In addition to covering many other subjects this page (being updated) has many links to articles about physical books vs. digital books. It got to the point that with more and more updates, the links on the subject of the benefits of physical books vs. digital books it was time to put up a separate Citizens Defending Libraries page (Physical Books vs. Digital Books) devoted just to that subject alone.
This page covers the subject of libraries more generally.
• Technologizer: SXSW: The Fate of Libraries, by Harry McCracken, March 11, 2012.
• Library Journal: Annual Library ‘Budget Dance’ in NYC Leads to Call for Baseline Funding, by Norman Oder, March 18, 2013.When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the Church, which belongs to God and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.Keith RichardsLibraries, Block argued, aren’t just book-loaning facilities. They’re about also equal opportunity and community, and perhaps they should rebrand themselves as being about access, not books.
During his talk, he played sound bites of CNET reporter Brian Cooley and Bill Maher jadedly dismissing the importance of libraries. (Maher, at least, might have been joking.) . . .Block said that sheer apathy is one of the greatest threats that libraries face.
Public libraries have struggled in New York City over the last five years, as Mayor Mike Bloomberg–in an annual ritual known wearily as the “budget dance”–has consistently proposed significant cuts, only to have the City Council restore much but hardly all of the damage.
* * * *
Brooklyn Council Member Steve Levin, noting that he’d been in office only since 2010, asked how long the situation had persisted. Galante said it’s gotten worse in the last five or six years.
“It makes me question the Bloomberg administration’s commitment to the library system, in a very fundamental way,” Levin observed (as noted in the video [View the video embedded in this article which is from CDL’s YouTube Channel]), then posed a pointed question to the trio of directors: “Do you believe the Bloomberg administration fundamentally supports the library systems?”
The panelists laughed uneasily, perhaps recognizing the conflict between the evidence in the budget and their reliance on that administration.
“I’ll jump right in, what the hell,” proposed Galante, with a daredevilish tone.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” interjected Van Bramer. “Let me save Tom Galante from himself, right here. I used to be able to do that… Do not answer the question, Tom.”
“Step away from the mike,” cautioned Johnson, sharing in the nervous laughter. “Step away from the mike.”
“From my perspective,” Levin pronounced, “it doesn’t look like they do.”
• New York Times: Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On, by Joseph Berger and Al Baker, March 17, 2013.
The Brooklyn Heights library is neither the oldest nor the most dilapidated branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. But the 52-year-old limestone building . . . sits on land that developers crave. . . so the library system . . has embraced a . . .model that is increasingly being used around New York City [sale of libraries (also schools)] . .• Noticing New York: Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On? - Letter To The New York Times Editor (From Citizens Defending Libraries), by Michael D. D. White, March 29, 2013.
* * * *
. . the approach has provoked growing protest in the affected communities. .
. . . the city gives the entire Brooklyn system only $15 million a year for repairs and construction. .
[This article, while it confirms that the sell-off libraries is now an official city-wide policy, is very misleading in the information it leaves out and in its wholesale adoption of inaccurate Real Estate industry talking points. The article doesn’t point of that the library sales are shrinking the system, that money from sales doesn’t actually increase funding for libraries, that library administration officials are not prioritizing public benefit or that library usage is way up. It also didn’t report the Citizens Defending Libraries has a petition (8,500+ signatures) protesting the unjust, shortsighted policies. See, the Noticing New York article in response below that also addresses letters to the editor the Times didn't print.]
The one good thing about the article is that it clued people into the fact that (whether or not library officials were denying it) these sales were happening across the city. . .• The Observer: Is the Public Getting Swindled By the City’s Short-Sighted School and Library Sell-Offs?, by Kim Velsey, March 18, 2013.
. . The article took almost a month to get written and get published. The fact that the practice was unfolding city-wide was something that reporter Joseph Berger didn’t know and that Citizens Defending Libraries informed him of when he met with me and CDL’s organizer in chief,
* * *
In virtually all other respects the article was simply a compilation of real estate industry talking points about why selling city libraries is supposedly a good thing.
Here is what the article did not include, expressed in a Citizens Defending Libraries letter to the Times editor from Carolyn McIntyre. The Times did not publish this letter. . . .
* * *
If you presume that the Times article omitted all of the above despite the fact that Citizens Defending Libraries called all of these things to the reporter’s attention at the outset, you would be absolutely correct. Furthermore, it was not just what the Times left out; it was also what the Times wrote that was inaccurate and misleading.
* * *
Inclusion of what was significantly left out of the Times story would have turned the Times story virtually on its head since the story’s essential points were that the sell-offs of the libraries a.) could not be helped, and b.) were for the public’s benefit. Neither is the case.
Getting word out about the Times omissions presented a daunting proposition.
* * *
. . . the Times with its editing out of facts from its articles, and even the editing of the Letters to the Editor opposing that edited article’s point of view, has tightly controlled the framing of the public’s dialogue about the disposal of these vastly valuable, precious public assets.
Is the city is making bad—or at least short-sighted—deals in exchange for a little cash right now? As The New York Times, which examined the sudden spate of sales argues: the decision to sell certain properties and keep others is being driven by the logic of developers, not the virtues and the problems of the library branches and schools themselves.
And when private, rather than public interest dictates the city’s real estate decisions, that’s a real cause for concern, even if . . .
* * * *
(The Brooklyn Public Library, via a spokesman, has contacted The Observer to say that . . . it does not dispute that the value of the real estate is a huge factor in the decision to sell the branches. . . )
* * * *
At no cost to the library system, perhaps, but quite possibly at a cost to the community, which gets two newer, in one case smaller library in private developments in exchange for two older libraries on public land. Which sounds more like a trade-off than a win-win.
The middle class are being priced out of much of Manhattan and Brooklyn and so, it seems, are the public institutions that they frequent. Or rather, those institutions are being downsized and relocated to private developments . . .
* * * *
Moreover, there is the pressing question of what putting a civic institution in a private luxury development means for the institution. . . Perhaps most importantly, will residents be dissuaded from visiting the library by the unwelcoming, closed-off feeling of many private developments—the phalanx of doormen and other security precautions that discourage loitering and the lower classes?
* * * *
The public has been generous to private developers—particularly in the case of Barclays, with city and state subsidies granted on the basis that their developments would be enriching the entire community, rather than just the developer. If that’s the case, why is it that the local public library by Barclay’s can’t afford to stay in its long-time home?. . .
• The Gothamist: Park Slope Parents Say Library Has Too Much Technology, by Lauren Evans, March 26, 2013.
Josh Skaller, father to a 12-year-old and a 3-year-old, told DNAinfo that while he appreciates the resources offered by the library's Park Slope branch, he worries that his children may not be able to locate books under the heaps and heaps of gleaming technology. (Which, for the record, no longer includes iPads, which were taken off the floor after one of the library's four was stolen promptly after the branch reopened in September.)
• School Library Journal: Pew Study: Teens Still Love Print Media, ‘Traditional’ Library Services, by Karyn M. Peterson, June 25, 2013.“It’s not so easy to peruse the stacks because the tables with the computers are right there," Skaller said. “There's not a lot space away from those screens... For the 3-year-old, there's an immense opportunity to discover new things to read, and anything that's pulling her away from that gets in the way of the purpose of the trip to the library.”
Tech-savvy American young adults are more likely than older adults to have read printed books in the past year, are more likely to appreciate reading in libraries, and are just as strong supporters of traditional library services as older adults, a new national report from the Pew Research Center shows. According to the survey of Americans ages 16–29, a majority of young adults believe it is “very important” for libraries to have librarians and books for borrowing, while relatively few think that libraries should automate most library services or move most services online.
* * *
“Younger Americans’ reading habits and library use are still anchored by the printed page,” says Kathryn Zickuhr, research analyst at Pew’s nonprofit Internet & American Life Project and a co-author of the report.• Toronto Star: Kids, teens still prefer books to digital readers, by Michael Oliveira, November 22, 2013.
* * *
85 percent of 16–17 year-olds read at least one print book in the past year, making them significantly more likely to have read a book in this format than any other age group.
Based on the results of online surveys conducted for Booknet Canada, a non-profit industry organization that tracks sales and trends, it appears parents and children aren’t eager to give up on the time-honoured tradition of flipping through paper books in favour of clicking around in digital content.• Scientific American: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: Why Paper Still Beats Screens (Why the Brain Prefers Paper), by Ferris Jabr, November 2013.
* * *
. . . few indicated they actually prefer digital books or could see themselves eschewing paperbacks for good.
Only one per cent of the parents polled said their kids aged 13 and under were at the point of reading more ebooks than print books.
* * *
Only about one in four parents said they read ebooks with their kids. And only four per cent of parents said they preferred that their children read ebooks, while 63 per cent favoured old-fashioned books.
Among teenagers, 29 per cent said they preferred reading ebooks, 37 per cent chose print . . . The surveys suggest teens aren’t rushing to embrace ebooks.
IN BRIEF: Studies in the past two decades indicate that people often understand and remember text on paper better than on a screen. Screens may inhibit comprehension by preventing people from intuitively navigating and mentally mapping long texts.Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?, by Douglas Quenqua, October 11, 2014.
* * *
Preliminary research suggests that even so-called digital natives are more likely to recall the gist of a story when they read it on paper because enhanced e-books and e-readers themselves are too distracting. Paper’s greatest strength may be its simplicity.
* * *
. . reading a then popular electric console book . . . prevented the three-year-olds from understanding even the gist of the stories, but all the children followed the stories in paper books just fine.
. . . new studies suggest that reading to a child from an electronic device undercuts the dynamic that drives language development.• Economist: The future of the book, October 11, 2014.
“There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child,” Dr. High said. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”
Books are not just "tree flakes encased in dead cow", as a scholar once wryly put it. They are a technology in their own right, one developed and used for the refinement and advancement of thought. And this technology is a powerful, long-lived and adaptable one.Cynthia Pyle’s erudite letter to the editor in amplifying response: Letters to the editor- Scholars like books.
* * *
What is the future of the book? It is much brighter than people think.
Even the most gloomy predictors of the book's demise have softened their forecasts.
. . . The much ballyhooed decline of the physical book has been far from fatal.. .. The growth rate of e-books has recently slowed in many markets, including America and Britain. Publishers now expect most of their sales to remain in print books for decades to come-some say for ever.
There are a number of reasons. One is that, as Russell Grandinetti, who oversees Amazon's Kindle business, puts it, the print book is "a really competitive technology": it is portable, hard to break, has high-resolution pages and a "long battery life". . . Sales of e-readers, the most popular of which is the Kindle, are in decline. "In a few years' time," a recent report by Enders Analysis, a research firm, predicts, "we will look back at e-readers and remember them as one of the shortest-lived of all consumer media devices."
• NPR: Pew Study: Many Technophiles Also Love Libraries, by Lynn Neary, March 13, 2014.
You might think that in a world of Google and Wikipedia, people who love technology wouldn't care much about the musty old local public library. But, according to , you'd be wrong.• The Huffington Post: Sorry, Ebooks. These 9 Studies Show Why Print Is Better, by Maddie Crum, February 27, 2015.
* * *
In its latest study, Pew set out to determine what types of people use and value public libraries. It compared highly engaged, "library lovers" and "information omnivores" to those who have never used a library . .
Not surprisingly, library lovers . . tend to be better educated, have higher incomes and are more involved in social and cultural activities than people with little or no engagement with libraries.
. . the Pew study finds that the most highly engaged library users are also big technology users.
. . . . 90% of Americans ages 16 and older say that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community..
. Deeper connections with public libraries are often associated with key life moments such as having a child, seeking a job, being a student, and going through a situation in which research and data can help inform a decision. .
. . Members of these high engagement groups also tend to be active in other parts of their communities. They tend to know their neighbors, they are more likely to visit museums and attend sporting events, and they are more likely to socialize with families and friends.. . .
. .those who have used a library in the past year, adults living in lower-income households are more likely to say various library services are very important to them and their families than those living in higher-income households..
. . Many of those who are less engaged with public libraries tend to have lower levels of technology use, fewer ties to their neighbors, lower feelings of personal efficacy, and less engagement with other cultural activities.
. . A slew of recent studies shows that print books are still popular, even among millennials. What's more: further research suggests that this trend may save demonstrably successful learning habits from certain death. Take comfort in these 9 studies that show that print books have a promising future:• The Washington Post: Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right, by Michael S. Rosenwald, February 22, 2015.
* * *
Students are more likely to buy physical textbooks.
A study conducted by Student Monitor and featured in The Washington Post shows that 87 percent of textbook spending for the fall 2014 semester was on print books. Of course, this could be due to professors assigning less ebooks. Which is why it's fascinating that...
Students opt for physical copies of humanities books, even when digital versions are available for free. . . .
Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group's proclivity to consume most other content digitally.• The Guardian: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming, speech by Neil Gaiman, October 15, 2013.
* * *
Earlier this month, Baron published "Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World," a book (hardcover and electronic) that examines university students' preferences for print and explains the science of why dead-tree versions are often superior to digital. Readers tend to skim on screens, distraction is inevitable and comprehension suffers.
. . . Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.
* * *
most important . . is "building a physical map in my mind of where things are." Researchers say readers remember the location of information simply by page and text layout - that, say, the key piece of dialogue was on that page early in the book with that one long paragraph and a smudge on the corner. Researchers think this plays a key role in comprehension.
* * *
. . . there has been "pedagogical reboot" where faculty and textbook makers are increasingly pushing their students to digital to help defray costs "with little thought for educational consequences.". . .
"We need to think more carefully about students' mounting rejection of long-form reading," . .
I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. . . . – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be. . . they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn't read.• The Guardian: 'The price of libraries is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation': Lincolnshire's library cuts do not make economic sense because growth relies on a literate public, by Abigail Tarttelin, September 12, 2013.
* * *
And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. . . . Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.
* * *
Another way to destroy a child's love of reading, of course, is to make sure there are no books of any kind around. And to give them nowhere to read those books. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up.
* * *
They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read.
* * *
But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.
* * *
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.
* * *
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.
Journalist Walter Cronkite:
• DC37 Public Employee Press: Communities and DC 37 mobilize to stop library sell-offs, by Gregory Heires, November, 2013."Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation."
Stiff community and labor opposition has hit two of the city's library systems over their plans to cope with budget shortfalls and fund capital projects by selling off valuable properties.• The New Yorker: Letter from San Francisco: The Author vs. The Library, by Nicholson Baker, October 14, 1996.
* * *
"Selling libraries and the land they occupy is just bad public policy," said state Assembly member Joan L. Millman, who holds a master's in library science, at a Sept. 30 City Council hearing. "Selling a library building is a one-time fix for a recurring capital need."
* * *
They point to the 2007 botched sale of the Donnell branch in Manhattan as an example of what can go awry when public services are needlessly subjected to market forces.. . .
. . . "The experience with Donnell is a warning that the library systems are venturing into potentially turbulent waters," said Valentin Colon, president of New York Public Library Guild Local 1930.
Colon told the Public Employee Press that the New York Public Library system, which serves Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx, would be better off renovating the Mid-Manhattan Library than selling the building.
* * *
In written testimony submitted to the City Council, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu said the library fire sales reflect Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's policy of selling off public assets, including schools and New York City Housing Authority property, to wealthy
"This trend of parceling out what rightfully belongs to all New Yorkers must come to an end," Liu said.
Thousands have signed an online petition to "Save New York City Libraries from Bloomberg Developer Destruction" sponsored by the political action group MoveOn.. . .
. . . To sign the petition, go to:
Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction
. . . looking up names like Walter Benjamin and John Milton . . noticing that there were substantially fewer books . . . by these and other writers . . I knew the real story. . . a case study of what can happen— what . . . is happening in a number of cities around the country— when telecommunications enthusiasts takeover big old research libraries and attempt to remake them, with corporate help, as high-traffic show places for information technology. Such transformations consume unforecastably large sums of money, which is why, right now the S.F.P.L [San Francisco Public Library]. . . is essentially broke. .
* * * *
Not all observers like the privatizing tendencies in the public-library world . . . pointing out the present shortcomings in this "library of the future,". . . under [Kenneth E.] Dowlin . . the S.F.P.L. has, by a conservative estimate, sent more than two hundred thousand books to landfills---- many of them old, hard-to-find, out-of-print, and valuable.
* * * *
. . . . most of the staff members I talked to [didn’t want me to quote them] by name, since the administration has a way . . of punishing dissidents by exiling them to branch duty . . . What these employees wanted me to know, though, was that the library was undergoing a kind of brain surgery. In the words of one woman I interviewed, “it's EEG is going flat.”
The worst period of book-dumping happened last year, in the months before the library's move to New Main, as it is called. . .
* * * *
. . . stare upward through a "glittering void" (as its principal architect, James Ingo Freed, describes it) . . . . But space, from the point of view of a collection of books, means something quite different from floor space, atrium space, or even bandwidth in a telecommunications cable, all of which the New Main has an relative abundance. Space, to a book, means shelves: the departments of the library were supposed to get enough shelves to hold their collections, with plenty of room to grow. And yet most of the departments still do not have enough shelf space to hold what they have.
* * * *
. . . the Main Library's collection was simply not going to fit in the New Main Library. ... The collection itself was hastily reduced in volume. It was "weeded."
* * * *
Things got especially bad this winter, however, when Kathy Page put out the call to all stations: weed. . . ..
. . what two librarians who are part of the weeding team before the move told me one Sunday at a coffee shop:. . . "Get rid of as much as possible" .. . . Actually, we don't know what happened. . . We don't know what she did.
* * * *
. . . they represent the old-fashioned public library of knowledge, with its space-intensive storage needs.
* * * *
In the sixties, William Holman, then the City Librarian, began an ambitious program of book-buying (out-of-print as well as new books), with the intention of turning S.F.P.L. into a high-level research library. . . Dowlin arrived with an alternative version. “First and foremost,” Dowlin wrote the letter to the Chronicle not long ago, “S.F.P.L. is a public library, not a research facility.” It's both, of course . . .
* * * *
. . . Dowlin’s plan would involve downsizing what had already been achieved, at considerable expense, by his predecessors.
. . . William Ramirez, then Chief of the Main Library, wrote a memo describing staff concerns over the events that followed the earthquake. Staff members, he wrote, “believe that current and planned actions will: decimate the collection [through] weeding, discarding materials from the collections— both circulating and reference— which makes this library unique.” . . those actions would “move us in the direction of changing this library from a strong reference, research resource and service center to an undistinguished ‘popular library.’”
* * * *• San Francisco Chronicle: S.F. Library Tossing Thousands of Books / Shelf-clearing at main branch assailed, by Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross, January 29, 1996.
. . . Kathy Page to [wrote a] memo to all employees . . “the unhappy fact remains that we have less storage capacity in the new building that we had planned for and less than we need.”
In the fever to move into the new $134 million Main Library, San Francisco officials have quietly ordered thousands of old books and records to be trashed.• Melville House: Citizens Defending Libraries calls the Central Library Plan “a real estate grab” and “contrary to the public interest”, by Claire Kelley, February 19, 2014.
"You name the subjects -- they're throwing them out," says one fed-up worker. "It's completely and obviously so mad. . . . It's a betrayal to the people of San Francisco."
* * *
. . . library officials confirmed the mass dumping, saying they . . . simply do not have the time, space, or staff to allow charity groups to review every book before it is tossed.
* * * *
. . . the spread also included everything from a rare- looking 92-year-old art modeling book, complete with plates and illustrations. There was a history of the Arab world, an assortment of children's books and numerous vinyl record albums.
* * * *
. . . once these materials are gone, there will be no proof that they ever existed. The library isn't keeping an inventory of what's being tossed . . .
Says one staff member: "Nobody will ever remember they had these books."
Are you concerned that libraries are moving towards privatization and that there is a move to replace physical books with digital resources?• Noticing New York: Internet Guru Clay Shirky Speaking At Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting Says We Need Libraries Because Of Holes In The Internet, by Michael D. D. White, March 5, 2014.
We are very concerned about notions proposed that libraries should have to pay their own way or start bowing to corporate or other private interests. Libraries are an essential public commons, and should continue as such.
The issue of ownership is a good segue into the second part of your question. There is much evolving right now with respect to digital rights that hasn't been resolved: Copyrights are being extended and made stricter; so-called "orphan works" are in serious jeopardy; content providers are consolidating into monopolies that raise prices while much of what is available digitally is made available through time-limited subscriptions that have a potential ephemerality that never applied to books on the shelves. Technology busily shifts too: The New York Times had a sentence in a tech section article recently, "If you own a Nook, the fate of your books may now be up in the air."
We favor, and we are not against, adding digital resources, but right now we think that the benefits of digitization, partly fad, and partly, to an extent, legitimate future, are being seized upon and exaggerated to excuse a rush to get rid of physical books because books take up real estate and the focus of too many people running the libraries is selling real estate. The public, all of its generations, like physical books. For the most part the public hasn't switched away from physical books. Scientific American just did an interesting review of the science literature indicating that the human brain may be hard-wired to learn and retain information better with physical books. Many books aren't available digitally. Making them available would be a massive undertaking at which it is easy to fail. Nicholson Baker's "Doublefold" and his tales of the unutterable destruction that occurred at San Francisco's library provide serious cautionary tales. It doesn't serve to banish books in a precipitous experiment undertaken by people with questionable motives who lack library credentials. Working for a hedge fund doesn't qualify you to curate mankind's store of knowledge.
NYPL President Tony Marx reads a physical copy of the New York Times, so do I, and that`s the way I read many books. Physical media shouldn't be the exclusive preserve of a lucky privileged few.
. . .Tim Wu and Lewis Hyde, two names . . that Mr. Shirky would have to know, who both write about the impoverishment of the public sphere, Wu writing about how it occurs when media industries inevitably trend toward monopoly and Hyde talking about the disappearance of the public commons through increasingly privatizated ownership of the ideas and information we consume. . .CONTACT: To contact Citizens Defending Libraries email Backpack362 (at) aol.com.
You may also leave a comment with information in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
The first petition (gathered over 17,000 signature, most of them online- available at signon.org with a background statement and can still be signed). On June 16, Citizens Defending libraries issued a new updated petition that you can sign now: