit of hype proffered by Apple, MSFT, the newspaper industry, etc. etc.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
FoPAL: keep up the good fight, and don't let library haters get their way. Public libraries are *defined* by enabling UNIVERSAL access. Until EVERYONE has access to a $10 shrink-wrapper iPad-like device at Walgreens, don't for one minute let this group anti-library-tecnoids gaiin a foothold. They will, I'm afraid, continue to persist - probably aided and abetted by the local newspapers, who themselves want to push digital readers into every household, because it will help increase their page view numbers and ad rates.
Good luck out there. Go! YOU PUBLIC LIBRARY. GO PRINT BOOKS. GO eBOOKs. Go! UNIVERSAL access to data, without the need for someone to make a hardware investment to gain exposure to the things that their tax dollars support.