In this article David Rothman highlights the backstory on Amazon’s new list of America’s “Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities,” based on its sales of books, magazines and newspapers. As has been the case previously, the winner is Alexandria, Virginia, his hometown, which should be able to afford a book-rich public library system. This scenic Washington suburb on the Potomac River pays the city manager $245K a year. Yet the Alexandria library’s budget for books and other materials is well below the national average despite the needs of the city’s many African-Americans, Hispanics and and low-income people. Around half of Alexandria’s students qualify for free school lunches. Simply put, we’re talking about two different realities–Amazon’s and the actual Alexandria’s.
Gates Global Libraries Program is Winding Down: Time for a National Digital library Endowment to Fill the Vacuum
David Rothman informs us that out of several billion a year in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, just tens of millions go for public libraries in the U.S. and overseas. But as all funding is critical, the news that the foundation is phasing out the Global Libraries program over the next three-five years brings libraries full circle, in search of new mentors and significant financial support.
David Rothman acknowledges the attributes of the expanding DPLA program but highlights that it is lacking key components to make it a truly comprehensive academic digital library, including collection and business strategies. Rothman states that “DPLAers” keep insisting that the organization is a public library even though the academic and archival content in the catalog is just a subset of what a true general public library collection would offer. He recommends actionable next steps to widen the scope of access to digitized works.
The limits of ‘Hack the library’: Don’t aim for too much more with too much less–and try harder for more
David Rothman notes that less than 12 percent of U.S. public library spending goes for books and other items. So he is very much in favor of the “hack the library” movement reinventing libraries. At the same time, Rothman warns that all the technical ingenuity and creativity in the world is no substitute for sufficient funding in areas ranging from content to data security. The public’s needs, not the interests of techie volunteers, should count most of all.
David Rothman is spearheading chronicling the progress of expanding low cost access to e-readers as libraries engage in mission critical outreach efforts to reach underserved communities. In this article, Rothman asks: Suppose you could buy an iPad for $38, read OverDrive library books, even hear text to speech from them, and enjoy Kindle books, too. And how about social media, photos, basic video chat, and production of low-res videos? What if you could even use voice recognition to dictate e-mail or other documents for work or school? Programs to loan out low-cost e-readers are on the horizon, but David cautions there are indeed impediments, including operating system security and lack of now ubiquitous high-end audio/video performance.
David Rothman cautions that the rage is to compare everything in creation to a business. But he urges us to be careful when doing so with America’s public libraries. They are civic and service institutions, not profit-making corporations. A major caveat! Public libraries need to serve everyone, especially the poor, a distinct and resonate differentiation with the market paradigm. Still, in in a library context, Rothman was intrigued when President Obama once again singled out Costco for its success. There are lessons to be learned here.
Should public libraries give away e-book-friendly tablets to poor people? $38 tablet hints of possibilities
David Rothman proposes that e-book-capable tablets, especially with national digital library systems in place, could multiply the number of books matching students’ precise needs. Paper books could serve as gateways to E, and then children and parents could digitally follow their passions to the max, whether for spaceships, basketball, or knitting. A “quiet” feature could turn off Facebook-style distractions when tablet users wanted to focus on books. Protective rubber cases could guard against drops. Learning, independent of income – access to knowledge regardless of often round-the clock-work schedules for increasing numbers of parents and young people who are struggling to get by – this is a cause around which many communities of best practice can rally.
Beware, public libraries: You’ll go the way of print newspapers if you automatically diss nonlibrarians’ gutsy ideas
This is the first article in a three-part series by David Rothman, all three of which are published here at LLRX.com. Part Two is about Carmela Hernandez and family. Set in the San Antonio area, a future scenario shows how a national digital library initiative could help turn their lives around. Part Three tells how librarians and policymakers can make the initiative happen and benefit the Hernandezes, not just the American elite.
How the Hernandez family will benefit from two well-stocked national digital library systems and a digital library endowment
This is Part Two of LibraryCity’s series, by David Rothman, mapping out a digital future for U.S. libraries to better our lives. Part One is on the need for librarians to open their minds to innovations like the BiblioTech digital library. Part Three is on strategies to make well-stocked national digital libraries a reality and help the Hernandezes, not just the American elite.
Making the national digital library dream come true for the Hernandezes–not just the American elite: Strategies for librarians and public officials
This is the last article David Rothman’s in the current series mapping out a path for planners of America’s digital libraries. Part One encouraged librarians to be open to new ideas like BiblioTech, especially from friends outside the profession. Part Two featured the Hernandez family in a 2020 scenario telling how national digital libraries could benefit the non elite.