August 25th, 2012 Brian Herzog
When I came back from lunch one day, a patron was waiting for me - she wanted to play an audiobook on her Kindle.
That struck me as odd, and I wasn't even sure if it was possible, so I asked a few follow-up questions to make sure we both understood what was going on.
It turns out, she had the ebook Dreaming in Chinese already on her Kindle. However, it included a lot of Chinese words, both in Chinese characters and in the English-letter spelling. She didn't speak Chinese, and didn't know how to pronounce those words, so she wanted an audiobook version in order to hear how those words were pronounced.
That's understandable, but I still didn't know if Kindles could play audiobooks. I asked her if she knew, and at that point she pulled out an iPod, so we were in business.
But not for long. I searched our Overdrive catalog for Dreaming in Chinese, but it didn't come up - neither audiobook nor ebook. Which surprised me, until she told me the ebook copy she had wasn't a library copy, but one she purchased from Amazon.
Since it wasn't available in Overdrive, and she wasn't adverse to purchasing it, we searched Amazon for the audio version - but still no luck. I didn't even see this title available as a book on CD, so I guess it just isn't available as an audiobook. She was disappointed.
Before we gave up, the last idea I had was to see if we could get Kindle's text-to-speech function working with this book. I've never tried it before on a Kindle, and I think it doesn't work for all ebooks, but it was worth a shot.
Surprisingly, text-to-speech wasn't difficult to find in the Kindle's menus, even though neither of us had used it before. We got it to start playing her book, then waited for a Chinese word in the text.
But again, the victory was short-lived. When Kindle got to a Chinese word, it skipped right over the Chinese characters, and pronounced the English-letter word as if it were an English word - I don't speak Chinese, but even I could tell it couldn't possibly be close to the proper pronunciation.
The patron was disappointed, but I think she appreciated that we pretty much exhausted all our options. The only other thing I could suggest is finding a Chinese person to read those words for her - she didn't like the idea because it'd be awkward to try to read the context at the same time, which is true.
I felt bad that I couldn't find what she wanted, but I think she left knowing more than she did when she came in.
August 1st, 2012 Brian Herzog
As seen on BoingBoing, the website http://matchbook.nu matches up bathing suits with book covers - pretty convincingly, I might add. A few of my favorites:
The book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The first sentence:"All this happened, more or less."
The cover designer: Carin Goldberg
The bikini: Kudeta Bikini. $45.
The book: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The first sentence: "My suffering left me sad and gloomy."
The bathing suit: Men's Swimming Trunks by EUROPANN. $49.
However, one it missed was for ebooks - generic, nondescript, uniform:
The book: The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
The first sentence: “I do not wish to remember these things.”
The cover designer: Amazon
The bathing suit: Submarine One-Piece Swimsuit from Anthropologie. $278.
June 20th, 2012 Brian Herzog
With summer reading programs in full swing, I thought this was appropriate. While cleaning my old stuff out of my parents' house, I came across some of my childhood summer reading logs. They're from the Sandusky (OH) Library from the late seventies - I was born in 1974, so these show what was shaping my mind when I was three and four years old (click through to zoom in):
Yay for the Sandusky Library, and for my parents. I hope everyone is enjoying summer reading - it sticks.
Incidentally, I found a couple other interesting things at my parents house too.
April 28th, 2012 Brian Herzog
A friend of mine from library school, who now works in a library in Northeastern Ohio, told me about an interesting reference transaction that is worth sharing here:
On a recent Monday, a customer approached me with a stack of paperbacks from another library. We don’t carry many, preferring to stock our fiction shelves with hardcovers and replacing with paperbacks only when necessary, so I assumed he wanted to order some more. Instead, he said, “I don’t think W.E.B. Griffin really wrote these books. I would like to know who did.”
The question took me by surprise. “I’ve read all of his books,” the customer insisted, “and these aren’t like his other ones. I want you to let everyone know that he didn’t write them. Including this other library that I got them from.”
My friend knew, which I did not, that Griffin was currently writing his books with a co-author (his son, William E. Butterworth IV). The titles in question were from Griffin’s early writing career though, so she searched Fantastic Fiction and NoveList but could find no evidence that Griffin hadn't written the books himself.
Her mind went to the same place mine did: James Frey, The Last Train from Hiroshima, and the many other book hoaxes and fake memoirs that have been identified.
My friend is a writer, and she explained to the patron that the difference could be attributed to the author’s age, his style changing over time, and the influence of his son’s writing style. I thought this too, and it reminded me of an NPR story of someone applying textual analysis to Agatha Christie's books. They found that, although never acknowledged in real life, the vocabulary and writing style of her last book seems to indicate that she was suffering from Alzheimer's when she wrote it.
The patron seemed satisfied with her explanation, although he still wanted my friend to “let the other libraries know” - she felt a responsibility to the patron to do so, but just wasn't sure how.
We have had this same discussion in my library, most recently with The Last Train from Hiroshima. We discussed putting a note in the catalog record, a label on the book itself, or shelving it in fiction, but ultimately just sent it back to the publisher. In a cut-and-dry case such as that, I think it'd be okay. But in this case, with just a single patron's suspicions, I don't think there can possibly be any library responsibility here.
Finding out a non-fiction book is false is one thing - just one person suspecting an author of a fiction book didn't actually write is entirely different. My friend went on to say that if the patron had kept pushing, she would have found contact information for the author and publisher, so the patron could contact them directly. I agree - I don't think we can investigate claims like this, but we certainly can handle them once they've been proven. In this particular case, I think my friend did the right thing - made the patron happy.
April 4th, 2012 Brian Herzog
A few months ago, someone donated DVDs to the library that had their personal reviews stuck to the covers. In that same theme, we recently found one of the library's Twilight books had been "reviewed" (rather harshly) in the same manner:
Although I still like the idea of patron interaction and reviewing books in context, this doesn't exactly qualify. The Avery label scraps made me laugh though.
March 28th, 2012 Brian Herzog
I'm still unpacking from PLA12 two weeks ago, and just came across notes I took during a great session on Weeding in the Digital Age. I know it's two weeks late, but it's still relevant. The discussion was led by Alene Moroni (Manager, Selection and Order, King County Library System), Stephanie Chase (Reference, Adult Services, and Programming Coordinator, Multnomah County Library), and Kaite Stover (Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Public Library).
The explosion in formats for leisure materials is a challenge for all aspects of collection management, especially weeding and evaluation. Join a discussion that asks librarians to consider format, space, use, and building design when evaluating materials in all formats for withdrawal from the collection.
We should hold digital collections to the same standards as print collections - this means weeding out the unused and out-of-date to avoid eclutter.
Tips for Weeding Digital Collections
- Do you weed your Overdrive catalog? It's not easy (you need to do the legwork yourself, and email Overdrive directly), but their interface is difficult enough to search so that if something isn't getting used, then it's getting in the way
- Look for overlap in research databases, and then cut the unnecessary ones
- Your access and finding tools can go a long way to cutting through the clutter - look for better catalog/database search interfaces, or create web-based pathfinders with direct links into databases
Thoughts on Formats
- Watch for genre+format preferences that emerge (and listen to what patrons tell you). For instance, perhaps your mystery print books don't circulate much, because mystery reader prefer digital - but perhaps just the opposite is true for westerns. If that's the case, then get rid of your westerns ebooks and focus on mysteries
- Large print physical books are not dying, even though ereaders can do large print
- Younger patrons are often format-agnostic: if they can get their book in print, ebook, book on CD, downloadable audiobook, etc, they're happy
But remember: just about anything you're getting in digital format now can be taken away with a mere licensing change - what then?
I liked this session a lot because it hadn't occurred to me to weed ebooks. I have done some of that with databases, but certainly not Overdrive. It's also good to hear how other libraries balance print and online purchasing - for instance, we subscribe to the Safari Computer Ebooks database, and so have cut back on our print computer books.