Should Libraries Ditch The Classics?

from the rethinking-the-library dept

J. Austin writes in to point us to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, which talks about how public libraries are trying to cope with the times. Apparently, faced with "the long tail" problem of limited shelf space, libraries have started removing books that don't get checked out. Unfortunately for lovers of literature classics, this appears to include books like those by Charlotte Bronte, William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway. Instead, they're being replaced by more popular books like those by John Grisham, which will never be mistaken for fine literature. The commentary then looks at what the purpose of the library is, especially in an age where so many books are available so cheaply from online sources. I know that, personally, when I've needed a particularly book, it's often easier to just find a used copy online. The question is whether or not libraries should look at themselves as basically an alternative to bookstores, or if they should be something entirely different. The suggestion is that librarians shouldn't just be store clerks handing out the latest bestseller to people who don't want to buy the book, but "teachers, advisers and guardians of an intellectual inheritance." That sounds great, in theory, but if no one is coming to the library for that purpose, it's hard to see how that helps much. What the article doesn't note is that these same forces that have made books cheaper and more available to online purchasers also applies to libraries as well. You can go into most libraries these days, and if they don't have a specific book, they can order it from another library. It would really be great if libraries could set themselves up as guardians of an intellectual inheritance, but if no one cares about that inheritance, it's difficult to see how that helps very much.


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  1.  
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    Skot Elektron, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 8:49am

    duh

    can we say digital paper? seen it... but it was in finland in a safe.. ooo sue me

     

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    OffBeatMammal (profile), Jan 4th, 2007 @ 9:16am

    Is digitisation the answer?

    Even if we don't get to a technological answer with ePaper and eInk for a while yet does this validate the effort that Google and others are putting into digitising these works? If the libraries need to take the books out of the front-line can they at least consider warehousing and loaning via post (Netflix) consolidating into one uber-library, and/or make the books available as (timed, self destructing) digital downloads (supporting many formats.... don't make me buy an eReader for one book).
    Personally I love the feel of a paper book and the physical experience of reading it, fliping back and forth and hunting for an item in a reference book and I can't see a digital solution replicating that experience... but if it's a choice between never being able to read that book or the digital experience... I'll go digital over destruction any day

     

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    misanthropic humanist, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 9:40am

    all the books on a thumbdrive

    The situation at Fairfax is happening around the Western world. In the UK we are closing public libraries faster than ever. It's not just a lack of demand, although it is true people are reading less, adult literacy is at an all time low, education is no longer valued. There are other factors. Urban real estate has gone through the roof in the very areas where libraries are most needed. They can no longer afford the space to keep books which are rarely accessed. Just a few blocks from me the public library has been knocked down and the plot sold to developers to build cheap housing for immigrants.

    There are rather few full-time employed librarians outside acedemia. Local public libraries traditionally rely on volunteers, usually retired or elderly bookworms. Economics mean those people are either working at Walmart into their 60's and 70's or retiring abroad to more pleasant and easier countries. The entire community volunteer sector is in decline, so libraries are nothing special.

    This does leave me with a Lisa Simpson moment, shaking my head at ignorant shallowness and the decline of Western civillisation. But then I think a more optimistic view is to reinterpret the role of libraries. Perhaps it's time to fully digitise our history. Organisations like archive.org and companies like Google are leading the way here. The information is not being "lost", it's safer than ever, it is just not freely accesible any longer. The bar has moved up, we assume even the poorest have access to a computer and internet these days. But that is not so. We are definitely creating an intellectual underclass who do not have the means of access, albeit a small disadvantaged group.

    But there are other rotten forces working against accesibility. The usual suspects, the publishers, the copyright cartels and IP mafia associations are all out to restrict information flow and accesibility.
    We recently built the biggest new library in Europe at Kings Cross when the British Library moved. However this organisation is now effectively privatised and is no longer open to the general public such that anyone can walk in and read. The new self appointed gatekeepers of knowledge actually seem to be going out of their way to make access to printed heritage difficult for ordinary folk and the preserve of the chosen few who can pay.

    However, as a technologist I think this is moot. We all know that information wants to be free, it tends towards that state almost as entropy does, it is uncontainable. Pretty soon we will have data storage devices capable of storing every book ever printed on a thumbnail. The actual buildings and institutions that have served us in the past will cease to be relevant. One day someone will be able to give you a little silver disk labled "books" - meaning ALL the books.

    The only issue then is whether people really care enough to read them in an age where hedonistic experience and money trump knowledge.

     

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    Unknowledgeable Geek, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 9:42am

    What is the purpose of Microfish. I know I have used them in the library. I believe they were for media, i.e. newspapers, magazines, and the like. Now, why not just use these things for books as well. And if not microfirsh, some more current technology. I shouldn't be too difficult.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:01am

    Re: all the books on a thumbdrive

    Thanks for that analogy to entropy. Its a good one.

    I'm not worried about an intellectual underclass. Getting online will become cheaper and cheaper until the only people complaining about being left behind are those who want to be left behind, and complain about it also. This did make me think of the role libraries have taken in providing public internet access.. government organizations assume you can read, and if you can't, then they assume you are disabled or feeble and can get someone else to help you. There are certain baseline assumptions that enable more efficiency in the process, and you can always leave a few humans to fill the gaps. Why shouldnt we assume that everyone can access government websites and just shut down the offices altogether? As an interim measure lets just go ahead and build public computer terminal stations (private, enclosed, and secure. these are the new public forum and people need to be safe and comfortable in them). Do you have any idea how much money this would save? We could make it so theres no excuse whatsoever for being unable to conduct your mundane affairs online.

     

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    The Man, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:02am

    This is where they don't understand the market

    Libraries are dead. Forget your school boy memories of getting research books for your papers due at school. The Internet has killed that. No one is going to take a trip to the bad part of town to visit a libary to get a research book when there are library alternatives on the Net. Libraries are a waste of tax dollars. Lets move on. Oh yeah, and for the bleeding hearts about to respond. The small number of poor people who use the library does not justify the expense. Schools offer alternatives for students who need books and internet access. Employment offices provide services for the poor looking for work. We need to start shutting down these social services that don't work. Today the library, tommorow welfare!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:03am

    Re:

    Microfiche is just the very old form of what ought to all be done digitally nowadays. Itll be mostly gone eventually.

    In addition to magazines and such, microfiche also contains archives of one-off stuff that might be super rare otherwise. This you want to keep around as it would be hard to justify the cost of digitizing a bunch of stuff that probably no one will ever need.

     

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    The Man, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:05am

    Post 5

    That is one of the best ideas I have ever heard. Provide Kiosks instead of government agency offices. That would save billions in tax dollars.

    Anonymous Coward for President!!!!!!
    (that one anyway, the other Anonymous Cowards suck)

     

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    Bindle Punk, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:07am

    Seems like there's an obvious and simple solution

    I used to work for a Los Angeles Public Library and they have a pretty efficient transfer system in place. I imagine it's like that for most metropolitan library departments. I think the limited shelf space problem mainly arises due to the fact that a public library has to function as both a storehouse and a public facility. A large amount of storage space is actually used up by providing comfortable facilities (things like tables, computer desks, chairs, meeting rooms, ect... ) for the patrons of any given library.

    The solution? Create a large warehouse style centralized storage facility for books that no longer achieve popular rotation status but still warrant archival due to cultural or intellectual significance. That way shelf space in the public facilities could be freed for more popular titles while still making "important" titles easily accessible through the transfer system.

     

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    PhysicsGuy, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:32am

    Re: all the books on a thumbdrive

    The only issue then is whether people really care enough to read them in an age where hedonistic experience and money trump knowledge.

    you say this as though there was an age where knowledge actually took mainstream priority. face the facts, it hasn't and unfortunately never will.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:35am

    Re: Seems like there's an obvious and simple solut

    Well, as the role of a library becomes more esoteric (shifts more towards preserving and promoting our intellectual heritage and less about making cheap pop fiction available) then there is less need to have anything but one centralized library with everything stuffed in it.

    Of course, one would hope that we could then turn around and improve this role to the point where it is easier for more people to engage in the esoteric. At that point you would want to have the sophisticated distribution of esoteric materials to branch locations.

    But while we are in the intermediate, more attainable phase of removing the role of free books to the masses, we can rethink even the esoteric role: why do we need a university and a public library in the same city, for example?

    And for that matter, if there is a cherished tradition of buying a book and lending it to anyone who needs it, why in god's name can't we just scan the books and put them online for anyone who needs it? Because it cuts down on sales because people who might buy it will be able to get it for free? But can't they do that with a library? Well.. there must be a difference. Lets see.. ah yes, the library is INCONVENIENT (for certain classes of literature which is available cheaply for sale) and only people who need the book so badly to overcome the hurdles of inconvenience will bother to get it that way--and the publishers dont mind those people getting to enjoy it for free. Connect the dots: publishers don't give a crap about free flow of information and permit it only slightly constrained to a library where it is prevented from harming their bottom line.

    If we as a society value this information's public accessibility, then why do we play games with the publishers? Those with the means or the will can get around the hassle. Those without can't--and those are the ones we are trying to lift up.

    If we have public libraries and are treating them as enclaves of free information, then I'm paying taxes for it and by gum, I am not going to be told I have to go to the library just to enjoy it. This is 2007. I pay my taxes and someone needs to figure out a way to get the publishers their cut. Perhaps a fee per page read online paid by the library out of the public budget. Work something out --I leave that as an exercise to another anonymouse coward.

     

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    musterion, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:41am

    Re: Seems like there's an obvious and simple solut

    Thisis interlibrary loan in the small, or intralibrary loan. Here in Columbus OH, it is what is done already. You can reserve a book and have it delivered to your local branch from any other branch.

    What worries me in the headlong rush to digitization is then how do you maintain the integrity of a work? I can see the day when after all is digitized, you have legions of Winston Smiths altering the digital records to match what the current government wants. You wouldn't even need to send in Sandy Berger to steal the offending parts of the archive.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: Seems like there's an obvious and simple s

    How do we know which printed version of a classic work is intact? Someone could publish a bible with a subtle change and maybe nobody would ever know. Or maybe someone would happen to notice. Whats the difference digitally?

     

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    Literanista, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:54am

    Espresso Machine?

    I blogged here: http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2006/12/27/espresso-machine-now-serving-more-than-just-coffee/ about a recent innovative vending machine coming soon to a library near you that will allow one to access a virtual library of thousands of titles and dispense books on demand. Think of how cool the libraries of the future will be. For those who claim that libraries are a waste of tax money, I completely disagree. I know that for me the library was a refuge and for a poor kid from the Bronx, who down the line grew up to be rapper, KRS-One, it was a place where as a homeless youngster he called home.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Seems like there's an obvious and simp

    I should add that it is possible to 'hash' a piece of data, creating a unique (yet small) signature and ensuring that it is impossible to subtly change the content. A subtle change would yield an entirely different hash, making the change readily observable. Even if the change was one character, the hash would be entirely different.

    Keep in mind that even while digital technologies make new trickery and fraud even easier, it necessarily comes with new strategies for combating it.

     

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    Overcast, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:56am

    Just another veiled attempt to make everything 'politically correct' by the whacko Left wingers running the libraries.

    Who cares I guess, History is what the 'elite' of today want it to be anyway, why get it confused with real facts?

    Kinda like in 1984 where owning real paper was illegal... hehe, oh the Irony.

     

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    Overcast, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:59am

    Just a few blocks from me the public library has been knocked down and the plot sold to developers to build cheap housing for immigrants.

    That indeed sounds so 'Orwellian'. Crazy....

    And I bet all the immigrants are quite the militant types, aye?

     

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    bendodge, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:11am

    What!?

    I love libraries! It is so enjoyable to check out real books, esp and old childhood favorite. It would be a terrible loss to our culture.

    And paper/parchment lasts a lot longer than magnetic storage. What are 2,000 year old manuscripts made of? I've never opened a book from my father's library and found that it degraded and won't boot! (Although some cheap acid-paper ones have had the edges dissolve.)

     

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    SailorAlphaCentauri, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:14am

    How encouraging...

    As a recent library school graduate, hearing people call for the end of libraries because they're dead is a little disheartening. I'm not saying that there's no truth in The Man's sentiments, but I'm also not seeing a decline in library usage in the part of the country I'm in. People come to the library to access databases & check out non-book materials (i.e. DVDs), and more libraries are offering video game nights to make the library more relevent to teenagers [and I've gotten into some interesting competition with young people vying for the same manga I want to read]. People in the library community lamented stocking up on videos because they didn't like the idea of becoming a free Blockbuster, but it's a way of meeting the challenge of providing what people want without completely skuttling everything else the library provides.

    While books are being digitized for preservation and theoretical mass-consumption (but with strings attached to books still under copyright), the library still has relevence for those who seek it out. I've read a number of non-library articles where people were astonished by how the librarians were actually helpful in finding materials for their research and other activites (because they believed that a librarian's role was to keep people quiet all day) so I do not see the library as being a completely dead issue...yet.

    While I do think the idea of a book warehouse is a good one, I'm not completely enthused by the idea simply because serindipidous search results would be much less likely to occur (and I'll be the first one to admit that I would've been screwed on an assignment if not for a sernidipidous find which housed the answer I sought for a school assignment). I like the concept simply because it's a workable compromise which would still make classic literature available to those who want it without using up space at every library in town [by the way, the place where I'm finishing up an internship is actually working on doing something like this for the thousands of libraries in its consortium].

    People have been calling for the end of libraries since the dawn of the World Wide Web and a number of companies have gotten rid of their librarians under the belief that everything they needed was on the Internet (but a recent article shows that some law firms have reversed their thinking when they realized that librarians saved their employees tons of time by doing the footwork for them), but I don't see the library as being an irrelevant tax-waster. I think we still need the libraries to be a place that houses our history in some form, lest we forget that not all digitized items are still readable today (unless all of you have old floppy-disk drives and tape readers). Technology is constantly changing, so I hope that those who are on the the tech end of things are planning on migrating materials to the next new devices so that our entire history isn't lost to the ages.

    Do I have a point to all this? Probably not, but I think that people involved with libraries need to think carefully about where they want libraries to be 5-10 years down the road...and how to maintain (or obtain, depending on your point of view) relevence in our quickly digitizing world. We'll have to see how things evolve with people reading less (but turning to audiobooks, ebooks, & the Internet) to see where libraries are headed.

    Last three points: 1) I can't spell, so please don't give me grief on it, 2) I was a young person who was frequently thrown out of the library for doing things that people can do freely today, so it's rather ironic that I ended up getting a library degree when few libraries could tolerate my presence [My focus was on computers & database/web design in library school], and 3) I'm unfortuantly a product of my generation in that I had a hard time keeping my focus on what I was trying to say, so I worry my short-attention span may have muddled what I wanted to say.

     

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    Tyshaun, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:22am

    The library culture...

    I don't think anyone can debate that modern technology and the internet can easily take over as the repository of literature and other items previously held in libraries. However, growing up my local libary served a variety of other purposes (primarily because it serviced a very poor population). The library did things like:

    1. Gave access to computers, copy machines, and other "office" type things
    2. Acted as a community hub for distribution of local information
    3. Acted as a meeting center for groups, especially literacy tutoring and child reading initiatives
    4. Acted as an after school study hall for kids

    In short, it was more than just a place where people came to get books. Even with the increased use of the internet, the local library is still how a good number of people in my town access the internet as it's the only place non-school age people can get cheap (free) web access. Although the cost of "getting online" is becoming less and less, the cost is still out of reach for a lot many people (or isn't a priority when compared to other items). Where I live the median income is $32,000 (the national average is $44,000) and I don't see a lot of people having the means to afford a computer and an internet connection.

    So yeah, we can get rid of libraries, but there are still places where libraries are the primary link to information and culture that is easily accessible by everyone. Besides, I still like to go the library every now and again to sit back, read a book, and escape my phone(s), e-mail, and other such modern convienences.

     

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    A librarian, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:25am

    The good news...

    The good news for all the folks commenting on this thread is that real, dedicated, technologically savvy, professional, non-whacko, educated librarians who understand and take into consideration a multitude of social and environmental factors, face the problems raised by both the article and throughout this discussion, every single day they come to work.

    "Libraries," as we have all come to know them throughout our lifetimes, are changing. Librarians and the community groups (in the states, often called "Friends of the Library") who help manage and maintain them, are not operating in a bubble. Even in the public sector, savvy librarians have been using, programming and living with computers as long as most computer scientists, bringing new tools to users in the forum of a "university of the people" for many, many years, and will continue to do so whether society seems to value the work they do or not.

    Fortune 500, Academia, government, Second Life, the blogosphere, community groups, local schools, after school programs, local theater... librarians can be found in all of these places and wherever they are, they are thinking and planning for the future of information access and constantly straddling the line between print archive and online resource.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:26am

    Re: How encouraging...

    Dont disclaim your argument, it was good and solid.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:28am

    Re: The good news...

    Thanks for the reminder that librarians have been very involved in computing since the beginning! It made me recall the first cdrom I can ever remember seeing--containing a digital catalog at a library.

     

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    misanthropic humanist, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:32am

    Re:

    Great idea about the kiosks AC#5, someone will hit me for this, but guess who tried it and it worked - the French (minitel system).

    PhysicsGuy - sorry Lisa Simpson is still speaking there. There was never a golden age of knowledge, not even through my fuddy old rose tinted spectacles. But I do think there is a new wave of anti-intellectualism and anti-science that disturbs me. These things come and go.

    Overcast - those immigrants are rough swarthy types yes, there goes the neighborhood! But y'know, if I was one of them and homeless I'd burn the damn books to keep warm. Don't extrapolate a statement of FACT into a prejorative opinion, in psychology we call that projection, and it exposes what YOU really think ;) Unfortunately libraries being converted to cheap housing is the economic reality of my country and it would serve nobody to paint it otherwise.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:41am

    Doesn't anyone else see the $$$ here? Once all the libraries close.. some brave soldier can step off the curb and open a private library and charge pennies to the dollar for rentals -

    It's the same principle as company phone systems. How many tv/radio ads have you heard lately that use "Talk to a REAL person" as a selling point? Reverting to older methods seems to sell.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 11:55am

    what makes classical books good? i don't get it. what makes great expations better than the davinci code? what makes a christmas carol better than harry potter?

    what makes motzard better than brittany spears?

     

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    Ashwin Mudigonda, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 12:09pm

    Enter e-Ink and the e-Reader. There is no other solution.

     

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    Ammina, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 12:21pm

    Library Situation in Los Angeles

    In the city of Los Angeles, I continually see romance novels (in both English and Spanish) being discarded at libraries by the thousands, covers brand new, the books having never been checked out. Your tax dollars are going right into the dumpster. Whoever makes the book buying decisions for the Los Angeles City Library system has no clue about what kind of books the people in their local communities want to read.

    Given the large number (thousands) of romance novels that are thrown unread into the dumpster in the black library districts, that community clearly doesn't read romance novels. Why then are multiple copies of these books purchased for those libraries? Maybe someone should ask the people in every library district what they like to read, or find out what would bring them into the library.

     

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    Lawrence Salberg, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 12:34pm

    In the library's defense, when I want to read a classic, I always buy it. Why? First, I'm no genius and pouring through a Sherlock Holmes book is likely to last longer than three weeks. I've been trying to read Moby Dick for about a year now.

    On the other side of the coin, however, it does seem a shame that once again, libraries are looking to become hippy-chick cafe's, with wireless access, computers, and DVD's, rather than preserving much of anything. I know folks won't agree with this, but this is one reason, among many, that we need a return to private libraries in this country. Public libraries will, at some level, always appeal to the lowest common denominator in our society. Here in Brevard County, they have no problem allowing vagrants and bums to sleep in the library (as long as a newspaper covers them up mostly). What kind of place are libraries becoming for children? I see the huge Bill Gates posters that say "Read!". Why doesn't he and others start some private libraries. I'd happily pay $50/year to be a private member of a library - with classics that weren't in paperback. And with some nice areas to actually study or read that weren't surrounded by bums and kids updating their MySpace profiles online.

     

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    Sarojin, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 12:36pm

    Does everyone have money for books? No

    A lot of posts here about just going out and buying a used copy instead of using the library, or just making everything available digitally.

    Doesn't one need some money and/or a computer (or book reader) to utilize this? I thought libraries were there as a public service, making books available for people who do not have the resources to access them in another way, such as buying them.

    If you don't have the cash, it's not a simple matter of just finding a used copy online because it's "easier" than dealing with the library. It's not easier, it's impossible.

    Libraries should not be accommodating the affluent and lazy, but those without the means to access books and other resources available (such as learning computer games for kids and access to computers to use them).

     

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    Overcast, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 12:40pm

    misanthropic humanis:

    Oh, I'm not even attempting to hide any opinion :)

    I just think it's indicative of the sad state of affairs of the world.

    I did find it interesting; however - what the most common name in London was this last year given to new babies...

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/21/nnames21.xml

    So again, who's country is it?

    Funny - how many go on about how wonderful their ideas are, yet their citizens are leaving their countries in droves for the US, UK, and another other 'free' country of the world.

    And the history's being torn away in the process.

    But maybe that's too simplistic of a view :)

    And no, I'm not racist, I just shiver to see many who ARE racist trying to culturally take over so many other portions of the world. -- and then try to say anyone that speaks out against it is 'racist'

    I think it's acceptable if they are moving to assimilate in a country and abide by it's laws, but that's not the case. Many foreign cultures will attempt to impose their culture on the natives of the new countries. The problem is - then the countries they immigrate to, become no better than the ones they left! And yes, of course that's happened before in history, but I'd like to *think* people are wiser now..... but maybe not.

    I think the 'western' view upholds free information and liberty. Whereas places like Mexico and Palestine do not - for different reasons each country is a cesspool in it's own right. If they were wonderful countries. why do their citizens leave to others? I mean - I suspect you think the UK is a great country, and I'd agree - and I also suspect you wouldn't want to leave, anymore than I would want to leave the US.

    And I do realize you can't stereotype everyone, I'm sure the reasons people come to the US and UK are as varied as the families themselves. But we are blind to think that all the reasons are as good as we would like to believe.

    There is a Russian Girl I work 'with' who immigrated over here, and I try to help her all I can. Doesn't matter to me if she wants to stay in the US or leave, she's a friend. But on the other hand, there's a number of Russians that come to the US to pander drugs and arms. Nothing against any culture, I just wish more people would leave the 'appeasement' attitude at the garbage can and stand up for what truly is good in this world. I hear the media spinning it like 'Islam' is such a wonderful religion. Now, I'm sure the reformed ones are, but the original tenants clearly state to kill all non-believers. And I even hesitate to write that, but why - it's the truth, isn't it?

    But then I think God is good, religion is a twisted device of man to further use as a tool for power over others. I cannot think of a *single* religion in the world I would consider *good*. The Catholics are holier than everyone else, while half their clergy rapes kids, the evangelical ones try to rule your life, and steal from the masses while promising heaven, Islam is blowing everything up, Hinduism has so many sub-cults that teach odd mysticism and mind-washing 'power' tricks...

    I suspect those who *truly* seek God are different. But one must realize that whatever created us put a conscious into us that cannot be ignored - at least, for our own good. But honestly, it seems perhaps some of the members of a religion may seek God - but the religion itself... seems all about POWER.

    Of course, the alternative is that we are the products of a series of chemical reactions. If that's true, it doesn't matter what you believe. Of course - if you're wrong.... it may matter.

    And I think 'Political Correctness' is nothing less than 'doublespeak' and can do far more damage than people give it credit for. No culture is perfect, by any means; but many do not endorse killing others to promote their agenda either.

    Eeek!that was long-winded. But I can't deal with this 'Political Correct' BS, anymore I don't really care if people want to see things like they are or not - but you're only lying to yourself if you refuse to see it. And if that's the most intellectual honesty you can give yourself, well - in the long run, you'll be the only one that has to live with that fact :)

    And that was not directed at you MH, it just got me ranting. Most of your posts seem pretty well thought out :) I just can't deal with all this 'doublespeak' anymore.

     

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  32.  
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    Wolff000, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 12:49pm

    Wow Some Long Comments Up There

    Many people that put things more eloqently than I can have already said most of this but the great thing about the net is everybody gets a say, even a dumbass like me. Anyways libraries aren't just a warehouse of books their an oasis of intelligence in an increasingly dumb world. The public library isn't just a place to read but a place to explore, discover, and discuss. I have to admit that I don't get to the library a lot these days but I still go. Sometimes for a book or research some times for meeting of various kinds. Luckily my city just opened a new main library with great facilities of all types. Meeting rooms galore and tons of PCs for the net. They even found a place for the old classics nobody reads. (I know people do read them and so do I but you get the point.) Libraries simply need to adapt not be abolished. I think the warehouse idea with a good ditribution network is great but we should still have some real libraries for those that appreciate them.

     

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  33.  
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    Tyshaun, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Does everyone have money for books? No

    A lot of posts here about just going out and buying a used copy instead of using the library, or just making everything available digitally.

    Doesn't one need some money and/or a computer (or book reader) to utilize this? I thought libraries were there as a public service, making books available for people who do not have the resources to access them in another way, such as buying them.

    If you don't have the cash, it's not a simple matter of just finding a used copy online because it's "easier" than dealing with the library. It's not easier, it's impossible.

    Libraries should not be accommodating the affluent and lazy, but those without the means to access books and other resources available (such as learning computer games for kids and access to computers to use them).


    Great point, well said.

    After reading so many of the comments I am reminded that we are on a tech blog. Although the "price-to-play" in the tech game is getting cheaper, there is still a barrier for those less afluent. I think that sometimes techDirt readers (and commenters) forget that technology is out of reach for a large part of the population because of financial issues and lack of knowledge of its uses.

     

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  34.  
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    misanthropic humanist, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 1:20pm

    divisions and identity

    Hey Overcast,

    I'm feeling a lot of passion in your words, but I'm a bit confused. I hope my defensive quip didn't piss you off because I was only reacting to what seemed to be you suggesting I was anti-immigrant. Obviously I'm not, within sensible reason, and I see neither are you. As an American and a Englishman neither of us could really hold that view, America is built by immigrants and so is England. Yes, funny thing about England - we're all imigrants. We're one of the most invaded nations in history! Even our Queen is a German :)

    Yes, doublespeak and political correctness are the enemy. Those that hide behind niceities and will not speak their minds are cowards. And sometimes the truth is unpleasant but it must be spoken. Once it is spoken we usually find we have more in common than against each other.

    Economics in the UK are not very good right now. We have a lot of Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Slovaks coming now. They are nice people. But does it hurt me that my brothers can't get work because they take the jobs - I would lie to say it doesn't, but I don't hate the immigrants for that. Thats the real politik of globalisation for what it's worth. Ultimately it means less wars and better understanding if we take an optimistic view.

    May I address your thoughts about religion. This may seem oblique, but stay with me please. Have you heard the phrase "divide and conquer"? There are an infinite number of partitions on mankind and each is exploited by those that seek power. Emphasising our differences to create the "other" is the oldest trick in the book. I despise Humanists and Athiests who attack other religions and call them stupid just as much as any other bigots. It is very hard for a freethinking rationalist to be comfortable with any dogma and I align myself with no organisation. Religion is not the enemy per se, it is those who hijack it for their power trips, as you say, the child molesting Catholics, the "Holier than thou" Protestants, the murderous Zionists and the mad Mullahs. But they are a small disruptive minority. Most of the Muslims, Jews and Christians I know are peaceful people with no axe to grind. But they are painted as such by those who wish to divide us for the profits of war. Those who truly seek God do it alone.

    Of course my moniker "misanthropic humanist is a joke" an oxymoron. I rather like people on the whole, especially the ones who are different, honest and have the courage to speak their mind.

    I disagree with you on one point. Palestine and Mexico cannot be compared. But I do not want to go down that road today.

    respectfully

     

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    Snarl Greywolf, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 1:27pm

    Overcast said it all...

    Not much more need be said as he/she pretty much summed up society today. On a side note, a little-known song that came out a few years back did the same thing. I recommend everyone give it a listen as it too describes America specifically - to a 'T'. The song is by a singer called only "Lazyboy" and the song, "Underwear Goes Inside The Pants"

    Howls,
    Snarl

     

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  36.  
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    Overcast, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 1:47pm

    MH - ok, I have to agree with you on religion there, I guess I get frustrated on it all sometimes as it seems like there's more problems than good that come out of it.

    As for Palestine and Mexico - I actually used those two, because I agree - there is really no comparison. They have big problems - yes, VERY different problems. But they are the same in the sense that their citizens are all but tripping over each other to get out.

    As for immigrants - I agree 100%!! It's not the immigrants that are the problem, at least when the goal is to build a better society :)

    I think we do actually agree on a lot, I'm glad I post here, other than a few random fools, most people here seem quite willing to 'talk' about issues and not just rant and flame.

     

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  37.  
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    Jatopian, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 2:45pm

    Re: 3. all the books on a thumbdrive

    This does leave me with a Lisa Simpson moment, shaking my head at ignorant shallowness and the decline of Western civillisation.
    I just want to point out how ironic that comment is, with its Simpsons reference and misspelling.

     

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  38.  
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    misanthropic humanist, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 2:59pm

    Doh!

    You got me.

    I actually thought that as I typed it, and then thought "what the hell"
    Really.
    :)

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 4:02pm

    Re: what makes a classic work of art better?

    Wait 200 years and see if people are still talking about. The definition of classic is that we still talk about it, and the assumption is that it is good. Sometimes I think that more precisely, it is the best representative of an era and we hope to use those works to keep the era in memory, and to grow a bit wiser by sampling an older, different way of thinking. Given this, the classics are unique in their value and really can't even be compared in quality to a new work. Once a form of expression hits a certain level of refinement, I dont think it necessarily ever improves on an absolute level. It rolls through its many phases and variations on theme and shows different faces and in the end all you can do is point to an older work and say 'this is worthy of praise' and get everyone to agree for the sake of having something in common to praise and know and remember.

     

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  40.  
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    Foofdawg, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 4:36pm

    Already in process

    I didnt have a chance to read everyone's post, but most of the classics are already being digitized.

    Check out project gutenberg where you can download free versions of thousands of un-copyrighted works. I have read tons of Arthur Conan Doyle for free and without regret of stealing it.

    Check it out at http://www.gutenberg.org

    It's a Super fantastic resource for the classics, but sadly, not in original print.....

     

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  41.  
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    victor, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 4:37pm

    Ebooks and Digital Libraries

    Enjoyed reading your post. Libraries are just becoming digital. The physical brick buildings will be there, but the content will be virtual.

    For everyone’s info, we at Bookyards ( http://www.bookyards.com ) have compiled a good collection of free digital libraries with books available for downloading for free. Just go to Bookyards “Library Collections - E Books” at http://www.bookyards.com/links.html?type=links&category_id=1780
    There are approximately 550 digital libraries separated alphabetically and by category, with over 500,000 unique ebooks

    Bookyards is a free online library located at www.bookyards.com

     

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  42.  
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    Ammina, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 5:47pm

    Re: Private Libraries

    Why doesn't he and others start some private libraries. I'd happily pay $50/year to be a private member of a library - with classics that weren't in paperback. And with some nice areas to actually study or read that weren't surrounded by bums and kids updating their MySpace profiles online.



    I think a private library is an excellent idea, but it would never fly here in L.A. The downtown LA library is a sewer because of all the homeless people who drag their bedrolls and all their bags and they sleep at the tables.



    I don't mind the kids. I would rather see them at the library than out on the streets.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 7:18pm

    Re:

    what makes classical books good? i don't get it. what makes great expations better than the davinci code? what makes a christmas carol better than harry potter?

    what makes motzard better than brittany spears?


    If you really want to know, why not try reading them?

    Although, judging from your spelling, you're probably rather young and a fairly typical product of the American public education system. So I imagine you don't care much for reading, and wouldn't enjoy them if you did. Maybe you just need another 15 to 25 years of growing up.

    Harry Potter is pretty damn good, though.

     

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  44.  
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    Dempsey, Jan 4th, 2007 @ 10:56pm

    As a librarian...

    Couldn't read all the comments, but here's my $0.02 (got change for a nickel?)

    The duty of a public library is "to serve the entertainment and informational needs of its patrons." Format doesn't matter, physical location doesn't matter. If public libraries can fulfill the above duty by turning into large computer labs with a T1 connection to the `net, librarians are (or should be) for it. That hasn't happened yet, but may happen over the next 20 years.

    And for those doing research only on the `net, 70% of the info available in books in libraries is not available on the net (unless you get a login from your public library to access the databases they subscribe to).

    Thank you for your time.

     

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  45.  
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    Leo Klein, Jan 5th, 2007 @ 1:25am

    Every person his or her book

    Austin doesn't understand what the purpose of a public library is -- particularly a branch library. It isn't there to hold books you'll never use. It's there to have what you're most likely to want.

    The system should allow you to get your hands on a copy of "Candide" by Voltaire (hence the Long Tail) but that can be done through a central depository -- and not necessarily on the local shelf.

     

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  46.  
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    Jon Swift, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 12:55pm

    Dusty, Old Classics

    I'm glad they are getting rid of these dusty old "classics." If you really want to read Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (and who does?), it's so much easier to read it online.

     

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  47.  
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    Cpt Ramius, Jan 8th, 2007 @ 3:36am

    Re: Dusty, Old Classics

    I wish you success reading Proust online, without notes, introduction or any other help.

     

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  48.  
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    Ohio, Feb 9th, 2007 @ 8:09am

    Re: Seems like there's an obvious and simple solut

    If we put all the classics in the basement noone will ever know we have them and noone will check them out....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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