Library Director’s Report- October-December 2012
Redwood City Library Earns Five-Star Rating
Lisa Fernandez and Marianne Favro
The Redwood City Library announced this week it won a five-star rating from the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service, the premier public library national rating system instituted by the Library Journal. Marianne Favro reports.
Some are calling it the “French Laundry” of libraries.
The Redwood City Library announced this week it won a five-star rating from the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service, the premier public library national rating system instituted by the Library Journal.
That makes the library on Middlefield Road the top-rated library in San Mateo County, and also the top-rated library among all mid-sized and large libraries in the entire country, meaning that Redwood City beat out Los Angeles and New York.
“I’m very proud of our library staff, and I urge our entire community to share in congratulating them on this great honor,” said Redwood City Mayor Alicia Aguirre said in a statement. “We have worked hard to make the library a cutting-edge, engaging, and inviting place for the community. This rating really recognizes our success, and shines a wonderful national spotlight on our library, and our city.”
Aside from books, DVDS and the regular stuff that libraries offer, this library also offers library offers an e-reader “petting zoo” to give devices a try. There are also 1,400 volunteers who spend their time helping patrons enjoy their library time.
Mother Lisa Espy loves coming with her children every week. “I love that it is so open and fun and the kids can run around,” she said. She appreciates the wide diversity of books and computer games her children can utilize.
Only two libraries in California achieved the five star rating, and Redwood City’s received the highest numerical score. Santa Monica was the other library.
Scores are based on per capita measurements including number of items borrowed, number of visits, number and types of programs offered, attendance at activities, level of public Internet use, and other elements. Library officials pointed out that this means that the library’s exemplary ranking is also a recognition that the people of Redwood City are very involved and engaged with their library, taking full advantage of all the wonderful programs and materials available.
Only two libraries in California got five stars, with Redwood City’s gaining the highest numerical score in the state. Only six other library systems in the San Francisco Bay Area were star rated at all, with Redwood City the only one getting the top rank of five stars.
A library worth checking out
By Michelle Durand
If libraries were comparable to highly-ranked restaurants, the Redwood City facility would be the French Laundry, Alinea and El Bulli all rolled into one.
Fortunately for patrons of the Redwood City branch, they need neither a reservation two months out or a tall stack of hundreds as bribery for a seat inside.
The Redwood City Library announced this week it is the recipient of a five-star rating from the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service, making it one of only two statewide with such high marks and the top-rated of any size for the entirety of California.
That’s right; not one of the libraries, but “the” library. Take a bow, Redwood City!
Not to knock any of San Mateo County’s other libraries, but Redwood City is in pretty sparse company locally, according to the journal.
The San Mateo County Library made the cut with four stars which is certainly nothing to sneeze at but five stars? Now that’s really saying something.
Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service is but in an announcement by Redwood City Library Director Dave Genesy he calls it the premier national rating system. Who am I to quibble with that?
The rating is pretty awesome for several reasons, primarily the proof that people still read actual books. Sure, many folks probably look to the library for lots of other needs — a parental breather during children’s reading hour, pilfering of free WiFi, perusing a cornucopia of magazines to keep up on the latest Robert Pattinson and Kirsten Stewart scandal, the downloading of e-books onto readers and movies onto tablets. Did you know the library offers an e-reader “petting zoo” to give the devices a try? And Wii gaming? This is not the library of my youth. But somehow, actual bound books are still the backbone of a brick-and-mortar library.
In all fairness, books themselves aren’t the only reason for the five-star ranking. The score also includes per capita measures of how many things are borrowed, how many people visit, the types of programs, public Internet use and attendance at events. Taken together, this means the people in Redwood City must really like their library. Heck, they must love their library.
Now the challenge for the Redwood City Library is maintaining. The biggest problem with being the best is remaining the best.
On the other hand, the county’s other libraries have the challenge of netting those stars. The journal concedes its own ratings have nothing to do with quality, excellence or service to the community. Those intangibles are near impossible to put a price on.
That said, there are a few things the other branches might consider doing to drum up attention. Hot librarians, for one. Sure, it’s a cliché. It may also perk up those attendance levels. Extra credit if those librarians can find new and inventive ways to tell loud patrons to “Ssssh!”
A new cataloging system is also a nice touch. Dewey Decimal is so yesterday. Let’s go with straight alphabetical. Or colored spines. Number of pages. You get the idea.
Then again, vintage is pretty popular. Perhaps a return to microfiche, just for old times sake? Doing so could also increase the number of library visits because patrons will need that much more time to figure out how to actually use microfiche. Same goes with card catalogs and encyclopedias — hey, what are those?
Or, gimmicks aside, maybe those who haven’t checked out any of the county’s libraries lately should give them a whirl. Stars are fantastic but a personal visit is probably the best, and certainly the most personal, way to see how they stack up.
RCPL director, Dave Genesy, stated in a personal interview (October 3, 2012) that he would like to see the library perceived in terms of its community value. Genesy describes what the board and library are trying to achieve in relation to the community and City Hall: Everything we do, we need to say the reason why we’re doing it. Here’s a story time for babies, why are we doing this? We have a computer lab for the public, why do we have that? … It’s important to know the community value, not the library value, because we speak a different language that people don’t understand. We talk about education so that kids can be successful in school, so they can grow up and be engaged citizens. It’ll make police and social services have less work, it’ll get kids ready to have job skills that will be local, it helps the local economy, helps downtown, helps the home prices…so when you tell that community story, that’s how you position the library. So it’s not just story time, it is starting early to get our kids and families reading and learning.… Not everyone in our city uses the library, but hopefully they know the value of it. That a healthy successful community has a healthy successful library.
December 27, 2012
New York Times
Libraries See Opening as Bookstores Close
By KAREN ANN CULLOTTA
At the bustling public library in Arlington Heights, Ill., requests by three patrons to place any title on hold prompt a savvy computer tracking system to order an additional copy of the coveted item. That policy was intended to eliminate the frustration of long waits to check out best sellers and other popular books. But it has had some unintended consequences, too: the library’s shelves are now stocked with 36 copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”By KAREN ANN CULLOTTA
At the bustling public library in Arlington Heights, Ill., requests by three patrons to place any title on hold prompt a savvy computer tracking system to order an additional copy of the coveted item. That policy was intended to eliminate the frustration of long waits to check out best sellers and other popular books. But it has had some unintended consequences, too: the library’s shelves are now stocked with 36 copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Of course, librarians acknowledge that when patrons’ passion for the sexy series lacking in literary merit cools in a year or two, the majority of volumes in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy will probably be plucked from the shelves and sold at the Friends of the Library’s used-book sales, alongside other poorly circulated, donated and out-of-date materials.
“A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it as a store, and stock it with the things that people want,” said Jason Kuhl, the executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Renovations will turn part of the library’s first floor into an area resembling a bookshop that officials are calling the Marketplace, with cozy seating, vending machines and, above all, an abundance of best sellers.
As librarians across the nation struggle with the task of redefining their roles and responsibilities in a digital age, many public libraries are seeing an opportunity to fill the void created by the loss of traditional bookstores. They are increasingly adapting their collections and services based on the demands of library patrons, whom they now call customers.
Today’s libraries are reinventing themselves as vibrant town squares, showcasing the latest best sellers, lending Kindles loaded with e-books, and offering grass-roots technology training centers. Faced with the need to compete for shrinking municipal finances, libraries are determined to prove they can respond as quickly to the needs of the taxpayers as the police and fire department can.
“I think public libraries used to seem intimidating to many people, but today, they are becoming much more user-friendly, and are no longer these big, impersonal mausoleums,” said Jeannette Woodward, a former librarian and author of “Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model.”
“Public libraries tread a fine line,” Ms. Woodward said. “They want to make people happy, and get them in the habit of coming into the library for popular best sellers, even if some of it might be considered junk. But libraries also understand the need for providing good information, which often can only be found at the library.”
Cheryl Hurley, the president of the Library of America, a nonprofit publisher in New York “dedicated to preserving America’s best and most significant writing,” said the trend of libraries that cater to the public’s demand for best sellers is not surprising, especially given the ravages of the recession on public budgets.
Still, Ms. Hurley remains confident that libraries will never relinquish their responsibility to also provide patrons with the opportunity to discover literary works of merit, be it the classics, or more recent fiction from novelists like Philip Roth, whose work is both critically acclaimed and immensely popular.
“The political ramifications for libraries today can result in driving the collection more and more from what the people want, rather than libraries shaping the tastes of the readers,” Ms. Hurley said. “But one of the joys of visiting the public library is the serendipity of discovering another book, even though you were actually looking for that best seller that you thought you wanted.”
“It’s all about balancing the library’s mission and its marketing, and that is always a tricky dance,” she added.
While print books, both fiction and nonfiction, still make up the bulk of most library collections — e-books amount to to less than 2 percent of many collections in part because some publishers limit their availability at libraries — building renovation plans rarely include expanding shelf space for print products. Instead, many libraries are culling their collections and adapting floor plans to accommodate technology training programs, as well as mini-conference rooms that offer private, quiet spaces frequently requested by self-employed consultants meeting with clients, as well as teenagers needing space to huddle over group projects.
Though an increase in book weeding these days — a practice long known in library parlance as deselection — might be troubling to some bibliophiles, library officials say, many books enjoy a happy life after being sold.
A recent visit to the Friends of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Warehouse Sale proved to be not unlike wandering into a reader’s nirvana for Jeff Borden, 61. A writer and adjunct professor from Chicago, Mr. Borden said he and his wife, Johanna Brandon, left the November sale with shopping bags brimming with an eclectic and bargain-priced assortment of fiction and nonfiction, including the noir novel “The Leopard,” by Jo Nesbo, and “Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde” by Jeff Guinn.
“The books are piling up all over the house,” said Mr. Borden, who estimated that the couple spent about $50, money that officials said will be given to the library system to finance programs including its children’s story time.
“Great fiction is still being written, as well as rotten fiction,” Mr. Borden added. “To my way of thinking, you need to get them in the door of the library first, and if someone’s search for ‘Shades of Grey’ leads them to read D. H. Lawrence, well, that’s not a bad deal.”
Gretchen Caserotti, the assistant director for public services at the public library in Darien, Conn., said, “We are terrifically excited about the sea change at libraries, and rethinking our model in a new world.”
The Darien library has a three-requests policy similar to the one in Arlington Heights.
“The library should be as they say, a third place — you have home, work or school, and then you come to the library because it is the center and heart of the community,” Ms. Caserotti said. “Our staff is 100 percent committed to hospitality, customer service and welcoming people to the library as if they were visiting our home. We need to remember it is their library, not ours, and they are paying for it.”
The following responses discuss the previous article:
Wall Street Journal
Don’t Burn Your Books—Print Is Here to Stay
Lovers of ink and paper, take heart. Reports of the death of the printed book may be exaggerated.
A 2012 survey revealed that just 16% of Americans have actually purchased an e-book.
Ever since Amazon introduced its popular Kindle e-reader five years ago, pundits have assumed that the future of book publishing is digital. Opinions about the speed of the shift from page to screen have varied. But the consensus has been that digitization, having had its way with music and photographs and maps, would in due course have its way with books as well. By 2015, one media maven predicted a few years back, traditional books would be gone.
Half a decade into the e-book revolution, though, the prognosis for traditional books is suddenly looking brighter. Hardcover books are displaying surprising resiliency. The growth in e-book sales is slowing markedly. And purchases of e-readers are actually shrinking, as consumers opt instead for multipurpose tablets. It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.
How attached are Americans to old-fashioned books? Just look at the results of a Pew Research Center survey released last month. The report showed that the percentage of adults who have read an e-book rose modestly over the past year, from 16% to 23%. But it also revealed that fully 89% of regular book readers said that they had read at least one printed book during the preceding 12 months. Only 30% reported reading even a single e-book in the past year.
What’s more, the Association of American Publishers reported that the annual growth rate for e-book sales fell abruptly during 2012, to about 34%. That’s still a healthy clip, but it is a sharp decline from the triple-digit growth rates of the preceding four years.
The initial e-book explosion is starting to look like an aberration. The technology’s early adopters, a small but enthusiastic bunch, made the move to e-books quickly and in a concentrated period. Further converts will be harder to come by. A 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research revealed that just 16% of Americans have actually purchased an e-book and that a whopping 59% say they have “no interest” in buying one.
Meanwhile, the shift from e-readers to tablets may also be dampening e-book purchases. Sales of e-readers plunged 36% in 2012, according to estimates from IHS iSuppli, while tablet sales exploded. When forced to compete with the easy pleasures of games, videos and Facebook on devices like the iPad and the Kindle Fire, e-books lose a lot of their allure. The fact that an e-book can’t be sold or given away after it’s read also reduces the perceived value of the product.
Beyond the practical reasons for the decline in e-book growth, something deeper may be going on. We may have misjudged the nature of the electronic book.
From the start, e-book purchases have skewed disproportionately toward fiction, with novels representing close to two-thirds of sales. Digital best-seller lists are dominated in particular by genre novels, like thrillers and romances. Screen reading seems particularly well-suited to the kind of light entertainments that have traditionally been sold in supermarkets and airports as mass-market paperbacks.
These are, by design, the most disposable of books. We read them quickly and have no desire to hang onto them after we’ve turned the last page. We may even be a little embarrassed to be seen reading them, which makes anonymous digital versions all the more appealing. The “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon probably wouldn’t have happened if e-books didn’t exist.
Readers of weightier fare, including literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, have been less inclined to go digital. They seem to prefer the heft and durability, the tactile pleasures, of what we still call “real books”—the kind you can set on a shelf.
E-books, in other words, may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more disposable paperback. That would fit with the discovery that once people start buying digital books, they don’t necessarily stop buying printed ones. In fact, according to Pew, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes. The two forms seem to serve different purposes.
Having survived 500 years of technological upheaval, Gutenberg’s invention may withstand the digital onslaught as well. There’s something about a crisply printed, tightly bound book that we don’t seem eager to let go of.
—Mr. Carr is the author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.”
A version of this article appeared January 5, 2013, on page C2 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Don’t Burn Your Books—Print Is Here to Stay.
Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Pew: Younger Americans Reading More
By Meredith Schwartz on October 23, 2012
According to Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits, from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 83 percent of Americans aged 16-29 read a book in the past year, compared to 78 percent of all Americans over 16. High school and college age respondents were most likely to have done so—college aged adults have the highest overall reading rate of any age group—and adults aged 65 and older, least. Though of course much of younger adults’ reading is for school or work, about three-quarters say they read for pleasure or to keep up with current events.
When it comes to libraries, 60 percent of Americans under 30 have used one in the past year. By far the most common library users are high schoolers, at 72 percent. They’re also the only ones who are more likely to have borrowed the last book they read from the library than to have bought it, and most likely to get book recommendations. This is in addition to school library use (or academic library use, for college aged respondents): as Kathryn Zickuhr, Pew Research Analyst, emphasized to Gary Price of Infodocket.com, “in the survey, all questions asked about public library usage.”
However, despite their heavy usage, high schoolers are the least likely to say the library is important to them, at just over 50 percent. Library usage drops to 58 percent for those aged 18 to 24 and 54 percent for those aged 25-29, but as usage drops, value rises: almost three-quarters say that the library is important to them and their families.
The Kids Aren’t (All) Online
Despite all the talk about digital natives, the vast majority of readers aged 16-29—some 75 percent—have read a print book in the last year. Only 19 percent read an ebook, and 11 percent listened to an audiobook. And those younger readers who do read ebooks are most likely to read them on a laptop or desktop computer, at 55 percent. Cell phones came in second, at 41 percent; tablets were dead last at only 16 percent.
Dedicated ebook readers such as Kindles or Nooks only came in slightly higher, at 23 percent, but libraries have the potential to raise that number: 58 percent of those who don’t currently borrow ebooks from libraries say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if offered. Only 10 percent had borrowed an ebook from the library, perhaps because more than half, 52 percent, didn’t know they could (a finding confirmed by LJ’s recent Patron Profiles research). And being young doesn’t automatically mean patrons feel they know how to use technology: One third of those under age 30 say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to take a library class on how to download ebooks onto handheld devices, and almost as many would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to take a course at a library in how to use an e-reader or tablet computer.
However, the continuing predominance of print and the low rate of ebook borrowing from libraries doesn’t mean younger readers aren’t accessing econtent at all: 47 percent of younger readers read long-form econtent such as books, magazines, or newspapers, and 40 percent of those who did say that they now spend more time reading than they used to due to the availability of e-content. (High schoolers are less likely to have read an ebook, but more interested in checking out a pre-loaded reader.)