Archive for the ‘libraries’ Category

I attended the grand opening of the new Delaware branch of the Albany Public Library on Saturday, January 9, just as I attended the event for the Pine Hills branch (a/k/a, MY branch) five weeks earlier. Also, on Tuesday, January 5, I went to the sometimes contentious meeting about the closing of the Washington Avenue YMCA (a/k/a, MY branch) at, not coincidentally, the main branch of the APL. And it brought home the fact that the issues of the branch libraries, the urban Y and also the post offices that have been threatened to be closed, including the South Allen location (a/k/a, MY post office) are all part of the same issue: the livability of the city of Albany. However, there have been quite varied outcomes.

First, let’s look at the good news. You MUST go to the two reopened branches of the library, although you may not fully appreciate their beauty and usability unless you had been to the previous incarnations. The old, one-story location at 517 Western Avenue was cramped and a bit dark; the new two-story facility is bright and roomy, and moreover finally has an adequate number of computers, even on a Saturday afternoon.

But even the old branch of the Pine Hills library was a palace compared with the old Delaware branch which was in a strip mall, next to a laundromat. I’ve had closets that were wider. At least thrice – and I admit I avoided going there very often – water, lint and noise from its neighbor was evident in the library. Now at 331 Delaware Avenue, a former funeral home that I’d only been to once or twice, it is totally reimagined to be bright and accessible.

As Dennis Gaffney, president of the APL board of trustees, has noted, Albany had rejected $150,000 for a Carnegie library back in 1902, by a 3-2 vote, because of the $9,000 annual maintenance. But a little over a century later, the people of Albany, by a 2-1 vote, embraced building five new or refurbished branch libraries.

At the YMCA meeting, CEO Dave Brown noted how much of the programming of the Albany Y is not dependent on that building at 274 Washington Avenue. He was followed by speaker after speaker from various organization noting how vital the Y building is to the populations they serve, from the medical student who destresses there to young man who promised more violence in the city without the facility.

I heard a lot of vague promises to work towards saving the facility, from organizations using the building to the Albany mayor, who, the day after his dire State of the City, promised his support. Yet Dave Brown’s promise of the “immediate shutdown” if certain benchmarks aren’t met remained.

Right now, because of some pricing incentives, it is a good time to join the YMCA on Washington Avenue. I’m cautiously optimistic that the first goal of 2550 households (up from 1800) can be met by April – is that the beginning or end of April, Dave? – but another thousand or more beyond that before the end of the year seems ambitious. The task force working on saving the Y I’m hoping can bring alternative funding ideas to the table.

The post offices unfortunately is largely out of local control, though the targeting of the urban settings, at least in this area, is disturbing. All I can say is that having a local facility was a major selling point in choosing a home. If making some noise will make a difference, let there be cacophony.

Three institutions. One good outcomes, two up in the air. All vital for a livable city. ROG

There was an article in the local paper last week that the Albany Public Library was going to do away with the Dewey Decimal System in favor of a system that’s more like a bookstore, as I understand it. I have mixed emotions.

On one hand, I see why the library would want to utilize a system like that which the book-using public is used to. While I grew up using the Dewey Decimal System in the Binghamton Public Library, where I worked as a teen, it’s not as though I’m wedded to it. Indeed, the books in the special library where I work uses the Library of Congress classification, an alphanumeric system even more arcane for the casual user than Melvil Dewey’s categorization. Also, when I was going to library school, I quickly tired of the jokes about my devotion to the DDC.

On the other hand, the conversation suggests that DDC is complicated and that the bookstore model is “better”. Maybe it’s me, but I always find what I’m looking for in a DDC or LC library, while I’m more likely to have to ask for need help from a book store clerk. That’s because the categories in some bookstores are not as helpful as they might be.

The example that immediately comes to mind is Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, by Douglas A. Blackmon. Last month, the Writers Institute and the Friends of the Albany Public Library sponsored Doug Blackmon to speak at APL.

For those of you not from the Albany area, the Writers Institute was co-founded 25 years ago by William Kennedy. Bill Kennedy is THE most noted writer to come out of Albany, and his fiction about Albany has been award-winning. I happen to particularly enjoy his nonfiction book, O Albany!

There was a dinner before the Blackmon presentation, and for reasons unknown to me, I had the pleasure to sit next to Doug Blackmon. We had a very interesting talk. One point that he made, relative to this current discussion, is how well or poorly his book sells in a given store depended, to a very large degree, on where his book was placed in said bookstore. If it was placed in the American history section – and the story certainly is an American story not often heard – then it sold all right. But if it were placed in the ghetto of the black history section (“ghetto” is my term) – as though the story were only important to, or applicable to black people – then it tended to do less well.

Now, a library book is not sold by the institution. But how often a book circulates certainly effects whether or not other books on that topic and/or books by that author.

I have no inside information just how this “bookstore” model is going to look until the Pine Hills branch – MY branch – reopens next month beyond what I’ve read here. But I’ll be very interested to find out.
ROG

Now that it’s summer (or winter, depending), it is time to Ask Roger Anything. Oh, but wait – I’m distracted by somebody who recently noted that if people from space came to Earth, they might conclude the South Pole is the top of the world and the North Pole is on the bottom; after all there is a large land mass. Or maybe they’d pick some point on the equator or the Tropic of Cancer. Is our sense of top and bottom somewhat arbitrary?

Usually I do this because I’m afraid I’ll run out of things to write about. This is not the case presently; I have three or four blogposts re my trip to North Carolina alone. I am, though, having trouble actually composing them, or even deciding if I should. Answering YOUR questions gives me opportunity to muse on them some more.

Anyway, I already have a question from SB: “So perhaps you’ve already written about this, but I’d be interested to hear how libraries continue to change and evolve with stuff like Twitter and Facebook. Do libraries have their own Facebook badges? Is that – gasp! – allowed?”

Our library has a Facebook page, which is fueled in part from our blog feed. We have a Twitter feed that keeps both our blog and our website fresh. Our Facebook badge is a variation on the SBDC logo.

I’ve seen over 1000 libraries on both Twitter and Facebook, and I’d guesstimate that there are tens of thousands of librarians who are on one or both of the sites; I am on those, LinkedIn and a couple others.

The Library of Congress has over 10,000 followers but is following, last I checked, no one. At least the Library Journal is following a couple hundred while it is followed by over 5,000. I – and apparently others – had contacted the LOC about this, and the folks responded, rather quickly, that were worried that there would be too much noise in the feed. I’m not sure I agree with their thought process.

So, any other questions, folks? Everything is on the table. Let your mind get creative.
ROG


From the news release:
On 23 April 2009, we will celebrate the 14th World Book and Copyright Day, proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in 1995 to promote greater awareness of the importance of books in the world.

In order to support the Organization in today’s society, this year international professional associations are once again kindly invited to play an essential role in informing and mobilizing both their members and their external networks of experts and stakeholders.

For this edition of the Day, UNESCO suggests to explore the topic of the paramount function of books for the development of quality education, as well as the link between publishing and fundamental rights.

One of the cool things my wife did this past year was to apply for and receive a $600 minigrant to buy books for her English as a Second Language unit that had been limited by ancient, archaic texts. Even more impressive, she got a publisher to donate – that is, give for free – an almost equal number of books.

Something I know from personal experience is that teachers often spend money out of pocket for books and supplies that they bring to the classroom. In honor of today, perhaps you might contract your local school or PTA to see what books they might need. Or contact your local library; ironically, in a period of increased demand for library services, library budgets are being slashed.

So buy a book, for yourself and/or for someone else.
***
An action film, Salt, starring Angelina Jolie, will be filmed in part on the streets of Albany. Some folks are up in arms, even though the schedule suggests that it won’t disrupt the morning or evening commutes. I think the real issue is that there was NO information at all going out to the general public until a couple days ago about something that begins today, and there is a lot of misinformation floating out there.


ROG

Our first contestant is soon-to-be-daddy again Scott from Scooter Chronicles:

1. In a previous post, you predicted the winners of each MLB division. Who do you think wins the league pennants, and who wins the World Series?

Once you get to a short series, there are so many variables so it’s hard to say. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s a wild card like the Boston Red Sox. And, shades, of 1986, I’m going to pick the Mets to beat them.

By the way, Scott – you NEED this: a free, 586-page PDF of the Emerald Guide to Baseball 2009.

2. What is your take on the AIG bonuses? Where do you think the government needs to take this?

First, those noting that the bonuses were a small percentage of the bailout are correct. Second, the first point is totally irrelevant; AIG is totally tone deaf. I’ve been REALLY uncomfortable with this “too big to fail” label; gives these companies a feeling of entitlement. Given the fact that the average American didn’t even know what AIG WAS a year ago, it’s unsurprising. The only time I ever saw them was on advertisements on Sunday morning talk shows. So their audience was never the average American, it was the DC movers and shakers.

At this point, with over a sixth of a TRILLION dollars already in, the government isn’t going to say to AIG, “Go ahead, go bankrupt,” though those bonuses could have been voided if it had. Some of the bonus monies are going to be given back – or deducted from the next check. But if the government is going to nationalize these companies, and they have all but done so – whatever you want to call it – they damn well better job of setting the rules of engagement for giving away lending OUR money. Politically, if not economically, I think the administration needs to try the “clawback” of AIG bonuses; I know that New York State’s Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, has been looking at the contracts as well. Here’s an interesting article about other money our government might try to recover.

3. Who is your favorite musician? Could be a member of a band, or a solo artist, or whomever. But specifically, a musician.

This is probably influenced somewhat by my birthday present, the 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD, but I guess I’ll pick Eric Clapton. The stuff on the Yardbirds, Derek and the Dominoes, Blind Faith, his early solo stuff, and especially Cream moved me greatly, and that concert showed that sometimes, he’s still got it.

4. What is your favorite season of the year?

Spring, beginning of new life. It gets warmer. Oddly, it’s also still in Lent, so I get to sing the more mournful stuff in church.

5. Did you read “Watchmen”? If so, what did you think of it? Have any interest in seeing the movie?

I read Watchmen when it came out, and I liked it a lot at the time. I feel as though I should read it again either before or after I see the movie.

Next up, social network maven Gordon from Blog THIS, Pal!

1. Taking a quick business trip to NY City, I want to visit again…but I also want to do more out-of-the-way, quirky places as well as the usual tourist-y stuff. Any suggestions?

The Queens Public Library. Serving the most diverse county in the country, it has a wide variety of collections.

2. Your preliminary thoughts on these early days of the Obama presidency – is he doing right? Way off course?

I have some reservations, but I’m more pleased than displeased. The stuff on Iraq, stem cell research, Gitmo, and much of the stimulus I’m for, especially the emphasis on GREEN jobs and the part about health care, in part because of this story, something Scott has blogged about recently. I loved his apology over the Daschle nomination.

But I’m still not convinced that we’re not going into a quagmire in Afghanistan, as the Soviet Union did, if we’re not already, and more troops might not help. Also, there were a LOT of vacancies in the Treasury Department with a lot to do. I know he inherited TARP, but it rather stinks.

The other question I’ll hold in abeyance.

Still taking more questions!

ROG

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