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Urban Fiction in Libraries/Library Topics in General

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message 1: by Kelly (last edited Oct 22, 2008 11:52AM) (new)

Kelly http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/23/nyr...

This is the lead story on the NYTimes website at the moment. It is another entry in the 'People are reading literature that I would consider low-quality!' vs. 'Shouldn't we be happy that people are reading/coming to the library at all, regardless?' debate.

What do you think?


message 2: by Jackie "the Librarian", Cool Star Trek Nerd (new)

Jackie "the Librarian" | 1818 comments Mod
I think it's better to have a library with books people will read, than shelves filled with books of literary merit that don't get checked out. Such as the Booker Prize winners. ;)

Of course, it would be great to get a balance, and have patrons check out all kinds of books. And just getting people into the library creates an opportunity to show them all the services libraries offer beyond popular reading. It's very subversive, really!


message 3: by Elijah (last edited Oct 22, 2008 12:19PM) (new)

Elijah (ElijahKinchSpector) I shall rephrase here what I just wrote in a private message:

While I've never actually delved into that particular genre, I'm still all for it becoming more acceptable: hardboiled pulp crime of our day that it is.

That said, I guess I'll wait around until someone else does the work of discovering who exactly are the Chandlers, Hammetts, and so on of the genre.

Of course it'll be wonderful if people branch out, but people read for different reasons and if that's what slakes their thirst, then good for them.


message 4: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
As George Carlin said.... "Mother's milk leads to heroin."

I started out reading pulp sci fi and fantasy, horse stories, Nancy Drew, and even a few Harlequin romances (gasp!). Eventually I was encouraged to pick up headier volumes, and then forced to in college. Now I'm so hard to please with fiction it's embarrassing. People give me books to read and I want to set them on fire sometimes. Luckily no one has tried to hand me "Twilight".

We all struggle along on different paths, reading habits included. A small library should try to be a balance of research materials, literature, and mainstream fic... to try and serve it's community both in ways that are requested and in ways that are subversive!

Big libraries should have EVERYTHING in them. Ha ha ha. No, I'm totally not joking.

Did I mention I'm hard to please? : )


message 5: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs (PetraX) Big libraries should have directions in them to the nearest independent bookshop for a more individual selection.


message 6: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
HA HA HA Petra.... good point. ; )

Thanks Donald! Hi!!


message 7: by Jackie "the Librarian", Cool Star Trek Nerd (new)

Jackie "the Librarian" | 1818 comments Mod
Ahem. A good big library should have materials for every taste.

I love independent bookstores, but not everyone can afford to buy books, and the library should be able to meet the interests of everyone. If not immediately, then through interlibrary loan.

Of course, if you want to own the books, that's another story.


message 8: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony I love independent bookstores, but not everyone can afford to buy books, and the library should be able to meet the interests of everyone. If not immediately, then through interlibrary loan.

Damn straight.

I do the opposite of what Bunny is saying...I go to the bookstore to scout for books I will then order through interlibrary loan.


message 9: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs (PetraX) If you ran an independent bookshop where you buy books at 40% off the cover price generally and someone opened up a Barnes and Noble or a spiffy big library with everything then you look at your premises and wonder if you could turn it back into a boutique.

Libraries shouldn't be free. They should be subscription for all those people who are in work, not receiving state benefits or children. the subscription could be as little as a $1 a book and the money could go back to the authors who books are most read with a certain amount being reserved for new authors and local authors. I can't think of anyone except people who write books who get a whole load of praise for their oevre and no damn money or even a contract for another one.

People don't think of that, they just like things that are more or less free (yes I know about local taxes) but libraries are as damaging to independent bookstores as is Amazon and its ilk. Sort of slag off Walmarts, go on marches to stop it coming to your town, but when it comes stop going to the little shop where you always bought those wonderful cards because well Walmarts has such cheap ones and if they aren't so wonderful, well they are still pretty nice and you can park outside.

Signed: absolutely bitter and broke


message 10: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs (PetraX) btw I like libraries, but preferably not terribly well stocked ones.


message 11: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony I understand you're bitter and broke, but I couldn't disagree with you more. Libraries should not charge one cent more than the taxes that fund them in the first place. And the idea that the general public has a greater responsibility to owners of independent bookstores than providing a wide range of books to as many people as possible is ludicrous. I'd rather not have independent bookstores, then. Libraries are a necessity. Independent bookstores are not...people who own them can go into other businesses...although I would hope they could coexist. Typewriter repair stores don't exist anymore. Neither do horses and buggies. Maybe some small independent bookstores will be unable to survive. I'll keep the libraries.


message 12: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs (PetraX) I don't mean that people have any responsibility at all to support independent bookstores. Just that if people don't they won't exist any more. If you don't care about that and don't really care that you won't see a great deal of first time authors and unusual books from other countries etc. well fine, each to his own. Borders works on sales per square foot so you will get what they can sell and first-time authors and quirky ones who stand no chance of being picked up by the big chains won't be publishing and won't be in the libraries either.




message 13: by Jackie "the Librarian", Cool Star Trek Nerd (new)

Jackie "the Librarian" | 1818 comments Mod
Petra, I sympathize with you. Like I said, I love independent bookstores, and hate to see them having to compete with the discounts the big chains get. I love the cool special titles independent bookstores carry, and the care they give their customers. I hate the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie "You've Got Mail" because the plot is that a big chain bookstore crushes an independent children's bookstore. Bah.

But, libraries are essential services, and carry materials you would never find in any bookstore. Reference books, back issues of magazines, out of print books, and books that are too specialized for a small overhead bookstore to carry.

The trade-off is that patrons may have to wait for what they want, and the book they take home will likely have been read by someone else first. It may have boogers in it, even. If people don't want to wait, or if they want to own the book, or if they don't like the homeless folks who hog the chairs at the library, they go to bookstores. I myself go to bookstores almost weekly, and my bookshelves are bulging.

As for people paying for libraries, their property tax dollars pay for libraries (and timber revenue, in my library system's case). And libraries, just like anyone else, pay for the books on the shelves. Authors get royalties from libraries buying their books.

And we buy them over and over, replacing worn out copies as needed. I just bought several new copies of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for my library system.

I want both. I want cool independent bookstores, AND I want libraries. I think both are vital signs of a healthy, intelligent society.

:::here endeth the rant:::


message 14: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs (PetraX) Jackie, that was a good rant. My comment was only about fiction as the thread was entitled urban fiction. I do absolutely agree that libraries have research facilities that are not obtainable elsewhere.




message 15: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy In any truly civilized nation, libraries would be permitted to stock nothing but The Fountainhead and copies of the King James Bible.


message 16: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Civilized people don't joke, Donald.

Copies of "Wealth of Nations" of course could be available for academics. But only with annotations by Dr. Dobson.

Librarians caught breaking the rules would be waterboarded.


message 17: by RandomAnthony (last edited Oct 23, 2008 03:17AM) (new)

RandomAnthony I agree with Bunny that creativity will be key in the survival of a bookstore, but it's easy for me to say that...I don't own a bookstore. I live in picturesque small town with a tourist-oriented downtown area...every time a new business (including the bookstore we once had) opens, there is much discussion as to whether or not that business will survive in the context. The bookstore didn't last. The selection was poor and there was no compelling reason to visit. The same, by the way, is true for the clothing stores, the knickknack stores, etc. on the same stretch. There has to be a compelling niche for each store or they won't survive. And most don't.

Running a small business, from what I can see and what you imply, seems to be a bitch. Maybe your business isn't profitable, bluntly, Petra, and you should get out of it. To call for libraries to charge people because a small business isn't profitable doesn't make sense.

If you don't care about that and don't really care that you won't see a great deal of first time authors and unusual books from other countries etc. well fine, each to his own.

Again, I can get more unusual books from first time authors and other countries from the net. I wouldn't think it would be very smart from a business perspective to stock a lot of these books...it seems they wouldn't sell unless you had a niche population that would buy into this product and service.

Listen, Petra, it's not that I'm not sympathetic here...but ultimately a business has to be profitable, and through what sounds like no fault of your own, I don't know that yours sounds sustainable. I can see why that would be frustrating if not heartbreaking. But I'm not going to romanticize the independent bookstore.


message 18: by RandomAnthony (last edited Oct 23, 2008 11:59AM) (new)

RandomAnthony I love Bunny. She said this ten times better than I could. I would add that I do think it's a rough go, a very rough go, even for those mean well and treat their customers well. That's where what Bunny said earlier about creativity is esp. important...meaning well and treating customers well isn't enough, I'm afraid. I don't envy the life of small business owners even if they're following their dreams.

I would also add broad generalizations about mall culture and America are as accurate as thinking everyone in Jamaica smokes ganja and looks like Bob Marley.


message 19: by Lori (new)

Lori Ah I was going to respond to that mall culture accusation, but like you said about Bunny, I say about you with the above paragraph. It's insulting!

I love libraries, and would be outraged if they charged. I love the atmosphere, the smell, the hush, the people, even a kid crying. Even as a small child. Books are expensive! So why should reading be limited to only the people who can afford them! Now that I have some money to spare, I love buying books - the ones I want to keep. Or the ones I must have right away. Frankly, I go to used book stores alot. Like I said, I can't afford to buy alot of new books. But most of my books come from the library.

Thank god for the library! They have shaped the little girl into the woman I am today.


message 20: by RandomAnthony (last edited Oct 25, 2008 09:54AM) (new)

RandomAnthony Ok, I made a minor change to the thread title...I hope that's ok...we need a thread to talk about libraries/library issues in general.

Librarians and library patrons...I have a question. My local library just instituted something called a "lucky day" shelf. They buy multiple copies of popular new releases (books and DVDS) and have a shelf just for them. These materials are NOT part of the interlibrary loan system; only people who go the local library can get them. Now, I benefited from this new system last week when I snagged the latest David Sedaris off the shelf when I was originally on the interlibrary loan reserve list for about a month and still was probably a week or two away from getting the book. I also got some Cameron Diaz movie my wife wanted that I'm sure had at least 100 people on the interlibrary loan list.

Now, I hated this system when my library didn't have it:) I would go on the interlibrary loan website and see that a book/movie I wanted was on the shelf of another community library but I couldn't get it because it was outside the interlibrary loan system and only on that library's shelf.

Oh, I should also say there's a seven day limit on these materials and you're only allowed one movie and one book from the "lucky day" shelf.

What do people think of this? Librarians, is this system becoming more common? What are the pros and cons?


message 21: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
my favorite local library is in Corte Madera. They have couches. Sometimes I nap on them. There is nothing like waking up from a nap in a library. Oh holy of holy moments.


message 22: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
The only reason I think they can get away with having couches in this library is because there are no homeless people in Corte Madera. It's too damn expensive there to be homeless.


message 23: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony We have couches. I wonder what the librarians would do if someone stretched out and fell asleep on them. I have no idea.

We had some jackass take a gun into our library and show the librarians like he was showing them a new baby or an Iphone or something. His ass got BUSTED for taking a gun into a public/government building. Apparently that's against the law here.


message 24: by Charissa, That's Ms. Obnoxious Twat to You. (new)

Charissa (dakinigrl) | 3620 comments Mod
well duh... hello age of terrorism and homeland security! may as well carry a envelope of white powder in there and ask someone to sniff it.


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I think it's a good idea, RA. I used to go to the library and browse around, but I rarely do, anymore. I just walk in to the holds section and pick up what has come in from my online requests. If there was a lucky day shelf, I'd have to walk in, you know?

Then it would be helpful if I could find a cozy spot to sit down. The problem is that the comfy chairs were removed and replaced with chairs that discourage sleeping, which is a problem. Such a balance!


message 26: by RandomAnthony (last edited Oct 25, 2008 01:29PM) (new)

RandomAnthony I go to the new shelves...I guess I browse there, but I know the other shelves well enough that browsing them wouldn't do much good.

My library has a few comfortable reading spots...I can't imagine a library without good places to sit and read.




message 27: by Jackie "the Librarian", Cool Star Trek Nerd (new)

Jackie "the Librarian" | 1818 comments Mod
My library system has those "lucky shelf" books, we call them the browsing collection. And I guess they are a way of rewarding folks who come in to the library and look on the new book shelves, instead of just picking up their holds and leaving.

Patrons have a love/hate relationship with the browsers, and I can understand that. It's not really fair for someone to be able to bypass that long hold list and get the book immediately. But it's fun when you are the lucky duck who finds the book on the shelf.


message 28: by Jackie "the Librarian", Cool Star Trek Nerd (last edited Oct 25, 2008 06:15PM) (new)

Jackie "the Librarian" | 1818 comments Mod
The libraries in my system are a mix of comfortable and cramped, because the buildings are a hodgepodge of old and new, depending on what the different cities come up with.

The cities provide the buildings, and the library system provides the staffing and materials. Sometimes, as in the case of the Olympia branch, the library has really outgrown the space, but the voters haven't approved the funding for a new building.

Which means it's a library such as the one Bunny frequents - narrow aisles, no comfortable seating (there's a homeless issue in Oly, too, complicating things - seating MUST be easily cleaned) and crowded conditions for browsing.

I guess it's similar to what school systems deal with. If you are in a well-off community that believes in spending money on public services, you will have great libraries. If your community is economically struggling, or doesn't like to fund public services (which mean higher taxes), your library services and facilities will suffer.


message 29: by Lori (new)

Lori I'm very proud that Seattle did opt to fund massive library renovations. But no real comfy couches. So I get my books and crash on mine! When we were shopping for a new couch last spring, the only way I could make my final decision was how it felt lying down in it - curled up, sprawled out, etc. Richard just sat in it.

I like to browse my library - I check out the magazines. I don't browse the shelves since I'm already picking up more holds than I can read in the next 3 weeks. But I just like being in a library, chatting with my favorite librarians.


message 30: by Xysea (new)

Xysea  (Xysea) Wow, libraries should always be free. There isn't a time a library is needed more than when people are broke, students or studying, and need to bring something constructive and positive into their lives.

When my daughter and I were on assistance, back in the day (of course I'm a productive, employed member of society at present), I would get her books and films and music from the library to keep her entertained and to enhance her educational experience. It paid off, by the way - she's an honor roll student enrolled in gifted programs, and doing quite well in school.

I cannot fathom a mindset that would charge people over and above the taxes they already pay to participate.


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